Spurs Week 6 Action

Second in the table!

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Welcome back everyone! Just to reiterate, the Spurs are a really fun club to follow. Aesthetically pleasing hi-tempo style; young, likable and slightly villainous players; smart and passionate coach; and a shrewd team president who is half way through implementing a 10 year plan to make them one of the big money clubs in England. They’re quite a bit below Arsenal and Liverpool in spending but way above the next tier of teams like Everton, Leicester, and West Ham who have no real shot at securing consistent European qualification. And Spurs are in the Champions League!

On to the game review. 2-1 away win to Middlesbrough. Our third win in a row and an easy result. The English media is trying to spin a narrative that the Spurs were given a run for their money late in the game, but this game was over after 20 minutes. What they should have been talking about was that Middlesbrough’s uniforms are from the early 2000s–baggy, long shorts, 1990s shoulder stripes, Italian-esque body stripes, and just shitty looking. I don’t know if this was some sort of secret throwback alternative kit or if the team is just afraid that their disgustingly fat fans might buy a form-fitting kit and try to wear it in public but it might have made anyone cry if he watched the game.
Anyway, we opened up with a half-strength lineup and played a variation on our typical 4-2-3-1 with Alli and Wanyama at the CM pivot instead of Dembele and Dier; Son, Erikson, and Sissoko playing left to right in AM; Janssen in the striker slot; and Davies at left back. It looked something like this:
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Possibly due to stylistic differences, we played quite differently than normal. Sissoko stayed way out wide forcing Walker to pinch in from right back. Wanyama sat very deep while Alli and Erikson rotated playing the pivot. Janssen made almost no Harry Kane-type steep runs and operated almost exclusively like a center in basketball acting as a distributor from the high post. It was a forward-pushing, but very flat formation that almost looked like a 4-1-1-4 with Walker and the pivot keeping control of the midfield. I’ve diagrammed it thusly:
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As you can guess by my doodles, I did not rate Sissoko or Davies highly this game. That’s because they were garbage. Here’s a map of Sissoko’s contributions. Blue are good, red are bad, a prize to the person who can figure out which goal he was trying to score on:
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Sissoko went out injured in the 70th minute–a knock to the head–and was replaced by Lamela. Here’s what Lamela contributed in 1/5th the time from the same position. Almost every single ball is in the attacking direction.
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I don’t know what Sissoko is trying to do on the pitch but he’s nowhere near the same page as the rest of the team. His positioning was detrimental to Walker, Alli and Erikson, and when he would get the ball it was rarely given back in a more advanced position. Sometimes he takes on defenders but they always drive him to the corner flag where the best case scenario is never more than hopeful cross getting deflected out for a corner kick. Maybe it’s because he’s only been with the club for 4 weeks, but he does not fit what we’re doing.
Davies, on the other hand, has no excuses. He’s been on the team for years so he knows the tactics but his passing was terrible, the timing on his forward runs were confusing and left gaping holes in the D, and he was consistently beat by his man to crosses at the far post. Middlesbrough had exactly 4 crosses from their left to right and all four found Davies’ man or went over Davies’ head to the man he should have been marking. Danny Rose is weak against aerial crosses but he makes up for it by staying goal-side and not letting his man find space behind him. Here are all 6 of Middlesbrough’s shots. The two gray ones were blocked in plays that I can’t remember. The other four are headed balls following crosses by the man running at the far post. That’s it. That’s the entirety of Middlesbrough’s attack. Davies misplaying all 4 of his opportunities to defend crosses:
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So here’s what was good. Our offensive rotation was fluid and potent. Our attackers were coordinated and creative and looked to set each other up. We consistently created scoring chances and harried the ‘brough defense into turning the ball back over in their own half. We had long stretches of possession that strangled the life out of them while not slowing the game down. When the ball does get sent out, Alderweirald is our Belgian falcon swooping around the field picking off passes and through balls with the foresight of a clairvoyant.
Games like today prove that we can roll out a diminished line up against the lesser teams and not really miss out on much. Our fatal flaw last season was that any lineup that didn’t include our top 11 was significantly worse. Late season fatigue ended our chances to really push for the title. Last week against shitty Sunderland with a top line up this was our expected goals (xG) map:
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And this week we took our foot off the pedal at halftime and still put up 1.7xG:
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Son will get the plaudits for this game and that’s reasonable. He came into the match having put 2 screamers past Stoke and looking to take advantage of another starting spot. In August, he requested a transfer back to the Bundesliga following his underwhelming first year in the BPL. Pochettino talked him out of it and looks like the genius that he is. Here are the match highlights, including Son’s two goals:
