Results for Tactical Analysis

Spurs start to master off the ball running

6:52 pm
The difference in the last few weeks for Tottenham has been startling from the relegation fodder that was being served up before. Internal problems with certain players not buying into Pochettino's philosophy, preferring to just do what they have always done, meant results where not we have come to expect.

Spurs start to master off the ball running

The problems, which stem from the wrong mental approach, were mainly in attack where the attacking players were not creating much meaning we posed little goal threat. The Pochettino way was that the front four were all capable of interchanging. When we did that we could create and Nacer Chadli was popping up all over the place to score. However that interchanging stopped and we were left with the midfielders staying behind the ball meaning we had nobody apart from a striker to pick out. Whenever we got into wide areas there was only one player in the box so the percentage for success if the ball were crossed was minimal. As a result we we were just recycling and moving the ball across the field again, our attack was reduced to long range shots.

The last few weeks however have seen the three attacking midfielders making runs beyond the ball again and this has transformed us into an attacking threat. Movement is fundamental to creating goals so it's no surprise.

When a midfielder runs beyond the striker it changed the whole dynamic of our game. It causes central defenders problems and the midfielders sitting in front of the back four have tough decisions to make, do they track the runner and get pulled out of shape or leave them and retain their shape, usually two banks of four or a bank of four and a bank of five. Equally though, movement in midfield has allowed us to move the ball forward instead of simply across the park searching for non-existent openings.

The key to playing with movement is to be able to think ahead. You have to read the game, read where the space is going to be, read if you play a ball to a team mate where you can move to to give him the option of a return pass. Also though you must be able to see what options he has before you pass to him, if you pass to a player with limited or even no options you are simply putting him under pressure and you'll find a move breaks down perhaps two passes later. The fault is that instance lies not with who lost the ball or misplaced a hurried or speculative pass, but two passes earlier when a player was given the ball with no options. You will often see this when the ball is played to a full-back by a centre-back, if the centre-back is advanced level with them.

The instance that springs to mind immediately id the Kyle Walker back-pass at Anfield, that Lloris should have cleared but didn't. The error was the ball by Michael Dawson to Walker on the touchline. With no options he made an attempted back pass but he shouldn't have been put in that situation in the first place. It just highlights why intelligent players are crucial. Sir Alex Ferguson used to buy players who he felt were intelligent so they could play various systems, the player who can only do his thing in one system is limited, however good at what he does within a system that suits him.

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In an attacking sense in the 4-2-3-1 system when the striker runs towards midfield the centre-back has two options, he can stay allowing the striker to receive the ball in space or he can go with him leaving space behind for a runner to utilise. In a 4-4-2 system the strike partner uses that space but in our 4-2-3-1 system it opens the area for one of three attacking midfielders. In today's game there is more focus on ball retention so the movement of the attacking players becomes crucial.

The difference between the Tottenham that moves and the Tottenham that doesn't is stark. The lone striker role has changed from simply being a hold-up role to an off the ball movement role. Jermain Defoe against Manchester United at Old Trafford a couple of years back highlighted the importance of off the ball running creating the space for Jan Vertonghen to score in our victory. He was instrumental in the goal but didn't touch the ball, rather shows that assists don't mean everything.

The attacking players are fairly settled together with the defensive midfield so everyone can play on the same wavelength and understand the movement others may make. That understanding will improve over time so Tottenham are very definitely in an upward curve.

Spurs start to master off the ball running Spurs start to master off the ball running Reviewed by THBlogNews on 6:52 pm Rating: 5

Pochettino will turn Spurs into a force to be reckoned with

8:30 pm
Having researched Mauricio Pochettino a lot I'm feeling a lot more confident about his appointment, he is better than mere results suggest.

Pochettino will turn Spurs into a force to be reckoned with

Pochettino uses his pressing game as a defensive and an attacking tactic. His sides are very effective at it, Southampton were a long way better than any other side in the league at it.

The Southampton wage bill is the 18th highest in the Premier league meaning there are only 2 teams with a lower wage bill. Clubs finish roughly where their wages indicate they should.

Wage Bill vs Finishing Position 2012/13 Season
Arsenal 4th - 4th
Aston Villa 8th - 15th
Chelsea 3rd - 3rd
Everton 10th - 6th
Fulham 9th - 12th
Liverpool 5th - 7th
Man City 1st - 2nd
Man Utd 2nd - 1st
Newcastle 11th - 16th
Norwich 16th - 11th
QPR 7th - Relegated
Reading 19th - Relegated
Southampton 18th - 14th
Stoke City 12th - 13th
Sunderland 13th - 17th
Swansea 17th - 9th
Tottenham 6th - 5th
WBA 15th - 8th
West Ham 14th - 10th
Wigan 20th - Relegated

Those with the high wage bills do well then you come to mid table where the wage bills are similar and it's here where you can see the effect managers have on sides and are thus able to rate their performances.

We don't have figures for 2013/14 season but the 3 teams who came up will have low wage bills, Hull, Cardiff and Crystal Palace thus we can assume Southampton would of had the 17th higest wage bill last season with 3 clubs having less.

One club surprises each year, Newcastle had a season, WBA had a season and now Southampton.

Southampton's success was build on pressing football. He took the same group of players Nigel Adkins had and transformed the standard of football relegation standard to easily the best of the rest, the top 7 effectively being in a different league.

The first thing Pochettino will do at Tottenham will be to introduce his high press and organise the defence. As such you may see our first incoming transfer activity to be a defender.

Pochettino reduces the opposition sides pass completion to 71%, the best in the league in his first season and 73% last season, again the best in the league. That figure alone tells us the importance he places on breaking up play through high pressure. Incidentally Spurs were the second best at last season at 78% which will surprise the fans who wrongly though we were playing with no defensive midfielder.

Statistics show that it's harder to complete a pass against a Pochettino side than any other side in the league.

The other important factor is Spurs broke up play deep in our own half while Southampton broke play up in the opposition half which of course poses a greater attacking threat. If we compare Pochettino to AVB who played a pressing game as well then we again see a difference. AVB's side broke up play a little above average, 10%, in the opposition half whereas Pochettino's side was 4% better than anyone else managing it 15% of the time.

To employ this high pressing tactic players have to be supremely fit and know their role inside out as well as the role of others. The old adage that you have to earn the right to play will no doubt be trotted out next season when Tottenham employ these tactics.

Paulinho will be a key factor in that I believe. We bought him to play that system because he has high energy levels as well as skill. Next season with the World Cup out the way I think we'll see a different player, the player that clubs around Europe are clamouring to get hold of.

Espanyol's pass completion rate was well above average for the Spanish league but it dramatically sunk when Pochettino left. At Southampton his pass completion rate in relation to Premier League averages rivalled Barcelona's to La Liga averages.

It is safe to assume then that Tottenham will have a high pressing game, attempt to win the ball in the opposition half and keep possession of the ball well. Tottenham will again be playing a lot of passes next season but it won't be gung-ho attack, there is no statistical evidence to suggest fast attacking play.

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Tottenham under AVB were a side that shot from outside the area and Pochettino's fgures with Espanyol suggest similar, they were consistently below average in shots from the danger zone, this improved at Southampton but was still below Premier League averages, though a lot better than AVB's Spurs. Without Gareth Bale in your ranks (48% accuracy 2012/13 season) shooting from distance is a low success method of football. Andros Townsend 59 shots 1 goal (2013/14 season) tells it's own story.

The figures suggest that Tottenham will attack through the middle next season rather than our traditional crossing style, but in a more effective way than AVB had us attempting it. His sides statistically play through balls at a higher rate than league averages.

The more I look into Pochettino the more I understand why we have appointed, the more I understand how we will play and the more excited I start to become.

If his methods are applied successfully, and there is no reason why they shouldn't be, then Tottenham will be one of the best pressing sides in Europe and that should make us a stronger force seeing us breaking into those Champions League places.

The question is how long it will take to implement.

Pochettino will turn Spurs into a force to be reckoned with Pochettino will turn Spurs into a force to be reckoned with Reviewed by THBlogNews on 8:30 pm Rating: 5

Spurs achilles heel

9:30 pm
Football is all about setting up a team so you can execute a skill and punish them. When you have a well honed team they will do the basics well but they will always be looking to set you up, to pull your players into a position where they can just go bang, bang, goal. Benfica did it to us for the first goal, a ball cut out, a pass, goal.

