Avenging the defeats of last season will be firmly on Mauricio Pochettino’s mind as we look at 5 keys to Spurs vs Stoke in our Premier League clash.
Home and away Stoke got the better of us last season, counter attacking their way to two victories. In attacking our full backs, Mauricio Pochettino didn’t have an answer for Mark Hughes’ tactics and six vital Premier League points were surrendered. Saturday sees us once more lock horns for Spurs vs Stoke at White Hart Lane, where Pochettino will seek to turn the tables.
1. Stopping the Stoke set-up
First things first, Mauricio Pochettino will need to deal with the way Mark Hughes sets up his side. It is very much in his image from his playing time with Barcelona.
The former Nou Camp man opts for a 4-3-3 with a striker playing as a wide forward from the right. This man is often Jonathan Walters and he joins the centre forward in the box on crossing situations. On the left of his front three he employs a more traditional wide man that not only deliver the ball, but also can cut inside and shoot. Last season it was Victor Moses and this term Ibrahim Afellay and now Xherdan Shaqiri will get the nod.
Playing more of a counter attacking game, Stoke try to deliver the ball very quickly out to these two wide forwards in order to get their play going. This will often see them in space or 1v1 against the full backs. Hughes wants his side to create these situations, which allows them to try and work crossing positions.
Last season this approach gave us trouble at the Lane, but even more so at the Britannia. Pochettino went with Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen in the full back positions and they were duly roasted as we slumped to a 3-0 defeat. Having a smaller, weaker aerial player in Vlad Chiriches at centre back didn’t help on crosses either and he was overpowered by Mame Biram Diouf.
For Spurs vs Stoke this time Mauricio Pochettino needs to know the dangers of the Stoke formation and select accordingly. Faster, stronger, physical full backs are required and good aerial centre backs.
2. Wide boys
Without the ball, Stoke have continued with their tactics of playing narrow this season. This is done in an attempt to force teams out wide where the hope to deal with the resulting crosses. This is good in theory, but the problem for them is that they are without their most aerially dominant centre back, Ryan Shawcross.
Against Liverpool they adopted this tactic without the ball as they restricted space between the lines and played extremely narrow to keep a tight defensive shape.
Liverpool didn’t accept the invitation, despite having the aerially powerful Christian Benteke. Their full backs, Joe Gomez and Nathaniel Clyne, just simply weren’t high enough to cause Stoke problems with overlaps and overloads.
You have to get high in to the full back zones against Stoke. We saw that on our goal in the 2-1 defeat at the Lane last season. Danny Rose got in to a great crossing position to deliver the ball to a completely unmarked Nacer Chadli beyond the Stoke full back at the far post.
Chadli’s intelligent positioning, highlighted Stoke’s narrowness and how you can score by pulling away from their full backs.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Stoke this time should look to see us continue with the highly positioned full backs that we saw at Old Trafford. It also needs our wide midfielders to look to pull away from Stoke’s narrowly positioned full backs on crossing situations.
3. Stop Stoke splitting our centre backs
A real feature of Stoke’s play last season, and from their victories over us, has been their ability to get players in-between the centre backs. This was highlighted on all three of their goals in Stoke 3-0 Spurs at the Britannia.
Their first saw Mame Biram Diouf put in a cross that was nodded home by Charlie Adam. Both he and Jonathan Walters were filling the lanes in-between our centre backs.
Stoke’s second saw N’Zonzi, Diouf and Walters all filling the lanes between our back four. Charlie Adam swung the ball over the top for them to run on to and N’Zonzi finished.
Their third saw them score from an Arnautovic cross as Diouf and Peter Odemwingie, who had come on as the wide striker in place of Walters, again ran the lanes between our back four.
Mark Hughes has his side try to get in to the holes between the back four and run the channels. A front three allows them to create havoc as they often overload the centre back pairing.
Mauricio Pochettino will need to find way to stop this in Spurs vs Stoke this time. In using Eric Dier as a defensive midfielder that can drop in-between our centre back pairing he does already have the ready made solution. It’s just a case of whether he continues to trial Dier at this position.
4. Drawing Stoke out
Stoke are a counter attacking side and they will come to White Hart Lane and look to soak up pressure and then spring on the break.
Mauricio Pochettino will continue with the early high pressing that was a feature of our performance at Old Trafford. This may work, but if this doesn’t result in an early goal, then our head coach will have to consider a plan B, something that he has been criticised for not having much of last season.
That backup solution should be to try and draw Stoke out by engaging them further back and pressing the ball as it enters the middle third. This will allow us more playing area to exploit when the ball is regained, giving room for our full backs to jet forward and Kane, Chadli and Eriksen to work to find spaces.
5. 4-3-3 the key to victory?
Matching Stoke with a 4-3-3 formation has often been the way to beat them, as it gets you with players naturally on their full backs. This can see the wide players use the space created by Stoke’s narrow formation. It also means that they can get on to and pull away from their full backs, as we saw on Chadli’s goal at White Hart Lane last season.
Mousa Dembele has been the pick of Pochettino on the right so far this season, but a more attack-minded player like Erik Lamela would be better employed here.
Spurs vs Stoke outlook
Mark Hughes has had Mauricio Pochettino’s number and its time for the tables to be turned. Stoke will be difficult to break down and will look to play their counter attacking game, it’s up to Pochettino to try and find a solution to it.
Spurs vs Stoke prediction: Spurs 1 Stoke 0.
Spurs vs Stoke betting
I’m expecting a tight game and there are a few bets to be had.