The first goal is remarkable for two reasons. First, Janssen’s hold up play is par excellence. He could have held onto that for 30 more seconds if he wanted. Second, note that Son is coming from the right and Sissoko is manning the far post on the left. Erikson provides the starter pass to Janssen. All 3 AMs are out of “position” which shows the flexibility and fluidity in Poche’s system. Pep Guardiola of Man City literally drew a chalk mark on the pitch for Raheem Sterling to stand on like a fucking robot. Poche just gets guys who can play, outlines a strategy, and unleashes them.
The second goal is laudable for the hustle that Son shows winning the ball back. Not exactly quality D by ‘brough but the shot was inch perfect. Valdez the GK didn’t even try to save it.
In the ‘brough chances on goal, look for Ben Davies (33) not defending anyone or getting goal-side of his man. Terrible.
With our comfortable 23rd minute 2-0 lead the ref put the whistle in his pocket and we played a gentleman’s game. Not a lot of fouls and Dele Alli actually checked on an injured Smoggie instead of just giving them the hairy eyeball. Not shown on that xG map is the two very reasonable penalty calls that were waved off for no discernible reason in the first half. Alli got inside his man twice and was tripped from behind on the first one (no ball contact at all) and the defender knocked the ball out of the air with his arm on the second one. In the second half, Son was denied a penalty after getting tripped in the box (no ball contact on that one either) so at least the ref was consistent.
‘Brough seemed happy with the 2-0 loss too. The only players in red who took exception were the GK Valdez who nearly attacked his own defender for not tracking back and had to be restrained by another defender, and the left winger who pushed the ball into dangerous areas only to find that there were zero teammates following or making runs.
As the second half opened up, we relaxed. Erikson and Alli were completely in control of the midfield in what was probably the most complete game by the two of them all season. They should have had an assist-goal combo after Erikson stole the ball from a dawdling ‘brough defender and slipped it to Alli who lifted it over the keeper and bar from 8 yards out. It was a silly miss but didn’t feel like anything at the time given our total control of the game.
Around the 65th minute ‘brough made a double switch and one of the new guys made a mazey run up the middle of the pitch. It was an exciting play that didn’t really turn into anything but the announcers got excited and decided that Middlesbrough was back in the game and that was going to be the narrative. They scored off a silly Wanyama foul free kicktwo minutes later when our man Davies whiffed on the header and Wanyama’s man climbed over his back to finish it. Poor defending by both men, but very much against the run of play.
This wasn’t Spurs best game of the season but the guys who played well, Janssen, Alli, Erikson, Son, Walker, Alderweirald, and Vertonghen were very good and might have won the game by more if the other guys weren’t on the pitch. Bill Simmons jokes about the Milton Berle game (pulling out just enough to win) and this was very much an example of that. It was easy even if the score line doesn’t reflect it.
Player ratings (-5 to +5)
Janssen (2) – strong in his hold up play, got the assist on Son’s first, and could have gotten more assists with better finishing.
Son (3) – aggressive, 2 smartly taken goals, hustled all game
Alli (3) – would have scored higher had he converted the easy chance that he put over the bar
Erikson (3) – Man of the match. Controlled the middle of the pitch
Sissoko (-2) – I’m sure he’ll score a goal or three this season but given the way he’s playing it’ll be a fluke play not by intention
Wanyama (-1) – Knows how to do the dirty work in the CM spot to slow down an attack but switches off too easily and was beat for Middlesbrough’s goal
Davies (-4) – Awful. Was lucky that we weren’t facing an actual offense that could have really exploited him
Vertonghen (1) – Tough to rate. I think most of his action was trying to cover for Davies.
Alderweirald (3) – Never a wrong step. Is a great source of pin-point forward crosses when our O is having trouble stretching their D.
Walker (3) – Adapted well to Sissoko being shitty and taking advantage of the space available to him
Lloris (-1) – Not a very good game for our keeper. Not responsible for the goal, but was poor in distribution in his few chances. No real saves to speak of.
Lamela (2) – creative and aggressive in his 15 minutes of sub time.
Winks (0) – I want to rate him higher. Only had a few minutes of sub time but looked smooth and comfortable in the midfield. Hope we see more of him in blow out games or against weaker competition.
N’Koudou (0) – pacy and youthful. Only had a few minutes of sub time but was really aggressive in his defensive press and pushed hard to create a shot in his only opportunity. Good effort at the least.
Our next match is Tuesday against CSKA Moscow in our second Champions League match. We travel there. English soccer teams traveling to Moscow–a 3.5 hour flight–complain like people in the LA’s South Bay going East of the 405. It’s not that big a deal and at least the team is doing it in September and not December. I’ll do some research on CKSA tomorrow. The game is being shown on Fox Sports 2 at 11:30am PST Tuesday.

