London Derby!!! Do you need more introduction than this? I think not. What Spurs have done so far, how they beat Sunderland last time out, who might start against Chelsea and where their weaknesses lie. All in this edition of the Scout Report.
|Tottenham's Last Six League Results|
Tottenham has been in great league form this season. It didn't start off great for Spurs -- remember they lost their two first games to United (3-0) and City (5-1) -- but they quickly put those early season woes behind and went on a long undefeated run (11 games), ended (or "Foyed") by poor refereeing at the Britannia Stadium. Currently, Spurs are at the top of the form table (looking at last 8 games), with 7 wins and a loss, which is better than City, Arsenal and United, who all have identical form -- 6 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss (makes you want to cry with jealousy, doesn't it).
Spurs success so far is built on solid offense and defense. In terms of goal scored (31) and goal conceded (18), they have the fourth best offense (behind City, United and Chelsea) and defense (behind Liverpool, United, City) in the league. This suggests that Harry Redknapp's team has a nice balance between offense and defense.
Balance is also a key word for their attack. Unlike Arsenal (van Persie), United (Rooney) or Newcastle (Ba), Spurs do not depend on a single player to score their goals. Bale (5), van der Vaart (6), Defoe (6) and Adebayor (8) have all chipped in make up the 80% (25 goals) of the goals that Spurs have scored this season.
I end this section with this interesting first-goal-scored stats: Spurs scored the first goal in 11 of the 15 league games this season. Results? 10 wins and 1 draw. Chelsea don't want to let Tottenham draw first blood on Thursday for sure.
Last Time Out
Against Sunderland last week, Spurs lined up in their usual 4-4-1-1 with Van der Vaart (VDV) slightly behind Adebayor, and Modric pushed out to the left wing in the absence of Bale. When Lennon, who started on the right wing, got injured at the 26th minute, Pavlyuchenko came on to play in the VDV role while the Dutch man moved out to the right wing.
In the first half, the home team found it hard to get a good tempo against Sunderland's 5-men midfield. With Modric constantly cutting in centrally, Spurs lacked natural width on the left unless Assou-Ekotto ran forward. After the Lennon-Pavlyuchenko substitution, the same occurred on the right flank with VDV moving in centrally. Both team created very little in the first 45 minutes, though Tottenham were the better side.
|Chart 1. Passes Made by Van der Vaart in the first half (left) and in the second half (right) | Source ||
Nothing changed tactically in the second half, except the moody VDV decided, since he's on the pitch anyway, that he might as well play some football. The Dutch playmaker was more involved in the game in the second half. He made a total of 26 successful passes out of 30 attempts in the first half. After the break, he made 43 successful passes out of 48 attempts.
More importantly, his clever reverse pass found Pavlyuchenko who scored with a finish as pretty as his face. VDV created yet another chance soon after but Mordic, not wanting to put a smudge on his playmaker status, decided not to score from a very good opportunity.
Despite not playing great against a weaker opposition, Spurs managed to grind out a result. A much welcomed quality for a side fighting for a Champions League place.
Bale and Defoe could recover from injury and find themselves in the starting line up; Kaboul might replace either Gallas or King in the center of defense; Modric might play on the left wing or central midfield depending on Bale's ankle; VDV could start on the right wing, unless Bale is fit and switched to the right, in which case VDV could be playing in the hole; Pavlyuchenko wants to be in the equation too since he scored last time out.
So, instead of giving you one over-arching strategy, I give you one suggestion for each possibility. Here goes:
(1) Bale is not fit: Hooray! Our fullbacks can take a breather while our central midfielders fight out the trickery of Modric and VDV cutting inside and creating chances.
(2) Bale is fit: Bummer! Now, one of our fullback will have to defend (with the help of one of the central midfielder who is doubling up on the flying winger).
(3) VDV plays on the wing: Attack! The Dutch man loves defending as much as Evra loves having a Christmas dinner with Suarez. If he is playing on the right wing, Spurs' right back Walker will be lonelier than a teenage without an internet connection. Pile on the attack on that side.
(4) Defoe plays in the hole: Watch out for the wild shots from outside the box.
(5) VDV plays in the hole: Stick Romeu to his back. Or kick his hamstring.
One thing that is pretty certain is that Spurs will again line up with a 4-4-1-1, which means that Chelsea's 4-3-3 will have an extra man in the middle of the park (see Scout Report on Liverpool for details). We will have to make that numerical advantage count through possession and movements, unless that advantage is effectively cut out by the Spurs player behind the main striker.
Set-Pieces and Crosses
|Picture 1. How Spurs Have Conceded against West Brom (top) and Stoke (bottom)|
In the last six league games, Spurs have conceded a total of 4 goals. All four of those goals were scored from high crosses into the box either from open play or set-pieces. Here's a quick run down:
(1) Fulham crossed from a coner. King's clearance hit Kaboul and ended up in the back of the net.
(2) West Brom scored via Reid's cross to Mulumbu who headed the ball home (See Picture 1, top).
(3) Shotton's cross deflected into the box. Walters won the flick on. Crouch controlled with arm and laid the ball across for Etherington to score.
(4) Shotton rocketed a long throw into the box. Walters flicked the ball into the path of Etherington at the back post. Etherington scored (see Picture 1, bottom).
It is true that these goals have come against sides that are usually strong in set-pieces, like Stoke and Fulham, but we can take advantage of this weakness. Despite his rather anonymous performance against Wigan, Drogba's aerial threat might come in handy against Tottenham, assuming that our fullbacks can put in quality crosses. It would be great if Terry, Luiz and Ivanovic (as right back) can all start the game. This will add extra threat in set-pieces. I'm not saying direct football is the only way for us to beat Spurs but they are vulnerable to this approach.
Carefree, wherever you may be...