Christian Eriksen scores the winning goal during Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs: Dropping Eriksen deeper opens up the attack

Repositioning Christian Eriksen in to defensive midfield opens the gateway to goal as it finished Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs at Selhurst Park.

Mauricio Pochettino may not be a gambling man, but he reshuffled the deck several times until he had the hand required to win. Repositioning Christian Eriksen, the ace in the pack, in to defensive midfield proved to be the winning move. The Dane scored the crucial goal to make the final score Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs and earn three vital Premier League points.

Sam Allardyce also rolled the dice. The Eagles went with a setup that initially saw Wilfried Zaha start on the opposite side to usual. Allardyce wanted Zaha to attack Ben Davies rather than the much quicker Kyle Walker, who could keep pace with the Ivory Coast international.

Compact Crystal Palace

The first half saw both teams nullify each other with their tactical ploys. Without the ball, Crystal Palace pressed at the right times and also knew when to drop back in to a compact shape. Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend got through a ton of work. The Palace wide players not only pressed up to try and stop us playing out. The pair also dropped back to defend the wide areas. As a result, the Eagles could keep their back four tight and narrow to block the centre of the pitch. Consequently, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane had little room to work in.

the Eagles compact shape left little room for Kane, Alli and Eriksen during Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

Eagles compact shape left little room for Kane, Alli and Eriksen.

Ahead of the back four, Allardyce deployed his usual three screening midfielders. The trio wanted to take away the space between the lines. The key man among them was James McArthur. His versatility to drop and take away the lanes Dele Alli likes to run was pivotal.

Narrow back four sees McArthur drop to track Dele Alli during Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

Narrow back four sees McArthur drop to track Dele Alli.

Pivotal Eric Dier

The key player on Spurs side of the ball was Eric Dier who started in defence. Tinkering with his lineup, Mauricio Pochettino moved him around the formation throughout the first half.

Usually Eric Dier starts on the right of the back three. However, Dier started in the middle as he is our biggest and strongest centre back. Mauricio Pochettino went with him in this position to match up with Christian Benteke aerially. As Crystal Palace frequently goes long to Benteke and works off the knockdowns, Dier was the man tasked with dealing with this first ball.

Benteke was having success at winning the first challenge, but it wasn’t massively destructive, as Spurs would often win the second ball. The biggest moment came as he won a header that Andros Townsend hoovered up. Townsend returned the ball to Benteke in space, but he scuffed his shot from the edge of the area in to the grateful arms of Hugo Lloris.

After twenty minutes, Mauricio Pochettino made a switch. Eric Dier was moved in to defensive midfield. His repositioning was made for two reasons. Firstly, Spurs didn’t require three centre backs to deal with Benteke. Secondly, as Benteke was an aerial threat, Dier would front him to allow Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen to clean up behind.

The plan worked. Benteke was often crowded out or couldn’t get the ball to Zaha and Townsend. Spurs gained greater control of possession, which allowed us to move up the pitch much easier. However, chances for both teams still remained at a premium.

Injecting some speed

In Swansea 1-3 Spurs, Mauricio Pochettino went tinker ballistic as he shuffled and reshuffled the team to find the optimum formation. At half time, our manager once more made changes.

The destructive forces of Victor Wanyama, who was lucky to escape a second yellow card and the injured Mousa Dembele, came off. Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-Min replaced the pair.

Spurs were passive and playing at a slow tempo in the first 45 minutes. Sissoko and Son were introduced to add speed in wide areas to attack and stretch the narrow Crystal Palace defence.

The pair could also cover Zaha and Townsend with their speed to mitigate them defensively. Sam Allardyce had started Wilfried Zaha on Ben Davies flank. In the first half, Spurs had to double up on him. Mousa Dembele and often Dele Alli were dragged back to aid Davies to contain the Palace man. With Sissoko and Son wide, the pair were already in position to shut Zaha and Townsend down before they could get going.

Repositioning Christian Eriksen

The biggest move at half time was to reposition Christian Eriksen. The Dane had been operating just off Harry Kane, but was struggling to find pockets of space amongst a congested Palace defence.

Switching to 4-2-3-1 with Sissoko and Son coming on, Eriksen was moved in to the pivot alongside Eric Dier.

As the Eagles threat was coming from long balls up to Benteke, along with Zaha and Townsend out wide, Eriksen was given a free role. Dier would take Benteke along with the centre backs. Our wide players handled Zaha and Townsend, leaving Eriksen as the spare man.

Eriksen was allowed to float and take the ball from Dier, as Spurs sought to get four men ahead of him at all times.

Eriksen with four players ahead trying to stretch defence during Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

Eriksen with four players ahead trying to stretch defence.

Sissoko and Son stretching the Palace team out created the internal pockets of space that Eriksen likes to roam in and create from. With Spurs getting men ahead of the ball, the Palace central midfield trio was becoming stretched.

