Date: 10th January 2019 at 11:27am
Written by:
My thanks to the superb Forensic Onions

Black Mirror

The Selection

Pochettino went with a pretty strong line up for this one, just about the strongest line up available to him. Sanchez and Alderweireld at the back, Trippier and Rose as FB’s with Kane and Son in front of the midfield diamond of Winks, Sissoko, Eriksen and Alli.

The only real possible controversial choice was Gazzaniga over Lloris. But as has almost become tradition now (with many teams), the “league cup” keeper kept his place.

The Structure

Once again, Poch went with the 41212/4312 diamond. T

his has Winks sitting in front of the back four, Sissoko and Eriksen as the lateral 8’s pivoting off him just ahead and Alli at the head of the diamond. 

Spurs v Chelsea

The Game

Tactically, this game unfolded as an almost mirror image of the league game about six weeks ago. That game back in November ranks as one of my favourite Pochettino games.

In that game he gave Alli a man marking remit on Chelsea’s key man, Jorginho, we pressed high and aggressively, and there was an intensity to our play with and without the ball all over the pitch.

Although they had marginally more of the ball that day (partly due to the fact that we’d raced to a 2-0, then 3-0 lead) we hemmed them into areas we were comfortable with them playing in, they rarely troubled us, rarely had meaningful possession in our third and ended up having 2 shots on target.

This game almost reversed that. For some reason, despite going with a similar structure shape wise, Poch decided to forgo that previously very successful application. Not just the Alli/Jorginho man marking job, but the intensity and high pressure. 

The dropping of the intensity and high pressing may not have been totally deliberate, but the decision to not put someone on Jorginho, man for man, clearly was. 

This game Chelsea seemed to take the initiative, show more intensity without the ball, continually pressed us high up, and I’m not sure if deliberate or just a symptom of format match up (I’d need to watch it again) but they also seemed to have Kante working Eriksen. 

The result was a game that Chelsea controlled throughout, with and without the ball, and we found it extremely hard to build any momentum or create dangerous situations, even on the counter.

Even our goal was basically just a back to front hump by Alderweireld to Kane (it was a very classy hump – as Alderweireld’s often are). 

Where Poch tactically outsmarted Sarri last time, Sarri definitely came out on top, tactically anyway, this time, stopped us playing through midfield, kept our “playmaker” Eriksen quiet, and effectively cut off supply to the forwards. 

I think Winks was the only player ahead of the defence to come out of the game with much credit; defensively, positionally, he is learning on the job and is showing improvement (3 tackles, 1 assist – second behind Trippier on the night) but was also our only player who consistently showed up and got on the ball. 

If Winks was the better of the bunch (76 touches – highest), the weakest link was Sissoko. Whilst Eriksen was also disappointing, he at least had this league’s hunter gatherer supreme – Kante – on his tail, and he still managed to see more of the ball (59 touches) than Sissoko (44) who had Barkley on his side. 

And here is the problem. In this system Winks sits at the base of the diamond, he shuttles the ball to the 8’s – Eriksen and Sissoko – who’s job it is to transition, to progress through midfield, their job is spark that transition.

Eriksen failed to do this last night, but does do this regularly (4 goal, 7assists, 1.8 key passes a game, and sees sh*tload of ball and uses it cleverly), but Sissoko doesn’t (1 assist, 0.7 KP ave, and doesn’t do anything cleverly).

And defensively, Sissoko is no better than Eriksen, his pressing is no more dynamic, he also gives away more free kicks with his clumsiness (also averaging identical tackles and assists to Eriksen for what it’s worth). 

Again, Sissoko isn’t the reason we played badly today, this was very much a collective and reactive performance, but a better footballer in that midfielder position might just have given us a more chances to beat the press, to compete.

Winks certainly saw his share of the ball (62 passes 88%), Sissoko (34 passes 85%) didn’t. 

Several other players had their light dimmed by the efficacy of Chelsea’s application.

Alli was really poor until switched into the left midfield spot, where he found himself in the thick of the game and forced, almost by default, to be involved. His last 20-30 minutes was decent enough, and gave us a more physical presence in there. 

Son was ineffectual and rightly subbed, with Lamela the logical choice. Lamela brought “Lamella” stuff.

Some tenacity, some carelessness, a modicum of creative threat, unfortunately he made a bit of a mess of our best second half chance, that might of killed the game off. 

In the past it’s been levelled at Poch that whilst his football intentions are admirable – and the application of them sometimes fabulous – there’s sometimes been a bit of naivety (Juve, ManU semi, Chelsea semi eg) when the big test arrives.

That maybe his football altruism gets undone by more wiley tactical practitioners, so maybe, just maybe this is an example of a more pragmatically robust Pochettino, a game won ruthlessly, rather than extravagantly.