Andre Villas-Boas was all about setting an opponent up, trouble is our football never did. it didn't create the holes to play the ball into for Soldado to strike. Now at the end of the season we have a group of players trying to learn it, it's all a bit too late. We have an interim Head Coach without time so he has to find a way to make the best of the situation.

Occasionally it will come off but against a well drilled team our side is not trained in picking the lock. I have discussed the mental side of sport and it comes into play here as well, in certain situation players revert to their default setting, when they do we get caught.

In three games against Arsenal we haven't scored a single goal. Teams can just keep us out in they want to for that reason and so if we concede we have a mountain to climb.

There is no way Tim Sherwood was ever going to be able to teach and instill that in a few months, how can he, he has to learn first what each player can do and what they can't. He has not been the one training them until now and it's only working with them that you find out. You may say why doesn't a coach just stop it. Well it's not that simple for two reasons, firstly it may be ingrained into the player. Danny Rose is a former winger remember, he likes to attack. But secondly because that might be part of how you attack.

Danny Rose Spurs weak link

Spurs play with, as do most teams now, advanced full-backs as a full-backs role is as much about attacking as it is defending these days. If you take away an element of your attack you become less likely to score yourself. Thus it is a balancing act, a bit of risk and reward. You have to weight up the potential benefit against the potential loss and base your tactics on that equation.

Gareth Bale was a prime example of that. Early last season how we were using him didn't work so we pushed him further forward and wider with some success, then when needs must really, we gave him a free roaming role from the left with great success. Clint Dempsey among others had to reign in his game and do a covering job down our left when Bale went roaming, We were weak there but the benefit outweighed the weakness so we went with it. We have the same equation but with less benefits now.

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Just look at how we concede goals. Teams set us up to hit us in the old inside-right channel, by that, for younger readers, I mean between the left-sided centre-half and the left-back. Teams get us to stretch that link and then play the ball through that channel and it hurts us again and again and again, and has done now for a couple of seasons. We lost at Arsenal 1-0 and where did that goal come from, yep through that channel. We lost at White Hart Lane and again the same area. We conceded the first against Benfica, where, the same channel, Norwich, the same channel.

That's why I said at the start of the season if Danny Rose plays we will not get Champions League, his positioning is woeful. Benoit Assou-Ekotto divides Spurs fans, hardly seems to be a player that doesn't, but he is twice the player Rose is, who knows maybe we will see him back next season and not have to buy a replacement. He makes mistakes, who doesn't, but he knows far better how to defend as a unit.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto Spurs left-back
Benoit Assou-Ekotto Spurs left-back again next season?
If you need any more evidence that we need to strengthen left left side of our team just watch replays of the goals we concede. That fundamental weakness we have puts great pressure the right-sided centre-half because he has to always be looking for it, always ready to come to the rescue. That causes mistakes and the poorer the left-sided centre-half alongside him then the more mistakes he is going to make.

Fans critcise Michael Dawson, but his mistakes are as a result of the major weakness we have on the left, solve that problem and it solidifies other areas of the team. Of course if you are forcing the right-sided centre-half to spend to much time worrying about the left side then that is going to impact on the right-back and there is absolutely no doubt that it has.

Louis Van Gaal is all about the team, not the individual, the team playing football, the team playing the system is all that matters. Your game has to fit the system. He plays 4-3-3, that's all he plays. We purchased players to play that system and the players being looked at now therefore need to be assessed with that system in mind.

Van Gaal is a very forthright Head Coach, there is his way and only his way. Tim Sherwood is a very forthright individual as well so some of these players may be getting a taste of what they can expect next season. Those who react against it may well be on their way this summer.

Spurs achilles heel Spurs achilles heel Reviewed by THBlogNews on 9:30 pm Rating: 5

Rose/Chiriches disrupt the Dawson/Walker partnership

8:30 pm
Unsurprisingly, well to me anyway, there is talk of unrest in the Spurs camp. Tim Sherwood it is reported is unhappy and very frustrated with the attitude of some of his players. He has questioned their professionalism, which is code for laziness, for not trying, for not caring, for going through the motions.

Having had a full week to prepare the players to play a side they struggled to beat early in the season, Lennon winning a penalty for Soldado to score, the team who came out clearly didn't want to put any effort in. Effort is a given, you don't try when you don't want to and if only a few do that then the whole performance is affected.

Our punt forward and a fast asleep Palace defence directly after the break was the cause of our improved second half performance. Players could relax a little, feel more confident and it meant Palace coming at us which opened up the space for us to play. Without that early goal who knows what sort of performance we would have seen. With a whole week to prepare we shouldn't have seen the performance in the first half in the first place, a performance which meant the game should have been dead and buried at half-time.

Teams play bad, that is accepted, what they don't do is play as if they are the worst club in the league, which was the standard of our first half performance. To ignore that and shrug it off as a blip, pretending similar bad performances won't happen is unrealistic.

The signs are worrying.

There is a band of supporters who do not see the countless mistakes Chiriches makes every game. This affects others, he is putting enormous pressure on Dawson to try to do two jobs and get him out of trouble. But let's take a look at the whole of the left side of our defence and see how this is affecting the right side.

Being the best player in one of the worst teams in the league does not make you a top 4 standard player which is what we need. I was quite vocal that Danny Rose was not the answer and that if he played we would not finish in the top 4. I nailed my colours to the mast in that respect.

If he has someone in front of him helping him out then he has less to worry about. However he rarely has that and with Eriksen in front of him it's hit and miss whether he gets help. Sigurdsson is just the same but then he is not a winger, Townsend has been the same to date as well, so has Chadli.

Lennon on our right shows how it should be done providing an attacking threat but still getting back to make our right side the tightest in the league last season. We need to discover which left sided player can add the defensive side to the attacking side consistently pick them. Injuries mean we don't know who that will be but I suspect in the end it may be Townsend, hopefully we have seen the last of him on the right.

Danny the Wanderer is frequently out of position and like Chiriches is poor at reading a game. When I say out of position I don't mean when he has gone upfield as that is part of the job profile but he is not sure where he should be when he is defending. The area between him and Chiriches is an open invitation to sides.

He is still learning how to be a defender, it's not natural for him but when he gets forward should he not be in his element? As a former winger should he not be able to cross the ball because his delivery into the box rarely seems to beat the first man.

Chiriches has weaknesses galore. He is poor in the air which should be a centre-halves strength. West Ham for instance just punted the ball at him and won it every time. Frequently he tries to be too clever one on one having to resort to fouling opponents and has been lucky to come away with the ball on a number of occasions this season.

Manchester United failed to take numerous chances they created by simply passing the ball past him into the space behind. Chiriches didn't track back he simply looked around and watched United score their first and the their players overrun the ball and fluff golden opportunities, usually Hernandez.

That happened on at least 4 occasions and has been a common theme since his arrival. His passes out of defence are frequently straight to the opposition putting us under immediate pressure in our own half.

Couple his glaring deficiencies with those of Rose and it is no wonder that Dawson is drawn constantly away from Walker. Last season the Dawson Walker combination was tight, they were close together. Now having to cover for Chiriches that gap has widened to become a weakness. Walker is in fact now having to be prepared to cover for Dawson knowing he will frequently be pulled too far left.

Will Chiriches improve with a better left-back? Will he have to provide less cover and be able to concentrate on improving his own game? Will that close the gaping hole between him and the left-back? It should, a left-back may be what he needs to settle down and grow.

The weakness in the air isn't going to go away though so we will always be vulnerable at set pieces and corners or from long balls. Will he learn to read balls in behind him or even learn to react in time to them? I have my doubts, grave doubts.

He is not going to be able to improve his speed so he has to improve his reading otherwise too much danger lurks for him to be reliable. Vertonghen is not the quickest but his reading of the game is brilliant, he anticipates and moves to cut out potential not simply react to it the way Chiriches does at the moment.

Reading the game is key to defending. It separates players and keeps them in a certain standard brackets. It is better to have a player who can naturally read the way Dawson and Vertonghen do then a reaction player like Chiriches.

