MLS All-Stars 2-1 Spurs – some thoughts

First thing’s first: it was a friendly, so let’s not take too much to heart. We can get an impression of a player or a style, but the intensity of friendlies is so much lower than that of a Premier League match, especially at altitude. It’s easy for players to stand out when there is less pressure on the ball and, conversely, players can sometimes struggle to get motivated for friendly matches. But keeping all that in mind, here are my thoughts in bullet point form. I’ve split this it into halves as the teams were so drastically different in each.

First half

The MLS All-Stars (from here in on referred to as ‘MLSAS’) set up in a 4-1-3-2 (or midfield diamond) which was often more like a 4-3-3:

Beltran Besler González Beasley
Zusi Kaka Zardes
Dempsey Villa

Spurs set up in the usual 4-2-3-1:

Walker Alderweireld Vertonghen Davies
Bentaleb Dier
Chadli Eriksen Dembélé

– The first shot of the game came after  a couple of minutes when Jan Vertonghen sold Ben Davies short with a pass, and his clearance came out to Graham Zusi who struck it hard and low but wide. Mistakes leading to chances was a common theme in this half, as both sides gave up opportunities from errors. The opening goal came from a silly mistake from Nacer Chadli, who gave away a penalty when dangling his arm out in loosely challenging for the ball. Likewise, Spurs’ goal came from a wayward pass which Kane latched onto.

– It was notable that Spurs – as we became accustomed to last season – were keen to play out from the back despite high pressing from the front three of the MLSAS. Toby Alderweireld looked comfortable in possession, as did Eric Dier, who was not scared to drop deep (often between the centre-backs) and take the ball under pressure.

– Harry Kane had a few of fantastic chances in the first half and scored with by far the most difficult. First, Mousa Dembélé’s shot looped up off a defender, Kane was typically the first to react but volleyed straight at Rimando. From the resulting corner, Dier made good contact with a header but when the ball landed at Kane’s feet he diverted it wide. At 1-0, Dembélé tackled and then dribbled his way from right to left across the pitch and laid off for Chadli to pick out Kane – he should have made it 1-1 from point-blank range, but Kane hit the keeper again. In fairness to him, he was stretching a little on this occasion. Finally, he had one other good chance from the move of the half: Nabil Bentaleb stabbed an intelligent ball over the top, Christian Eriksen brushed Kane aside to take control, waited for Kane to break in behind his marker and played a firm ball across which Kane couldn’t quite divert towards goal. Kane’s goal was beautiful, though. He picked up on a loose pass, put Omar González on the back-foot before using him as a shield to stop the goalkeeper seeing where he was placing his shot, which rocketed past him. Lovely.

– Eric Dier played in defensive midfield, a position that we’ve not seen him play in previously for Spurs. He had a run of playing in midfield for Sporting in 2013 and has been rumoured to have been playing there in behind-closed-doors friendlies this summer. Where Ryan Mason’s first instinct is to press the ball, Dier’s is to jockey, to hold position, and to screen; two of the times he did commit to trying to win the ball, he gave away fouls resulting in a warning from the referee and, subsequently, a yellow card. Dier was not afraid to take the ball under pressure, and moved it left and right (mostly right) pretty well. He didn’t look like a complete natural in the role, but it might be worth another look.

– The odd thing about Dier playing in midfield is that Mauricio Pochettino has shown no signs so far of wanting to use a sitting player. If he’d wanted a player that could do that he’d surely have used Étienne Capoue or Benji Stambouli, or even our super-talented young Serbian player, Miloš Veljković. That Dier is ahead of Veljković in the midfield pecking order does not bode well for Milos, who seems likely to be farmed out on loan again this season. Stylistically, he doesn’t seem to be a good match for Pochettino – he’s not a high-tempo player, and he’s not a natural presser. Although he can play centre-back equally well, we’re fairly well-stocked in that area just now. We just have to hope he doesn’t end up leaving out of frustration at a lack of chances, as he’s a potential star of the future. That’s a bit of an aside.

