Analysis of the goal conceded against Swansea City (19/1)

Bony’s goal – A long ball is half-cleared by Dawson, half-cleared by Rose, and half-cleared by Bentaleb, before Davies starts a positive run into the box. He attempts to play a one-two with Bony, which Chiriches heads wide to Lamah. The winger miscues his cross perfectly into the path of Bony, who adjusts his body and steers the ball into the corner of the net.




I’m starting this quite late into the move as otherwise this will be an overly long and complex analysis, but just prior to this still, Dawson has half-cleared a long ball. Rose gets his chest to the loose ball, and tries to cushion it down for Bentaleb.


It’s a risky piece of play from Rose – primarily because he has a better view of the pitch than Bentaleb. Bentaleb really needs to just swing a right-foot at this to clear first time. Instead, he tries to poke it to Walker with his left foot, and Lamah gets something on it to stop it finding its target.


The loose ball wouldn’t be an issue, except that Lennon has totally failed to track his man, Davies, who follows up and pushes forward with intent. Bony drops off Dawson to show for the ball, and they attempt a give-and-go.


Chiriches does pretty well to clear Bony’s lobbed pass but Walker has had to follow Lennon’s man, leaving Lamah unmarked, as Lennon is stood still.


In making the clearance, Chiriches knocks Davies to the ground.


As the ball drops kindly for Lamah, Chiriches has to awkwardly step around Davies. Lamah’s miscued cross would probably have been cleared by Chiriches were it not for Davies being in his path.


Instead, it goes through to Bony – but what follows is a pretty special finish. He has to quickly and awkwardly adjust his body shape…


…but he beautifully guides it into the corner, giving Lloris no chance.


The overzealous defence of Étienne Capoue

In the midst of many a meltdown among the Spurs fans on Twitter this week, Head Coach Tim Sherwood has been accused of using defensive midfielder Étienne Capoue as a pawn in an ongoing battle with the club’s Technical Director, Franco Baldini, who was responsible for his signing.

In fact, I would suggest that Sherwood’s use of Bentaleb over Capoue has been relatively logical and that, in fact, many fans are doing what they’re accusing Sherwood of – using Étienne Capoue as a pawn – against Sherwood himself.

Étienne Capoue – the story so far

Capoue has only made eleven appearances so far (two as a substitute) due to an injury picked up in his third match. His debut off the bench at Crystal Palace was tidy and promising, he was excellent in the next match against Swansea and then went off injured against Arsenal. He was deemed to be fit again two months later, and understandably looked a little rusty in his comeback versus Sheriff.

He was poor away at Fulham (and was withdrawn at half-time), and found himself playing the next few games at centre-back due to a defensive crisis. This is not a position that is unfamiliar to him, though, and he played well against Sunderland, where he handled Altidore and Fletcher with aplomb, and followed this showing up with a decent display (albeit mostly untested) vs Anzhi.

The car crash at home to Liverpool clearly cannot be pinned entirely on him, but he looked sluggish and unfit, lacking sharpness and energy. He was arguably partially at fault for the goals West Ham scored in the League Cup match.

He returned to the centre of midfield against Manchester United, and did some useful defensive work – making two tackles, two interceptions, and four clearances in the 64 minutes that he lasted. He struggled to pass the ball, though, and in fact came away with just a 55% pass completion – the lowest of any outfield player by 10%. As a comparison, his replacement, Bentaleb, completed 91% of his passes. If you keep giving the ball away, of course you’re going to need to win it back. Essentially, it could be argued that he did more harm than good, and that bringing on Bentaleb to try to keep the ball better was a relatively logical move.

Sherwood’s philosophy

Which leads us on nicely to Tim Sherwood’s philosophy thus far. In this article I discussed why Sherwood might be using a 4-4-2 – or, at least, a formation with two forwards. It’s almost as if he’s trying to teach the players to get into the box again – to push more bodies forward into the attacking third in general, and to be more positive in their approach play.

He has spoken repeatedly in press conferences about the importance of ball retention:

24th Dec: “If you can’t pass the ball to your own team-mates then you have a serious problem because you are going to have to keep on defending.”

4th Jan: “It’s about passing the ball to your own team and keeping hold of it.”