Spurs Week 6 Action

Middlesborough

This week we’re playing away at Middlesborough. As you may remember from my Arbitrary Power Rankings (APR)–trademark pending–they were holding down the coveted 11th place. Minimal fanfare! Exceeding baseline expectations! What’s not to love about the….Smoggies? I shit you not, that’s what their fans are called. Brexiters really pine for the long lost days of Industrial Powerhouse England. I’m not sure why. By all accounts it was a sooty, toxic, abysmal place to live. They romanticize chimney sweeps for fuck’s sake.
Back to soccer. The Smoggies are one of the promoted teams and started their season well with a draw against Stoke, a win over Sunderland, and a draw with West Brom before losing to Crystal Palace and Everton. On second look, those first three performances mean nothing and Middlesborough is a poor team that will struggle to avoid relegation. They are bereft of quality players and their coach said in an interview today that Tottenham will win the game regardless of whether Kane is injured or not. After they got smoked by Everton last week, the manager said “I can be happy with the attitude of the team because other teams would have lost five, six or 7-1. We were battling to the end.” That’s a serious glass-half-full spin!
Middlesborough has nice red uniforms and Brad Guzan is their backup keeper. That’s about all the nice things I can say about them. Last year they had a really stingy defense but they’ve given up 7 goals in 5 games against not great competition. This is Tottenham’s game to lose. Or draw. But most likely win and win comfortably.
Spurs, as most weeks, will probably come out with a 4-2-3-1. Most likely Janssen starts up top. Son has been great in his last two matches so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him swap out for either Lamela or Erikson. I would expect Dier and Dembele in the pivot, and I think Rose is still injured so Davies will start at left back. This being an easier match, and with our pending trip to CKSA Moscow on Tuesday, seeing a few of the back ups wouldn’t be a terrible thing.
For the first few weeks of the season I’ve been harping on how much Mousa Dembele means to the team. Offensively, as you’ve all seen, we’re blessed with creative playmakers and a flexible idea of positioning for our attacking band. Kane is part-time holder and changes it up by making steep runs off of inside passes. He’s tall-ish, fast enough, and kinda strong. He is, however, both skillful and opportunistic. He combines well with the outside-in movement of Lamela and Erikson, and the creativity of Alli. Because all of our attackers tend to cluster in the middle of the field, we rely on Walker and Rose to get down the flanks and provide width.
On defense, we are anchored by the consistent, well-positioned, strong trio of Vertonghen, Alderweirald, and Dier to close down the middle. Rose and Walker rely on their speed to recover from deep forays into the attacking half of the pitch. Our attackers play a quick pressing system that requires all of them to switch onto the nearest free players to slow down any counter-attacks until we recover our defensive shape.
All of this is acceptably good with Dier and a replacement-level CM holding down the middle of the middle. Dembele, however is a game-changing beast. Man U bought Paul Pogba, a fellow CM pivot, for $133M this off season because he can attack with the ball at his feet, use his strength to hold off defenders, change directions to open up new lines of attack, close down quickly on defense, and is generally unstoppable. Now watch this Dembele video:
That’s 5 minutes of him crushing ankles on tackles, and breaking ankles on turns. His first touch is impeccable and leads second touch passes. When he dribbles, he’s upright and balanced. He’s freakishly strong but has a delicate and deft passing touch. His strides are long and fluid but he’s never out of control and the ball never strays too far. Defenders are always close to the ball but never able to steal possession. Second defenders are forced to crash with help. Where the rest of our players instinctively try to pass advance the ball, Dembele dribbles into space and at defenders. This forces them to engage and suddenly the defensive shape is broken and Alli or Lamela or Erikson is standing 16 yards out with a 3 yard cushion and a twinkle in their eye. I’m wet just thinking about it. I love watching Dembele. He elevates the team by magnifying the things we do well and adding that dribbling control that not even Lamela possesses. And he’s mean. I’m sure he’s nice off the field, but on the field he and Lamela and Alli (and Janssen) love to tackle late and start shit with their counterparts. They niggle and nag and harass and draw fouls while putting up their hands as if to say “I didn’t know I was stepping on his calf”. They give our team a villainous attitude. Arsenal and Liverpool and Man City can move the ball with delicate grace but they’re pussies. We are bullies. We punish with volume and force and sinister intentions. We have half a team of Diego Costas–the most hated footballer in England on the biggest bully team–and here we are bullying them at the end of last season when the league title was out of our grasp. Look for Dembele poking Costa in the eye. Fuck ’em. I love this team.

