Spurs Get Revenge on Krul, Pound Newcastle 0-4

Earlier in the season Newcastle went to White Hart Lane and came away with a narrow, 0-1, victory over Spurs thanks to one of the best goalkeeping displays of this season from Tim Krul. In a cruel twist of fate for Newcastle and Krul, three of the four goals came from deflected shots or crosses by Krul’s hands that fell favorably to a Spurs player and found the back of the net. The fourth and final goal from Nacer Chadli needed no such assistance as he hit a picture perfect ball into the left side of Krul’s goal with a shot from outside the area.

There was a bit of confusion before the match as to how Spurs were going to lineup. Tim Sherwood named Moussa Dembele, Paulinho, Etienne Capoue and Nabil Bentaleb among the starters, a quartet of central midfield players, along with Adebayor up top and Aaron Lennon wide out somewhere, right or left. All that really was not known was who would be fielded in a wide position opposite Lennon, it has been common to see either Nacer Chadli or Christian Eriksen fielded wide left recently but with both rested, no one was sure who would take the spot. As it turned out, Dembele played wide on the right and Lennon was wide on the left and with Capoue fielded from the start Tottenham looked to play a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3.

Alan Pardew in a twist to several recent Spurs’ match day narratives, decided to go 4-4-2 and cede the midfield possession battle to Spurs’ three man midfield. The first half then followed along in much the way you would expect two teams lining up this way to go, only this time, it was Spurs controlling the central areas. Tottenham saw 58% of the possession in the first half and completed 83% percent of their passes, where as Newcastle completed only 72% and Spurs attempted nearly double(84) the amount of passes in their attacking third as Newcastle(45) did.

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All three assisted shots for Newcastle in the 1st half came as a direct result of a Spurs turnover.

Despite owning more possession and working in Newcastle’s defensive third with almost a third of their passes the teams went into half time having both put two shots on target and Newcastle had seven total shots to Spurs six. The difference in the scoreline was thanks to a fantastic passing sequence from Spurs that saw them beat Newcastle’s pressing, move the ball out to the left flank where Bentaleb worked in a low slung cross across the face of goal that Krul had to try and parry to protect his far post. In doing so however, the deflection fell right to Adebayor who happily popped into the net and put Spurs on top inside twenty minutes.

Tottenham were lucky not be chasing an equalizer at that point as only a smart save from close range from Hugo Lloris kept Newcastle from getting the opener in just the eighth minute on a poorly defended free kick. Spurs caused themselves further alarm throughout the first half with turnovers inside their own half from either poor passes or getting caught in possession and coughing the ball up. On twenty-six minutes Spurs turned it over near the half line and Newcastle wasted little time, hit a ball up to Cisse, one of Newcastle’s two forwards, and forced Lloris to come to the top of the area and put Cisse off enough to force a poor attempt at chipping him. Spurs were lucky not to be caught out earlier with an absurdly dangerous square ball across Spurs own half from Kyle Naughton, playing at leftback.

Near to the half, Spurs were caught leaving too much space between the backline and midfield when Moussa Cissoko cut in from the left, played a pass into Cisse who then laid it back off for Cissoko to have a free shot on goal from inside the ‘D’ that Spurs were happy to see sail wide of the target. A few minutes later, Newcastle broke again but Cisse was driven wide by Younes Kaboul who made a solid tackle and took the chance away from Cisse. That was the eb and flow of the first half, Spurs had more of the ball and looked threatening with solid buildup and approach play but also gifted Newcastle chances to counter with some sloppy play.

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When Newcastle where left to build up from their own half they were poor, both Paulinho and Bentaleb pressed high up the pitch against Newcastle’s backline, joining with Adebayor to force Newcastle long. By pressing from the middle Spurs allowed Lennon and Dembele to drop back and work with their fullback to protect the flanks, leaving Newcastle with little else but long balls forward as the only option and here Spurs were ready to deal with two up top as Capoue was positioned in the holding role to keep a constant 3v2 in Spurs favor. Either he would make challenges in between the lines or drop into the back four himself if either Kaboul or Vertonghen stepped out. Capoue showed the qualities that have been lacking from Tottenham’s other midfield players in actually performing the holding midfielder’s duties, not just taking up the position on the team sheet.

Newcastle made a change at the half, removing their leftback, Davide Santon, for Paul Dummett in a like for like swap. Santon was probably all too happy to come off as Dembele and Kyle Walker took turns getting the best of him down Spurs right. Dembele beat Santon and nearly created a chance for Spurs just five minutes in and Dembele and Walker were able to work in five crosses, four from close range just wide right of the area down their flank in the first half. It didn’t take long for Spurs to add the second, on fifty-three minutes Bentaleb hit a forward pass into Paulinho’s feet inside the area who laid it off for Adebayor to shoot from top of the box, Krul saved but could not catch the shot and Paulinho followed up the shot and buried it for a goal.

That exchange best characterized the work from Adebayor, Bentaleb and Paulinho as all three could be found at times to be highest up the pitch of the three, Paulinho was happy to hold the line when Adebayor dropped deeped and it kept Tottenham from stagnating in possession with the three moving into and out of each others spaces well. The three  also pressed excellently together in much the same way, each willing to be the furthest forward, in the first half.

After the second goal, Pardew went to his bench and brought on his dangerous number ten, Hatem Ben Arfa, in place of Luuk de Jong and Newcastle went 4-2-3-1. At the same time, perhaps sensing Newcastle would now have more possession and chasing the game, Sherwood brought on Andros Townsend for Dembele. A simple and smart move, Spurs would be better able to hit on the counter with pace on either side of the pitch between Townsend and Lennon.

From the time of Spurs second goal, Spurs took their foot off the gas for a good twenty minutes and sat deeper, put Newcastle under less pressure, ceded possession and didn’t look a threat to go for a third much at all. It’s understandable why, Newcastle had lost five of six, have little to play for and had been shutout in their previous two matches. It’s no surprise to think Spurs thought it was job done and they had the points in the bag and it was time to go home. Pardew however made two further substitutions and Arfa lofted in a wonderful cross that found Mathieu Debuchy inside the area who headed on goal from point blank range and only an excellent save from Lloris kept it 0-2 in favor of Spurs.

In the twenty minutes between Spurs second and Debuchy’s header Krul had literally nothing to do and Newcastle had four shots, two saved, one blocked, four corners and put seven crosses into Spurs area. Shortly after, Nacer Chadli came on in place of Lennon and Spurs came back into it the match, adding Adebayor’s second and then Chadli’s beautiful goal in the final ten minutes of regular time and headed for the bus 4-0 winners.

