Date: 2nd January 2019 at 9:30am
Written by:
My thanks to the superb Forensic Onions

Cruise Control (Hail Eriksen the Omnipotent) 

The Selection

Rose for Davies was the only change from the last game. This meant the same midfield three of Eriksen and Sissoko pivoting off a centrally located Winks.

I was bit surprised after the rather fatigued effort against Wolves that there weren’t a couple more changes today.

KWP for Trippier would seem to be the glaringly obvious rotation, and I personally would have liked to see Skipp given a start, maybe put in that central role with Winks shuffled to one of the “8” roles, preferably Sissoko’s as he’s got to be due a rest, and last game was looking very ragged. 

The Structure

Poch went with the 41212 (4312) again with Alli sitting behind Son and Kane and the afore mentioned CM3. 

I want to flag something up that has been impressing me more and more of late. Certain aspects of our in-game tactical fluidity have always been prevalent – FB’s as de facto wide attackers, the DM dropping in between the CB’s, Eriksen’s hybrid 8/10 remit, Kane dropping back into the ACM, A CB (Vertonghen usually, but latterly Foyth) stepping out into the midfield to name but a few basic ones.

Some more successful/impressive than others. Some pretty routine in modern football. But since we switched to this CM3 format I’m noticing our fluidity is hitting different levels.

I’ve mentioned before about how much I like this CM3 (1+2) format (I still dream of a full on 433 though) and what I’m noticing more and more is how flexible and fluid this midfield has allowed us to become, and not just laterally, but also vertically.

A game like this, in which we dominated the ball so completely from start to finish (again, another benefit and feature of this structure IMO is we are again dominating the ball more comprehensively in games, as Poch likes us to do) made this fluidity so much more demonstrable.

Eriksen is the key component, positional intelligence has always been a forte of his (I remember remarking how even as a kid when we first signed him he had the positional awareness of a 40yo –  that ability to find pockets of space) but under Poch he’s gone up several notches and where once that special dexterity existed in the ACM/10 zone, it’s now existing all over the pitch.

And he’s not alone, although Sissoko did have a more right biased map, he did pop up on the left at times, Winks drifted right and left, Alli droped backwards, left and right, Kane and Son likewise. It’s not just the intelligent movement of Eriksen that is impressive, it’s the intelligence – an intelligent coaching of Poch – that sees all the players react and interact with each other’s movement. It’s Rinus Michels stuff.

Total football, and when we are doing it well, it is so hard to play against.

The below maps show where our front six players received the ball, and is very illuminating. How does a team play against this level of interchange-ability?

The key to it, as it was in it’s inception (Michels Ajax) and in various other incarnations (Such as Guardiola’s Barca) is that midfield 3 – although with us it’s not a pure 433 but a 1+2 with a 1+2. The same structural benefits apply. It creates a grid structure that covers the pitch zonally, allowing pieces of the grid to flow into and out of zones, and as long as all the pieces move cohesively to compensate, it rarely leaves – in play – zones empty as some other formats – like the 4231 – do – leaving the FB’s exposed often. The lateral 8’s move outwards when necessary to cover or protect the FB’s. The CM/6 shuffles left and right. The ACM goes back to cover the 8 that goes forward, the forwards split wide and allow the ACM to go false 9, etc etc. 

The Game

Cardiff were probably the weakest team in terms of both individual ability and tactical complexity that we’ve faced. But, and this is an important but, this was still one of our most impressive displays of the season for me. Not just about only beating what’s in front of you.

We showed a ruthless composure tonight.

When we got one, two and three goals up we didn’t shell or shrink as we were doing a couple of months ago. With this format we did the smart thing, precisely what we had to do. Death by possession. The best defence in football isn’t always attack, it’s starvation.

They cannot hurt you when you have the ball, and at 3-0 up we didn’t need to turn the game into a lottery, take stupid chances for the sake of adding more goals. I loved this performance, after a barbaric schedule and a horrible set back a few days ago, this was the perfect antidote, the complete performance.

72% possession, 90% completion, three goals, could have been 5 or 6 with better finishing, and they barely got in our half. As bad as they were, they are capable of a bit of a hurrah when they get a bit of momentum, but we allowed them no scent of momentum. 

The goals were nice, Kane probably should have done better initially from a lovely ball from Trippier that arrowed straight to him, but in the end got a bit lucky, the second was a piece of individual – almost nonchalant – magic from Eriksen, the third a nice move that was polished off by Son. 

But the goals were almost a side attraction to what was happening everywhere else for me. It was total football. 


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JimmyGrievanceMrChickenHeadOnly MeEddieHarry Hotspur Recent comment authors

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It’s odd how we interpret a game. Yes, we dominated the ball and the game. I felt we went back to making lots of back and sideways passes. We didn’t look to have that quick tempo of recent games. Ali was mis placing passes, as was Sissoko. Sissoko was the Good the bad and the ugly in the 90mins. Ali was guilty of trying little flicks that rarely come off. Trippier, still not convinced his worth. KWP offers more for me. The goals, had elements of luck and skoolboy defending. Eriksens for example. To be given that amount of time on the ball was frankly embarrassing. Kane’s off the shins was also fortunate to trickle over the line.

Cardiff are probably the poorest team we’ve played. Probably the poorest in the PL Our u21’s would have probably come away with a similar result imo. Good to get back to winning ways yes. The Yannited game will be more a benchmark of our PL football and how we’ll fare as progress on ……


Totally agree and a Sepo too.

Only Me
Only Me

Wow – Chavs buy Pulsic for £58m!! a Player I think will be a stellar purchase for the PL, for what I think is a bargin…so there are good deals to be had in January…Pulsic would have been great for us!


I’ve found the addition of the match analysis by Forensic Onion on this blog to provide excellent reading.
I too would have expected to see two or three further changes to the side.Whilst this was a comprehensive victory I would have liked to see more goals to emphasise our superiority,particularly in view of Warnock’s post match comments.Incidentally I would prefer to see us complete the season at Wembley,if only to see Levy’s plans fcuked up.
Also earlier substitutions were in order particularly bearing in mind our domination of the game.I would have perhaps brought on KWP,Llorente and Skipp at halftime(I know Poch doesn’t do that).
However it was good to be back to winning ways and sets us up nicely for a resurgent Utd.

Only Me
Only Me

I am not sure I would have made 3 at half time, but I would have made at least 1 (skip most likely) and then Lorente before the hour (for Kane not Son) and I am not sure about KWP as I think I would have taken Ericksen off (so probably Moura on).

Tom from the East Upper
Tom from the East Upper

Always nice to read a guest blog, but I do miss the style of your post match analysis Harry…