League Cup

Victory!

5-0 win. Starting lineup was:

Janssen
Erikson, Lamela, Onomah
Carroll, Winks
Davies, Carter-Vickers, Wimmer, Trippier
Vorm
That’s a pretty green defensive 6. I was in boring training seminar all day and did a lot of play-by-play refreshing. Nearly every play was a shot by Spurs. Our first goal was just before the half, a sweet laser by Erikson. Second goal was another Lamela to Erikson. Trippier was tripped in the box and Janssen slotted home the PK for the third. Fourth was Lamela to Onomah. And fifth was Lamela. Total bloodbath as it should have been. Follow these links to see the goals. Erikson’s first was a beaut. Lamela ended with 1G and 3A.
After today’s matches they drew the next round. We play away at Liverpool in a few weeks.
BONUS:
Thought this was a really good article about Poche and his development of our youth players.

Spurs Week 3

A draw at home with Liverpool

1-1 Draw at home with Liverpool. This was the Choose Your Own Adventure game. So many incidents that could have dramatically altered the course of the game.

“Alternative Universe 1 – Coutinho sits due to a tight hamstring”
Up until the day of, this was what was being reported. Coutinho is one of the lynch pins of Liverpool’s attack. He played an excellent game, creating chances through smart passing and dangerous runs. Had he not played, Liverpool probably wouldn’t have been so effective through the first 65 minutes of the game.
“Alternative Universe 2 – Coutinho can finish”
Maybe 5 minutes into the match Liverpool’s domination of the midfield resulted in some nifty work down the right, inside of Rose, then behind Vertonghen, and a tidy pass horizontal pass to an unguarded Coutinho at the 6 yard box with 2/3 of the goal at his disposal. Vorm made a hockey kick save and then lept on the ball securing it. Going down 1-0 5 minutes in would have completely changed the game. As it was, Liverpool was the sharper, more aggressive team. Their high press and superior numbers in midfield meant Spurs had to move the ball around the back a lot and look for 25-yard passes through the midfield. We were much too stretched and many passes were intercepted. There were several instances of poor back-passing that lead to Liverpool scoring chances.
“Alternative Universe 3 – Healthy Hugo: Not a Sweeper Keeper”
Vorm was fantastic today. He’s so obviously less talented than Lloris, and yet I think he did a better job today than Lloris would have. Vorm made some great reaction saves and several furious out-of-the-box tackles on streaking attackers. His tackles were athletic, and superbly timed and one was probably 35 yards from his goal. So often we see keepers caught out where they can’t use their hands and the “no, Brain, we have to use our feet” thought process is almost visible as they change their posture and haphazardly fling their lower bodies at the dancing feet of the attacker only to draw a card and a penalty. Vorm did it with aplomb and in a way that I doubt Lloris could have matched.
“Alternative Universe 4 – Kyle Walker wasn’t ill”
In the 35th minute Kyle Walker came off. Dier moved to right back, Alli moved to cover Dier at CM, Kane moved to center AM, and Janssen came on as the new striker. It wasn’t until halftime that the announcers let us know that he was off due to being ill rather than an injury. Walker was pretty lackluster for his short stint. I’m sure this was the reason. Regardless, Firmino, Llana and Wijnaldum were having their way with Walker. When Coutinho got free at the back post, it was on Walker’s side and he was nowhere to be found. I don’t know if a healthy Walker would have made an appreciable difference in the game but Dier at right back did. More on that in a minute.
“Alternative Universe 5 – Sadio Mane gets sent off”
In the 35th minute Mane committed a clumsy foul on Alli. It earned him a yellow card. 2 minutes later his committed the same foul on Rose. Then in the 48th minute he did it again. Each time heavier and clumsier. The second was clearly worthy of a yellow and third definitely should have had him sent off. Why the ref allowed it to continue I don’t know. But had Liverpool lost their 2nd best attacker by the 40th minute and been a man down it would have been a radically different game. Instead of cutting our defense to pieces with a 3-man front line, they might have brought on Sturridge to act as the lone striker in a 4-4-1. Instead, he didn’t come on until basically stoppage time. Had he gotten his second yellow in the 48th minute with Liverpool up 1-0, that too would have change the game. They would have brought on extra defenders and tried to lock it down. Liverpool is not good at traditional defending. Moreno coming on would have been a gift.
“Alternative Universe 6 – Lamela doesn’t try to put his fingers up Firmino’s ass”
Around the 40th minute, Lamela got beat to the touchline by Firmino, who turned the corner and moved torward the goal. In his attempt to catch up, Lamela accidentally clipped Firmino’s trailing leg bringing him down and the ref had no choice but to award a penalty. Despite being their starting left back, James Milner took the penalty and calmly pinged the back of the net. Given the run of play, it was amazing that Liverpool wasn’t already up 2-0. I’m not sure what Lamela could have done differently, he got beat but tried to work back. One of the announcers kept admonishing him for “getting too close” but that’s like scolding cupcakes for having frosting. Uh, he’s Argentinian. They invented the Tango and anal sex. Of course he got too close. Also, there’s some discussion that Firmino might have been outside the box. I’m a giant homer and at no point did I think it was an unfair call.
