Spurs Week 5 Action

He’s back (or is he?)!

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1-0 Victory at home against one of the 3 worst teams in the league (arguably the worst). Perhaps we under-performed given that a 4-0 score line would have been perfectly appropriate for all of our chances and the quality of our opponent. I’m a little more positive about the result. We blooded the new guys- Sissoko and Wanyama – with a shuffled version of our established team. We also got our first taste of Dembele in league play following his interseason 6-game ban. We lined up in the familiar 4-2-3-1 but it looked a little different:

  • Kane
  • Son, Alli, Sissoko
  • Dembele, Wanyama
  • Vertonghen, Dier, Alderweirald, Walker
  • Lloris

When we were at our peak last season, Rose and Walker played like wingers and were often the most advanced players down the field. That gave us plays over the top and long passes up the wing. Our attacking midfielders, Erikson, Alli, and Lamela were fluid in their positioning but worked to get 2 guys open for each pass through the midfield. Kane would make himself free for runs in the channel and would drop deep to play 1-2s with the AMs. Dembele, however, was the key. He would pick the ball up in midfield, shield it from opposing midfielders, and dribble into the attacking third. His ability to hold off defenders and draw in second and third defenders was instrumental in breaking down organized defenses. We frequently faced 8 or 9 behind the ball, and even bad teams can be difficult to break down with that many behind the ball. Dembele could draw 3 defenders from the middle of the pack and create lanes for the AMs to make runs toward the middle.

We saw a lesser version of that today. Vertonghen doesn’t venture as far upfield as Rose, and Sissoko was on a completely different page than everyone else. Our O played more like this:
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We had 74% of the possession so there was a lot of time to watch our plays develop in the face of a team full of defenders. Sunderland were so pessimistic in their outlook that it was often 10 behind the ball. When we passed our way behind the D it was to Son or Walker on the wing. Crosses into the middle were frequent but mostly unsuccessful. With so many bodies packed in tight, there was no room for Kane or the other AMs to make runs to the near post. Our attacks up the middle were into the face of so many defenders that we ended up taking a lot of low percentage shots from outside the box. We had a couple of inside 1-2 runs but again faced confined spaces. The good news was that Sunderland was not threatening our goal but our constant offensive pressure meant they never got out of their defensive shape. Either ironically or predictably, one of our best chances came from a counter attack following their free kick in our half. We set off in numbers and the ball made it’s way to Son on the left who snapped a shot against the post.¬†Around the hour mark, Walker carried the ball up the wing, pulled back and whipped in a looping cross to Alli at the back post. Alli and his defender collided and Alli’s soft header fell to the feet of the center back, who completely whiffed. The ball trickled to Kane who smashed it home.
Down 1-0 Sunderland had to come out of their shell. Their press was weak and ineffective and opened up a bunch of passing lanes. I think we would have capitalized on it but Walker, then Dier, and then Dembele came up lame holding their hamstrings. Walker played on with no obvious issues but Dier and Dembele came off. Perhaps it was dehydration from the Monaco match? Hopefully they came off out of precaution rather than due to actual injury. Kane, however, was harrying his defender and had his ankle roll over during a tackle. It looked pretty bad on replay and he didn’t even attempt to get to his feet and walk it off. It wasn’t a great way to end the match.
