Analysis of the goals conceded against Arsenal (20/4) plus Chalkboard analysis

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What a breathless game! Spurs conceded another sloppy goal inside the first five minutes to leave a real uphill struggle, but this time we immediately hit back. We then showed genuine spirit when coming back from 3-1, and could even have won it when, first, Modric could only side-foot straight at the goalkeeper, and then Crouch couldn’t direct his header downwards.

The first goal, in many ways, illustrated the key tactical discussions leading into the match.

  1. 4-3-3 vs 4-4-2. Many fans called for Redknapp to bring in Sandro and match up to Arsenal’s formation. The problem with this is three-fold – firstly, this is not a formation that many of our players are particularly accustomed to. Secondly, it relies on having two wingers who are happy to play very high up the pitch (i.e. we would probably have to leave van der Vaart out). Thirdly, “matching up” often leads to the better side winning unless the team doing most of the defending can stay switched on, as per Liverpool in the second half on Sunday after they had moved to a 4-3-3. In my opinion the difference would have been the strikers – Crouch, potentially isolated and, as we know, largely immobile left struggling for scraps, whilst van Persie is an expert ‘false 9’ nowadays, who shows great versatility in fulfilling all striking roles. I would argue that, on the balance of play across the match, Redknapp was proven right to play to our strengths (and Arsenal’s weaknesses), but Walcott’s goal almost certainly came about due to the extra man in midfield.
  2. How to defend against Arsenal – i.e. aim to defend deep, and don’t risk the high line. Blackpool discovered this to their peril a couple of weeks ago, playing a ridiculous high line, and giving up chance after chance as a result. In the move for the first goal, we attempt to play offside – in playing offside, it is absolutely essential that there is pressure on the ball, otherwise you may as well not be there. Let’s see how this unfolds, bearing all of these points in mind…

Walcott’s goal.

Huddlestone has possession in the middle of the pitch, but his touch is heavy, and the ball gets away from him.

He lunges into a tackle, but Diaby is strong, and holds on to the ball.

Able to shield it, Diaby plays to Song; he cleverly plays first time to Fabregas, who is stood beyond our entire midfield.

As the pass is made, Walcott is immediately aware of the advantage that Arsenal could develop.

Gallas make a split-second decision, but it’s a poor one in my opinion. He rushes out from centre back, to close Fabregas. The only benefit of committing himself this high up the pitch is if he can get close enough to 1. make a tackle, or 2. stop Fabregas from making a pass. He doesn’t do either – Fabregas can still find either van Persie or Walcott. Dawson knows that he has a problem with Walcott, as he is clearly much slower. This all happens quickly (Arsenal are the masters of the quick counter), but Assou-Ekotto has not read the situation, and has not come round to cover.

Fabregas weights the pass to Walcott perfectly. Gallas is out of the game, Assou-Ekotto is not close enough round on the cover, and Dawson, not backing himself in a race with Walcott, seems to have made a decision to attempt to play him offside (that, or he thinks he can intercept the pass).

This image shows that Assou-Ekotto is clearly playing Walcott onside.

Walcott gets the ball out of his feet, and nobody is going to catch him.

Gomes comes off his line to narrow the angle, but it’s an excellent finish into the corner.

As I say, the move unfolded quickly, but there are several things to note. Firstly, Fabregas is in “the hole” with no Spurs player close to him, and the Arsenal players know to get the ball to him as quickly as possible. This illustrates the flaw in not matching up to Arsenal (although we saw the benefits with two of our goals). After Gallas makes a reckless decision to close him down, we have little option but to play offside. Unfortunately, our remaining defenders were not on the same page. This either tells me that they have switched off, or have not been drilled enough.

It is worth noting, of course, that one of the big decisions of the game was the incorrect van Persie offside call – this was not the only example of a poor defensive line.

Nasri’s goal.

Arsenal have possession in a wide area, but van der Vaart takes up a decent defensive position, and we are well set-up to defend. Notice that Huddlestone has one eye on Diaby.