“Alternative Universe 7 – Coutinho doesn’t get subbed”
In Alternative Universe 1, Coutinho’s hamstring keeps him out of the game. Instead he played and created a lot of chances and missed a total sitter. But he wasn’t net neutral. We know because he was subbed out in the 67th minute for Origi, another striker, and the game immediately shifted. Suddenly, Dier was able to play the right back-attacking winger role. Repeatedly he pushed up the wing and fired in crosses. There was a beautiful cut back to Erikson that was wasted, and a couple of other good chances created, before he whipped in a far post laser for Lamela. Lamela had a defender on both shoulders and the three went down in a heap. The ball deflected off of someone and Danny Rose streaked in for the follow up. In a classic defender’s goal he aimed for the far post and barely nipped it in at the near post past the on-rushing goalkeeper. 1-1 Spurs. Why didn’t Klopp sub on Sturridge? Why didn’t he shift to a more defensive 4-4-2? Why Origi? Why Klopp?
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Here’s how The Guardian put it “74 min Jurgen Klopp growls with frustration, punches the air in anger – and then, a split-second later, motions for his team to calm down!
1-1 was a better result for Tottenham than for Liverpool. Liverpool dominated the first 65 minutes of the game with crisp passing, an energetic press, and smart defending to cut off our passing lanes. Liverpool’s new defender Matip was particularly effective and probably the best player on the pitch. The second best was Toby Alderweirald. He was incredible, constantly mopping up for his defensive cohorts’ lapses and mistakes.
Player ratings (-5 to 5):
Janssen 0 – He worked hard but didn’t produce much. Zero shots.
Kane 0 – See Janssen.
Erikson -1 – He had moments, he had opportunities, and he was not productive. Kane and Janssen didn’t produce but they never had the opportunity to do so. Nothing made it up to them. Erikson was part of the reason why.
Lamela 1 – Committed the penalty that gave Liverpool the 1-0 lead. Worked hard and was involved in most of our chances.
Alli 2 – Put in a good shift as a CM. Was not effective at linking up with the attacking band. But defended well when his role changed.
Wanyama 2 – lots of good tackles in the middle of the pitch. strong on the ball but couldn’t link up with the attack.
Rose 3 – His goal outshines some bad passing and putting Vertonghen in a bad spot with Mane more than once.
Vertonghen 0 – Sloppy defending. Tim Howard once referred to him as the best defender in the BPL. I haven’t figured out why.
Alderweirald 4 – Was outstanding. The Janitor mopped up everything that his partners let through. He even got his head on 50% of our corner kicks and was unlucky not to get a goal. Our best player.
Dier 4 – Didn’t get much going from CM but was our sole offensive creator when he replaced Walker at right back.
Vorm 4 – Great GK’ing. Three incredible open field tackles. Several awesome reaction saves. Could be better at distribution.
Walker -3 – Was off his game for understandable reasons. However, his mark should have scored at least twice in the 35 minutes he was on the pitch. Them not scoring was by no credit to him. Should buy Alderweirald dinner at a nice taco stand.
Onomah 1 – Normally I hate this guy. But he wasn’t bad in his 10 minutes on the pitch.
Winks 0 – Name rhymes with twinks and he looks like it. Was only on the field for a hot minute. No touches no chances.
Liverpool ratings:
Just kidding. Booooooo the Reds.
Liverpool played really well for most of the game and showed why they are a team to be feared. They also showed why they won’t win the league anytime soon. They can’t finish the great chances they create, and they can’t defend enough to protect a lead. Tottenham showed that on a flat day, they’re very beatable by the best teams. They also showed that beyond their best 13 players, they have very little to offer that might scare thine enemy. When they control the middle of the pitch, they’re awesome. It unlocks the offensive pivot and allows the full backs to create from the wings. When they don’t have control of the middle of the pitch, they’re forced to resort to long passes and but lack the speed to be dangerous in that manner. The announcer pointed out as much late in the game when Kane was subbed off. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2 more matches when Dembele comes back. Wanyama and Dier are similar players and neither is particularly inclined to keep their ball at their feet and claim the 10 yards of space in front of them. I’m hoping that Dembele’s controlled attacking brings the Alli-Erikson-Kane triumvirate back into the game. Lamela doesn’t seem to be getting frozen out by the lack of service, but the others need a smart pass at their feet to be able to work their magic.

