Newcastle United striker Callum Wilson summed up the 4-1 drubbing at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday as he called a difficult afternoon in north London a game too many for a side ravaged by injuries and appearing to be running on empty.
“The players that have been starting the last five or six games have had a lot asked of them. We are playing a top side; it felt like a game too many,” Wilson, whose return from injury as a substitute was a silver lining for his team, said.
Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou expressed sympathy for his Newcastle counterpart Eddie Howe who said he fears every time a player goes down in a tackle.
Newcastle, which faces a crucial Champions League match against AC Milan on Wednesday, is still without Jacob Murphy, Nick Pope, Harvey Barnes, Joe Willock, Dan Burn and Sven Botman because of injuries while Sandro Tonali is banned.
At least the return of Wilson and Sean Longstaff, both of whom came off the bench on Sunday, offered some light at the end of the tunnel for Howe who has had little chance to rotate some of his key players with the squad so thinly-stretched.
“It’s a difficult moment for us. We probably expected it to come a little bit earlier than it has. I think the lads have been really good to sustain the results that we were having,” Howe told the BBC when asked about two heavy defeats this week.
“The last two have been tough games. Not us at our best. Physically we looked fatigued today and there was not much we could do about it.”
Speaking to reporters, Howe was reluctant to admit his side were running on fumes, although he could not disguise his concerns. “We weren’t at our best physically today and you could see that. The lads were giving everything but with not enough resources to give more.
“If I commit to that and say it’s all down to fatigue... we’ve got another game on Wednesday. This is what we wanted this season. We do have some light at the end of the tunnel with Callum and Sean coming back. Massive players for us and they both did well when they came on.”
Postecoglou knows only too well how injuries and suspensions can impact the best-laid plans.
His side were flying high until a calamitous 4-1 home defeat by Chelsea at the start of November left his side not only counting three lost points but injuries and suspensions that decimated his first-choice side.
Two goals by Richarlison, who has recently returned from pelvic surgery, and one apiece for Destiny Udogie and captain Son Heung-min, gave Tottenham an emphatic victory against Newcastle after a five-game winless streak.
“It is no coincidence that now we are getting some players back that we are starting to look a lot stronger,” the Australian said. “I will not speak on Eddie Howe’s behalf but I can see what he’s going through and in this league if you have one or two key players out, you’re going to struggle.
“It sounds like excuses but that is the reality of the Premier League and you don’t need too much analysis to see why in the last few weeks we haven’t been as conclusive in our results as we were earlier in the year.”
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