Let’s hope so. We’ll know in a couple of weeks. 

 
Comments
  • Aside from cerebrospinal fluid, what's on your mind?

  • Sao Paulo Spurs January 10, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    We’ve played a lot games in the last 2 months. I’m hoping that after Utd Poch takes the players away to Barcelona for the annual trip for some sun and a bit of R&R.
    We need to do some business in this transfer window. As much as I like Lamela he’s not really, ever, fulfilled any sort of potential. We’ve seen glimpses of quality and then he either gets injured or goes of the simmer. He never boils. Can there be no other player in the world more effective than Lamela? We need more options on the bench for the final push. It’s normally in Jan & Feb where our cup hopes and chances of winning the league disappear. This squad has performed miracles and we can’t just keep flogging it into the ground every season. They need help.

  • PhilBealOG January 10, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Great summary. If Spurs were to bring in a top class defensive midfielder for the base of the diamond I think Winks would be a great replacement for Sissoko on the right. I am not sure Winks will ever be great defensively and although Poch has worked a miracle with Sissoko his technical limitations will always be exposed by a top class press. As for Alli I continue to think he is highly overrated in terms of what he actually delivers. Sure he has great ball skills and takes up good positions but he loses possession way too often due to a combination of carelessness, lack of a left foot and poor decision making. If somebody offered 100m for him I would snatch their hand off.

    • chrism090861 January 10, 2019 at 1:49 pm

      I watch Winks, and i sometimes wonder if Poch wants him to be the ball winner, or to be the Box-to-box type, but what he does seem to do is get the ball and move it around, transition the play, and he also seems to be the outlet from defence when we are being pressed, What is very evident though is that we seem to win games when he has been playing !!

      • Accy January 10, 2019 at 1:57 pm

        Winks is a DM in reality, not a traditional CM 8.

        I won’t say he can never be one as I’ve witnessed player transformations by Poch too many times now. Perhaps he was just asked to play more defensively for this game.

        Sissoko still has my backing despite being sub-par in this first leg. He has been instrumental in the last few games we’ve won.

  • Derrick January 10, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    There was a 10 minute period in second half when Chelsea were all over us, and it looked like they were bound to score. Kane went down in the middle of the pitch, supposedly injured, and unable to move. The physio came on. During that respite two Spurs players ( Winks and Alli I think) came over for a tactical chat with Poch. Don’t know what was said or changed, but things were definitely better thereafter.

  • Ray Milo January 10, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    Happy days. We didn’t play particularly well but ground out the win. We showed maturity in that victory. No doubt Poch will study the first leg forensically and devise a strategy for the second leg.
    We’ve won a few games by a country mile and now recorded three games without conceding.
    These are good traits to develop a habit in. #COYS

  • chrism090861 January 10, 2019 at 11:57 am

    I thought we ‘Cruised’ a little through that game, not looking overtly troubled, but not really getting out of first gear. Could we possibly have had one eye on the Manure game at the weekend, and with a somewhat thinner squad available at the moment maybe saving their legs a little. My nerves were a bit freyed watching them play the majority of the game in our half, but i also feel that they maybe wanted to amend for getting totally stuffed last time.. I feel we have enough to complete the job on the 24th..

    • Only me January 10, 2019 at 12:39 pm

      With two easy games either side, we should have more than enough. Although they are derbies, I am not worried about Fulham, Palace a little more so. I would hope Fulham may like to see us stuff Chelsea…who knows.

  • Marbella Spur January 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

    I thought Chelsea were the better team on the night. Sissoko was poor, although he has improved, he will never be good enough. I also have my doubts about Alli playing wide on the left. I have never liked right footed footballers playing on the left and vice versa. When Alli plays there, he always slows the game down by cutting inside and shifting the ball onto his right foot.
    With regards to Lamela, his first instinct as a substitute is to commit a silly and obvious foul which is unprofessional and unnecessary.

  • Only me January 10, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Great write up, as always. I would like to think Poch has learnt to win ugly this season, mainly due to injuries and lack of squad to rotate. I hope that will spur us on in cup games to know when is the time to bury teams (Tranmere, Cardiff, Bournemouth) and when to just win (like last night). That is an in game choice, you see the performance and the team knows that its not their night so get the job done. Wolves is an example of it going wrong, where the lead was taken, and the brains switched off (I think had it not been for the 2 previous games we would have won that, people were thinking of getting 6 rather than not losing).

    Sissoko – are we thinking his “good” performances were a blip or that he has turned a corner? To be clear, I am not sold on him, I think his best is still average but people are seeing him compared to him. He shores us up defensively, but with the ball, I think I would rather we passed it to Chirpy than sissoko.