Spurs Week 1

It Begins

Week 1 didn’t quite live up to the hype. We were coming off an ego-stroking demolition of Inter and Everton spent the offseason being unimpressive against Championship and Scottish clubs. Their business dealings have been mostly selling, however they did acquire  Koeman from Southampton as their new coach. On Friday, less than 24 hours before kickoff, he declared his team 70% fit. Their star striker, Lukaku, was going to be unavailable (stitches in his foot and possibly an impending sale), and their new star defender–the perpetually underwhelming Ashley Williams–wasn’t ready to start with the team. Spurs were ready to start everyone but Dembele who was on game 3 of his 6 game suspension, but new signing Wanyama was ready to start in his place. My expectations were through the roof.

We started the game playing like shit. Everton came out in a 3-5-2 which clogged up the running lanes for our pressing full backs. Strike 1. Wanyama and Dier were like mirror images instead of complimentary pieces so our double pivots never managed to move the ball from the back to the front. Strike 2. Kane was completely gobbled up by the 3 defenders and pretty much never got a second touch on any pass directed to him. Strike 3. This was Jan Vertonghen’s first game back from the ankle injury he picked up in the Euros. He was rusty and slow. Strike 4. Eriksen, Alli, and Lamela couldn’t connect any passes in the crowded midfield. Strike 5.
It was ugly. 5 mins in Everton had a free kick from 30 yards out by the edge of the box. The cross was whipped in and fell in no-man’s land. It looked like poor marking was going to let an Everton attacker get a head on it and Lloris froze. The ball bounced and slipped in at the far post, untouched. Boo.
Only our defenders were stringing together passes, and Everton was hitting hard on the counter-attack. They were good at finding the gaps behind our fullbacks and outside our center backs. It was causing headaches. 35 mins into the game Lloris subbed off. It was unclear at the time but he tweaked his hamstring. Vorm came on and played well, making a couple of key saves to keep it at 1-0 at halftime. It was ugly.
In the second half, we started better but were tactically stuck. New striker Janssen was subbed in for Dier at 55 mins and we shifted to a 4-4-2 that played more like a 4-1-3-1-1 with Janssen at the top and Kane as the #9. I was worried with Dier off, but we played much better. Janssen was a beast in hold up play and made some clever passes. Having 2 guys up top forced Everton to shift their defensive alignment and we started finding gaps in the attacking third. Lamela, who normally plays on the right, shifted to the left and spent most of the game linking up exclusively with Kane. Eriksen swapped with Lamela and played almost exclusively with Janssen. It was a new look and effective. We created a lot of chances and completely flipped the game. Walker started finding space in along the sideline and whipped in some beautiful crosses. One was inch perfect and Lamela beat out some tight defending to put in a sweet header. Lamela had another late chance that took a deflection before the keeper got a reaction save finger on it and the ball clipped the crossbar before going over. Walker had a nice sniper shot at the near post that almost snuck in. Eriksen grazed the top of the crossbar with a free kick. Janssen had the ball fall to his feet during a corner kick scrum and his reaction shot from 6 yards out was saved by the keeper. We looked potent and effective.
If there was any complaint, it was that Alli was still invisible in the middle of the pitch. All of our attacks came from the wings. We usually generate 60%+ of our chances from the wings but we’re at our best when we also have steep runs up the middle with Kane/Alli, Eriksen/Alli, and Lamela/Alli playing 1-2’s through the heart of the D. Had we managed even 3 of these we would have taken all 3 points. As it was, the draw was a fair but disappointing result.
My player ratings (1-5)
Kane – 2
Eriksen – 2
Alli – 2
Lamela – 4
Wanyama – 3
Dier – 3
Rose – 3
Vertonghen – 2
Alderweirald – 4
Walker – 4
Lloris – 3
Janssen – 4
Vorm – 4
Just imagine how long this review would have been had we played well.
Our next match is home versus Crystal Palace. Palace is difficult to quantify but a lot of pundits are picking them to finish in the bottom 6.
Look for the PL Review show on NBCSN later this week. The Arsenal-Liverpool match was crazy. 7 goals, a saved PK, and Klopp (or Kloop as Domo calls him) going nuts on the sideline next to a comatose Wenger. At one point Klopp gave new striker Sadio Mane a piggy back ride in celebration.