It causes too many problems and it takes years to learn the art.

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Rose/Chiriches disrupt the Dawson/Walker partnership Rose/Chiriches disrupt the Dawson/Walker partnership Reviewed by THBlogNews on 8:30 pm Rating: 5

The lost key found - Width

8:00 pm
Width and pace does it again. Very pleasing to see Andros Townsend come on to play on the left. Did you notice after only a couple of minutes he actually crossed the ball and Defoe hit the bar.

Lennon on the right causing problems, Walker a more effective attacker with Lennon in front of him and a wide man on the left beating men to cross as well. Adds a whole new dimension to our game. Suddenly we look dangerous.

The difference between Lennon and Townsend on the right is significant. Townsend plays to have pot shots himself, Lennon plays for the team. Lennon continually looks for the give and go to put him in behind the defenders or looks to run from wide behind the full-back, something Townsend rarely does.

Lennon makes more runs into the box than Townsend does, the diagonal run against Man United I think it was was reminiscent of his goal against Arsenal last season. Those are the sort of runs that Townsend was not making, preferring to stay outside the area and take pot shots.

If Townsend can study Lennon and see the two main additions he needs to make to his game when AVB plays him on the right, then he would become the serious player he wants to be.

Having said that he has the ability to be a real menace on the left with his pace and dribbling ability. Bale was left footed and scored plenty of goals playing from the left so it's a complete fallacy that Townsend has to play on the right to be a goal threat.

The last few games we seems to have seen the much needed change to our basic system. AVB has come to realise his mistakes and sought to rectify them bringing in a specialist winger to stretch the defence and playing the ball quicker.

Stretching the defence creates more holes to play the ball into with the defenders being stretched further apart, holes that Holtby was able to play reverse balls into on several occasions. Creating these holes gives our Number 10 the chance to make these passes, with no width and a packed defence as we saw earlier in the season, those holes were not there with the defenders closer together.

With a wide man cutting in less we can now have midfielders running into the box where before the space was being taken by a wide man cutting in. We can get more men in the box and have a midfield goal threat, the benefits of width are numerous.

What we do off the ball is just as important as what we do on the ball, the creation on use of width coupled with a defender not knowing which way the wide man is going [inside or outside] makes us a far more threatening side. Because there are now holes being created we can play the ball quicker to exploit them as opposed to previously waiting all day for one to appear as if by magic.

Three games on the trot we have now scored two goals and we hit the woodwork twice against Sunderland from efforts inside the penalty area, not outside. That is key to scoring goals, chances created inside the box.

If only Andre Villas-Boas could have realised this earlier we would be challenging Arsenal at the top instead of eight points behind them, nine if you count goal difference, which we need to.

All we can do now playing catch-up is to go on a winning streak and hope others drop points. December is a big month.

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The lost key found - Width The lost key found - Width Reviewed by THBlogNews on 8:00 pm Rating: 5

Why Lennon was effective vs Everton

7:00 pm
We seem to have two factions of supporters, one set who can't stand a critical word and one set who know everything is not rosy in the garden.

This then splits itself further. You have one camp who say 4-4-2 is the answer, another camp who say change the striker with Adebayor being the latest shout and another camp who say the midfield is the problem.

All agree creativity is the problem. But we are 4th I hear you cry, yes I know all the positives and there are plenty but nothing was ever achieved by ignoring the negatives. If creativity is the problem how do we solve it?

Well lets look at the camps.

Adebayor. The cry is Adebayor gets more involved, has more movement, links play and yes he does. However when he is doing all this he is not in the area and able to score goals. We want the centre forward to score goals don't we. We have bought a player that scores all his goals inside the penalty box. Therefore we need to get the ball in there don't we. It is that simple.

Replacing Soldado with Adebayor makes no difference whatsoever. He is either outside the box getting involved and not in the box to score or he is in the box and not involved much outside the box. We paid £26 million for a finisher, the idea is to let him finish. The problem is getting the ball to him.

Changing the formation is a total non-starter, we have bought players to play a system, to abandon it and play 4-4-2 means wasting millions and millions of pounds. It means going back to the drawing board and starting again. Levy and Villas-Boas have a vision, they are not going to throw that away and start again.

So that leaves us with the midfield. Bottom line it is their job to get the ball into the box for Soldado to score and they are not doing that.

Now I wrote before the season started about inverted wingers and how they only work if you can go outside your man and cross the ball. Arjen Robben was thrown at me, well he goes outside his man and crosses as well as cutting in and shooting. He keeps the defender guessing, he has to stop the cross or try and push him across the field.

Our inverted wingers do not put any crosses in the box basically and when I say crosses I mean balls played along the floor not chipped in for headers. If you are on the left you have to cross with your left and if you are on the right you have to be able to cross with the right. The player who can use both feet is ideal otherwise you immediately restrict yourself.

Take Aaron Lennon for instance. Now of the wide men he was the only one to create a chance, a header for Soldado against Everton. As a defender I know he can't cross with his left foot so I show him towards the byline. I stay positioned so that he can't turn back on me onto his right, this way he has nowhere to go and is not a danger. I want to stop him from turning to face me to do his jinks and create half a hard to put the ball across with his right.

If I am the left-back I simply show Townsend inside and shuffle him across the box, he'll either overrun the ball or have a hit and hope shot from outside the box. This season he has had 40 shots and scored 1 goal from a cross, so his strike rate in 2.5%, would that concern me, no. I want him shooting because it is low risk. What I don't want him doing is running past me and playing the ball across the box but fortunately he doesn't do that.

Central midfield and the Holtby or Eriksen or both argument rages. Quite frankly it makes little difference. If the two defensive lines ate close together there is no room for Eriksen to operate between them. There are to many players central for there to be a pass wither of them can play into the box.

The solution is to move some of these players out the way. The only way you are going to do that is if your wide men stretch the defence so holes start to appear that the midfield players can run into. One of our much maligned wide men gave a master class of that in the first half. What he did when he didn't touch the ball was key.

Against Everton Aaron Lennon stayed wide on the touch line and Jan Vertonghen was able to keep charging at their defence in a channel inside Lennon and the full-back. He created all sorts of problems for them, indeed Vertonghen should have had a penalty. That was our only area of creativity in the match.

On the other side that simply doesn't happen. Townsend spends all his time inside so Walker is left to do the byline work, but being a full-back he is doing it from further back so the defence has ample time to close it down.

If Townsend goes wide and stays wide the same holes that Lennon created on the left now start to appear on the right, now we are stretching the defence. We want Paulinho to be the one attacking this area as the better finisher and more creative than Walker. To defend against this the guys crushed centrally have to come a bit wider so now we are starting to create holes for Holtby or Eriksen to thread ball through.

Now we are dangerous, now we are creating, now it is desperate defending time and opportunity time for us.

Sorry for all you Townsend lovers but he is at the centre of our problems.

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Why Lennon was effective vs Everton Why Lennon was effective vs Everton Reviewed by THBlogNews on 7:00 pm Rating: 5

Tactical Analysis Series: Midfield

8:00 pm
Spurs Tactics

It's been a while since we had a positional tactical look at our system so time to focus on the midfield three.

Our system uses a defensive midfielder, a link player who plays in advance of the defensive midfielder (note Neville's comment in commentary that Paulinho was playing in advance of Sandro) and an attacking midfielder, or number 10 as some prefer to call them.

Dembele and Paulinho, Spurs midfield
Dembele & Paulinho interchange positions
We change personnel and use an adjustment to our basic system when required during games, that being having the link midfielder and defensive midfielder swap positions. If one goes forward the other assumes the defensive duties, this is more pronounced when Dembele is paired with Paulinho.

The midfield three mark zonally in a triangle and are aggressive tacklers. They have a high work rate so they have to be in peak physical condition. The problem areas as we have talked about before are the two wide areas in front of the full-backs which makes coordination and communication with them vital.

In the standard system the midfield and winger generally have the responsibility to defend these areas so that the full-back can stay tucked in to his centre-back. This enables him to defend the area behind him, although who can press the ball quickest comes into the equation too. Incidentally in our system it is the job of our full-backs to attack this area of the oppositions defence.