– Another player in a slightly unfamiliar role wasMousaDembélé, who played wide on the right. He’s played there before, and played the role relatively well (particularly against Newcastle in February 2014) – I’ve actually previously said that I’m happier for him to play there than in central midfield, where I feel he slows things down too much with his ponderous style and limited range of passing. Dembélé had a hit and miss half. The good was that he was very good at escaping from being boxed in – something we know he can do well. His excellent close control and useful one-touch passing in tight spaces helped him escape a couple of times. He also went on a run across the pitch from right to left which allowed Chadli to set up Kane for a big chance. The bad was that he kept ignoring Walker’s frequent overlapping runs. The one time he did try to find Walker, he overhit his pass. He also delayed a pass too long for Ben Davies which led to Davies being caught offside when entering a dangerous position. He had a really poor two-minute cameo midway through the half: first he picked up the ball on his right foot, produced a Cruyff turn to get it onto his left and then looped a pass straight to the MLSAS full-back from the centre circle. Then, he let David Villa run in behind him in the box – fortunately the forward seemed to kick the ground and messed up his cross, allowing Dembélé to clear. Dembélé’s tendency to play the game at his own speed can be both a blessing and a curse.

– Alderweireld looked good in possession and strong at marshalling the defence and reading the game. David Villa lost him very easily in the box for the second goal – he briefly checked his run allowing him to prod home a cross-cum-shot from Kaka. I’m sure David Villa has done that to better players than Toby, so I’m not overly concerned. More concerning was Chadli failing to track the run from deep, which is fairly typical of him.

Second half

The MLS All-Stars second half team, was nowhere near as strong (or adventurous) as their first half team but still contained some talented players who are, I’m told, having good seasons. They set up in a 4-2-3-1, which I think was as below (forgive me if I’m wrong):

Moor Marshall Ciman Francis
Cronin Juninho
Finlay Feilhaber Castillo

Spurs continued in their 4-2-3-1 but with some personnel changes:

Trippier Alderweireld Wimmer Davies
Dier Alli
Carroll Dembélé Chadli

With Alli more naturally attack-minded, and Dembélé more comfortable dropping deeper, the shape more closely resembled a 4-1-4-1 (or 4-3-3) at times, with Alli given license to push on.

Spurs ended the half with a very different side:

Trippier Fazio Wimmer Rose
Winks Alli
Yedlin Carroll Onomah

– This was our first look at Kieran Trippier in a Spurs shirt. His first piece of action was an overhit cross which the goalkeeper claimed easily. He is renowned for his crossing, so I thought I’d keep a close eye on them – I may have missed one or two crosses, but here’s what I saw:

1. overhit and claimed by the goalkeeper.
2. fairly decent cross which came to Kane at waist height and so was tricky to control.
3. under-hit and cleared.
4. a little too high for Kane.
5. overhit from deep and ran out for a throw-in.
6. easily the best so far, drilled into a great area, nobody could get on the end of it.
7. well overhit on the run. NB: 7 crosses in 16 minutes!
8. very long, chested down by Onomah at the back post to keep it alive.
9. into right area but cut out at the near post.
10. aimed towards Winks, goalkeeper saved it as it was dropping in.

Crossing is a dying art-form – statistics show that not many goals proportionately actually come from crosses, and that it takes a lot of crosses to score a goal. Just hitting hopeful balls into the box is not helpful to a team that wants to dominate possession. I’m intrigued to see how Pochettino coaches Trippier. My best guess would be that ‘less is more’ is his slogan – attempt fewer crosses from better areas if possible. Trippier was barely tested defensively in this match, but I know from watching him a fair bit for Burnley that he is quite a rugged defender.

– Dele Alli looks a very confident player, and it’s so obvious that he has had plenty of exposure to first team football. Just five minutes in he was telling players where to pass to, hitting cross-field passes and roaming around the pitch as if he were the most experienced player on the pitch. Being used to playing in front of crowds will have helped him – he was not over-awed by the occasion. This video by SpursOnly captures his personal highlights from the match.

– Toby Alderweireld played an absolutely glorious pass which Chadli should have scored from. It’s totally GIF-worthy:

Alderweireld pass

– Harry Kane was getting a little frustrated in that half. First, he messed up a chance (from Alli’s pass) then he made a bad pass. He pounded the turf after doing that, and then a few minutes later he took on a stupid shot from a really way out. Desperate to impress his adoring fans?