My only real complaint about the game was Sissoko. He has strength and speed, and a decent first touch, but I hate his passing instinct. Everyone else on the field looks for the quick, easy pass. Sissoko tends to turn his back to the field when he receives the ball. I don’t know why, but he did it whether open or under pressure. Maybe it’s unfamiliarity with the system or a bad day, but it was annoying. He was a black hole for the ball or a dead end for attacking movements. When the rest of the guys looked to play out wide and whip in crosses, he was cutting inside; when everyone was playing inside, he would take it out wide. I don’t remember Dembele passing to him once. He and Wanyama clustered on the right side of the field and while they took a few shots, they weren’t creating chances for anyone else. Hopefully Poche breaks him of this style.
So let’s focus on the good stuff. Here’s the FourFourTwo.com Dashboard from the game:
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Not a single pair of Sunderland players made the most-passes list. That’s embarrassing for them. Also not on that list, Sissoko. Do note the 31 shots. This chart shows our xG total. Lots of shots from outside (courtesy @MC_of_A):
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Or you can look at it like this:
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That’s a lotta dimp! Here is a chart of our 30 crosses. Most were from Son who repeatedly schooled his defender and drew 3 yellow card fouls:
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We haven’t seen a bombing like that since Dresden. The hard stats are 74% possession, 31 shots to 6, 14 corner kicks, 543 passes completed. Our pass map is crazy:
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And here’s Man City’s pass map from their 4-0 drubbing of Bournemouth:
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They look very similar except Bournemouth completed 100 more passes than Sunderland did. We were far more dominant even if the score line didn’t show it.
Player Ratings (-5 to +5)
Kane – (+3) Excellent in hold up play, creative on the dribble. Best game he’s played all season. Unlucky to not have a hat trick given his shot placement. Here’s his touch map (blue and green are good, red and orange are bad, light blue is a chance created, and yellow is his goal):
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Son – (+4) Man of the Match. Creative and punishing on the left side. Tons of crosses, some good shots. Played well with Vertonghen, Dembele, and Alli.
Alli – (+2) Solid creator. Dangerous all game. Played well with Dembele, Son, and Kane.
Sissoko ¬†– (-1) Unproductive and selfish. Touch chart is indicative. Lots of missed tackles (orange x’s), possession turnovers (orange stars), and either passed backward or shot on goal:
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Dembele – (+2) And here’s Dembele ignoring Sissoko:
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Wanyama – (0) Given how much everyone else created and how little a defensive minded midfielder needed to do today, he could have been replaced by anyone and it wouldn’t have affected the outcome.
Vertonghen – (+2) Looked good going forward. Overlapping runs created some good chances for Son. Was responsible in his defensive requirements
Dier – (+1) One really shaky giveaway in front of goal almost cost us. Otherwise a solid game at centerback.
Alderweirald – (+2) My man was a rock at the back and was unlucky to have his header saved on the line following a corner kick.
Walker – (+3) Saved a point blank shot off the line. Was responsible for the cross that turned into Kane’s goal. Picked up Sissoko’s slack. Was a big part of our offensive drive.
Lloris (0) – made one or two saves but didn’t have to work hard. Wasn’t a liability, but didn’t do anything impressive.
Subs:
Lamela – (+2) productive and snaky in his 20 minutes of playing time. Would have gotten a goal had Janssen not been selfish. Created a few chances for others. Just missed a good left food curler at the back post.
Davies (+0) was fine going forward but committed a few fouls in dangerous spots that weren’t called.
Janssen – (-1) we could have closed the game out 2-0. He and Lamela had a break away 2 on 1 and when the defender committed to Janssen at the top of the box a lay off pass to Lamela would have been an easy goal. Instead he skied it from a bad angle and distance. I appreciate his finisher’s mentality but that was stupid.
On Wednesday we play Gillingham in the League Cup. Hopefully we’ll hear that Dier, Dembele, and Walker are fine and just needed some fluids., and that Kane will be full strength when we go to CSKA in 10 days. I expect to see mostly subs against Gillingham.