The full-back has to read the game and at times step up when he sees a pass is to be played wide so he can intercept but must not go to early and allow a ball played in behind him. That spells danger for his side. This is an area where many supporters make mistakes in their player assessments thinking a tucked in full-back is out of position when not tight to the opposing winger but that is not the case. When the winger does come into his area then he rushes out to meet him the way regularly Walker does. He gets criticised for it but that is how he is supposed to defend within this system. For the full-back Vision and reading the game are essential skills, reactive defending rather than proactive defending will cause your team problems.

We play with advanced full-backs so there is a greater responsibility on the full-back and winger to defend the wide areas within our system. You will often see Walker for instance pressing the ball with the winger, the attacking midfielder and usually Paulinho with Soldado marking the central defender, with the result we win the ball back.

Defending is not always defending in front of your own box. You try to defend from the opposition half first, players have to assess how many they can get into an area and how quickly, it is the midfield's responsibility to decides where the defensive line should be set. They effectively draw a line in the sand and make a stand when the ball can be pressed.. That may be in the opposition half, your own half or the edge of your box depending on the situation but should always be as high as possible. You defend from there and start your ball pressing phase.

If the midfielder is taken wide he then needs to be aware that space in the centre will open up for the opposition to exploit. When one defensive midfield moves over another drops central to cover the centre-backs. The attacking midfielders role is to join in the pressing of the ball either from the front or behind the ball to prevent forward central passes. The key considerations are the speed you move at the opposing player and the angle when you are jockeying him to prevent penetrating forward passes. Vision is essential in knowing where the opposition are.

You will often see in today's game where tackles are few and far between compared with 20 years ago, that as the ball is passed from one flank to the other, the defensive line in front of the defence simply shuffles across. I have mentioned before an imaginary string between them, one moves over the rest follow, stretching that imaginary string by drawing someone out is the key to getting at the defence.

Now there are two basic ways to defend within the system, you can force the opposition inside where you will have a numerical advantage which limits their incisive passing options and enhances your chances of regaining possession or you can force them wide which limit their passing options to forward back or sideways. Against Norwich for instance all 5 passing interceptions we made in our own half were left sided. In that particular game we predominantly pushed them wide to win the ball back.

Spurs Midfield Trio
Midfield Trio
Tottenham evolved last season from a static Parker to a flexible Sandro, until he was injured of course. The role now requires for the player to have the technical ability to join his two fellow midfielders to move the opposition midfield and pass around them. This is achieved by awareness and movement off the ball which aids creativity and fluidity. No movement means no passing options and the ball spends time with the central defenders like the first half at Villa.

Off the ball running is crucial to the system, crucial to how AVB used the system at Porto as was interchangeability of the midfield.

Imagine for a moment a midfielder makes a move/run to take an opposition midfielder with him. That leaves a gap for one of his teammates to exploit. In Paulinho, Sandro and Dembele we have three players who can all make forward runs as well as defend. Playing two of these increases our options, either can move forward so instead of the opposition knowing Parker for instance will sit, the opposition problems multiplied.

At Porto AVB used a simple formula. One player drifted narrow, one player drifted wide, one midfielder defended, one attacked. Drifting wide and narrow you are pulling an opposition player out of position to create a hole. Now if this is happening all over the pitch at the same time you create plenty of holes, the opposition are constantly being pulled out of position (breaking their string). They have to mentally work hard trying to figure out where they should be and what shape they are supposed to be in which increases the likelihood of errors and fatigue later in the game. This player movement was central to Porto winning the treble so I think we can safely say, it worked.

Very briefly the basic roles (not comprehensive):

Defensive (Holding) Midfielder

  • Remains in defence, advanced a little but in defence.
  • Primary role is to provide a screen for the centre-backs and make through passes to the strikers feet difficult.
  • He is a ball winner who is also good in the air.
  • In attack he can act as playmaker or a player who connects the left to the right, switching the point of attack in two passes or defence to forward third.
  • Should play simple quick passes.

Attacking midfielder

  • Main role is to support the central striker and create goalscoring opportunities with penetrating passes.
  • He should be technically good, have good vision, play well in combinations and be good in one-on-one situations.

Organising/Link Midfielder

  • Must read the game exceptionally well.
  • Can drop and play as a second holding player but who can also rush forward as another attacker.
  • He goes where he is needed, back or forward.

Now as I've mentioned we have a holding midfielder and link midfielder who can interchange (hence selling Parker and buying Capoue) to add complications for the opposition. These two must maintain the midfield triangle rather than playing flat beside each other although obviously at times of high pressure you have to. When we are looking to maintain possession we drop to two holding midfielders so they and the defenders can keep the ball by outnumbering the opponents. Sides use this when in front and want to simply control the game. If the opposition need to chase the game then they have to pull themselves out of position to try and win the ball opening the way for a counter attack. On Sunday neither Villa nor ourselves wanted to be pulled out of position in the first half hence little happening.

The midfielder looks to make penetrating runs, not just to pull players our of position for his teammates but to get into scoring positions and give the attacking midfielder a defence splitting option. You will regularly see Paulinho in the opposition box for instance. In attack the defensive midfielder makes himself available for a pass to switch the point of attack from one side to the other.

The creative midfielder looks to play to the feet of the striker and through balls for on running players. The Norwich game and Sigurdsson's first goal was a prime example, play to the striker who plays in an on running player. He needs to communicate well with his forwards (possible problem with Lamela speaking no English at the moment, seems less of an issue with Soldado though) and make himself available for passes, his movement off the ball is crucial in this. Naturally he has to have vision and read the runs or potential runs of his teammates, indeed playing balls to make them make the run.

AVB used his midfield rotation system at Porto winning a treble and tried to introduce it at Chelsea, let's hope he is as successful with Spurs as he was with Porto.

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Tactical Analysis Series: Midfield Tactical Analysis Series: Midfield Reviewed by THBlogNews on 8:00 pm Rating: 5

Spurs win, but ....

7:17 pm
Spurs, the scoreline would suggest won comfortably against Aston Villa on Sunday to move fifth in the table, however it was not as easy as the scoreline would suggest and the buts remain.

I always listen out for the views of Gary Neville as he is by far and away the best pundit on TV. Not for him the Dwight Yorke approach. Dwight was asked before the game how Aston Villa could improve their poor home form to which he spent 2 minutes saying absolutely nothing. He simply said they wanted to, will try to and need to, effectively. Why do Sky pay these experts to say nothing, to waffle. I'm not interested in the views of a biased former player, especially when they don't actually seem to have any views at all anyway, I'd rather hear a neutral who will actually say something worth listening to.

Neville was the expert assisting in the commentary and he summed Spurs up the way we all have, too slow. Pedestrian ball from the back means the opposition can simply put 11 men behind the ball as Villa did. They kept their shape and when our midfielder dropped back to collect the ball their player would often simply let him and maintain a barrier rather than get pulled out of position. It seemed they were trying to bore our players so they would try something difficult and lose the ball. Their tactic this season has been to hit teams on the counter attack but if a team doesn't attack them they can't counter attack and we didn't attack them, which made for a very negative affair.

Neville felt the problem was Soldado and Hotlby, their lack of movement giving the man with the ball few passing options. I have spoken before how it is the responsibility of the players off the ball to provide options for the man on the ball and that if the ball player makes an error, the fault is not always his but the players off the ball for not doing their job.

Until our fluke opener from Townsend we were passing backwards and sideways in our own half. At the moment Neville was telling us Soldado needed to provide more movement Chiriches had the ball on the left, however at that moment Gyfi Sigurdsson the wide man on that side had dropped back 5 yards from him. You could argue he was pulling a man out of position to create something behind him, but it rarely created anything, the alternative is that Sigurdsson was offering no outlet for the ball. Townsend on the other side however was constantly offering an outlet for Walker or Dawson.

Rather than being solely Soldado or Holtby's fault, Sigurdsson was doing little to help the situation. Chiriches had to consistently give up on a forward pass and lazily it seemed pass backwards to Dawson. Incidentally I thought Chiriches showed that he has some improving to do before he can be considered for a regular place, he was again taking risks and making far too many mistakes.