Presumably this is the main reason that he has picked Bentaleb over Capoue, rightly or wrongly. Bentaleb’s pass completion is 7% better than Capoue’s on average across the season so far and is, in fact, the best of our entire squad.

Of course, they are not truly comparable players; Capoue is a destroyer who can pass a bit, and Bentaleb is an elegant play-maker who wants to get on the ball and pass and move, be it from a deep-lying position, or as a number 10.

But, regardless, fans are holding them up for direct comparison because Bentaleb has apparently been picked ahead of him – “He’s an international, how’s he behind a 19 year old?”, “It’s an insult to Capoue.”, “Sherwood is humiliating him”. My answer would be to say that if he’s that good, he’ll have no problem proving to Sherwood that he is better than Bentaleb. Clearly he hasn’t done that in training just yet.

Sherwood has attempted to explain the appearance of Bentaleb at Capoue’s expense:

“He realises that I’ve used Nabil Bentaleb in front of him – not only him but Lewis Holtby and a few other players in the midfield area – because I knew the young boy and I trusted him.

Etienne has played, he played at Old Trafford, and he’s been asked to play in reserve games to keep up his fitness, along with other players.

The fact is I’m still getting to know some of these new players and I know the other ones better.”

He added that he as he gets to know the newer players, though, he’s getting “attached” to some of them.

The response to this from some has been “HOW CAN HE NOT KNOW CAPOUE? HE WAS ON THE TRANSFER COMMITTEE”. In truth, we don’t know whether Sherwood had any input to the Capoue signing – it would be interesting to know, though. And as for not knowing the player, I don’t think we can take this literally.

Our new Head Coach is not the most articulate (to say the least), but my interpretation of this is that he doesn’t know Capoue well enough to know that he can do the job he wants his central midfielders to do as well as Bentaleb. Is that so wrong? He’s also said that Bentaleb trains ‘as if every day is his last’, so he clearly rates his attitude too.

Given Sherwood’s talked about ball retention, it makes sense to me that he’s been picking the two who complete the highest proportion of their passes. Mousa Dembele doesn’t pass the ball forward particularly well but he has the second best pass completion in the squad (after Bentaleb) across the season, whereas Capoue has the tenth best.

What I can understand fans questioning is the system Sherwood’s using – i.e. playing with no dedicated holding player, and with two strikers. But we’ve won four out of five in the league, were rather unlucky in the League Cup against West Ham, and lost in the FA Cup to the best team in England so far this season. And of course, ironically, the only times we’ve been heavily beaten this season have been when we’ve had three in midfield:

West Ham: Dembele, Paulinho, Eriksen
Liverpool: Dembele, Sandro (Holtby), Paulinho
City: Sandro, Paulinho, Holtby

I absolutely see the need for our midfield and defence to be closer together and be more compact (and I discussed this in my recent article for FourFourTwo), but whilst we try to get our strikers into some kind of form, I can understand Sherwood taking this calculated gamble as it allows us to get more bodies forward. And, so far, it’s worked (results-wise).

Capoue to leave?

As rumours broke this week of Napoli’s interest in Capoue, many fans lost the plot. Not only had Sherwood ‘insulted’ him, by leaving him out at the expense of a rookie, but he has now ‘forced him out of the club’. It must surely be because he was AVB’s man, and Sherwood wants to stamp his authority. Or because he has a vendetta against Baldini, and wants rid of his signings. These suggestions have genuinely been used to explain the link.

Sherwood clarified in his pre-Swansea press conference that he would be very happy to not let any players leave in the transfer window, and talked up his relationship with Capoue:

“All I can say with regards to Etienne Capoue is that he’s never caused me a minute’s problem here. We have a good relationship.”

He hinted that the only reason that players would leave is because of the additional pressure that the World Cup brings – they want first team football; they want to be in the spotlight every week, so that their international managers are able to watch them. Of course, that changes things somewhat.

So if Capoue wants to go, Capoue wants to go – but Sherwood hasn’t deliberately sidelined him to make a point (which would be entirely self-destructive), and he’s not being forced out the club. That said, there’s little point in keeping unhappy players.