Removing McArthur crucial

James McArthur was having a good game. Replacing him for Yohan Cabaye was the move that unsettled Palace’s defensive shape. Christian Eriksen was consequently afforded the space he needed to win the game.

Prior to the switch, McArthur had formed a very destructive trio with Jason Puncheon and Luka Milivojevic. Yohan Cabaye entered the match and played much higher than the other two. This proved crucial.

A long ball up to Christian Benteke saw him battle once more with Eric Dier for control. Dier won the ball and Spurs could break. Christian Eriksen, now starting from a deeper position, could float forward in to the space that James McArthur had been occupying. Yohan Cabaye was caught high and out of line with teammates Puncheon and Milivojevic.

Eriksen has space to run in to with Cabaye caught high during Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

Eriksen has space to run in to with Cabaye caught high.

With Palace’s midfield trio pierced, Eriksen now had time and space to drift forward. Harry Kane found him with a simple pass. Eriksen took the ball, sized up the shot and unleashed a fiercely dipping drive towards the corner of the net. Wayne Hennessey made his best effort to get over and stop it, but was defeated by the flight.

Golazo had struck again and broken the deadlock, Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs and the away end was bouncing.

Spurs kill the game

A goal up, Spurs did an excellent job of killing the game, especially the additional seven minutes after an unfortunate injury to Mamadou Sakho. The ball was kept in play down by the corner flag for a number of them, but Pochettino continued to tinker.

Moussa Sissoko switched sides to help Ben Davies following Zaha’s move back to his flank. Sissoko made a number of timely challenges as he used his size and speed to his advantage. A particularly necessary steal of the ball in injury time and subsequent run forward was vital to quell Palace momentum. Zaha raced back, fouled Sissoko and received a yellow card for kicking the ball away. His frustration at his inability to escape Sissoko’s clutches was clearly visible.

Right back Kieran Trippier was also introduced, as Pochettino sought to tinker some more. The combination with Kyle Walker down the right was brief, but interesting. The pair combined to fashion a neat crossing opportunity as Walker stole in-behind left back Jeffrey Schlupp.

Time ran out and it finished Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs with a potential banana skin avoided. Three vital points were in the bag to keep the pressure up on Chelsea.

Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs overall

A real attritional grind that saw Mauricio Pochettino tinker until he found the winning formula.

Repositioning Christian Eriksen in to a number eight role off Eric Dier proved to be the move that was decisive. Eriksen could stealthily shift forward from a deeper starting position, making him harder to mark. As a result of Yohan Cabaye entering the game and becoming detached from his midfield partners, Eriksen had the space he needed to decide the contest.

Final score: Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.



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11 Responses to Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs: Dropping Eriksen deeper opens up the attack

  1. Paulo 27th April 2017 at 8:01 pm #

    Thanks for the great analysis!

    There was a hell of a lot of very pleasing factors to this match. Palace really had a go in the first half and we were able to restrict them to a couple of half chances, it felt like as every minute passed we increased the intensity of our play. In the end the goal came in the 78th minute (20mins before the eventual end) and i felt that if we hadn’t scored then a few more chances would come..

    Personally i’d like to see Zaha in a Spurs shirt next season as he has attributes which the current squad doesn’t?!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th April 2017 at 11:08 pm #

      Yes I thought we were a bit tentative and playing well within ourselves to start with. As the match wore on we grew in confidence, aided by Poch tinkering with the players’ positions.

      The penny seems to have dropped for Zaha this season. His speed, dribbling and ability to change direction on a sixpence makes him a very tough cover. I reckon Poch can take him up a level too. However, £40m may just be too much for Levy!

  2. Toby4eva 27th April 2017 at 11:33 pm #

    Nice shakedown again Mark!

    This game delivered the tight score line that looked likely – and thankfully the three points that looked doubtful!

    The Gaffer is showing everyone that he has come a long way in 12 months.

    He looks to me to be a manager who sets out a 12 month strategic plan and plays to it.

    All within the context of building a long term dynasty.

    Year One was about analysis of the squad at his disposal and setting out his stall and expectations. Tick.

    Year Two was about getting the defence right and ensuring player buy in to the philosophy. Tick.

    Year Three has been about developing alternate methods of play for different opponents and getting heads right. Tick.

    Next year will be about maximising the ability and depth of the squad – and winning stuff. Tick.

    It seems everyone at the club is living and breathing the ethic.

    The next test will come in the summer window – and spending big on Zaha and/or others will be an indication that the Chairman is absolutely on board.

    But given the stadium build and the big spend on “you know who” last year, how likely is it that we will chase big ticket buys?

    Anyway that’s for later.

