1-0 to Spurs. I don’t know exactly what to make of this game. Last week we started flat and lacked control of the middle of the pitch (making Alli and Kane ineffective). At 55 mins Janssen was subbed on for Alli and we shifted to a 4-4-2 / 4-(1-3)-(1-1) and the game turned. We controlled the ball better and created more chances from the wings–and remained ineffective up the middle. The draw was disappointing but on the balance a fair result.
This week was different. Alli was dropped to the bench in favor of Janssen (supposedly Alli was sick midweek but that doesn’t justify his terrible performance the week before). Our formation was the familiar 4-2-3-1 but with a few guys moved around. Janssen was up top to harry the defense. Kane dropped into the playmaking #9 role. Lamela and Erikson swapped sides. And the defensive half of the lineup was the same as last week.
CP lined up like a 4-2-3-1, but due to their 2 very defensive midfielders and 4 wingers in a useless jumble up top it played like a 6-0-4 with giant holes in the midfield.
We controlled the ball well from the opening whistle. On offense, Wanyama and Dier actively dribbled the ball forward to transition from D to O. We controlled the middle of the pitch and created chances from steep runs. We had 10 corner kicks to their 1, and dominated them in shots 14 to 8 (and I can’t remember a single one of their shots requiring a good save from Vorm). Our finishing, however, was awful. We didn’t shoot well but our biggest problem was that we squandered at least 5 great opportunities without even getting a shot off. Erikson led a fast break where we had even numbers; he streaked down the center of the field dribbling from our box to theirs before tripping over the ball while trying to cross the defender with a pass to Kane. It was a perfect microcosm of the game. April of last season we would have generated 10 additional shots and finished at least 4 of them. I don’t know if our guys were trying to get too cute or choked or couldn’t see their angles, but the failure to close out the game early meant CP was always a lucky counter attack from snatching points.
Here was the Expected Goals (xG) map for the game as compiled by Michael Caley and posted on his twitter:
In addition to poor finishing, our wing game was lacking. Rose and Walker weren’t particularly effective bringing the ball up the wings–the reverse of last week–possibly due to unfamiliarity in the Rose/Lamela and Walker/Erikson passing combinations. Erikson was really off his game with poor first-touches, bad passes, and not enough going forward. He’s been in a protracted contract negotiation and hopefully that’s not distracting him. Below is a passing map showing the relative position of each Spur during the match and the frequency of their passes. Erikson was a dead zone and clearly didn’t work well with Walker this match:
On defense, we were stout. Poche’s system requires hard pressing by the front line and smart rotation by the midfielders to close down the obvious outlet passes. The system is supposed to generate turnovers in advantageous positions and prevent offensive build up by the other team. Janssen at the top was a beast. He pounced on loose balls, made hard tackles all over the pitch, committed tons of fouls and injured defenders, and mostly worked his ass off. The back 6 did a great job of isolating the CP wingers/attackers so they always seemed to be working alone and taking on 2 of our defenders. They had maybe 3 decent chances to score all game. It was an excellent game in defense.
Around the 70th minute Erikson was subbed out for Alli and within seconds Alli flicked a gorgeous ball onto the path of the cutting Janssen. Janssen should have scored but managed to send it further from the goal that might have been humanly possible. Alli looked sharp in his 20 minutes of game time–more like the Alli of last season. We kept pushing and earned an 85th minute corner kick. Kane got his head on it about 12 yards out and sent a solid shot goalward. Wanyama intercepted it with a slight flick guaranteeing that it wasn’t going to be saved. Not sure if Kane’s would have gone in but Wanyama’s did and that was all that mattered. We closed out the remaining minutes and earned our first win of the season.
Probably the best single moment of the game–even better than the goal–was Lamela nutmegging former Spur Andros Townsend:
The last few frames reveal a lifetime of regret and insecurity as his soul is cleaved from his body. RIP Townsend.
Player Ratings (-5 to +5)
Janssen +3 – would have been +5 if he had scored some of his chances. On a better day he would have had 2 goals and an assist.
Kane +2 – not as dogged as Janssen but he was playing a different role and put in a solid shift
Lamela +1 – Some good moments, but was guilty of creating chances but not shots
Erikson -2 – Not a good game
Dier +1 – Better than last week. Solid on D and more productive on O. Nothing stood out from his game other than a major nut shot
Wanyama +3 – First goal as a Spur. Pushed the ball forward to create a lot of attacks. Man of the Match.
Rose +1 – Smooth passing out of the back but wasn’t effective enough as a winger
Vertonghen +1 – much better than last week. Stifling D.
Alderweirald +3 – really good on D, got his head on a couple of corner kicks. Unlucky to not get a goal.
Walker 0 – nothing bad but nothing good.
Vorm +1 – made some easy saves and was a solid distributor. No complaints.
Alli +2 – created a lot of chances in his 20 minute shift. Unlucky not to come away with a goal and an assist.
Onomah +0 – less than 5 minutes on the pitch
Carroll +0 less than 2 minutes on the pitch
Glad we got our first win of the season.