By matches end Newcastle managed to get the possession battle back to 50/50 and had thirteen attempts to Spurs fifteen. They were able to exert pressure on both Lloris and Vertonghen who had poor passing displays and had a twenty minute spell where they looked like they might get back into it but they were reliant on Spurs making mistakes in possession to really benefit from their initial 4-4-2 setup. Once Tottenham settled down in possession those chances went away for Newcastle as Tottenham put in a solid defensive performance.

Lloris' passing was worse than normal(43% on the season) and Vertonghen was also only 20/31 passing.

Lloris’ passing was worse than normal(43% on the season) and Vertonghen was also only 20/31 passing.

Capoue showed his full value being allowed to play his preferred role for a full match, he was where he needed to be almost all of the time. He did well in screening the back four, particularly in protecting the centerbacks and filled in whenever a defender was caught out. He made four successful tackles and recovered possession a team high nine times. His effectiveness in the holding role freed Bentaleb of the defensive role he has struggled to play and with Paulinho and Adebayor working in the middle with him he was free to play the role it was suggested here he would shine the best in, the “in between” midfield role. Not being asked to be the main creator from midfield nor being asked to be the defensive rock, Bentaleb was only asked to assist the specialists. And that he did.

Bentaleb played 46 of 52 passes successfully, an 88% completion rate, assisted Chadli’s goal, put in the cross deflected by Krul for Adebayor’s opener and found Paulinho in the box who laid off to Adebayor who’s shot Krul couldn’t handle and Paulinho put away. He did a solid job defensively as well, as mentioned he pressed well with Paulinho from the middle, made four tackles and recovered possession eight times. It was a man of the match performance.

The win gives Spurs the best away record in the league, a positive goal difference again(+4) and kept them safely in front of Manchester United and right on the heels of Liverpool in what is now, another Spurs race for fourth spot. The move to put Dembele out wide seemed strange at first, but it came off, his ability to challenge defenders on the dribble is well noted but can sometimes be wasted around the center circle, much less wasted however taking on opponent’s fullbacks where a successful take on can very quickly create problems. The other highlights were Kaboul’s return and very effective play and that Sherwood finally, finally, fielded a true holding midfielder in a three man midfield. And the move to the 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 came off perfectly, aside from needing a few more brilliant interventions from Lloris, let’s hope Sherwood sticks with this.

 

Sherwood Gets Tactics Right, Spurs Take the Points

In a match that didn’t see much in the way of goals or even an array of well created chances, Tottenham managed to nick a goal from a moment of brilliance and come away with all three points, 1-0, over Everton at White Hart Lane. Kyle Walker’s quick thinking and Emmanuel Adebayor’s cool finish were all that separated the sides on the scoreboard and the dynamics of the match in general. Spurs looked more organized and tight in the defensive phase than they ever have under Tim Sherwood as they did an excellent job to stifle the creativity that has often been seen from Everton under Roberto Martinez’s reign with the club.

Sherwood deserves a lot of credit here for Spurs’ performance including a bit of pulling a Mourinho with his comments in the build up to the match. He stated midweek that Spurs did not need to adapt their approach against Everton as the Merseyside outfit would not be altering their approach to face Tottenham. Naturally, Everton’s possession based attack working around a five man midfield, including a central three, would be the way to attack Spurs anyways, so he was right in saying they didn’t need to change anything. But Sherwood did.

After switching back to the 4-4-2 for the Hull City match, we saw the return of the 4-1-4-1 defensive block against Everton with Nabil Bentaleb in the holding role behind a central pairing of Paulinho and Mousa Dembele. Out on the flanks Lennon started right and Eriksen took his less effecitve left midfield position, all five in behind Adebayor. This matched up perfectly with Everton’s two holding mids and advanced mid, the 1-4 being the perfect inverse to a 2-3 midfield, and Everton created next to nothing through the middle areas after the opening fifteen minutes or so.

Spurs looked set to face their usual issues defending the middle areas early on, most glaringly highlighted by a Leon Osman shot from just outside the area in the seventh minute. Osman was completely free to receive a pass and shoot from a central area and only an outstanding save from Hugo Lloris kept the match 0-0. Osman had four assisted shots in the opening stages but after Spurs settled down defensively his influence in front of goal dissipated, he had just one further shot on goal the entire match.

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Osman played centrally in place of Ross Barkley and Barkley’s outstanding talents were missed sorely, as was Everton’s lack of a natural striker. Steven Naismith was most often Everton’s furthest man forward but offered little, in fact, nothing, he had no shots in the match and his passing was poor, 16 of 25 completed, just a 64% completion rate. Naismith is neither pacey or physical and he, along with Mirallas later on, gave Spurs centerback pairing of Dawson and Vertonghen very little to worry about. Both had relatively easy and quiet matches and were asked to do far less than usual because the fullbacks and midfield players around them were stellar defensively. It’s a bit of a wonder Martinez didn’t throw McGeady up top from the start as at least his pace may have troubled Dawson and Vertonghen.

Tottenham settled down and had their first couple bits of solid possession on about eleven minutes and after not getting punished from Everton’s early blitz, neither side created much of anything threatening. Spurs had a half decent chance to break around the twenty-seventh minute when Lennon was able to burst down field on the ball but got nothing from it. Throughout the match when Spurs did have chances to break they were often too slow in breaking out to take advantage and Everton was allowed to recover.

Two reasons were present in Spurs essentially stifling themselves on the break. First, Adebayor often dropped off to the left channel instead of staying centrally and took possession as the outlet player where he could be cornered against the touchline and the moment to break would slip away. This is nothing new from Adebayor but it is a strategy that works better for him when he is paired with Soldado, as one of them can go wide and the other can stay so that one of them is constantly providing a central outlet to break out from. Adebayor stayed central a little more often in the second half and indeed was the furthest man forward in a central position where Walker was able to find him with a quickly taken free kick around the center circle as Dembele was still on the ground from the challenge and Everton momentarily switched off.

The other reason was Dembele, statistically, he had a fantastic game, he had six successful take ons and completed 42 of 47 passes, 89% of his attempts. But, his take ons were in central positions in the middle of the pitch, an area where he should be looking to play a forward pass instead of taking on defenders. The old cliche is a cliche for a reason, the ball always moves faster than the player, and too often Dembele slowed a break by holding onto the ball instead of looking to hit a forward pass and keep the momentum going.

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Bentaleb had his quietest game in the possession phase, attempting just twelve passes in the first half, with the two teams fielding a combined ten midfielders and both teams determined to control the middle it’s no wonder he struggled to get on the ball. But he did provide the thing that has eluded Spurs so often under Sherwood, a screen for the back four. In the first half he completed three of six tackles successfully and made four interceptions, and he made them in an area that was highlighted last week against Hull, an area where almost no interceptions were made.