Preseason Analysis

It’s almost time!

Aight fools, it’s nearly EPL time. Since I’m still on couch for another week before work starts, I’m trying to use that time wisely: to upload all of the random info I’ve learned in the last 11 months for my friends to ignore.

Tottenham!
To the tune of Achy-Breaky Heart:
We’ve got Al-li, 
De-li Al-li,
I just don’t think you understand,
He only cost 5 Mill,
He’s better than Ozil,
We’ve got Deli Alliiiiiiiiiii
Last season was a crazy aberration. Man City, Man U, Chelsea, and Liverpool were awful considering the money they spent and all four changed managers. Arsenal hung around and pipped an unmotivated and exhausted Tottenham for 2nd place on the last day of the season. Leicester shocked the world with their aged and unproven players and strung together roughly 25 1-0 wins. It was chaos. We ended the season in 3rd place but with the best offense, the best defense, the best GK, the best striker, the young player of the year, a spot in Champions League, one of the best coaches, wealth, and stability.
Our biggest weakness last season was depth. We played an exciting, fast-tempo, pressing attack, and trusted Vertonghen, Alderverald, and Dier to shut down any counter-attacks. It worked fantastically. But when we played the B-squad in the FA Cup or Europa League, our offense fizzled and the team was way more pedestrian. When opposing teams fielded a pressing 4-3-3, our offense was less fluid and we didn’t have the personnel to change our tactics. Here was our standard 4-2-3-1 line-up (with subs):
This season we’re expecting roughly 10 more Champions/Europa matches than last season (if you come in 3rd place in your Champions League group of 4 you get placed into the Europa League round of 32). So we picked up some more players. Pochettino only pursued young, athletic players and at price tags considerably less than the other 5 big money clubs.
  1. Vincent Janssen is our new young striker. He dominated the Dutch league, is quiet and humble, and the advanced metrics people love him.
  2. Victor Waynama is our new defensive midfielder. He has been at staple in Southampton’s squad for a couple of seasons where he’s a big-bodied, athletic DM anchor. He used to play for the awesomely named Beerschot AC in the Belgian league.
  3. Georges-Kevin N’Koudou is our new fleet-footed attacking midfielder.
  4. We also got Yedlin back from his loan to Sunderland. They survived relegation but are in chaos, and their coach, Sam Allardyce, just bailed on them to be the England coach so it looks like we’re going to hang onto Yedlin. In the pre-season friendlies he played a bit of left back instead of his preferred right side. He fits Pochettino’s style of outside-back-plays-like-a-winger and it looks like he’ll get some games.
At first look our new players won’t displace any of last season’s preferred starting 11, but it gives us depth and flexibility. Here’s the updated 4-2-3-1 line-up:
First, our weakest subs have been eliminated or pushed down in the pecking order; Mason, Onomah, and Chadli in particular were no where near good enough to justify the playing time they got last season when we needed fresh legs. Fuck, I can’t express how much I hated seeing Mason and Onomah on the field. Janssen, N’Koudou, and Waynama will definitely keep those guys off the pitch (Reportedly, Chadli was told to find a new club and Mason is being pursued by Hull and Crystal Palace).
The best thing about the new guys is that it gives us tactical flexibility. With a second striker we can now look to play 4-3-1-2 (Eriksen or Alli in the pivot) or 4-3-3 (Alli up front). With midfield reinforcements we can play 4-4-2, 3-5-2, or something crazy with 3 defenders and an ass-load of midfielders in a diamond. The team has only gotten stronger and that was from a base of being the best D and best O.
What about our competition? I’m glad I asked myself that question. In the order they finished last season (minus teams that don’t matter):
