Home » A Dysfunctional Defence, A Midfield Menagerie & The Ghost Of Martin Peters

A Dysfunctional Defence, A Midfield Menagerie & The Ghost Of Martin Peters

By The Boy -
My thanks to our man Finn

Defence: We all know we have a dysfunctional defence that does not operate as a unit. There is a lot of criticism of some players but in fairness, we need to look deeper than people’s pet hates or heroes. I believe our main problem is that we have not replaced Vertonghen: we have no naturally left-sided CB.

We have been using options in an attempt to find some sort of balance. Both Dier and Toby have had spells there, but they are both right-sided CBs and Dier, in particular, has taken more than his fair share for the team (and the crap that goes with it) by being played on the left; he played on the right today and I thought looked more comfortable. Toby does the better job at it, but I suspect doesn’t like it any more than Dier as he is also right-sided and certainly his long ball distribution is based upon playing on the right of the CB pairing.

At full-back we have a menagerie: I think part of the trouble is we don’t really seem to understand if we are playing wing backs, full backs or a hybrid (which just ends up as a suspended train wreck). Again people are quick to point fingers at the players, but the tactics do not seem to be clearly defined and the support structure as noted above is not really there. The centre back combo is so important as the connection between the two CBs allows each the freedom to support their relative flank.

A good example is when Toby and Aurier play together: that combo is generally pretty sound as they reinforce each other, but look at Davinson and Doherty, and they do not. Equally, our left side is very porous with Reggie really doing a defensive job at the back, attacking and covering the midfield whilst trying to get back: but neither he nor Davies is being properly supported by a genuine left-sided CB.

We have good players, but we don’t have the right players to make a defence work as a unit, nor do we have a blood and guts leader in that backline to organize and orchestrate it.

Midfield: the Viking does a sterling job, but he looks so good because he’s holding the centre line AND covering left and right. Lo Celso is still finding his feet and is operating at about 70% (thus Sissoko coming on) and Tanguy is not an out-and-out ball-winner; he’s the guy the ball winner passes to. On the left side we have Sonny, who going forward is electric but defensively is very lightweight: he has added a lot of extra running to his game to try to close down more, but he provides only minimal cover to Tanguy and thus either Reggie or Hojbjerg get dragged out of position.

The same applied on the other side when we had Winks dozing off and dragging Sissoko infield leaving Aurier to either stay on his flank or try to cut in and defend the channel; the result too frequently was a pass straight to that then exposed flank.

With Lo Celso coming back (and a more judicious use of Pamela) I think the right side will become more reliable even with Doherty (if it is with Toby at right CB) . The left side will be more difficult, as Sonny provides only a minimal level of cover which in turn pressures Reggie or draws Hojbjerg out of position allowing an easy one-two in and out to an open crossing position – and we are so good at dealing with balls in from the wings, aren’t we!!!

Forwards: Sonny seems to be under orders to stay wide doing a sort of Martin Peters ghosting job, and we don’t really use him so much in the left channel that has proven to be where he is most dangerous, certainly that was where he was doing damage prior to Christmas. Out on the wing, he becomes a bit anonymous and is far too good to be used merely to stretch their back four; it also clutters up any overlapping runs from Reggie or Davies.

I feel our forwards are not being allowed the freedom to play as they know they can, they are held back then released as a shock-tactic and frustration is setting in. This is not just down to us but to the opposition taking defensive measure against our strengths….why would they not!

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3 years ago
Reply to  Big Mal

Moyes was being called out for being a dinosaur not so long ago. Amazing what happens when a few of players are brought in that improve a team, and they don’t have to be world class. Dawson, Soufal, Soucek, Bowen and Lingaard have worked wonders for West Spam. For us, PEH and on occasion Reggie have stepped up. That isn’t good enough. Bale, Doherty and Rodon simply haven’t been good enough for a whole host of reasons. Spurs’ recruitment has been very poor in the past 5 seasons.

I am not a fan of Mourinho’s tactics and could not see how he would improve us when Levy brought him in, not because I didn’t think he could improve us, but he was never going to be given the players to improve us. He had no track record in using ‘decent’ players and being successful. It is that simple. Levy is to blame for that. Even PEH for me was a Levy buy. He was cheap with potential resale and because of the rubbish around him he stands out. He isn’t even in the top 10 of defensive midfielders in the EPL for me. To get top 4 you need players who have more than just heart and effort, although it is blatantly obvious we don’t have many players with those attributes.