There were a couple of instances in the game when Soldado did what Neville thought he should do more and came out of the centre to link play. The result was we then got to the byline, put in two excellent crosses and he wasn't there to finish them off. His goal from the only chance we created for him and from just about the first chance we have created for him in 7 games, was taken with aplomb. He showed us he was a finisher in that moment, he showed why we bought him.

It makes sense therefore that we must create more for him. One of the problems demonstrated itself after that goal, Andros Townsend got to within 2 yards of the byline (delighted he is now regularly going outside his man as I suggested he needs to do in previous articles) and instead of pulling it back where Soldado had found space, Townsend tried an impossible shot into the top far corner which of course comfortably missed it's target. He still seems to think his first job is to have a shot and his second job to  create for Soldado when in fact it's the other way round.

The coaching staff need to drum it into him to feed Soldado. If you were to take a poll amongst our supporters and say given a scoring chance who is more likely to score Townsend or Soldado, the answer should be 100% voting for Soldado. Rather than being our first option, it's currently our last option.

From the left side we received nothing of note from Sigurdsson and Vertonghen, who was playing at left-back. The goal came from that side but came from Holtby collecting the ball out there. Sigurdsson was replaced with Lennon and who we then played on the wrong wing. He has consistently shown he offers little or nothing creatively from that side as he has to cut back onto his right foot the same as Sigurdsson. Surely this was the time to switch Townsend to the left and let Lennon take over on the right. He would provide a service for Soldado, yet from the left he can't. In this instance the insistence on inverted wingers was a mistake and condemned Soldado to a life without service again.

A look at the league table shows the same problem we had last season. We had an inferior goal difference last season and we have one this season. Just 8 goals in 7 games but 2 of those were penalties so we have scored only 6 goals from 7 games from open play, 5 of those in 2 games. That is not enough. Our competitors have goal differences of +9 (Arsenal), +9 (Chelsea), +6 (Liverpool), +11 (Man City) so we are 3, 6 and 8 behind already. These gaps you would expect will only grow as the season progresses.

At the beginning of last season after we had just won a home game by a couple of goals and missed probably 3 clear cut easy chances in the last 5 minutes I talked on Facebook about how we needed to be more clinical and lazily wasting chances like this was not conducive to that. It was as if we didn't care, we had already won. Arsenal regularly it seemed bagged a bunch of goals at the end of games, they scored 4 again at the weekend as did Chelsea.

Bigger victories boost our goal difference and engender a winning mentality that crushes the opposition. That clinical winning mentality would then help us in tighter situations where we would be more likely to take the one chance that comes along. The goal difference problem meant we put ourselves under the pressure of having to secure more points than our rivals. Towards the end of the season that could play on the teams mind and affect results, we have the same scenario developing this season. A hard luck story missing out on goal difference is not a hard luck story.

The last 2 games have highlighted our problem. In each game we have created one clear cut opportunity for our sole striker. Defoe missed his, Soldado scored his. That is the bottom line and why Soldado is first choice, Defoe is second choice. If Defoe had scored, and he didn't because of a poor body shape reducing his options, then we would have been 1-0 up and a different game then ensues.

We have new players adjusting to a system and each other but we can't get away from the fact that most of our shots are not chances, they are simply pot shots from outside the box. The shots stats in that respect are pretty meaningless.

Unless you have a freakishly good long range specialist like Gareth Bale, his 44% accuracy was the best in Europe, then you'll always be liable to dropping points the way we did against West Ham and Arsenal. We have nobody anywhere near Bale's accuracy and you have to wonder if our policy is to throw mud at the wall and see what sticks, by that I mean we take as many pot shots as possible in the hope that one goes in.

We are building a machine, the second goal at last showed how we want the machine to work. The next level for Spurs is goals, 1-0 is no longer enough in today's football, relying on it will mean being beaten in the long run by others. We have tightened up at the back, now we have to loosen up at the front.

We are a work in progress but how long can you use that excuse before you start wondering if their is a fundamental flaw? We'll know by Christmas if we have taken our game to the next level and added goals.

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Spurs win, but .... Spurs win, but .... Reviewed by THBlogNews on 7:17 pm Rating: 5

AVB gets it wrong

7:00 pm
The game on Sunday was one which was coming. When you don't bury teams, as I've mentioned before, you run the risk of not getting the result.

If you listed the teams who are likely to win 5-0 we would not be among them and that is the next hurdle to overcome. Basically we are a machine, but a machine that creates few clear cut chances. When we do create a chance it therefore has to be put away, which is why we bought Soldado knowing Defoe doesn't do it regularly enough in the Premier League.

Yes I know he has been scoring goals and taking them well against league two standard keepers and defences but up against a Premier League keeper and he makes it simple for him. At the start of the second half he should have lifted the ball as 90% of the time keepers are expecting it along the floor and set themselves for that. They even anticipate it it and go down for it. Defoe didn't change his body shape to give himself options but simply ran alongside the ball thereby only allowing himself the flick with the outside of the boot. The keeper can therefore easily read the situation knowing from where he was he could only go one way with the ball, had he tried to drag it round him the other way the chance would have gone.

That one instance was a prime example of why Soldado should have started and another came in the first half when Townsend intercepted the ball from Noble and ran at the Hammer defence on the outside again. If you watch the highlights and watch Defoe's movement you'll see he waits until the ball is crossed before reacting and doesn't get the the tap in in the 6 yard box. It was the only ball Townsend could have player, a striker has to anticipate not react. It might look unlucky for the cameras but it's not it's bad movement from the striker.

But let's not put this defeat just at the feet of Defoe, although his miss mustn't be underestimated with the score at 0-0, a lead would make the world of difference and in our system you have to take them.

If you remember back to Wigan at home last year and other games early season we could not break down a parked bus defence. West Ham did exactly that, 11 men behind the ball 30 yards from goal.

In the first half Townsend went outside his man and created opportunities as it stretched the defence. In the second half he generally cut inside and shot into the stands again, that's when he didn't overrun the ball and give it away which he did on at least 3 occasions. Why? West Ham were more than happy for him to simply run into a crowded area of the pitch.

For me that was a mental problem. I applaud the we need a goal I'll get it attitude but it meant he was no longer playing for the team, he was an individual with it just doing his own thing. That was not what we required especially when your shooting is as poor as his is under pressure.

The result of that with Sigurdsson who we know is going to cut in the whole game meant we had no width again, everything was through the middle, where with so many bodies there was never going to be many ways through. Attacking in this manner is essentially trying to win games 1-0.

Our performance showed the problem with inverted wingers the way a big part of our supporters look at them. An inverted winger is fine, but going outside the man is equally important, if not on both sides then especially on one. Without a full-back to overlap the system falls flat on its face as only allows for pop shots from outside the area. Without Bale's shooting ability from ling range that tactic is not going to work consistently.

The width we used in the first half means their players have to cover a bigger area and there is a little more space between defenders, the second half cried out for it. Allowing them to just overcrowd centrally was not the answer. The game cried out for Aaron Lennon, but alas he is not fit yet so why did the coaching staff not get a message to Townsend to stay wide?

Walker said he was unwell before the game the commentators told us and was half the player we know, unable to continually overlap to give us width. Against Anzhi he looked as though he had injured himself in the second half so playing with what was apparently a slight groin strain backfired.

We had to either take him off, and you have to seriously question whether he should have started, putting Chiriches in his place. We could get away with playing him at right back and he likes to go forward but he is a way short of being a Premier League centre-half yet so moving Vertonghen to left-back and Naughton over the the right was not an option.

Alternatively we had to tell Townsend to keep his width as I've mentioned or replace him with Lamela, who offers more from the right creatively than he seems to from the left. If you think the way Sigurdsson cuts in he is always looking to run through the channel between the full-back and the centre-back into the area, his first against Norwich for instance or his goal against Chelsea. How many time do you see Townsend do that? It's another aspect of his game he needs to look at.

AVB made mistakes in this game with selection and tactics which he didn't get away with so I'm afraid he has to bear his share of the blame. He didn't get the messages onto the pitch he needed to and lost the tactical battle with Sam Allardyce.

Hugo Lloris made what is becoming his customary error right at the start of the game this time having his goal kick charged down and then early in the second half he saved from a West Ham corner that he himself should have prevented. Kyle Walker had chested the ball out for a corner with nobody near him but he wasn't to know who was behind him, it was Lloris's job to tell him. A lack of communication from him nearly cost us.