  1. Leicester – kept Vardy, lost Kante, might lose Mahrez and Drinkwater. They were fluky lucky last season. They were an old team that was successful by having a stifling D and a lightning quick counter-attack. Now they’re a year older, their defensive keystone left for Chelsea, and they might lose their best offensive player and 3rd best midfielder. Plus they’re in the Champions League but haven’t added any bodies. Predicted finish: CL blowout and 10th in the EPL.
  2. Arsenal – lost out on Vardy, picked up a flashy AM in Xhaka, and is pursuing Mahrez. They lack a true forward, as usual, and they already have a bunch of injuries, as usual. Oh, and Arsene Wenger is refusing to buy players because they’re too expensive, as usual. But Arsenal always hangs around. Predicted finish: 3rd.
  3. Man City – last season’s 4th place finisher is moving on from the Vincent Kompany Elder Statesman Era. They are now coached by Pep Guardiola and are still the richest, deepest team in the league. I can’t see them having a second down year in a row. Predicted finish: 1st.
  4. Man U – last season’s 5th place team is about to add $133M midfielder Paul Pogba. That’s in addition to Ibrahimovic and super hairy Armenian midfielder Mkhitaryan. I’m sure they’ve bought other players as well. I think their spending this offseason will exceed $300M which is insane. They also have Mourhino as their new coach. The team is in transition though. Rooney is on his way out, their midfield of the future hasn’t panned out, and their defense is blah. I have no idea what to think of this team. Predicted finish: 5th because it looks so close to $th.
  5. Southampton – last year’s 6th place team did their usual selling off of hot young commodities. The only new guy who’s name I recognize is Charlie Adam who looks like this and was too old for Liverpool’s terrible squad. Southampton has a good system and coach but it’s only going to keep them from being terrible. Predicted finish: 9th.
  6. West Ham – last year’s 7th place team almost finished 4th. They’re good, they’re young, they have a great coach and are awful to play at home. But they haven’t been players in the transfer market and they will need a deeper squad for Europa league this year. Predicted finish: 7th.
  7. Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp (who has a whiff of Klinsmann) is starting his second season at Liverpool and first with a real transfer market window. They’ve picked up a few players but they’re doing the usual Liverpool thing of buying a $40M striker to replace their $30M striker. Diminishing returns. Maybe Klopp makes them better? Who knows? Predicted finish: 6th.
  8. Chelsea – holy shit they finished 10th last season! They hired Alberto Conte as their new manager, there’s no way Eden Hazard is actually as bad as he was last season, they’ve brought in some upgrades, and they don’t have to deal with Champions League or Europa matches. Predicted finish: 2nd.
That slots Tottenham in 4th place which will give us a second consecutive year in Champions League. Our best case scenario is to win the EPL. That’s possible, but it is unlikely given the talent in some of the other squads. Our worst case scenario is crashing out of CL, not qualifying for it next season and finishing 7th. That would require a bunch of injuries and even then we’re better than the likes of West Ham, Southampton, Everton, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Leicester. One of them might finish above us but not all of them.
So let’s get hyped this season. I get the EPL channels so I think I’ll be able to watch at least 30 of the 38 matches. Not sure where/when the CL matches are aired but I’ll keep an eye on that too. First EPL game is August 13th away at Everton. First CL match will be a month later. You can follow along with the CL draw here:  https://kassiesa.home.xs4all.nl/bert/uefa/seedcl2016.html
Come on you Spurs (COYS)