 Nasri finds Fabregas and makes a run inside. Van der Vaart does the right thing and trots after him.

When Nasri receives the ball back, van der Vaart is quick to close him.

He puts a challenge in, and doesn’t quite get the ball…

…but the referee indicates that he is playing the advantage. Nasri retains possession and looks to use Diaby in order to draw Huddlestone out of the centre.

As Nasri comes further inside van der Vaart just totally stops tracking him and, with Huddlestone having moved towards Diaby, when Nasri gets the ball back, he has a free run at our back four.

Dawson comes out quickly to close down, and Assou-Ekotto covers round.

Nasri gets the shot away, and it takes a nick off Dawson as it goes through his legs. I personally still think that Gomes should be saving this. It’s not far from the middle of the goal, and it is his positioning that is wrong – he has moved too far over to cover the near post, leaving himself short.

A frustrating goal, as van der Vaart really should have tracked his man all the way inside.

Van Persie’s goal.

Sagna takes a throw-in and gets the ball back from Fabregas. 

Bale comes across to Sagna but doesn’t stop the ball coming in. Notice Assou-Ekotto with Walcott at this point.

Gallas should be hooking this ball into the stands – a corner, a throw-in, it doesn’t matter. Walcott has now got in ahead of Assou-Ekotto.

Gallas tries to chest the ball down, presumably so that he can clear the ball straight up field.

The chest trap bounces nicely for Walcott, now well ahead of Assou-Ekotto and, under pressure from Gallas, he lifts an excellent cross for over Gomes for van Persie.

Gomes makes a wonderful save from the initial header.

You have to feel for Gomes here – he could not do much more, as he stretches to claw the ball out.

Unfortunately the ball lands nicely for van Persie, who smashes the ball into the top of the net.

Gallas did well in the second half and was clearly suffering from some sort of strain or pull, but his decision-making for two of the three goals was not what it should be.

Interestingly, it looks from the Chalkboards for tackles (below) like we chose to defend much deeper in the second half (perhaps we finally learnt a lesson) and this could explain why we did not concede more goals after the break.

Our team did really well to come back from two goals down, and Redknapp’s use of substitutes was generally good. Although Corluka had an excellent first half (including an exquisite pass for van der Vaart’s first goal), Kaboul added extra attacking thrust in the second half.

A note on our strikers to end

Whilst we found Crouch with some decent diagonals, we did not get close players close enough to him to profit. This, along with his poorly directed headers, meant that he ended up making only one successful pass in and around the box.

On the other hand, Pavlyuchenko ended the game with an 86% pass completion. He played the link role well in the first half but, when we started to go more direct in the second, he saw much less of the ball and made just 6 of his 22 passes during the second half (he was substituted on 78 minutes).

Join the conversation

  1. I think their forwards were much more switched on than our defense in the first half, especially Walcott who really should have scored a second.

    Defenders especially Gallas were slow to realise what was happening and to close down or pick up players.
    Who should have been marking Walcott for the first?

    Ammunition for both the Gomes lovers and haters last night but he made two or three excellent saves especially the Van Persie shot early on.
    Van Persie wasn't offside for the disallowed goal either and what was Gomes doing?
    Fair result but we might easily have won it in the end.
  2. what a load of bollocks
  3. Think Dawson was at fault for the first, Gallas went to shut the ball which he should have, Daswson clearly also went to shut the ball fro no reason, he wasn't trying to play Walcott offside so lets not blame BAE for a goal that had nothing to do with him. Also, 3rd goal, Gallas should have cleared it, but then how slow is Daws to 1. react to the cross 2. react to the rebound?

    P.S. 2nd goal, Gomes should have done better
  4. JimmyG2 - I agree, Walcott played really well and actually looked like a footballer rather than a sprinter.
    If only Modric had put that chance away...

    Anon @ 11:59 - glad you enjoyed it.