– After a glut of substitutions were made, Tom Carroll moved inside into the number 10 role, with Harry Winks partnering Alli and DeAndre Yedlin playing on the right. Carroll was so-so – he worked hard and tried to make things happen creatively, although not even close to everything came off. Winks had a very tidy cameo and one particular moment – where he started a move deep in midfield and then surged forward – showcased his ability to play in both halves. Yedlin’s touches were often disappointing and he struggled to have an impact. Josh Onomah played out of position on the left and had a great chance to score. He was found by Kane after a neat move on the edge of the box, and tried to pass it into the far corner – unfortunately he didn’t get enough on it and the goalkeeper saved it comfortably. Onomah didn’t see a lot of the ball aside from that. Luke McGee had a stint in goal and showed great distribution.

– Danny Rose made a fantastic saving tackle after Federico Fazio was caught out over on the right – Fazio is rumoured to be one who could leave, and our depth at centre-back (Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Dier, Wimmer) means that this could happen without a replacement being sought.

– The timing of this match was really bad. I get that the US market is huge to the club, and it’s genuinely great that American fans get to see the team up close and personal, but an uninterrupted period at our purpose-built facilities right now would have been really useful for fitness and for getting the team organised and drilled. All that travelling for one match seems a really bad use of time. The same can be said of the Audi Cup – it’s far, far too close to the season opener, and is clearly more about money and developing the brand than it is about preparing the players for the start of the season.