Analysis of the goal conceded against Arsenal (4/1), plus some thoughts and a competition

Cazorla’s goal – Arsenal exploit an opportunity on the break, with Gnabry driving inside and finding Cazorla, who is left in space as Walker comes across to cover. He drills a first-time finish across Lloris and into the far corner.


As soon as Serge Gnabry receives the ball with his back to our goal, there is an issue here – he’s between the Tottenham midfield and defence, and it’s enough to concern Tim Sherwood, who raises his hands from the edge of the technical area. Personally, I would want to see Chiriches much tighter to Gnabry here.


But it’s also interesting to look at the whole view of the pitch from the moment the ball is played to Gnabry. Note the positions of Lennon on the halfway line, Bentaleb, the deepest of our midfield players, and Walker, who had been pretty advanced and is making his way back.


The reason I would want Chiriches to be closer to Gnabry is because he has time and space to turn and drive at the defence, and instantly this move become a genuine danger. Walcott makes an intelligent run in behind Chiriches, and Dawson begins to follow him.


Gnabry has options because our central defenders allow him to have options. Chiriches pays lip service to coming out to him, whilst Walcott’s run has dragged Dawson away, leaving a huge gap.


Because of Dawson’s committing himself, and the mismatch of pace between Dawson and Gnabry, I personally think Kyle Walker has little choice but to focus his intentions on closing this space that he sees Gnabry potentially exploiting. Taking advantage of this, Gnabry shows good intelligence and slips a well-weighted pass into Cazorla’s path.


Walker has had to make a decision, and has therefore opted to leave Santi Cazorla. Because Dawson has sold himself, and because Lennon hasn’t tracked back (and he has the pace to have allowed him to do so in this time) Walker’s decision is deemed questionable. But I personally think it’s a call he has to make, and so find it hard to pin the blame entirely on him.


But it’s a fantastic first-time finish from Cazorla, who drills his shot across Lloris with Walker throwing himself at the ball.


Rosicky’s goal – Danny Rose dallies on the ball, and is pick-pocketed by Rosicky, who runs at Lloris and lifts the ball over him.


A Spurs corner breaks down, and the ball comes out to Soldado on the left wing. Rather than lifting the ball into the box, he lays it back to Danny Rose – our deepest player. Rosicky begins to press Rose.


Rose could pump this into the box first time on his left, or turn onto his weaker right foot – but has limited options. Essentially if he lets the ball run across his body onto his right foot, his only viable option is to lay the ball back to Lloris, which at 1-0 down on 61 minutes might be seen as negative.


So Rose does something foolish – he attempts to turn back onto his left foot, in order to rebuild our attack. But Rosicky is wise to this, and nicks the ball.


This gives Rosicky pretty much a free run at goal, with just Kyle Walker able to get anywhere near to him.


Walker is unable to make a challenge, though, and as Lloris attempts to narrow the angle, Rosicky expertly lifts the ball over him.


Once again, Tim Sherwood has received criticism for his choice of formation, with some fans seeming to take some sort of tactical moral high-ground, as if they think Sherwood didn’t understand the connotations of playing one fewer midfield player than Arsenal.

Arsenal are currently the best team in the country (or so the league table suggests), and tend to dominate most teams that come to play at the Emirates. There are typically two ways of trying to play – you can match up to their formation, and play aggressively as Everton did earlier in the season. Everton played probably to their absolute maximum that day, and only came away with a 1-1 draw. Better than we achieved yesterday, certainly, but they had pretty much a full squad to pick from, and were relatively well-rested and fit in comparison.

The other option is to attempt to play more attacking players; to soak up the pressure, and to catch Arsenal on the counter using wide players and getting bodies into the box. This is the approach that Sherwood opted for and, whilst there were flaws, I don’t think that the overall Tottenham performance was as bad as the social media response suggests. Arsenal had some chances – of course – but so did we. Both of Arsenal’s goals came from poor errors from our defenders, and although the system arguably caused the first goal, the risky 4-4-2 (if you can call it that), generally held up OK against Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1.

This was because it wasn’t a flat 4-4-2, as the below illustrates.

Tottenham Positions
Taken from

Eriksen tucked in, both strikers took turns in dropping off (although clearly Soldado was the one instructed to drop into the hole more often than not), and only the full backs and Aaron Lennon provided width.