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When halftime arrived the match was scoreless, possession was split 50/50 and only Everton’s early spell had provided any shots on target. Spurs went in to the break with three shots, none on target, Everton had eight, three on target. Both sides approach in the defensive phase was very similar, Everton did press higher up and with more energy than Spurs, but for the most part both teams were content to allow the other possession in the wide areas and nothing in the middle. Creativity was at a premium for both Spurs and the Toffees. And that’s more down to the defensive mentalities than anything else, Sherwood’s Spurs and Martinez’s Everton are not afraid to go forward but they ground each other to a halt.

EveAttack

The match needed substitutions to break the deadlock as both sides weren’t necessarily lacking quality but inspiration in the possession phase. The first to make a move was Sherwood, a welcome change after sitting on his starting eleven for 89 minutes against Hull, but a most unwelcome substitution, Christian Eriksen off and Andros Townsend on. Bringing on Townsend made sense, get him out wide and let him and Lennon have chances to breakout with pace on either side of the pitch. Previous to this Eriksen and Lennon did the old Bale and Lennon thing of randomly switching flanks, which is a fine idea as they offer different threats going forward. But to take off the most creative passer on either side in a 0-0 match? Perplexing. Surely, Dembele or Paulinho off for Townsend with Eriksen moving inside was the better move.

Martinez responded in short order, three minutes after Sherwood’s move he brought on his most dynamic playmaker and removed Pienaar, who had been tidy with his passing but offered nothing incisive. Before Everton had any chance to let Barkley settle in, Spurs got their goal. Then Sherwood continued the chess game with Martinez and removed Paulinho for Etienne Capoue, on sixty-eight minutes, he brought on his true holding midfielder in place of Paulinho and pushed Bentaleb further forward to play centrally alongside Dembele. This is the type of three man midfield Spurs should operate with all of the time.

Whether Sherwood’s move for Capoue was a reaction to the goal or the introduction of Barkley, it doesn’t matter, he was using his bench to try and keep control of the game. A welcome sign. Within in five minutes of Capoue coming on, with Everton now chasing the game, Martinez finally brought all his offensive weapons to bare on Spurs, subbing on Adian McGeady and Barcelona’s on loan playmaker, Gerard Deulofeu for Naismith and Osman. If Deulofeu and Barkley had been fit and McGeady around a little longer, Martinez might have well started with this trio and caused far more problems for Spurs.

After the substitutions Mirallas went top with Barkley in behind and McGeady left, Deulofeu right and still sitting with the dual holders of McCarthy and Barry. Another highlight of Spurs efficiency in defending the central areas was that the two highest passing combinations from either side in the match were McCarthy to Barry and Barry to McCarthy, each passing square to the other a combined twenty-four times.

The rest of the match saw Spurs sitting slightly deeper in their half and more willing to concede possession to Everton. They were no means parking the bus, but not as energetic in their pressing higher up the pitch than earlier on. Despite the introduction of three attack minded players, Everton were continually a non-threat to Spurs in the closing twenty or so minutes. They would have just three shots, none on target, in the second half despite pushing the possession battle from 50/50 to 54/46 in their favor by matches end. Spurs themselves had just two shots on target, from a total of five in the second half.

Both sides crossing was horrible, both Spurs and Everton attempted 22 crosses and both completed 4. That’s 8 of 44, which might not sound as bad if anyone watched the Manchester United game after Spurs, but it is still poor. Leighton Baines was relatively ineffective in this match and much of that credit must go to Kyle Walker. With Pienaar drifting inside for most of the match, Walker and Baines were left to battle on their flank mostly by themselves and Walker did a superb job defensively. Walker blocked four crosses, all taken deep from Spurs defensive third, intercepted three passes, all up near the half way line and recovered possession eight times, all on the right flank. Baines completed two of ten crosses(o/4 corners) and did complete 36 of 41 passes, but most were short, relatively simple balls.

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Paulinho and Dembele didn’t leave much for Bentaleb to do in the holding role as they both put in excellent defensive efforts. The two combined to make nine successful tackles out of eleven and recovered possession sixteen times and were key in keeping Barry and McCarthy, their direct midfield opponents from having any impact on the game when Everton where in possession.

Late on Sherwood brought on Jermaine Defoe for Lennon and Spurs went 4-4-2 to see out the final six or so minutes of regular time. Rationally this made no sense at all, Spurs had controlled the middle with three central mids and switching to a central pairing was risky. But, this was a move to get Defoe into the match for his last appearance at White Hart Lane in a Spurs uniform. Sherwood more or less had no choice but to get him in and probably did not want to remove his goal scorer, Adebayor, in a like for like swap. Perfectly excusable under the circumstances and it had no harm on the outcome. Spurs sat a bit deeper after he came on and Adebayor dropped off into midfield in the defensive phase to help the see the game out.

This was a stellar defensive effort from Tottenham, they may have only won by a narrow margin and they may not have been as dynamic in attack as usual but Everton rarely lose matches this season and they rarely allow goals. After this match Spurs have allowed the most and scored the fewest goals of the top six teams, they cannot be expected to play in a swashbuckling style every time they step onto the field. Sometimes you have to get everything right defensively, stop the opposition and either take the draw or squeak out the three points. Nativity against top clubs gets punished, as we have seen on several occasions this season. But not today, Sherwood got everything right from the beginning and Spurs got the points.

Bentaleb and Soldado, Not All Doom and Gloom

In Spurs most recent setback, dropping points away to Hull City, two players that came in for fairly heavy criticism were Nabil Bentaleb and Roberto Soldado. One, Bentaleb, is the nineteen year old that has been handed a wealth of playing time under Sherwood in midfield over more experienced, senior players and the other is the high priced forward who has failed to impress in his start to life at White Hart Lane. Michael Dawson also came in for criticism, specifically in reference to the goal allowed by Spurs, but as was touched on earlier here, the exploitation of Dawson’s lack of pace has more to do with the system he plays in, not Dawson.

Bentaleb has become the most controversial figure under Sherwood’s reign as first team manager as he has been preferred to Etienne Capoue, among others, in Spurs midfield. Some of this has to do with Sherwood’s apparent refusal, based on his quoted philosophy, of not feeling the need to field a player in midfield who specializes in playing the holding midfield role. He prefers more well rounded midfield players and does not see the need to field an out and out defensive minded player in midfield, whether he is playing 4-4-2 or with a five man midfield. That refusal has continued to expose the shortcomings of Bentaleb, Paulinho and Dembele, who are all fine players and offer plenty in possession, but not one of them has mastered the positional discipline to be able to protect the centerbacks and influence the game in possession.

