I sprained my back last night leaving me bed-bound. I was going to be recording my video for tomorrow’s game this evening but now the simple task of setting up my mic feels beyond me. Instead, the first and hopefully not last of my blog posts.
Starting with line-ups then. It’s hard to imagine there won’t be at least some level of rotation across these three league games in a week. Certainly, following on from the Fiorentina game we will continue with full-back rotation, see a masked Kane come in for Chadli and likely Son in for maybe Alli or Eriksen to give one of them a rest for the consecutive London derbies. We may also see another of the recent half-time substitutions as Pochettino looks to juggle the congested fixtures. Onomah, Carroll and Bentaleb all threatening for game time.
Swansea meanwhile make themselves hard to second guess. Guidolin, like his predecessor Gary Monk, has been switching back and forth between 4231 and 442(diamond) formations; trying to find out which suits Swansea best whilst accommodating injuries and form.
Ex-Tottenham Gylfi Sigurdsson is definitely the Swans’ most important player as they look to avoid relegation and his form this season has largely been dependant on a partnership with a competent target man – one they now have in Paloschi. This leans towards the 4231 system but the diamond formation seems to suit the team as a whole better.
I suspect though that Guidolin’s mind will be made up by looking at our game and how to counter it. As we know, Poch’s Tottenham attack with a narrow overload and the diamond can really suffocate our ‘zone 14’ attacking. Defending narrowly against Tottenham means room for our fullbacks to attack and I think the fact that it’ll be Rose and Walker (athleticism) rather than Davies and Trippier (final third quality) will go some way to Guidolin letting Swansea concede those wide areas.
The knock-on of that is Swansea having the same issue at the other end. Spurs remain most vulnerable to quality crosses into tall forwards from deep areas and without partnerships in the wide areas Swansea will struggle to create those opportunities in their usual possession game. But if Guidolin learnt anything from our Fiorentina game then Swansea will deviate from their usual style, attack on the counter and find their space in behind.
Spurs consistently get the better of Swansea and teams like them because of their insistence on trying to play their own possession game style and being the second best at it on the day. That’s exactly what Fiorentina did on Thursday and with such a recent example and Swansea’s predicament in the table they could well suck up their pride and try to beat us in the manner demonstrated by Newcastle, Leicester and Palace.
There are plenty of lessons for Spurs to learn from Thursday’s game too. Many Spurs fans are still not convinced by Chadli as an option up front and would prefer to see Son when Kane is unavailable but I think Nacer demonstrated what he offers in that role.
While Son is better at dropping into pockets of space, linking up while we attempt to break down defences and running on to through balls we lose a very important part of our game when Son plays as the 9 – the ability to compete for aerial duels. Pochettino’s Tottenham is reliant on a physical upfield presence to mix up our possession game with direct play in order to keep our opponents on their toes and also bypass their pressing.
Whilst Chadli may have seemed poor if you only look at his game in the final third – as well you might for anyone playing as a 9 – I thought his aerial duels, first touches and flick-ons were fantastic and we created multiple opportunities via this method, including Mason’s opener.
Mason too impressed. When Mason first came into the team last season he gave us a much needed lift with his determination to get the ball forward fast and creatively at every opportunity (either by passing or running with the ball). Later in the season a lot of Spurs defensive fragility was put down to Mason getting caught upfield; leaving Bentaleb isolated in front of the defence. We’ve since developed our defensive game massively and that’s not just down to our midfield partnership.
Mason’s been out with injury a while and from the two games he’s played since, it appears to me, that he’s used that time to work on developing a more defensive understanding of the game in order to turn into a more balanced central midfielder (as opposed to the converted 10 he was before). Mason won and moved the ball on in midfield (often with a single touch) very well on Thursday and his development is the most recent in a series of players overcoming weaknesses under ‘Head Coach’ Pochettino.
Back to tomorrow’s game. If Swansea are likely to play a narrow formation with two forwards we could well see Tottenham lean towards a 3421 again. If so the challenge for this game is on Walker and Rose making and executing better decisions in the time and space they will be afforded.
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