For me, the formation could have coped and could have produced a result had our players performed better on the day. This seemed to be one game too far, though, for a small group of players (6 games in 17 games with many injuries), and all four of our key attacking players – Adebayor, Soldado, Lennon and Eriksen – were well under-par on the day. Had we had a full squad to pick from over the past fortnight, we might have had a few fresher legs and things might have been different.

With Capoue struggling for fitness (Sherwood’s mentioned this twice recently) and having come off against United, Sherwood took a gamble and played 19-year old Nabil Bentaleb. Whilst he had a very tidy game in possession – attempting more passes than any other player on the pitch (82) at a completion rate of 93% – he did make some foolish challenges and was positionally naive at times. He also aggressively stamped on the ground in frustration at the end, dangerously close to Monreal’s fingers. For me, Bentaleb and Dembele should have played a little deeper, given how deep our defence played, and how exposed Chiriches and Dawson were at times against the pace of Arsenal’s attackers. The gap between defence and midfield was too large, and many are justifiably saying that this would not have been the case had Capoue played – he naturally plays a deeper role.

I tend to agree with what Sherwood said after the game:

“They outnumbered us in the middle of the park, we outnumbered them out wide, you can’t have it all ways – I think we were fine, we didn’t lose the game because we were outnumbered in the middle of the pitch”.

When asked about the system, he added:

“A lot’s made of systems – 4-4-2, 4-3-3, whatever you want to call it – but it’s about passing the ball to your own team, keeping hold of it. Because whenever you lose the ball in transition, you’re always going to be out of shape – otherwise you’re going to be a rigid, boring team. So it’s about funneling back in, shuffling across… I don’t think they overran us in the middle of the park.”

As Sherwood suggests, Arsenal were not totally dominating the game or cutting through us at will, and the stats tend to back that up – in fact, they compare favourably with, for example, Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea, who both won at the Emirates early in the season.

Tottenham (lost 2-0)

Chelsea (won 2-0, League Cup)

Borussia Dortmund (won 2-1, Champions League)

Taken from

The key stat, however, was that we didn’t manage to score – for the first time in Sherwood’s reign – and, as I mentioned, I felt that was more down to poor displays from our attackers.

The one thing I would say is that Arsenal scored at good times for them, and this allowed them to play within a comfort zone which made them incredibly difficult to break down. If you’re to compete at the Emirates, you simply have to be more resilient, and I can certainly see the argument that the first goal came from a flaw in the system. Was it a risk worth taking? A tricky one to answer, but I can certainly understand Sherwood’s motives.

It wasn’t a day for great individual performances, but nor was it the end of the world. We have a week now where we can hopefully get some players back off the treatment table and get the players working together on the training pitch ahead of Crystal Palace’s visit to White Hart Lane next Saturday.



As mentioned last week, the good people at Campo Retro have got in touch, and are offering Spurs fans around the world a fantastic opportunity to win a Tottenham Hotspur retro shirt with any name and number on the back.

Campo Retro has a wide range of Spurs retro shirts available, with classic shirts and track jackets ranging back from 1962 to 1991. Not only that, but Campo Retro will also print any name and number on the back of the shirt to make it extra special.

This competition is open to entrants from all over the world, so whether you live in North London or Australia, you still have a great chance to win this fantastic prize. It couldn’t be simpler to enter this competition, all you have to do is answer the simple question below by emailing
[email protected]

‘Which player currently holds the record for most appearances at Spurs?’

It’s that simple. The competition closes on 17/01/2014 and the winner will be announced soon after. The winner will receive an email from Campo Retro to request information on shirt size, personalisation and delivery address. All entries will also receive an exclusive discount to use at




Spurs to participate in Nutifood Cup‏, Vietnam

I realise that with a NLD tomorrow, blogging about an Under-19 tournament in Vietnam seems somewhat irrational, but I was intrigued to see earlier that we are late entrants to the Nutifood Cup.