Nor has any central pairing been able to develop an understanding to play the “double pivot” where in one player goes forward, and the other stays, the pairings have always been somewhere in between. Criticism then of Bentaleb needs to be separated clearly into two arguments, the first falls on Sherwood in why he is playing him, why he doesn’t want to field a holding mid and why he frequently feels comfortable with two center mids and not three. The second argument needs to focus on what Bentaleb is doing when he plays, good and bad, from which we can try to see what central role he may fit in best.

The biggest talking point with Bentaleb has been his passing, his supporters point to his high amount of passes and pass completion percentage, sometimes approaching 100 passes a match at rate exceeding 90%. His detractors have pointed to the fact most of these passes are short, square passes in uncontested areas of the midfield. What is this really contributing to the team? In the match against Palace, they were happy to let him have plenty of possession and sat off him letting him hit all the short passes he wanted and they weren’t going to do Palace any harm.

But in the match against Hull, Bentaleb played “only” 69 passes and completed 58, an 84% completion percentage. He found himself under slightly more pressure and was not allowed such easy possession as he has in the past. Not allowed to play these simple passes so easily, Bentaleb looked to move possession forward fairly often with his passing. Of those 69 passes, 36 were forward passes, just fourteen were square. And he completed 15 of 21 passes in the final third. In the Palace match he played 44 forward passes out of 107 and 34 were square. He looked to pass forward 41% of the time against Palace and 52% of the time against Hull. In the Palace match none of his 107 passes created a chance, against Hull he created two chances from open play.

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The two most frequent pass combinations in the Hull match were Paulinho to Walker and Bentaleb to Rose. However, all of Paulinho’s passes to Walker where in the middle third and square(relatively), Bentaleb however found his sided fullback just as often but in more advanced positions with forward passes into the final third.

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Defensively he made seven ball recoveries, most among Spurs other three midfield players and was the only midfielder to intercept any passes, making three. Not a stellar defensive performance but Hull mostly looked to bypass the midfield as they looked to break forward with long balls. He did manage to get back defensively well enough, the screen shot below shows one instance in which, for once, a Spurs midfield player is able to get back to help the centerbacks deal with opposition forward players. We can hope to see this more often in one of two ways, Bentaleb learns to position himself deeper with his back to goal on a more regular basis or…Sherwood plays one of his midfielders that already does this.

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There is optimism for Bentaleb, he’s comfortable on the ball and shows a willingness to put in defensive work and there’s signs he is willing and able to play advanced passes and not 90 five yard passes every time out. But does this experiment warrant him being played over a host of midfield players that are at the present time better overall than he is? Spurs have quite a bit of work to do to reach fourth spot and/or grab the Europa League trophy and it’s understandable Sherwood likes the kid, but he is a kid, a loan option for him would have seemed to be the much better choice as we’ve seen Steven Caulker, Andros Townsend and others go out on loan and comeback to Spurs ready for a starting role.

Otherwise, he is best served to only be starting in three man midfields. His ability to pitch in defensively and recycle possession at a high and relatively safe rate and at least a willingness to pass forward and occasionally pop up with a shot makes him the perfect in between midfielder. In between meaning he has a dedicated defensive mid operating behind him(Sandro or Capoue) and an attack minded mid operating alongside him in the defensive phase and free to roam in possession(the one and only, Eriksen). Bentaleb would neither need to be a creator or destroyer, his task would be to assist the midfield specialists around him and bridge the gaps between the other two roles.

Oh Roberto, what an interesting season it has been for Soldado in his first campaign with Tottenham. One goal from open play all season in the league has led many to slowly question more and more, if Spurs have made a massive mistake in laying out such a hefty sum of money for what is supposed to be a player in his prime and the scorer of many great goals. He was not a signing like Eriksen, Lamela or Paulinho bought with the understanding that however good they would be in 2013-14, the best will come later, no, Soldado was brought in to score goals in this campaign and he largely, has not. Since Sherwood has arrived he has been more influential when partnered with Adebayor but it’s been in setting up Adebayor for the goals and not getting them himself.

There is of course not much wrong with one striker teeing up his strike partner for a glut of goals in a short period of time but Adebayor has been making Soldado look redundant as he offers a great deal of help to Spurs in both the defensive and build up phases of play. And when Adebayor played as a lone striker against Swansea he popped up for a brace. Leaving us to question where Soldado fits in if he isn’t scoring? If Tottenham plays with a single striker surely at this point Adebayor is preferred to Soldado and if they play with two and Soldado looks redundant, it doesn’t really leave Sherwood with a reason to play two then, does it?

Spurs looked the most composed defensively and in possession under Sherwood when they played a 4-1-4-1 defensive block that transitioned into a 4-4-1-1 shape with Eriksen in behind Adebayor free to roam wherever he found space and still having defensive cover across the pitch. If that becomes Sherwood’s preferred system, Soldado is unneeded. But, he will be needed this season one way or another. Either Adebayor will pick up a knock, need rest or Spurs will be chasing a goal and make the call for Soldado. Or Sherwood continues to stubbornly field a 4-4-2. Is there any hope left for him, beyond youtube videos of his glamorous goal scoring exploits in Spain that suggests, yes, Soldado can score goals and yes, they are brilliant?

Against Hull he once again showed himself to be useful in receiving possession up the pitch, taking in a pass inside the box seven times, while also receiving a pass inside Spurs own half just as much, eight times. That does show a willingness to either drop deep to get on the ball or get back and help with defensive duties. He worked the right side of the pitch well, allowing Adebayor to do an equally effective job operating on the left. He completed 30 of 37 passes, an 81% completion rate and created two chances, including his excellent pass to Adebayor that was vollied on target. He also had four shots on goal, all from inside the area, where he scored all of his goal for Valencia last season.

One of his shots was a gloriously over hit shot from point blank range and he also hesitated to shoot when he had a clear cut chance to do so from a spot inside the area. These attempts or not taken attempts do not look like the Soldado we were expecting, it is possible to suggest his confidence has been shaken because the goal drought is in his head. Sherwood made a point of saying that is not the case. And maybe it isn’t, but does anyone think Sherwood would announce to the media, “Yea, he’s a bit of a mess at the moment isn’t he? Clearly the pressure of being a 26 million pound forward with one goal from open play is weighing on him. Yea, it’s quite bad at the moment, eh?” Of course not. If he had banged in a brace, sure then Tim can come out and say he was frustrated, yes, but the goals have come and now they will flow as he has his confidence back.