Our weakness from set pieces reared it's ugly head again for their first goal when Tompkins had a free header after he shoved Vertonghen in the back. That should have been a free kick but poor refereeing allowed it to stand and none of the Spurs players complained as Vetonghen stayed on his feet instead of falling over.

There isn't another Spurs player near the situation though as we don't have anyone on the line at the back post. The back post is where the previous corner went so it was a target area for West Ham and something we will have to look at on the training ground.

Goal number two came after Dembele was too casual in midfield, simply in the end having to poke the ball to a West Ham player. Our midfield is therefore taken out the game and our defence has to try and recover it's position. Lloris makes an excellent save and is unlucky to see the rebound cannon off Vaz Te as he falls to the ground, it could have gone anywhere.

Goal number three was down to Vertonghen,who in their half of the field  made a wrong decision thereby allowing the West Ham player the opportunity to run at our defence. As the ball come out of their defence he commits himself and Diaby simply turns the other way taking him totally out of the game. he then passes to Morrison taking Dembele out the game and Dawson is the only man left. Vertonghen never recovers and never catches up with play again. The path was free for Morrison to run at Dawson and the attacker always has the upper hand in those situations.

Kyle Naughton if you watch as Morrison runs is running back but not sprinting to come across and help out. He hasn't read the situation, it's only when the ball is going in the net does he belatedly change gears and sprint.

Dawson couldn't take him out and be sent off as we have no Premier League standard central defenders fit, Chiriches isn't strong enough yet to play there and is error prone at the moment. There would be no point being sent off 2-0 down anyway. What Dawson did was what any defender would do he tried to take him onto his weaker left foot, Dawson's stronger right foot which would have pushed him away from goal. Morrison was having none of it, he made the run you could see Lennon making, direct.

So all in all a bad day at the office. We now have 6 goals in 7 games and a very poor goal difference of +1 which shows the we need to learn to create more and create more chances for a centre-forward. Our game is to set up for shots from outside the area, we had the same problem last year, but Bale kept getting us out of jail.

I bet Soldado can't wait until Lamela starts playing on the right or Lennon is fit and he starts getting the service we bought him to thrive on.

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AVB gets it wrong AVB gets it wrong Reviewed by THBlogNews on 7:00 pm Rating: 5

Spurs vs Chelsea

7:30 pm
I have been asked by a regular reader to give my thoughts on the Chelsea game which was always going to be a test so thanks to Andrew Taylor for his email.

Chelsea have not been great this season, hardly surprisingly as the team is not Mourinho's yet, but the two managers not speaking to each other anymore ensured both sides would be determined to win first and not to lose second.

Each manager clearly wanted to out do the other. If you look at the breakdown in their friendship it gives a potential insight into each of them. Andre Villas-Boas basically scouted the opposition and told Mourinho how to beat them. As we know he wanted to develop, to progress.

Mourinho clearly valued and rated his opposition reports and wanted to keep AVB to doing just that, he didn't want him developing. This suggests that the information AVB was supplying was too valuable to Mourinho to lose. The result was AVB left and I think it is safe to deduce that Mourinho was only interested in himself and his own success. When asked by the media he couldn't explain why he didn't want AVB to progress so decided to say nothing and pretend it didn't exist.

Mourinho did mention about developing coaches and reeled off a few names of current Chelsea staff. Apart from Andre Villas-Boas, who clearly wasn't going to be given that development wisdom, who else has Mourinho trained to manage successfully?

This game then was a revenge match, a match to see who was the top dog, a match neither wanted to lose.

The first half saw Tottenham control the game after the initial 15 minutes. One goal scored and chances created but not taken, the second goal was needed as a cushion. Christian Eriksen gave Mikel the runaround and Lampard showed he is not a defensive midfielder constantly being out of position. That was the chance to win the game, to seal the victory, to put one over on the old boss. The chance wasn't taken.

As so often happens at half time the manger changes an approach at half-time and it's a different game. It happens to all teams. Essentially Jose Mourinho sets out to not lose a game at the moment. Take the Old Trafford bore draw where he simply parked the bus in midfield. His aim in the first half was the same again, to go in 0-0. It is an approach they we often adopt ourselves.

The aim if to study the opposition and how they are playing to see where the weaknesses are and devise a strategy to exploit them. Chelsea had Ramires on the right hoping to use his pace as a counter attacking threat, however that didn't work out as he spent virtually all of it defending with Sigurdsson, Naughton Dembele and Eriksen combining well. As usual though AVB attacked more down the right.

The Chelsea threat in the first half was the same Everton used against us at Goodison Park last season, long diagonal balls in behind the full-back, usually the left-back, where with attacking full-backs there is space. The delivery was not great and they were easily dealt with by Dawson and Vertonghen.

Our goal after 22 minutes was basically a replication of the first goal against Norwich City, a ball played from the left into Soldado to lay off for Sigurdsson. Chelsea were at this point reduced to trying to hack the ball away and were clearly rattled. We needed to take advantage but didn't.

Chelsea's approach in the second half was to remove a defensive midfielder and bring on a more attacking player in the shape of the much talked about Juan Mata. Gone were the long diagonals in favour of our approach, dominate the opposition attacking so they can't attack you.

Chelsea wanted to use their playmakers around our box where they can be most dangerous. They started to control the middle of the field and pressure us hoping to push our high line back. We were defending in numbers, our full-backs were tied up and so when we did get the ball we had few outlets to retain possession. That resulted in the ball being turned over quickly and another attack to repel.

How do you counter this and did AVB counter this? Well I think in this instance we saw that winning was everything to AVB, in this game at least. The obvious thing to do would be to shore up the midfield by bringing on Sandro, but the only player you could take off to do that was Eriksen, allowing Paulinho to still perform his duties but with licence to support the attack more as well.

Bringing on a defensive player or dropping the high line back a bit would invite Chelsea on to us allowing them to play where they are dangerous, around the penalty box. The approach AVB adopted was to keep their attacking players as far from our goal as possible. He pushed our defensive high line even higher which gave the impression of last ditch defending but the tactic worked.

Chelsea continually got caught offside, we looked as though we were going to be breached but the bottom line is Chelsea didn't score from open play. The only goal they scored was from a free-kick which we should have defended better, Dembele kept everyone onside.

If you look at the graphic below from the FourFourTwo website you'll see we generally turned the ball over higher up the field than Chelsea, apart from a batch at right-back, indeed 9 of the 39 were in advance of any ball gained by Chelsea.

Tottenham Hotspur vs Chelsea

AVB left our attacking threat on the field, he trusted his players, trusted his defensive formation and wanted to score a decisive second goal on the break. This wasn't to be. His substitutions were attacking ones which simply retained the formation and system we were playing. If we could score it would be game over. Before Villas-Boas took over we would have possibly conceded between three and five with the way Chelsea played so to only concede from a free-kick is hugely encouraging.

The last ten minutes Chelsea had 10 men and our shots didn't go in. Now most people say Fernando Torres should have been sent off earlier, which clearly he should have and should obviously have received an additional ban but of course the FA have bottled it and let him off scott free, so gouging is now legal, if you are a Chelsea player. I think most people have got the reason he was booked for a second time totally wrong.

They simply are looking at the jump and at his arm but it is the whole incident that must be taken into account and if you look at it in a different light, the light I believe the referee was looking at it in, there is a different story to see. Torres was fired up we know,credit to the guy he was playing well. He was trying to rile Vertonghan, tripping, gouging all the things Mourinho apparently finds 'manly!'

If you watch the incident again Torres does not look at the ball, he looks at Vertonghen, runs at him and jumps into him with absolutely no intent to play the ball. He merely turns his head towards it's general direction at the last moment. He has gone for the man with the ball as a by product. For me the referee has decided that there was intent, that he went for the man not the ball and that is why he sent him off, not as everyone is assuming for an elbow in the face. Looked in that light a second yellow card was entirely justified.