Champions League Group Stage Match 1

A first Champions League match to forget…

So Fox Sports West fucked me. I’m pretty sure they singled me out and fucked me. Tuesday’s CL match between Man City and Borussia Mongeloidbach (sp?) was canceled because of rain and lightning. The game was rescheduled for Wednesday and they–the evil masterminds Fox Sports West – pulled a switcheroo and showed the City-‘Bach game instead of Spurs v not-Spurs. I found a later showing but it was already in the 22nd minute. And the Spurs were down 0-1 and Monaco was holding the ball and dancing around it like a conga line. I was….not calm.

We started the game in a 4-2-3-1 with Alli and Dier at CM, and Son, Lamela and Erikson at AM. This was the “here’s our dick, bet you can’t suck the whole thing” lineup. That’s not exactly how it worked out.
Monaco on the ball was very composed and played tight 1-2s and outside-in overlaps. They gobbled up the space outside of the CMs and then worked back toward the middle to find shooting angles. Their chances weren’t amazing but they were slippery despite being predictable. It was frustrating to watch. When we would get the ball in possession, we would string together 4 or 5 sideways passes between the defenders and then play long passes to the wingers. The wingers would push up the field in the face of 9 defenders. Monaco packed in their D tight and organized. Kane and whoever had the ball were always surrounded by 3 Yachties. I don’t know what Monaco’s mascot is but Yachties sounds better than Genetic Recessive Blood Disorders, and clearly they’re one of the two.
A replay revealed that the first goal was scored when Lamela gave up possession, the ball moved to a striker out wide who turned inside between Davies and Vertonghen and fired low and inside the far post. Opportunistic but worthy goal. Fuckers. Around the 30th minute, we were back defending and Erikson and Walker had their men pushed into the corner. The Yachtiest played around with it, pulled it back and whipped in a cross into a mass of 3 Spurs defenders and 2 Yachtie attackers. The ball ping ponged around touching all 5 guys before popping out at the foot of a surprised attacker who smashed the ball into the roof of the net. 0-2 Yachties and it wasn’t looking good.
Somehow the Spurs started to turn it around. Some over the top passes to Walker on the sideline created some openings in the Yachties’ defense. We were controlling possession and linking to our attacking band, but couldn’t find a gap wide enough to get a shot. A Lamela corner kick found Alderweirald’s head like a hair gel-seeking missile and he smashed it into the net in the 44th minute. 1-2 at halftime.
Spurs shuffled their lineup at halftime. Dembele came in at the pivot, Alli moved to AM, and Son went to the bench. It was a fair benching. Son was not very productive or thrifty with his touches in the 25 minutes I watched him. Other than his corner kick, Lamela wasn’t much better. The second half started way better for Spurs. We took possession and basically bombarded their goal for the next 20 minutes. It wasn’t until the 67th minute that the Yachties had their first scoring chance of the second half and a few more minutes before they strung together 5 consecutive passes. Spurs, on the other hand, were purposeful and probing in their attack. When he was on the ball, Dembele used his body to dribble past defenders with a long, galloping stride. It would interrupt the defensive alignment as players are pulled toward the ball. Erikson and Alli were very potent in their on-the-ball movement and passing. Lots of cool cheeky stuff to create chances. Erikson fizzed a couple of crosses inside the 6 yard box but was unable to find feet. Alli ripped a gorgeous volley from 25 yards out that was dipping under the bar and forced a good save from the Yachties’ GK. Kane, on the other hand, just couldn’t find his stroke. Extraneous touches meant that every shot he had was blocked by the defender. I don’t know if he’s lacking confidence or has tired legs or is just having a bad run of luck but we really need his finishing. The following shows his shot chart. Two of the gray arrows are from so close that he has to score at least one of those. The blue arrow up the middle I’ll get to.
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For comparison, here’s Erikson’s pass chart. He takes corners so that accounts for some of the red arrows but look how many times he put the ball into a dangerous area:unnamed-1
And here’s Lamela’s pass and shot chart. Too many backward passes although he did get the corner kick assist and nearly had a second on a sweet dipping cross than Kane and Alli both came up short on where the slightest touch would have been a goal.
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In that 20 minute burst we created so many chances and not all of them turned into shots. The announcer repeatedly referred to Monaco’s defense as “besieged” but we could find the touch that would put it in the back of the net. In the 70th minute Lamela came off and Janssen came on. Kane slid back as a central AM. Janssen was well suited for the game. His physical off-the-ball play negated the Monaco CBs and opened up the channels for through balls. Again we created a couple of good chances but couldn’t put them in the net. The best was a through ball that Janssen won in a footrace turned Greco-Roman wrestling match. He managed to get around his defender right at the touch line, gathered the ball and hit Kane with a tight pass. Kane hit it right into the hands of the dumbfounded GK–the blue arrow in his shot chart. The whole Spurs side basically sighed and the game was over. Sissoko came on for Erikson in the 80th and Monaco enjoyed spells of possession. Some of our guys walked while they had the ball. It was frustrating and the Yachties conga lined their way around the ball not doing much but not giving it away and the clock ticked away. We managed a few more chances but it all felt increasingly desperate and far-fetched. The game ended 1-2 to the Yachties. Fucking Yachties. Below is our xG map. I think it undersells how dominant we were in creating chances since a chance only gets an xG value if it becomes a shot. For example, one of those tiny dots from the top right of Tottenham’s chart was that teasing ball that either Kane or Alli could have gotten before the keeper snapped it up at the back post. Either touch would have been a goal and xG of close to 0.5. The end result and the xG tally would look a lot different.
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This was a poor result. We really needed to win this. I blame Fox Sports West.
The upside is that we’re a better team that Monaco and we can win there. More importantly, Levekusen was supposed to destroy CSKA at home but managed a draw. Our next CL match is away to CSKA in 2 weeks. That will be one of the 3 matches we have to win.