Join the conversation

  1. Thanks Windy - What's your starting 11?
    1. Tricky. For most games probably: Lloris; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose; Mason, Bentaleb; Lamela, Eriksen, Chadli; Kane. But I'm not entirely against Alderweireld in midfield against United with Eriksen wide and Chadli dropping out. Dier in at the back.
      1. Still believing in Mason? No one has impressed you enough to move him out of the starting 11?
      2. I like a lot about Mason's game and think he'll be better in his second season.
  2. Thanks Windy - what would be your starting 11 for Man U?
    1. See above! I'm not entirely against Alderweireld in midfield against United with Eriksen wide and Chadli dropping out. Dier in at the back.
  3. I can see Alli being a future superstar. Was very impressed Tripier looked very good a wing back role for him and rose would be the best for me great touch and movement. Delivelrys need worked on too keen on just crossing it into the box.
    1. Alli was more polished than I'd seen in previous performances - he's developing nicely. Trippier was active - I actually thought Walker played pretty well too.
  4. The centre half pairing wont work too similar,Dier cannot play C/M if he looses players at C/H no chance playing midfield.If we reply with the kids we will end up half way up the league.We need a C/M and s quick forward not in three weeks but now.
    1. What would your centre-back pairing be? And who would you like in midfield?
  5. Nice writeup Windy, Thought the back 4 looked a lot more solid than last season and Walker seems to have upped his game since Trippiers arrival al la Danny Rose when Davies arrived. Not sure how we went 2 nil down we were camped in their half most of the time. Dier looked ok but you suspect Stroumboli would have been a lot better so dont understand why we sold him. Loris for Vorm & Rose for Davies and Lamela for Dembele and this pretty much looks like our starting 11. Assuming we sell Ade we are screwed if anything happens to Harry!
    1. Thanks! Of course the back four wasn’t greatly tested… Walker looked back to his normal self which was nice to see. I agree about Stambouli. Would you go with Dier ahead of Mason?
      1. Mason/Bentaleb looks to be a decent partnership but no more than that, no obvious DM candiates if Stambouli is not a Poch type player then there would seem to be little hope for Veljković am assuming Poch doesnt want a DM?. Personaly I think this is where Poch falls down in that although not a long term soultion Stambouli & Ade would be very good for us this season, especially Ade as its the last year of his expensive contract and he is going to have to play consisently out of his skin for any team to offer him anything close to 100k pw at the end of his contract, i know everybody hates him but a good manager would make use of all available resources....not just his favorites. ;-)
      2. Yeah I agree - particularly on Stambouli. Veljkovic could be so good for us but from what I hear isn't rated by Pochettino and his team. A real pity.
  6. Nice report. I didn't catch the game, so this was helpful! You mentioned Chadli's failure to track a run from deep being 'fairly typical of him'. Are you satisfied with his defensive workrate, and, if not, does it worry you?
    1. It does - I think Chadli is quite an odd player. Very good scoring record, quite poor in general play, and really lacks when it comes to tracking the full-back.
  7. Great recap Windy. I thought Wimmer looked awfully sluggish back there. First time I have seen him play though, what's your take?
    1. Sluggish - interesting, I thought he looked fairly nimble and good at carrying the ball out. I'll look out for that.
  8. Great analysis, Windy. For me, though a friendly, yet again Chadli didn't do enough. Despite his impressive goal figures, I just don't think he has the attitude/personality to be an automatic choice. I'd give starts to Alex Pritchard when he's fit,to benefit from his obvious talents, and also to motivate Chadli. Davies I was willing to give a chance to, but to be honest he's one of the worst full-backs I've seen. No pace, positional awareness or agression. He also passes the ball backwards ad-nauseum. Bony tackle aside, for the price we paid, Neil Taylor would have been a far better choice. I'm content to see the youngsters get as much time on the pitch as possible this season; Euro, Cups etc. Nathan Oduwa could be the surprise package. Physically he's ahead of Winks, Onomah et al. I'd also play Walker-Peters at left-back whenever possible. After all, Tottenham Hotspur was created by a buch of youngsters who just wanted to play football; it's our raison d'etre.
    1. Great comment. I agree entirely re: Chadli. Davies has been a bit of a letdown but I *really* liked the look of him at centre-back and definitely think there's more to come from him. Oduwa is a good player, I hope we see something of him this season (amongst others). KPW should only play RB IMO - he's so much better on his natural side!
      1. I agree that KWP of course should ideally play right-back, but this season it's not possible. Trippier will be ahead of him, Dier too. I've seen KWP play left-back before, and he seemed pretty comfortable; e.g. Lahm has played LB. Maybe a good way to introduce him in Euro/Cup games. Harsh on Davies, but I think we should cut our losses; he won't play CB again. Luke McGee will be a top GK. Difficult position to break at a big club, but I saw him play against Chelsea U21 away, when Yedlin also played, and he made some incredible saves; not phased against MLS either.
  9. Windy IMO Harry Winks doesn't get enough credit he is an excellent midfielder. Great at controlling tempo and keeping possession. Reminds me of Xavi and Pirlo... I would not be surprised if he plays a good lot of games for us this season
    1. He's such a talent. Can see why he's been training with the first team since he was 16 - very bright young player.
  10. Windy, A good thoughtful read as ever. A couple of observations: if Kane doesn't get the goals, who will? We may be better at the back this season but I fear for our strike rate. Our striker options seem to becoming slimmer by the day. In this game I also noticed a distinct lack of width. Could it be that Yedlin will become our new flying winger? It almost seems as if he is being tested for the role. And Alli apart, the youngsters look exactly that - young! More experience and loan outs needed I think.
    1. If Kane was to dry up or get injured I'd really worry. We must sign a back-up - be that Berahino or Werner. Yedlin looks really... not ready... to me. To put it kindly.
  11. Windy, what did you think of Wimmer's performance in the 2nd half?
    1. Very solid. Good on the ball. Totally untested.
  12. Windy - thanks as always. I didn't honestly get the chance to see the game and it wasn't really 100% on my radar. I''m confident that when we kick off at OT we will be a different team to these two. I'm sure there will be additions and changes. Having said that United will also have something to consider!?XX?!
  13. Great report. Thanks.
  14. Although Carrol didnt necessarily have everything he tried go right, it was very evident when he was in the middle that the ball was moving faster around him, he moved the ball quickly and was ready to receive it straight away. If we insist on tip tapping around the penalty area like last year we need more one touch moves like he made happen. Was impressed to see more diagonal balls played, I'm afraid i am tired of watching the center backs spread it between defenders 6 or 7 times while the opposition form ranks, it's like applying the marquess of queensberry rules to football, nothing on the counter attack old chap, that would be dashed unsporting. All in all my two main criticisms of last 3 years seem to have been addressed, here's to a return of flowing football
  15. Hi Windy, Interesting report and I couldn't agree more with you about the timing of this MLS game. In fact what I wanted to know what your verdict was on us playing Madrid next Tuesday and Milian or B Munich on Wednesday!!!! I can't quiet get my around there being any benefits of us being in this Audi cup a few days before a massive opening game? To be honest looking at madrids results in pre season we could be in for a bit of hiding on Tuesday? Surely that will do nothing for confidence. I think Mr levy and the board have really seen the money before the sense.
    1. Hello Craig, I think the Audi Cup is coming at the worst time. Can only hope that most players play 60 minutes maximum - do we know what the rules are on substitutions?

Leave a Reply to paul blackCancel reply

Your email address will not be published.