It’s not a dissimilar situation to that of Fernando Torres at Chelsea, he has had dry spells that have been well documented at Chelsea but during those spells he’s been a useful player for Chelsea in the build up phase and setting up others for chances on goal but he too suffered from glaring missed chances(worse than any of Soldado’s mind you) and was clearly visibly distraught. Torres’ goal scoring comes and goes for Chelsea, he did heat up a bit recently for them, but he does contribute in other areas keeping himself from being utterly useless as some forwards become when they are not scoring.

Looking to Torres as a glimmer of hope for Soldado is not overly comforting, especially considering Torres has his past ability of scoring freely in the EPL with Liverpool to look to for support, where as Soldado has no history here. It’s not much and it is worrying times for Spurs’ big money signing but it could still be as simple as one vollied shot hitting the back of net to spring the Spaniard back into form.

Spurs Stall Out Away to Hull, 1-1

After Tottenham’s midweek disaster at home to Manchester City, Spurs were hoping for a quick three points and a rebound away to Hull City(Tigers). Any one of the bottom ten teams would have done following Man City, with everything so tight in tenth through twentieth position there’s plenty of reason for optimism when facing any of them. But Hull were tough for Spurs to breakdown at the Lane earlier in the year only able to come away with a 1-0 victory thanks to a Roberto Soldado penalty. There would be nothing to save Spurs this time around, however, and Tottenham had their worst performance in the Sherwood era.

The match saw a return to Tactical Timmy’s much maligned 4-4-2 formation, which initially looked like a major tactical blunder as Hull have fielded a 3-5-2 formation at times this season. A back three came into popularity as the preferred counter to two striker systems and subsequently went away with the trend towards 4-2-3-1 and other single striker systems that made three centerbacks redundant. Luckily, Sherwood was spared being outclassed from the get go by Steve Bruce, as Bruce also opted to go 4-4-2. Hull paired their new strike force of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long up top, with the two operating together with good effect.

Despite the similar formations, the approach in possession of the two teams could not have been much more different. Spurs dominated possession with a 77% percent pass completion rate and 61% of the ball and looked for chances on goal with both slick passing counter attacks and sustained build up play. Tottenham’s two forwards, Soldado and Adebayor, worked the channels or dropped off into midfield to assist the build up play on a regular basis. Hull’s front pairing stayed higher up the pitch looking to get onto the end of long balls and attack Spurs directly. Jelavic made himself useful with his physicality and Long used his excellent pace to good effect.

The main tactical feature of the game was space in between the defensive and midfield lines, for both teams , when defending. It is no surprise to see this from Spurs in a 4-4-2 as their lack of a holding midfield player in four or five man midfields has been well, well, documented. But Hull allowed too much space in between their two banks of four as well and it’s a bit of surprise neither side took advantage of this more, as the two goals came from a sequence starting with a goal kick and a free kick.

The opening goal came in the opening fifteen minutes of the match as both sides created excellent chances one after another in short order that perfectly exploited the other sides weakness. Unfortunately for Spurs, Adebayor’s volley was saved but Long was able to chip Lloris and put Hull ahead. The snapshot below shows, perhaps, Spurs best chance from open play, a series of short combination passing followed with a short cross from Soldado and an outstanding volley from Adebayor.

GoodStuffSpurs

Shortly after, Hull exposed Spurs’ lack of a holding midfield player and got their goal by pulling Vertonghen and Dawson, Spurs centerback pairing, apart vertically from one another as Vertonghen went forward to challenge Long in the air from a Hull goal kick and Dawson marked Jelavic. Neither Vertonghen or Long won the ball in the air but it fell behind them, came to Jelavic who flicked it into the path of Long who easily raced by Dawson and away from Vertonghen to score with a nice finish 1v1 with Lloris.

SplitCenterbacks

Hull were content to keep playing the long game with both Jelavic and Long looking effective. And their long passing game was quite succesful, they completed 24 of 53 long passes(45%) while defensively, Long and Jelavic took away Spurs short passing options and were able to force them long. But Spurs only completed 12 of 39 long passes, 30%, and were poor taking free kicks inside their own half, completing just 3 of 10.

Shane Long was an outstanding nuisance in this match, he committed five fouls in and around Spurs area, created two chances, scored a goal, received fifteen passes from Hull’s half into Spurs half, recovered possession twice, won five of his twelve aerial duels(four in Spurs half) and was fouled three times himself. He showed exactly why Hull brought him in, pace, good finishing and an ability to be generally very energetic and annoying to his opponents for 90 minutes.

HullLong

Hull setup their front pairing in their initial defensive block in between Spurs centerbacks and central midfield pairing of Bentaleb and Dembele while their midfield four took up positions around the halfway line. This was a more proactive defensive block than that set out by Tony Pulis when Palace played Spurs, Pulis allowed Spurs central midfield pairing plenty of possession and took away their other options, here, they were pushed further back and not allowed to easily receive passes from the back. But it did create the potential weakness of, again, space between the lines for Eriksen to operate freely. Eriksen received 47 passes, including ten that crossed from Spurs half into Hull’s.

ImmaFreeBitch

Eriksen was able to complete 17 of 20 passes in the final third, 40 of 50 passes overall and had three shots from outside the area. Unfortunately, two of those shots were off target and one was blocked. He did hit Adebayor with six passes, two received inside the area, and also found Soldado with a pass eight times. But Hull did a solid defensive job inside their own area and Eriksen’s ability to roam didn’t end up hurting Hull.

Spurs also showed an ability to counter effectively, at least in terms of getting from their own half into Hull’s defensive third, with rapid sequences of passes on the ground. In the snapshot below Spurs move from their defensive third into Hull’s area with five well placed passes and win a corner.

ProperCounterAttack

Adebayor showed yet another dimension to his game against Hull, his ability to hold up back to goal against a centerback and take passes into feet and then look to layoff. Yet again, in this match Spurs were able on several occasions to hit Adebayor with a pass in or around Hull’s area from a central position because of the space in between the lines. Below, one such instance shows Adebayor receive a pass and then lay it off moments later to Eriksen(who’s not in screen) at the top of the area who then gets his blocked shot off and it goes out for a corner.

Suckinlayoff

The goal scored by Hull highlights well enough why there is a need for a more defensive minded midfield player on the pitch for Spurs, despite Les Ferdinand’s comments this week that he doesn’t like holding midfielders. He wants his midfield players to be more complete players, capable of contributing to the build up and attack play and also playing a role defensively. But that’s what all managers want, ideally, yes, you would want complete players in the central areas, but they are not so easy to find or cheap to acquire, there are only so many Sergio Busquets type players to go around.