Participation in this tournament means that we’ve had to postpone two Barclays Under-18 Premier League fixtures – the game at home to Southampton this Saturday and another away to West Bromwich Albion next weekend. To do so, John McDermott and his team must see this opportunity as incredibly worthwhile. McDermott’s belief in tournament experience as an important part of the development of young players has been well documented, and in an interview on the official site he seemed enthused:

“We’re going as a replacement for another European side so everything’s been a little bit last minute, but we just thought it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

We play against the Japanese and Vietnamese national sides as well as Roma so they’ll be three really tough games in heat and humidity. It’s a really invaluable lesson for our lads to go through.”

It’s an Under-19 tournament and is so-called because one of the co-organisers (along with Vietnam Football Federation (VFF), HA.GL Group and Eximbank) is the ‘Nutifood Nutrition Food Joint Stock Company’. The winning team receives $100,000 in prize money.

The fixtures are as follows – times are local times, which I believe are GMT+7.

January 6:
15:40: Tottenham Hotspur v Japan
18:00: Vietnam v AS Roma

January 8:
15:40: AS Roma v Tottenham Hotspur
18:00: Vietnam v Japan

January 10:
15:40: Japan v AS Roma
18:00: Vietnam v Tottenham Hotspur

I would guess that the squad is something like the below, but there is no official squad list available as yet.

Daniel Akindayini
Luke Amos
Dominic Ball
Laste Dombaxe
Antony Georgiou
Cy Goddard
Shayon Harrison
Filip Lesniak
Aaron McEneff
Luke McGee
Alex McQueen
Darren McQueen
William Miller
Nathan Oduwa
Connor Ogilvie
Josh Onomah
Joe Pritchard
Emmanuel Sonupe
Kane Vincent-Young
Harry Voss
Kyle Walker-Peters
Anton Walkes
Harry Winks

NB: Some squads appearing online included Veljkovic and Michael-Percil (who definitely haven’t travelled), and didn’t include Dombaxe or Alex McQueen (who have), so are inaccurate.

Look out for more news on the official site from Monday morning, and keep an eye on Wiziwig for potential streams, as the matches are being televised in Asia.

Analysis of the goal conceded against Manchester United (1/1), plus competition

Welbeck’s goal – Danny Welbeck latches on to Adnan Januzaj’s clever through ball and lifts the ball over Hugo Lloris.


Teams are said to be at their most vulnerable when they have just scored themselves, and this was certainly the case for Spurs on New Year’s Day. Antonio Valencia has possession shortly after the kick-off, and is looking for a forward pass.


Adnan Januzaj takes possession, and gets his head up. Notice Welbeck, on his toes…


Welbeck makes a move away from Dawson, runs across the pitch to stay onside, and then darts in behind Chiriches. Rose doesn’t get tight enough to Januzaj to influence his decision, and it allows the young winger to slip a terrific ball in behind the Spurs defence into Welbeck’s path.


It’s a quality piece of movement, and a quality pass. The Spurs defence are caught out by both.


Welbeck waits for Lloris to commit himself, and lifts the ball over him. Could Lloris do more? Possibly.


Overall, this was a very mature away performance from a relatively young Spurs team, and a shrewd tactical victory for Tim Sherwood. Whilst United had chances (and probably should have had a penalty – as should Spurs), Lennon missed two golden opportunities, and Soldado also put one over the bar on the stretch. In truth, we deserved the win despite being dominated in terms of possession, passes completed and corners.

Now, in a first for this website, I am able to offer some awesome Spurs swag to one reader…


The good people at Campo Retro have got in touch, and are offering Spurs fans around the world a fantastic opportunity to win a Tottenham Hotspur retro shirt with any name and number on the back.

Campo Retro has a wide range of Spurs retro shirts available, with classic shirts and track jackets ranging back from 1962 to 1991. Not only that, but Campo Retro will also print any name and number on the back of the shirt to make it extra special.

This competition is open to entrants from all over the world, so whether you live in North London or Australia, you still have a great chance to win this fantastic prize. It couldn’t be simpler to enter this competition, all you have to do is answer the simple question below by emailing
[email protected]

‘Which player currently holds the record for most appearances at Spurs?’

It’s that simple. The competition closes on 17/01/2014 and the winner will be announced soon after. The winner will receive an email from Campo Retro to request information on shirt size, personalisation and delivery address. All entries will also receive an exclusive discount to use at