    Anon @ 12:31 - I think that would be a fair point if it wasn't near the halfway line. There is no way Gallas should be charging that far up the pitch and risk leaving a 1 vs 1, especially when it's Walcott with his pace in behind.
  5. That disallowed goal, I reckon Gomes heard the whistle - mind you, I think he still wanted to stop it going in, even so.

    How well did BAE play - oof. Though I think he was deeper than the centre-backs a few times, playing people on. Probably worried about Walcott's pace.
  6. Windy, I normally agree with your analysis but as we discussed last night you've got the first goal terribly wrong. Firstly, if you look it's not just ekotto playing Walcott onside, corluka is too. That means Dawson is the only defender who's decided to not only make one step towards the ball but a few.

    I disagree with you on the gallas decision to try and close fabregas down but I think that's a judgement call so I have no problem with your opinion being different to mine on that point. However, to not realise Dawson is at fault for letting Walcott go and trying to blame ekotto is madness.

    As you say, it all happened so quickly because huddlestone lost the ball in the middle of the pitch. How is ekotto meant to cover round from his normal left back position which he is in and correctly so, in a matter of seconds?

    We love Dawson. Every spurs fan does. He gives 100% on a regular basis but he's limited with his ability. There were two major errors for that goal and one slight error. Huddlestone and Dawson made the major ones and gallas a minor one. Ekotto had as little to do with that goal as corluka. If Walcott had run off ekotto I'd be more than happy to support your theory but as he was in a central position, being marked by Dawson it's the captains job to defend against him not do whatever it was he was doing.
  7. Good points, Drwinston001, and I've looked at the video more and more - it definitely does look like Dawson is trying to nick the ball away rather than play offside, so I'm happy to concede on that point.

    However, the players to take the majority of the blame are Huddlestone and Gallas IMO. Huddlestone's touch was sloppy (it happens), but still think Gallas charging up to commit himself on the halfway line is criminal. If he's going to do that, he has to make a challenge (and risk a yellow) IMO.

    Great stuff, cheers for posting.
  8. I really like this blog, but it's easy to slip into the mindset that every goal ever conceded is preventable; while that's true of each goal in isolation, it would be a superhuman team that never made any of the fractional errors outlined above, for 95 minutes every week.
    For all the lack of tracking and poor decision making in these instances, there must have been 2 dozen times where the defence behaved correctly and snuffed out potentially dangerous attacks.

    Anyway - wonder what they would say about our goals, eg:
    - Djourou shouldn't have let VdV get across him (not exactly a pacy forward), and Szczesny shouldn't be beaten at his near post
    - poor Fabregas clearance to Hudd, and the shot actually went pretty close to Szczesny
    - poor positional play from Sagna left Szczesny exposed to Lennon's run.

    And yet - I thought all of our goals were great. Corluka's through ball, VdV's collection and shot from under his feet that looped around Szczesny. Thudd's amazing half-volley-chop technique. BAE's perfectly weighted through ball for Lennon.

    Keep it up though.
  9. yo_daniel - great points, and I should probably always add a note that says something along those lines.

    Also important to remember that sometimes a very minor mistake leads to a goal, whereas a major mistake leads to a missed opportunity.

    Totally agree on your comments about our goals - not great defending, but fantastic goals.

    Appreciate your comments.
  10. I was pretty annoyed that Sandro did not start the game and then we went three down. My worry had been that Arsenal would slice through the middle and they did. Sandro closes down that space, which if attacked causes the defence to concertina and allows more space on the flanks. We have to keep him in from the start, esp against Chelsea. His driving runs have been impressive.
    I also thought that Pav played well and that Crouch was not on his wavelength. VDV appears back to form and I wonder if people think that it is better to bring on Aaron Lennon as a substitute rather than start him. I think that Kaboul should start instead of Charlie, but if we need Gallas fit for the Chelsea match then maybe Kaboul should play instead of him.

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