What can be done in  to replicate this type of player? One, is to play a double pivot, two deep mids who take going forward in turns, with a strong understanding that if one goes, the other one stays. Spurs haven’t been able to find a partnership that has worked in this capacity so far, as it does for Man City and Chelsea quite well. Secondly, the creator/destroyer central pairing in a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1, which Spurs fans will remember Harry employing with Sandro and Luka Modric to great effect in the past, Sherwood hasn’t really given this a go yet either, that even Harry recognized the need for a Sandro or Scott Parker type in midfield is damning even more of Sherwood’s nativity.

Those are two options to avoid the holding midfield player being run out in a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 that Sherwood and Ferdinand fear doing so badly. Or they could just play a holding mid and admit they do not have a Sergio Busquets type player kicking around at the Lane at the moment. So long as they continue with this preference of selection, Spurs will continue to see problems in the middle of the park. Spurs interception chart below shows a glaring lack of interceptions made in the particular area of the field where a holding mid would take up his position.

Interwhatty

The match did display the contrast in styles that two teams can have while playing the same basic formation, no 4-4-2s are the same and we saw that clearly in this match. But just because Spurs version of 4-4-2 is not “orthodox” does not mean it can and will always be effective. Sherwood moved away from it for a while and fielded a 4-1-4-1 to good effect against Swansea but it will be interesting to see if he will break away from it again. And once Sandro is fit he will have the option of pairing him with his Brazilian counterpart, Paulinho, or his buddy from last season, Dembele, in the center of the park. If he chooses not to use the creator/destroyer tandem with a fully fit Sandro, who has proven himself in the Premier League, at his disposal, serious questions will start to be asked about Sherwood.

In the meantime, Hull City can come away from this match the much happier of the two sides, as they took a valuable point from a relatively in form, big club and having done so by executing their game plan better than the boys from the Lane. Bruce’s approach created a goal and stifled Spurs creativity and open football well enough to take something from the match, he succeeded where Stoke, Palace,Swansea and even Manchester United failed, putting the breaks on Sherwood’s free flowing football and making them pay for their defensive shortcomings.

Check back later in the week for a closer look at Bentaleb’s and Soldado’s performances against Hull City

The Similar Influences of Adebayor and Bony

On Sunday when Spurs came out on top against a struggling Swansea side, one of the more interesting subplots of the game was the similar play of Wilfried Bony and Emmanuel Abedayor. Both were operating as the lone front man for their respective teams and were able to influence their team’s buildup and attack play effectively down to their excellent work rates.

Spurs won the match fairly easily and Adebayor outscored Bony as well, 2-1, on the day but it’s safe to say Bony deserved at least the one goal and Adebayor certainly had the better supporting cast. All else being equal between the sides, which it is not, the simple fact that Adebayor had Christian Eriksen working behind him and Bony had Jonjo Shelvey as his supporting attacking mid certainly goes a ways in tipping the odds in Adebayor’s favor.

Both were on the receiving end of plenty of passes, with Adebayor receiving 56 passes to Bony’s 48. The chart below shows that they both were able to help the buildup but also still wound up in positions in and around the area to finish attacking moves with shots on goal. They were essentially able to cover two jobs typically assigned to a center forward pairing on their own. We saw this from Adebayor against Crystal Palace as well, when he made Roberto Soldado look redundant. Bony is always left on his own and must certainly miss the attacking qualities from Michu who has been out injured.

BonyAde

Bony was on the end of a pass inside the area four times against Spurs and from those passes he mustered three shots and a goal. Likewise, Adebayor took in four passes in Swansea’s area and had three attempts for two goals. Bony added two shots from outside the area after receiving a pass, one of which hit the woodwork, possibly the one threat he was able to offer that Adebayor was not. Most of the passes into Bony were from wide positions, where as Adebayor’s movement was more varied and he took passes from all over. But looking back at the chart, neither of them spent much time operating in front of the opposition area, they were both working the flanks or coming deep to get on the ball.

Where as Bony created more shots, six to three, Adebayor was both the busier and more successful passer of the two, completing 39 of 45 passes, an 87% completion rate, but Bony only completed 25 of 35, a 71% completion rate. Bony’s passing was also far more constricted, most being short passes in central positions and offered almost nothing in the final third. Adebayor on the other hand, sprayed his passes much more and was able to play passes into the final third as well.

PassBonyAde

What was both lacking from the two was an ability to win challenges in the air. Adebayor won just one of his five headed challenges and Bony only one of his six. Bony is very much a physical force and Adebayor is not a pushover himself, making it a bit surprising they weren’t winning many duels in the air. Both have put their heads to good use, Bony has won 41 of 86 headed challenges this season and Adebayor scored with his head this week and assisted with it last week. Neither dominated in the air in this particular match.

Adebayor was clearly the better of the two, even beyond just looking at the goal tally. But both him and Bony are asked to do very little in the defensive phase, they had one tackle and one interception between the two of them, and tasked with being a major influence when their side are in possession. Bony also hit the woodwork from range, very nearly matching Adebayor with a brace of his own, but never the less, it was a great display from both lone forwards of matching their much needed goal scoring ability with an excellent work rate as well.

Tactical Timmy Changes It Up, Spurs run out 3-1 Winners

Tottenham enjoyed a comfortable win, against a team that has troubled them little since returning to the Premiere League, coming out away to Swansea as 3-1 winners. This leaves Spurs heading into a ten day break having taken 16 of 18 points under Tim Sherwood in the league and well in the fight for a Champions League position. The three points takes on added importance as Spurs play Manchester City, Everton and Newcastle after their break and have a tricky away match to Hull City(Tigers) in the mix too. Not an easy run of fixtures. It was also nice to grab a win before a break, something Spurs failed to do in matches ahead of international breaks earlier in the season.

The two biggest stories from the match from a Tottenham point of view, was Sherwood finally showing some tactical depth and changing the formation and another excellent display from Adebayor. The most interesting subplot of the match was the similar play from Swansea’s lone front man, Wilfred Bony, and Spurs’ lone forward, Adebayor. Both were superb throughout and displayed an ability to play multiple center forward roles by themselves through excellent work rates and positioning. We will get back to that later in the week.

First, the formation change was a welcome sight to many Spurs fans, particularly this one, as Swansea are the type of side that can exploit two man central midfield pairings very well. It is a big part of what got them to the Premiere League in the first place. They play a high possession game based around a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation with their three man midfield crucial to their ability to retain possession and pose threats in the final third. Tottenham easily switched from a 4-1-4-1 defensive block to more of a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 buildup shape.

