I liked the team Poch put out tonight. It was positive, proactive, and progressive.
No plodding Dier, no pretention of pragmatism. It was a side put out to play football on the front foot.
There was some suggestion that we started 4231 with Winks in Sissoko in CM, but I think it was more 4231/4141 with the ball in forward areas, but a 41212 diamond without, with Sissoko and Eriksen ahead/either side of Winks sitting centrally and Alli at the tip of the diamond.
To Poch’s credit he soon adjusted this to a flatter midfield three (more 4312) and eventually, with his first sub switched to a full on 433.
The Game We started the game reasonably, but were sucker punched from our own set piece.
A horrible moment for KWP, who got caught on the ball and ruthlessly punished by the powerful and adroit Dembele.
It took us a little while to recover our rhythm, and this was helped by Poch switching us from the 41212 diamond to a flatter cm3, 4312 with Alli also dropping in to help, now we could compete with their midfield three, and we started to gently apply control the game.
This control grew as the game wore on. We started the second half very much on the front foot, took control and turned a 48% game into a 53%, but we really took it by the Bow Locks in the 60thminute when Poch put Lamela in for KWP, moved Sissoko to RB, Alli back into the CM3 and went full 433.
We had three footballers in midfield, and three attackers pushed up onto their 2CB’s.
We were pretty good for the first hour and created two or three great chances, but that last thirty minutes was one of the most compelling half hours of football we’ve played in the last couple of years, with that total footballing CM3, it was like watching Guardiola’s City.
We were ruthlessly tearing Barca to pieces, put some lively moves together and created some wonderful chances, and in the end kind of fitting that we scored one of those very Pep type goals, at the spiritual home of Pep.
With a piercing move, started when Eriksen takes out two lines of midfield with surgical precision, the ball finds it’s way to Kane, via Lamela, who fizzes one of those great un-missable balls across the six yard to Moura, who coolly smashed home.
It was a proper footballing goal, incision, precision. It was one of those great footballing moments, like the winner in the San Siro a few years back, the smashing up of Real Madrid last year, against the odds, this game was epitomising our Champions League run this season, high on endeavour, low on luck, but even better than luck is quality, and that’s how we got this result.
It was just a shame that we didn’t get the actual win on the night our performance deserved, such a shame that Rose couldn’t apply the finish to another sublime Eriksen/Kane move.
I’ll get to the outstanding Eriksen later, but first a mention for Winks, I was critical of him at the weekend , as an “8” I was a bit disappointed by his lack of incision and ambition, but played as the central 6 tonight, given a much more disciplined task against one of Europe’s best midfields, no DM out there holding his hand, this was one of his best performances in a Spurs shirt, and though I think a lot of what he did tonight will go under a lot of radars, I thought he was quietly outstanding.
We got the result we needed in this game because we out-footballed Barca. We did what not many teams do, we out-passed Barca in Barca.
Nobody on the pitch, including Braca players, completed more passes than Winks (65/71 92% are outstanding numbers in the Camp Nou), he was positionally disciplined, the metronomic hub that help keep the more creative players all around him ticking, providing the glue that knitted this performance together.
If Winks was the glue, Eriksen was conductor, and this wasn’t the quiet conductor we often see, this was an absolute screaming master class of a performance, right up there with his best performances in a Spurs shirt.
62 passes, 91% but it was the sublime quality of what he was doing, he may not have got an assist tonight, but his passing was so incisive, continually playing the key pass the shredded Barca’s midfield and defence.
There was the full repertoire, the midfield splitters, the full back feeders, the little dinks in tight spaces. The ball that starts the sequence for our goal was superb. This has been an slow season for the quiet maestro, blighted by fatigue and an injury, but tonight he was sublime. Honourable mentions for Alli, and Kane.
Though many things didn’t quite come off for Alli, he was constantly involved, constantly a threat, constantly probing, but again, in that second half worked for the team too, showed maturity, held the ball and got his head up. Kane, Son, Moura and Rose all put in noteworthy cameos, all wasted glorious chances, but all were lively, dynamic and gave us an energy.
It was great to see Kane unselfishly set up first the goal, then a wonderfully clever chance for Rose. Poch deserves huge credit for this one. The line up he picked was aggressive in the footballing sense, and his changes – apart from Llorente – personnel and tactical – were great too, especially the tactical adjustments throughout that helped us gain more and more control.
Loved the 433 from the hour mark, with dynamic front line and pure footballing midfield. Winks the metronomic glue, Alli and Eriksen constantly probing. This is the way forward.
I know the score will say this game was only a draw, but this was more than draw. This was a footballing victory. This was us going to Barcelona, showing ambition, character and panache.
And we got our just deserts.
Lloris – Not loads to do to be honest.
KWP – Had a mare of a start, but to his credit, he didn’t shrink or hide, recovered and was decent enough the rest of the game, tried to get forward and put in one great tackle. He’ll learn from this.
Alderweireld – Couple of iffy moments but generally good.
Vertonghen – Good game
Rose – This was vintage Rose. There were a couple of dodgy defensive moments, and as ever, his composure in the final third was wanting, but the energy was great.
Sissoko – Some decent work off the ball but also some lazy closing down, a couple of great tackles/blocks, a great cross and one less so. No coincidence that we looked better when he was moved out of midfield, but credit to him for sticking to his task at RB well enough.
Winks – Quietly very good tonight. Was the pivotal CM that held a very good team performance together, made more passes than anyone and moved the ball quickly and efficiently. Made a couple of mistakes, but recovered them tenaciously. He was pivotal in our control of this game, continually showing, getting, giving and going again. Nothing extravagant or spectacular, just quietly efficient. If not for Eriksen would have been my MOTM.
Eriksen – An absolutely outstanding performance, clever, dynamic, ubiquitous; seemed to be popping up everywhere, deep areas, wide areas, forward areas. A world class performance. He was a 4, an 8 and a 10 all in the same game.
MOTM Alli – Not everything worked, some did, but worked hard constantly, and adapted to different remits at different phases of the game, was always involved and brings a pitch presence.
Son – Lively as ever, and did brilliantly to power his way onto a first half chance and was unlucky with the finish, it was a good save.
Kane – Very good tonight, worked his nuts off, set up the winner and a glorious chance for Rose. Led the line, was robust but also showed brains and was unselfish.
Lamela – Brought even more craft to the party, and played his part in the goal, though did also waste a couple of situations with poor decisions.
Moura – Missed an absolute sitter with a poorly timed header, but made amends with his drive into the six yard box and finish for the goal.