3 years ago

Never mind not replacing Vertonghen. Our issues date back to not replacing Walker, Dembele, Rose or Eriksen. A systematic failure right at the top of THFC.

If we had Steve Bruce I might agree that the full backs don’t know what to do tactically, but we don’t. We have a manager who knows the tactics of defending inside out. No one in their right mind would suggest Jose hasn’t explicitly told each player what to do. Whether they have the ability (and they don’t) is another matter.

As for CB, why was Dier playing? He hasn’t had a game in weeks, but yet he is chosen to play against an albeit lucky and awful second in the league. For that I blame Jose, but Dier didn’t serve up anything that we didn’t know he could deliver. Look at Dier’s positioning for the goals, even the disallowed one. He was all over the place. Cavani did very little to find space, but surely Dier and Rodon would have picked him up. It looked like he was Dier’s responsibility, but he just let Cavani run off him.

Our issue is that if we retain players like Lamela and Doherty we will not be able to compete for top 4. Same with Sissoko. My heart sunk when he replaced Lo Celso (who didn’t have a great game for me) and Sissoko didn’t disappoint in being totally abject. Lamela was not his usual busy self and we didn’t look a threat in the second half because (quelle surprise) we ran out of steam and enterprise. Ndom looked useful in the first half but was knackered (again) in the second half. As was Hojbjerg, Pogba walked past him for the third goal. There is a reason we drop points from winning positions; we are not fit enough and we don’t have a good enough squad to make a difference.

Son’s role had to change because of Kane dropping deep. Son fills the gap centrally, but after the 2-0 City game teams were more than left aware of this. As long as teams are expecting Son to be there, he wont be as effective. We need midfield players to pick a pass or dribble past a defender, that creates space, for the full 90 minutes. Maybe even get in to the box and look to score! One half is never good enough, unless it is the second half.

Big Mal
Big Mal
3 years ago

OGS has organised and coached Manchester United and they now look a really decent side. Mourinho has done neither. He changes the defence every week unlike, for example, Manchester United and West ham who both have a totally settled defence. Defending is based on 3 partnerships – the right back and the right centre back; the 2 centre back; the left centre back and the left back. How can you build these partnerships when they change every week? Lindelof was lambasted earlier in the season but having formed clear relationships he now looks a quality player.

Top teams have a DNA and a style of play. Tottenham don’t. Are they an attacking team; a counter attacking team; a defensive team; a solid team? No. They are a shambolic team who, at times, are saved by 2 world class players who are now knackered and disillusioned. Mourinho has been a disaster and set Tottenham back a long way. Poch’s era came to an end but we were still regarded very favourably by press, players and fans. Now we are likely to finish 8th or 9th and Mourinho’s legacy might actually be to end below Arsenal and lose Kane and Son (although, please God, let none of those things happen).

Mourinho felt after the City and Arsenal games that we could win games by being incredibly defensive and well organised and hit teams on the break. Firstly, at the time City were not firing and Arsenal were awful. Secondly, how long can you invite teams onto you and not concede goals especially when, as discussed, the defence has no continuity? You can’t is the clear and obvious answer. Now that Mourinho’s one tactic is not working he has reverted to type i.e. being an arsehole, blaming and then alienating the players. As he has done at every club he has been at. This is what he does. Over and over again.

Mourinho is a busted flush. He is the dinosaur’s dinosaur. Levy must act and act now. Give a caretaker the glorious opportunity of galvanising the players in a Cup Final. If Mourinho stays it is very likely we will end outside of the European places. In some ways this may not be a bad thing as it gives a new manager an opportunity to coach a team without the distraction of a minor European competition. However, being in Europe does bring in a lot of extra revenue. Mourinho will not be at Tottenham next year so Levy needs to get his man lined up now. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the next 3 or 4 months may just be the most important in the history of the football club we love and hate in equal measures.

I don’t blame Levy for getting Mourinho but I will blame him for not getting rid of him.

3 years ago

I was just about to write to congratulate Finn on an excellent post from earlier and to suggest I guarantee it will end up as a guest post today.Voila.

3 years ago

The other problem is we seem to tire Ndom or Gio can’t last 90 mins even PEH was struggling in the end. They had fresh legs, speed and good options on the bench but what did we have ? Yes we have been too negative at times the 18 points we have lost from winning positions should be halved if we actually went for the jugular and we would still definitely be in the mix. Jose has tried to close out games but this defence is not what he had at Chelsea by a long shot

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