The switch simply involved Eriksen stepping forward to operate behind Adebayor and Bentaleb stepping forward to come alongside Dembele in the initial buildup phase. That’s very simply 4-4-1-1 and then we would see Lennon push on, Dembele get further forward, the fullbacks push up and then we reach the point of it being pointless to classify the “formation” in the final third, the defensive block and initial buildup shape is what is important. The switch involved Eriksen doing what he has already been doing, drifting around where he pleases in between the lines, the difference, a big one, is that when he did so against Swans he had much less distance to cover to get from his defensive zone to where he wanted to operate and then back into the defensive block. This allowed him to have a large influence for Spurs in possession but also was able to do a job in the defensive phase.

4141Spurs

His role out wide at left mid was covered by Nacer Chadli, who had an extremely quiet game, he had no shots on goal, created one chance and didn’t make a tackle or intercept a pass. However, his constant presence in that wide position helped to force Swansea to play through the middle, as Lennon, as usual, did the same job on the right, he kept his width in all phases of play. Swansea had little ability to spread Spurs out or create overlaps with their fullbacks or play balls into Bony from wide positions. They were forced into the middle, where Spurs had even numbers and an ability for the wide players to then pinch in and tighten up the defense even more.

SwansMiddleAhh

The defensive setup wasn’t perfect, however, as Spurs did cause themselves a few problems. One glaring issue was not due to the tactical setup, but to Danny Rose’s poor decision making about when to step out from the backline. On a few occasions he stepped out needlessly and created space in behind that Spurs were lucky not to be exploited on. The picture below is just such an instance, what could happen, as mentioned in the photo, is exactly what does happen, Jonjo Shelvey receives a layoff and plays a through ball out wide right into the space vacated by Rose. Luckily, for Spurs, Jonjo over hits the pass and Spurs don’t suffer from it, but it’s an example of Rose sometimes being too eager. Which is not a bad thing, if it can be coached and he can become more disciplined in the defensive phase.

BadRoseBad

Swansea also at times found it easy to slip a pass to Bony or  Shelvey operating in between the lines. They were able to drift away from the backline, for Bony, or beyond and away from Spurs midfield, for Shelvey, and both were able to get off a host of shots from range. Bony was the more accurate of the two, by far, but it’s still a concern. Bentaleb seemed to handle his role better as the game went on, staying tight to Shelvey when he drifted in between Spurs lines, but a 4-1-4-1 shape cries out for Capoue or, preferably, the master of destruction himself, Sandro. Again, Spurs weren’t burned by this here and Bony didn’t get his goal until Spurs were comfortably ahead. Bony did force a save and hit the woodwork from two of his three shots from outside the box. But we’re also talking about a struggling side in Swansea, a better side may have snatched their chances better, before Spurs adapted.

The best benefit from fielding Bentaleb behind a central pairing was an added ability to slow down and breakup counter attacks, which allows the fullbacks more comfort in pushing forward. The second goal was an own goal but it was created from a cross near the byline from Kyle Walker on a pass from Dawson stepping forward. The exact type of play we can see more often with added cover. Walker and Rose get flack from time to time for their forward runs, but that is part of the modern fullback’s expected abilities.

The problem lied in their lack of cover, not their willingness to get forward. Below, in a poor screenshot, we see Swansea on a three man break, that is matched by three Spurs covering in goal side positions and Walker trailing the play. Spurs resolve this situation and Swans are unable to create a chance from the break involving Bony and Shelvey, their most dangerous players on the day.

CounterThis

Spurs won back possession around the midfield areas, mostly inside their own half, they were neither sitting deep, nor looking to press high, they set the defensive block around the center line and, again, forced Swansea to play narrow, away from Spurs’ box. Tottenham did an excellent job of letting Swansea have more possession but not much in threatening areas. The defensive block included Lennon and Chadli wide and Adebayor up top, three easy outlets for Spurs to pass to when possession was won back, the defensive shape lent itself to an immediate ability to spread the ball when getting the ball back.

SpursRecover

As mentioned, Chadli had a quiet game, but unlike when Eriksen plays wide left, he kept his position out wide when Spurs had possession. It had a two fold effect of allowing him to fulfill his defensive duties, while at the same time supplying an ability to stretch the play when Spurs were in possession. It’s not a glamorous job, but Dembele, Lennon and Eriksen provided enough creativity from midfield that it’s really all Chadli needed to do. And he did.

ChadliPass

The high points of the match are surely, Eriksen and Adebayor’s excellent play, Spurs overall attack play flowing smoothly with only one striker and Walker and Rose contributing to two of three goals from fullback positions. That will surely be written about and talked about a great deal among Spurs supporters and Spurs blogs over the coming days, but all of the above is also important to look at and take note of.

And credit needs to be given to Sherwood for showing he may not be as tactically naive as some(including myself) thought him to be. He might only be a Harry 1.5 and not a full blown tactically blind clone. Did he switch the system because of Swansea’s style? It’s possible, it’s still possible to cynically say he only did so because Soldado has been poor and Adebayor is doing the work of two strikers by himself. But, either way, he has now had two clear cut chances to adapt his tactics and the first time he needed to do so in the league, he did. The real tests will come against Manchester City and Everton’s outstanding attack forces, City with their utterly stupid ability to score goals and Everton with their brilliant manager, Roberto Martinez, playing some of the best possession football in England.

There is still no revolution taking place at White Hart Lane but Sherwood is getting results, Spurs are an attractive side once again and we’ve seen the break from 4-4-2 we all wanted. And for now, there really isn’t much to complain about, the mighty Spurs are marching on in style once again.

Thoughts on Tottenham vs Crystal Palace(12/01/14)

First off, quick introduction, I set this site up two years ago and never used it, so excuse the somewhat lame blog name. I used to blog quite a bit but don’t really have the commitment to write on a regular basis anymore and usually just rant away on the Spurs’ reddit. However, it’s difficult(impossible?) to post pictures along with a post on reddit and I have several pictures I want to put up, so I’m using this instead of a thousand links to imgur.

The most often talked about development under Tim Sherwood with Tottenham has been the 4-4-2 formation they have set out in. Several members of the Spurs’ reddit and several writers, bloggers and so on have all said it is not a “strict” 4-4-2. Which is completely correct. And also not surprising, no team really plays a strict 4-4-2 in both the possession phase and defensive phases of play in the modern game. Much talk has been made of Adebayor dropping off into midfield, he does, Eriksen coming in from a wide left position, he does, fullbacks pushing on, they do, Soldado working the channels, he does, and so on.

