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.

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.

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 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:
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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:
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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.

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.