I must mention Andros Townsend who I have been critical of in the past. He stopped taking countless pot shots and produced a performance of far greater benefit to the team. His drag back to leave 2 Chelsea players sprawling on the floor on the edge of the box before playing in Paulinho I think it was showed he is learning and adding to his game. He kept Ashley Cole nullified as an attacking threat. He faded in the secong half and didn't provide the fast outlet we needed to ease the pressure.

All in all it was honours even between AVB and Mourinho, between Spurs and Chelsea. They could have won it but then you could also argue they should have been out of the game in the first half, Torres should have been sent off earlier, Ramires should have been booked for booting the ball away in the first half which would have left him having to be careful. That's now two of last seasons top four played, one at home, one away and we don't look inferior to either of them.

Manchester United fans are probably only now realising just how good Ferguson was. They have looked a team in decline for a couple of years so to have won a title in that time was quite some achievement, take him out the equation and they currently sit in the bottom half. That won't change but demonstrates once again that the opportunity is there this season, this is the time to march forward.

With both Manchester clubs losing the Chelsea point was a point both sides will be happy with.

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Spurs vs Chelsea Spurs vs Chelsea Reviewed by THBlogNews on 7:30 pm Rating: 5

VIDEO - Tactical Analysis: The back pass, right or wrong?

7:49 pm
Having started to write a piece about the Cardiff match, which couldn't pass without mention of Naughton potentially costing us the game, I suddenly thought there is more to this incident than meets the eye. I talk of course of Naughton's back pass in the first few minutes, if that is what it was.

As I have been running a tactical series looking at our game it seemed appropriate that we pick this major talking point and look at it further, rather than the knee jerk idiotic pass he is useless reaction.

For those of you who haven't seen it yet, take a look. Below are the highlights of the game and the howler is near the beginning, it happened after only 5 minutes and could have resulted in Lloris being sent off.

OK now remember Walker at Liverpool he did basically the same thing. Both full-backs playing a similar pass and getting it all wrong. You have to ask yourself why, not why did they pass badly that is just execution and down to them, but why were they playing the ball in the first place.

To understand that you need to understand the concept of keeping the ball. In today's game the mentality is not just if you have the ball the opposition can't score, but if you have the ball you reduce the number of attacks that you have to defend against and therefore make it easier to prevent conceding a goal.

Chris Houghton spoke after the Norwich game saying if they had retained possession better they may not have lost. He was making that exact same point. The Copa Libertadores final was decided because Olimpia 2-0 up from the first leg spent the second leg defending and booting the ball to the opposition, Athletico Mineirao. They therefore had to defend far more attacks than they should have done and you guessed it, they conceded very late on to take the game into extra-time and then penalties, which they lost. Not retaining possession cost them becoming South American champions.

Ball retention is drilled into players today, if there is no forward pass, look sideways, look back, your teammates should be constantly moving to provide you with an outlet. What you only ever do as a last resort is hoof the ball up the field to the opposition. So in our full-backs minds is pass don't hoof.

Now in a 4-3-3 system the goalkeeper is considered to be an outfielder. By that I mean that defenders can play the ball back to the keeper to switch play to the other centre-back or to start a move again if necessary.

Couple those two points together and you start to see why both the Walker against Liverpool and Naughton against Cardiff howlers happened. In both cases the player was trying to retain possession of the ball as per our system.

The passes themselves in that context were not necessarily the wrong passes, obviously the execution of them was terrible. If both passes had been played as they were intended then nobody would have made a single comment about them, but Walker now has a section who wrongly think he is useless.

Any mistake has to be looked at in context, you instantly have to ask yourself a series of questions before slating someone. What was the team trying to do, what was the player trying to do and why, were his teammates providing him with the passing options they should have been, should he have been played into trouble in the first place, did the intended receiver of the pass not read the pass early enough.

Perhaps we need to do a little work on the training ground to recreate those situations and figure out how to handle them better. The full-back only has three option, forwards, sideways and backwards. If there is no pass forward he has to look for a midfielder to bounce the ball off or a central defender. For those of you not aware of what I mean by bounce the ball off it seems to be the modern phrase used for passing to a player, marked or otherwise, who immediately passes it on to a free teammate. Think of a triangle or a brick wall, play it at an angle it comes off at an angle, substitute the wall for a player doing the same thing and bingo you are bouncing the ball off a player.

A central midfielder can twist and turn and pass all ways a full-back has a side line so has restricted options so before we castigate a player too much ask yourself what ball would you have played, did he play the right ball but just make a complete mess of the execution.

Tomorrow's article will be released at 3.30pm (15.40hrs) and asks is AVB right to suggest the second day is the day a player is most likely to suffer an injury. To answer that we'll take a look at a training programme for a professional footballer.

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VIDEO - Tactical Analysis: The back pass, right or wrong? VIDEO - Tactical Analysis: The back pass, right or wrong? Reviewed by THBlogNews on 7:49 pm Rating: 5

Tactical Analysis Series - The centre-backs

9:37 am
So far we have looked at a tactical analysis of the Andre Villas-Boas version of the 4-3-3 system, seen a video that looks at the basic systems moving parts, listed the roles of the players within it, the attacking roles, the team formula he uses and looked at the full-backs in more detail. Today we will move on and look at the central defenders in more detail.

Looking at attacking first, their job is a simple one. Split penalty area width when the keeper has the ball to give him a pass then feed the defensive midfield for them to begin an attack.

Below is a graphic from the 2010 Wrold Cup Final and shows Hollands basic starting shape with the ball in the keepers hands, our is basically the same. The red dots indicate the defenders, yellow the defensive midfielder and link midfielder, green the wingers and attacking midfielder and blue the striker.

4-3-3 system starting positions

You can see the left central defender has more options so the ball goes to him, he can pass to the full-back, the defensive midfielder (DM) or a player running into the space behind the DM when he has pulled the man out of position. He could also step out with the ball himself. His other option but not advisable in this grahic is to pass to the other centre-back.

Within our system is the option to switch the point of attack quickly also by playing a long ball to the taller winger (Dawson to Chadli). The ball has to be drilled rather than floated slowly so accuracy is required. You will note we don't play long balls to the right wing very often. The centre-backs then make themselves available to a pass to switch play through central midfield or across the back to the advanced full-back.

To defend when playing in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 system players drop backwards towards their own goal until someone can pressurise the ball. Then the defending begins. Players stop going backwards, look to exert pressure on the opponents by stepping forward to compress the space. A high line reduces the space between the midfield preventing room to play.

The aim is to cut down options and for the attacker to watch the ball rather than what is going on around. Passing then becomes more difficult and the passes become predictable and safe. You are pressurising to have your defensive midfield prevent defence splitting pass. The idea is to get numbers around the ball.

When the full-backs are up field and losing possession results in a counter attack it is their job along with the defensive midfielder to hold up play until they and others arrive by dropping deeper as slowly as they can as mentioned until the team can start pressure defending.

The back four defends in a zonal system, the defender defends a space rather than a player. This allows the defence to keep it's shape and is not as demanding as man marking, you also run less risk of being pulled out of position.

The two central defenders nearly always stagger themselves depending upon which side the ball is. If the ball is on the right the left centre-back is deeper and the opposite on the other flank. Their positioning depends upon the pressure being applied by teammates on the ball.

The less chance of a ball being played behind the defence the flatter they can play as one dropping deeper the other to cover the danger is not required. You see this constantly during a game, the Arsenal goal was an example. Forgetting whether it would have been offside or not what Dawson was doing was basically how you defend that potential danger, although it does depend upon the situation as often the centre-back that side can cover the ball behind the full-back.

Inside the penalty area the system switches to man marking.

The priorities of defending are:
  • Protect the space behind the back line. Whilst there is the threat of a cross the central defenders drop to ensure they can win the header. When the threat is eliminated and pressure is starting to be applied they can move forward.
  • Intercept ball to feet or prevent the attacker from turning. The defensive midfield also tries to prevent the ball being played to feet. Positioning is crucial to prevent ball played in behind them.
  • Communication. You must talk to each other so you know when responsibility for an attacker is being handed over as he moves from one zone to another.
Central defenders should also try not to cross over in front of each other (stay zonal), each centre-back deals with his side of the pitch. If one has to step forward the other three defenders move closer together in a line behind and your defensive midfielder must be able to drop centrally if required.