All the above is true but it’s the possession phase people continue to focus on when discussing Spurs’ formation. What is not spoken of as much is that it is very much a 4-4-2 in the defensive phase of play. And that’s where a formation really matters, the defensive shape, and Spurs have shown vulnerability in this setup at different stages of most of their matches. The one we all know about is the 2-0 defeat in the FA Cup to Arsenal and most level headed people agree Spurs can be found out by a midfield three intent on ball possession and rotation like Arsenal’s.

But this weekend we saw Spurs exploited in a new way and very intentionally by Tony Pulis’ Palace side. The use of Maroune Chamakh playing off Cameron Jerome in a 4-4-1-1 shape was able to cause Spurs problems by presenting their centerbacks with a new problem to solve, who was going to deal with Chamakh in between the lines? The most dangerous instance of this situation resulted in a shot on goal from Jerome in the first half.

ChamkhDropOff

An aerial ball is played towards Chamakh and with Bentaleb and Dembele covering their opposite midfield duo, Chiriches has to come forward and make a challenge, which he loses and the ball is flicked on to Jerome in a 1v1 with Dawson. Dawson handles the physical Jerome well enough and his effort on goal wasn’t overly threatening to Lloris. However, as we’ve seen this season, Dawson handles physical forwards well but has his issues with more nimble strikers. Had this been Jerome flicking on to Chamakh, Spurs may have found themselves in more trouble.

Where as Spurs often look 4-5-1 in possession because Adebayor drops off and then 4-4-2 when defending because Adebayor forms the first line of the defensive block with Soldado, Pulis set up Palace in the opposite way, they were clearly 4-4-1-1 in possession but when they lost possession Chamakh again has a job to do, drop off into the midfield defensive line and sit in a bank of five, leaving Jerome to apply light pressure to Spurs centerbacks. This in turn left Bentaleb and Dembele with easy possession around the center circle.

SitIntheMiddle

This easy possession in a non-threatening area certainly helped to inflate both Bentaleb and Dembele’s passing stats, the two alone played almost as many passes as Palace did as a whole. They really did, 182 were completed by the duo, Palace’s entire team completed 207. It’s a Tony Pulis side, but still. Palace was content to let them have possession around the center circle all they wanted and made their defensive stand deeper in their own area. Again, hardly a surprise, but Chamakh had to be disciplined and he was.

Spurs found two ways to get around this in the second half, but before that, it should be said after watching the first half for a second time, Spurs actually moved the ball effectively through Palace’s half in the first forty-five minutes and were only lacking the final ball. Watching it live, I thought Spurs were horrid in the first half, but second time through, they were actually playing well enough. Credit has to be given to Palace here, they were fantastic in the first half both in defending and attacking. We can’t always blame Spurs for failing to get a goal at home and starting slowly, the other team can have an influence on the proceedings and Palace did not look like a relegation contender for the first forty-five minutes.

The goals would come for the boys of White Hart Lane in the second half and thanks to the efforts of Adebayor they were able to find ways to break Palace’s defensive block. First, the most obvious, Adebayor draws in both of Palace’s centerbacks and wins an aerial duel on a long pass from Naughton and nods it on to Eriksen who finishes superbly. It was the simplest example of the big man/little man approach you will ever see, a fullback plays a long ball, it’s nodded on and put in the net, the ball barely touches the ground and the whole move takes barely any time at all.

What may have been overlooked is that while Palace’s standing off was effective against Spurs’ midfield duo, that lack of pressure was also applied, or not applied, to Tottenham’s fullbacks. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue for Palace because both Rose and Walker look to get into midfield and push on frequently often leaving the centerbacks to control possession at the back. Spurs fullbacks would have been picked up by Palace’s wide mids if they pushed on and still left three midfielders to deal with Dembele and Bentaleb(and Adebayor when dropping). But Naughton, who came on for injury, not a tactical reaction by Sherwood, is more conservative in getting forward and took a chance in a 0-0 game by playing a long pass. And it came off.

NaughtonOn

Normally, we would expect to see long passes from the back played from Dawson, but with Jerome expected to exert at least some pressure on Spurs’ centerbacks the one man unaccounted for in Palace’s defensive block is Naughton, an unlikely substitute(Walker as we know never comes off), and he makes them pay.

What’s also interesting about the opening goal is again the combination of Eriksen and Adebayor, but more importantly, where is Soldado? He’s nowhere to be found in this sequence. In fact, Soldado’s presence in this match was largely redundant. He was late making runs into the box, but Adebayor wasn’t, he didn’t drop off too much, but Adebayor did, and he wasn’t a target option in the middle much at all either, but Adebayor was. If there was a match under Sherwood that showed they don’t need to field both Soldado and Adebayor at the same time and still score goals this was it. Adebayor did the work to make himself useful in a variety of ways throughout, to the point where it’s a wonder Soldado wasn’t taken off for an attacking mid(or Chadli out to the left and Eriksen in the hole).

Look at the goal again as the ball is coming into Adebayor, it’s him, Eriksen, a bunch of Palace defenders and no one else and the dynamic duo wins out and scores the opener.LittleManBigMan

Lastly, to pick on Soldado some more and highlight Adebayor’s work rate, here’s two frames, three seconds apart highlighting Adebayor coming deep and then getting back up against Palace’s backline in a move that sees Spurs win a corner, while Soldado is made to look unneeded.AdeDropDeepAnd then…

TwoUpTopAgain

In the same move, Adebayor gets to the center circle, knocks around two quick passes to help Spurs unlock some space to play a forward pass to Lennon and while that passing move is taking place he gets back up top to be in a position for a potential ball from Lennon. Not trying to call out Soldado, but it needs to be said that part of Spurs renewed ability to score goals is probably from two strikers being played, but a lot of it seems to be from the simple fact that one of them is Adebayor.

At some point one of Soldado and Adebayor is going to need to sit out a match. Either for rest or an injury, whether it be minor or major, the lack of squad rotation like under Harry looks like it could be rearing it’s ugly head under Sherwood. The side has been relatively unchanged and that included both strikers getting a run out in every match during the holiday period, even for the cup matches we saw neither of them sat down for another striker or a midfield player.

Next Sunday Spurs have Swansea, who are struggling this year and in that glut of teams positioned 10-20th position with serious thoughts on being stuck in to a relegation battle. But, they do play 4-3-3, they beat United in the FA Cup last weekend and can cause Spurs problems in the middle. That, coupled with Soldado’s struggle to influence the game against Palace and the fact that him and Adebayor continue to get run out every match, creates the perfect timing to sit him.

Spurs fitness issues being as they are, it’s ridiculous to suggest a starting eleven for Sunday on Monday, but a move to 4-4-1-1 with Eriksen behind Adebayor for the game against Swans is the logical decision.