League Cup

Victory!

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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.

League Cup

Gillingham

Tomorrow is our League Cup match against Gillingham. I haven’t even bothered to see if this is on TV. With Kane injured, a thick schedule going forward, and an offseason of clearing out non-future starters, I expect our youth team to get a lot of run.

I don’t know anything about Gillingham so almost everything below is from this article:
The author is proposing a lineup that looks like this:

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alderweirald in the back line for the first half just as an token of stability. Poche doesn’t tend to swap out his entire starting lineup. Whether that’s to keep a cohesive playing style or because he doesn’t trust his youngsters, I’m not sure. But as we’ve discussed before, League Cup matters to no one. I guess it would be good to win it but I think the payout is less than a week’s wages for the club so in the face of a $40-50M payout from Champions League, this is not the place to put our resources.
Gillingham, again from the above article, is pretty blah this season. They’re mid-table in the third division (League 1) and feature mostly over the hill players and one central playmaker, Bradley Dack. Dack will be playing his heart out hoping to get noticed by a big club, but we should be able to shut down their attack. Carroll, Erikson, and Onomah are all very creative players, and it will be good to see what N’Koudou can do (that’s satisfying to say out loud).
Hopefully out youth proves themselves worthy, we score early, and run the game out. This is a good chance for them to make their case for first team minutes. Given the cramping of Walker, Dier, and Dembele, the injury to Kane, and the possible shittiness of Sissoko, there will be minutes available in all bands of the pitch. Last year 4th choice defender Kevin Vimmer got an extended spell in relief of the injured Vertonghen and played like a boss. It’s really important for our depth and club finances to keep developing useful players that can step in and bang, or be sold for a profit. It’s an aspect of club Chairman, Daniel Levy’s financial strategy; buying young so they can either develop or be sold when their wages are cheap and their value on the rise.

Transfer Deadline

The window closes…for now!

The transfer window just closed and there was some last minute craziness.
  1. Son is staying despite Wolfsburg offering big money.
  2. Isco turned us down to go back to his previous club Malaga.
  3. The N’Koudou/N’Jie swap is done.
  4. Out of nowhere we bought Moussa Sissoko, of Newcastle and the French national team, for 30M pounds.
Sissoko is a “box-to-box” midfielder in the same vein as Dembele. Plus they have the same first name, Moussa, so we have to come up with a new nickname other than Moose. This gives us 2 incoming defensive players and 2 incoming offensive players, in lieu of a bunch of replacement-level talent that was shipped out. I don’t know how to justify his price tag of 30M pounds as TransferMarkt.com has him rated about 75% as high as Dembele.
That gives us the following quality players at each position band:
  • Striker – Kane, Janssen, Onomah
  • AM – Lamela, Alli, Eriksen, Son, N’Koudou
  • Pivot – Dembele, Sissoko
  • CM – Dier, Wanyama
  • FB – Rose, Walker, Davies, Trippier
  • CB – Alderweirald, Vertonghen, Wimmer
If we consider positional flexibility (Kane playing AM, Dier playing fullback, etc) we actually have a lot of depth out of not that many players. That gives us 6 strikers, 8 AM, 5 CM, 5 FB, 5 CB out of 19 possible players. Hopefully this means we get to play a lineup of 11 good players regardless of who’s getting the day off, instead of a team full of scrubs for early round League Cup and FA Cup matches–more critically, it should mean we can play our best line up in either the BPL matches or the Champions League matches and not experience a huge drop off in the other as we did last season.
As you can tell, I drank the Kool-Aid.

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?
Inline image 1
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 2

A win!

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:
Inline image 1
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:
Inline image 2
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.

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)