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Tottenham: 4 tactical decisions that led to a Merseyside masterclass

An extremely impressive performance from Tottenham earned them a 3-0 victory at Goodison Park. RealSport explain how they did it.


A game that Tottenham would have drawn in years gone by, the Lilywhites left Goodison Park with all three points and a strong performance under their belts, as they put Everton to the sword on Saturday afternoon.

Tottenham made the victory look comfortable and denied the Toffees any real sight of goal, with new club record signing Davinson Sanchez particularly impressive in the middle of an all-Ajax back three.

Two goals from Harry Kane, now that September has begun, sandwiched by a strike from Christian Eriksen, who has started the season in excellent form, sent Spurs on their way to victory.

After analysing Tottenham’s performance, RealSport explain how Mauricio Pochettino guided his side to an eye-catching victory.

Covering the five vertical lines

When watching the game, it often looked as though Spurs had more players on the pitch than the home side. It wasn’t a trick of the eye or anything of the sort, rather it was due to Spurs’ structure and having players cover the width of the pitch.

Wing backs Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier covered the wide channels, wide centre-backs Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld were placed in the inside left and right channels respectively, with third centre-back Davinson Sanchez in the central vertical line.

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Pochettino then deployed something of a midfield diamond to support Harry Kane, which, again, covered the three central vertical lines, as shown in the diagram above.

Everton were narrow but struggled to cope with the midfield diamond of Spurs. This led to Spurs completely dominating the width of the pitch, often finding themselves with a lot of time on the ball whether that was in defence, or the creative third.

It’s why Ben Davies was so crucially involved in the victory, as explained in the next point.

Use of the wing backs

Since Danny Rose’s injury midway through last season, Ben Davies has filled in exceptionally well at left back, or left wing back. He has added attacking aggression and impetus to his game, which is crucial for a fullback/wing back in Mauricio Pochettino’s demanding system.

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Davies took full advantage of all the space Everton afforded him down the left flank. Cuco Martina was far too deep and narrow worried about Spurs’ diamond of midfielders, whilst Gylfi Sigurdsson himself failed to track Davies’ forays forward, and was, again, far too narrow.

Ben Davies by numbers vs Everton:

  • 71 passes completed (the most of any Spurs player)
  • 86 touches (the most of any Spurs player)
  • 10 crosses (the most of any Spurs player)
  • 6 clearances
  • 4 blocks
  • 2 tackles
  • 1 assist

Davies was excellent on the ball, playing several dangerous crosses into the box, including the third goal which he set up for Harry Kane. The Welshman was also intelligent with his passes infield.

Davies has had such a positive impact in an attacking sense for Spurs so far this season, that he is sixth in the list for expected assists throughout the Premier League, even ahead of teammate Christian Eriksen.

The back three

Spurs constantly look far better when using a back three system. It allows much better progression of the ball into the midfield and final third, with less reliance on the central midfield to do just this. Spurs’ back three of Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen were exceptional and formed a creative base for Spurs’ play.

However, the signing of Davinson Sanchez has added even more attacking impetus. With the Colombian straightaway deployed as the deepest centre back, it has allowed Toby Alderweireld to move out to the wide centre back.

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Alderweireld is one of the finest passers of the ball in the world, and with his license to progress into midfield, we can see far more of this. The Belgian is exceptional at the driven pass across the field to switch the play and he took advantage of this time and time again against Everton.

For instance, Alderweireld completed 18 long passes, the second most of any player on the pitch, behind Everton ‘keeper Jordan Pickford, of which 50% were aimed at the final third.

This switch of play into space is positive because it allows Spurs to build up possession on the right-hand side, luring the opposition to that area before they can then switch it to a player in space, which Davies took advantage of. It can drag the opposition across the width of the pitch, creating space for the Spurs players to work with.

Christian Eriksen

The Danish international is a genius, and arguably the one player Spurs can not afford to get injured. The playmaker controls the game and tempo of the Spurs side and always is one or two steps ahead of the opposition.

Eriksen constantly found himself in pockets of space to work in to which he took full advantage of. It was baffling why the Toffees consistently stood off the Dane and gave him this space.

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His intelligent use of the ball and where to run and position himself makes him difficult to pick up. With Spurs operating in the five vertical lines across the width of the pitch, Eriksen could find space for himself.

He positioned himself on average slightly more to the left-hand side of the midfield diamond of Spurs and his passing connections with Davies and Vertonghen on this flank were a key factor in Spurs’ victory.

He finished the game with another goal to continue his excellent start to the new campaign.

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Harry Brooks

Harry graduated from UAL in Elephant and Castle with a 2:1 BA Hons degree in sports journalism.

He has an NCTJ diploma and also coaches football and teaches PE in schools.

Harry loves to talk football tactics!

Tottenham: 4 tactical decisions that led to a Merseyside masterclass

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