In a 4-3-3 you defend as a team and when looking at individual positions there are cross overs with others, in the next article in the series we will look at the midfield unit.

Previous Articles:
Tottenham: A Tactical Analysis
Video: The 4-3-3 Explained
Player Roles Within A 4-3-3 
Players Attacking Roles Within A 4-3-3 System
AVB Formula For Success
Walker - Understanding The Maligned Full-Back Role

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Tactical Analysis Series - The centre-backs Tactical Analysis Series - The centre-backs Reviewed by THBlogNews on 9:37 am Rating: 5

Walker - understanding the maligned full-back role

9:46 pm

Over the last few articles we have looked at a tactical analysis of our game, seen a video of the basic 4-3-3 concept, what it's trying to achieve, established player roles within the system and looked specifically at our own game and how our Head Coach (Manager) Andre Villas-Boas has us operating his version of the 4-3-3 system.

The greatest area of confusion and misunderstanding is over inverted wingers and full-backs which polarises opinion about certain players, Walker being a prime example.

Traditionally full-backs played alongside centre-backs in a flat back four but that is generally no longer the case. Now the full-back starting position is well in advance of the centre-back. Next time the ball is with Hugo Lloris look at the starting positions Rose and Walker take. During the game have a quick look where they are, you'll see them much further forward than you'd expect.

In today's game the full-back is an attacking weapon who needs sprinting speed to get back and defend. Where it is usual within the system for one to attack and one to hold back, alternating depending upon which side the ball is, under AVB's version of the system they both go forward at the same time to join the attack giving us seven attackers. If we lose the ball we can initially look to hunt the ball back in numbers.

Spurs defensive positions

AVB likes to play with one winger who can play as a winger or cut in inside and one more traditional winger, that's the approach he adopted with his treble winning Porto side and the approach so far adopted with us. We get into problems if both wide men want to come inside all the time as we lose the element of surprise and are asking the full-back to do an immense amount of work. Constantly overlapping and constantly having to get back is tiring, fitness is key.

Let's look at defending. The full-back tucks in when defending so as not to leave a big gap between them and the centre-half the attacking team can exploit. If the ball goes to a wide man he has to rush out to them, that is his role, Walker does it well, yet fans amazingly complain that he's doing it, thinking he is out of position and not tight on his man, man marking him as it were. What he mustn't do is get to close to his central defender so that if the ball is played to the wide man there is nothing he can do about it.

It is his role, along with the wide forward to patrol the area outside the penalty area to the sideline so when defending Chadli against Arsenal should be helping Rose out when Arsenal scored, however he and Dembele don't get back in time and Capoue has to come across. Rose shouldn't have been the one to close down the player on the ball but Arsenal had worked a two-on-one situation. Had Capoue covering taken that role on Rose could have drifted wider to cover Walcott. I highlight and show a video of this not to blame Rose (he has almost been forced into this) but to demonstrate a point how one lapse can be costly.

Play the video below and stop it after just 3 seconds.

Look at the defence, Rose goes to the ball when the player inside him, which I think is Capoue, should be the one doing that so Rose can cover the wide man. Ideally it should be Dembele or Chadi there undertaking that role but they hadn't made it back yet.

Moving back to attacking, playing with advanced full-backs we then have options. The full back can stay behind the wide winger, he can come inside ready to play the ball in behind the opponents full back (Walker looks for this pass a lot with Lennon, Townsend isn't reading this pass yet) or he can overlap the winger when they come inside. The example below against Crystal Palace shows Walker about to play the ball in behind the full-back and Lennon you will notice has already set off for the pass to beat the defender to it.

Kyle Walker passes to Aaron Lennon

Lennon is proactive, he has read the game, knows what is going to happen, Townsend understandably is still developing that understanding with Walker and is currently more reactive, he goes when the pass has been played. Many fans when they see Walker play this ball and when nobody gets on the end of it knock him calling it a bad pass, but it's not, it's the right pass, it's a defence penetrating pass, exactly what we want, so unless he over hits it it's down to the winger if he watches and doesn't get on the end of it.

By the full-back being heavily involved with attacking play when we lose the ball again the same fans complain Walker is out of position, well quite frankly he's not because that's where AVB wants him to be. I use Walker as an example here but equally the same can be said for Rose.

The three man defence, two centre-backs and holding midfield player, are tasked with holding up play until the full-back can get back. It's disappointing when Walker has to shut his Twitter account because of abuse from fans who simply don't understand the role of the modern day full-back. Let's hope Rose doesn't have to suffer the same fate.

Now with an attacking full-back overlapping the winger has an unseen role to play here.

Think about this, if you want Walker and Rose to be putting in a lot of crosses from near the byline for you, they have a long way to keep sprinting back. Now that's OK but how many times a game do you want them to do that and how long before they get tired?

What happens when a player get tired, usually late in the game, he has lapses in concentration which lead to mistakes. As a winger you can't simply cut in all the time and expect your full-back to have super human qualities and be overlapping every time. The winger has to manage the full-back if you like. If Walker or Rose has just sprinted back from the byline they need a minute or two to recover. This may simply be a thumbs up between them or the winger appreciating that next time he gets the ball he'll attack on the outside instead of cutting in to give the full-back some recovery time.

There was a prime example of this in the England game against Moldova at Wembley. Walker was beside the opposition penalty area with an England attack, however we lost the ball. He was then in picture sprinting back the full length of the pitch and caught his man before our penalty area, we won the ball back, he played it inside and obviously he needed a little breather. The ball came back over to Theo Walcott who had tucked in a third of the way into the opposition half and he simply back flicked the ball without looking and it went out for a throw in to Moldova. Walker was standing on the half way line, not expecting the flick and quite frankly not wanting it, he wanted, needed a breather. It's something simple, a piece of game management, player management, but it immediately gave the opposition the ball.

Lennon and Walker operate very well together, they have developed an understanding, they are both very quick and can help each other out defensively. Townsend on the other hand, if playing on the right, simply wants to cut in and have an eye catching shot. Great for the cameras but it puts Walker under an enormous amount of pressure to be supporting the attack overlapping to stretch the defence all the time.

For those of you shouting Bale did it, I'll remind you once again of the stats. Bale's shooting accuracy from outside the box last season was the best in Europe, 44%, Townsend's was 18% and he created nothing for his teammates either. It has it's place but greater game awareness is needed otherwise Walker is effectively playing as a winger and a full-back and has the physical effort of being in two places a t once almost.

It's end product that counts and at the moment we are not getting an end product from our wide men. They are not feeding Soldado who scores goals from inside the box. One blocked shot from a cut back in the first 80 minutes against Arsenal should tell you all you need to know. Erik Lamela will quickly need to form an understanding with Walker and be the team player Lennon is, interlaced with moments of individuality.

For Townsend to flourish as an inverted winger he has to learn when to come inside, when to go outside and to use his right foot, which Les Ferdinand tells us he is doing. Our winger options are Lennon as a traditional winger on the right, Lamela, who can use both feet, as a traditional winger who can also play like an inverted winger, Chadli, who can also use both feet, can perform the same on the left and Townsend who can play traditional on the left or inverted on the right.

Quite a few options and Rose and Walker have to form an understanding with all of them. Tough job being a full-back. Fortunately we have a set system and players come in to fill a role within that system, in their individual way, so we don't change our basic game simply because someone is injured or suspended.

Chadli and Rose seem to have struck up a working relationship very quickly, they have started to work as an attacking unit well together with Rose looking for the flicks that sets him free. I've not looked at them as a defensive unit much yet, apart from the video example of the Arsenal goal in Monday's article, only Rose in isolation so that's one for the future.

Across on the right hand side Walker and now Lamela one expects, haven't yet played together so will have to learn each others game and develop an understanding. Townsend will continue to develop his game and that will put Lennon under pressure for probably the first time.

Previous articles:
Tottenham - A Tactical Analysis
Video - The 4-3-3 explained
Player roles within a 4-3-3
Players attacking roles within a 4-3-3 system
AVB Formula for Success

Think about the system we are playing, watch the 4-3-3 video again and you'll be watching our games in a new light.

Walker - understanding the maligned full-back role Walker - understanding the maligned full-back role Reviewed by THBlogNews on 9:46 pm Rating: 5
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