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Monday, 28 December 2015

Spurs showing immense improvement

A particular passage of play during the Norwich City victory reminded me of several things.

Christian Eriksen played a ball over the top between defenders for Harry Kane. It was over hit so rolled harmlessly wide right of the penalty box and should have ben collected by an alert goalkeeper, Lloris would certainly have claimed it. Instead, Dele Alli came charging in from the right to have a shot the keeper saved. Kane latched onto the rebound and had a shot on the turn that went wide. Erik Lamela was central in a goalscoring position and possibly could have but didn't fling himself feet first at the ball to poke it in the corner.

Last season Erik Lamela wouldn't have been in the box, he wasn't getting in the goalscoring positions he needed to. He would have still been out on the right and he wouldn't have made the determined run that Alli made to get a shot in, there would have been no rebound for Kane to have a shot and Eriksen's ball would look wasted. The fact that he is now running off the ball and interchanging with his fellow attacking midfielders has made us a different side, it has taken the players a year to grasp this vital interchanging.

In the second half Lamela played a ball between the defenders in just the defence-splitting manner I have been highlighting we have to be brave enough to do. This time, Alli was the recipient. In the first half, Alli made a similar pass for Kane's penalty. 

The pass is important because if it doesn't come off you often hear a groan from the crowd who think the player making the pass has simply given the ball away. Fear stops players playing these type of passes and playing the safe sideways ball. We suffered under AVB with it and we suffered last season from it. With packed defences, the opportunities are fewer which is why we have to pull the full-back away from the central defenders. 

Confidence helps players see the possibility and knowing they are not going to get 'blamed' for a mistake breeds that confidence. It is just one more reason why this blame culture a smattering of out fans have is so wrong for any side aspiring to success. The very pass that some complain about is, in fact, a positive. As an example Kyle Walker was playing these passes for seasons and Townsend especially wasn't getting on the end of them. Walker received plenty of criticism on forums, in commentary and from fans at the ground, yet he was making the right pass. The players not running onto the pass were the ones in the wrong, they needed to work on their reading of the game to see the opportunity.

After the game, you can always analyse these situations and help potential recipients see the opportunity to be in behind the defence they may have missed. It is an aspect of our play we have improved immensely and it is all due to off the ball running creating gaps to then exploit.

It would be very interesting to see statistics of just these passes and the players who are playing them. I'd like to know how many Eriksen plays in comparison with Lamela, Alli and Dembele when he plays there. These are the creative passes, these are the passes that can give us goalscoring opportunities.

Watford will be a tough old game, they are defensively sound. They have conceded 18 goals in 18 games and at home just 6 in 9 games. One of these defence-splitting passes may be crucial for us today.

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