    I personally was thrilled to see Erikssen deployed in the deeper orchestrating role. I advocated the very same in my team selection – and Palace was precisely the team to try it against. Mark got the analysis spot on again – which is why I went with Eriksen and Dembele to start after what I thought was an innefectual effort by Victor in the semi.

    Over the past 18 months or so I have envisioned Eriksen as the new Modric – and he quite frankly dashed my hopes earlier in this season. But he is front and centre now and I reckon we have the perfect combination of Dembele and Chris (covered by the other Harry) to sit in front of the Dier/Victor stopper.

    We can set up differently as required – and clearly this has been the Gaffer’s major focus this term.

    And he delivered in spades here.

    So did Golazo!

    He should be trying that more often when he can drift into more deeper positions and find more time on the ball.

    So a great result.

    More superb pre and post analysis from our very own Gaffer.

    Three massive points.

    And now a made to order stalemate up north.

    So only six points required for second place – but it’s not over yet.

    Let’s look forward to what will hopefully be a very memorable weekend.

    My 20yo son is keenly looking forward to celebrate something that has yet to experience!

    COYS!!!!!

    PS Mark – I loved the “Sam Allerdyce rolling the dice” imagery at no extra charge!

    :-)

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 28th April 2017 at 7:07 pm #

      Great comment Toby4eva. Poch often talks about “the project” with Tottenham and it is clear that he is moving along like you say. He has a strategy and plan in place to evolve and build a successful club rather than just chuck money around like the oil oligarchs do. This summer will be crucial to sign the players that we need, but also to hold on to our existing core as the inevitable big money sharks come sniffiing around.

      22 years since we finished above the Goons, it would be great to do it against them at the Lane – payback for so many years of torment!

  3. Mos 28th April 2017 at 11:28 am #

    Great analysis as always. Once upon a time, particularly under AVB, I used to feel nervous at how high our line was, now it’s almost the opposite, I don’t feel like we are ready to play until our defenders are in place.

    I have to say I become more and more impressed with Poch with every week, I like the fact that he can change and change again throughout a match, it takes an intelligent manager to not only spot what needs to be done, but also have a team that responds to the changes.
    Also even though the squad depth is poor his choice in substitutions has really come a long way – on his first season in charge I always thought it was one of his weaker points. Having said that, I knew why Sissoko was put on but was still irritated – when we signed him in summer it almost felt like Levy just wanted to sign a player as a gift to Poch (don’t get me wrong, I thought he would add a new string to our bow and would at the very least be a great impact sub), still think Trippier should play ahead of him even out of position.

    Its great to see us scoring from out of the box again, a handful of games ago it was noted that we haven’t been scoring much from long range, its nice to have that back in the armory. Not that we get many opportunities at direct free kicks of late but I think Eriksen needs to score a few before the end of the season.

    Looking forward to the weekend game, without Kocielny their back line should be far less organised and a big win would be very welcome and long overdue.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 28th April 2017 at 7:13 pm #

      Our back line has come a long way since the AVB days. Like you, I am highly confident in them, and it does feel worrying if they are not squeezed up high, even in the opposition half for most of the game!

      Poch’s tinkering and substitutions have improved immensely. I do wonder how much is him evolving as a manager and how much is down to input from his coaching staff? His assistants are definitely more involved on the sideline.

      A few free kicks flying in from Eriksen would really make us a true threat to score at any time from anywhere! All of his other skills and play have improved, yet strangely his free kick taking ability has gone backwards!

  4. Daudi 28th April 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    Excellent reads Mark. Love them.

    Have to say, the way I watch football has changed ever since I started reading your pieces Mark. Am now able to observe the whole field, not just where the ball is at. Getting a broader perspective and increasing my tactical and football knowledge as a whole knowledge.. thats what this site has done for me. There are few like this out there..

    So seems we will finish either 2nd or 1st if everything fits into place. We are in the top four* for the second season in succession, an amazing feat given what other team We then have to finish in top four positions again and again and again… and win some titles in between. Make sure one or two of the other top 5 are displaced each season. Also nice for a change to see other teams slug it out for fourth spot… We continue like this and success is imminent ( trophies, players, revenues,) Manager, core players are there. Better stadium is next. We can’t hide the fact that something big is happening in N17…

    Didn’t catch first 30 of the game, but from what I saw till the 97th pleased me. Plalace only caused us problems without threatening our goal. We looked in full control, especially after they Eriksen stunner. Away fans amazing!! The changes in formation and player positions might have caught me out abit, but wonderful to see Poch using these to change games. A card up his sleeve.

    Spank Woolwich!!

    COYS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 28th April 2017 at 7:24 pm #

      Great to hear Daudi and glad that the site has helped you along the way :)

      The first half of the game was when Palace gave us the most troubles to be fair. They weren’t a serious threat on our goal, but slowed our play down and gave Poch plenty to think about. Fortunately, Poch and the players are both so well versed in our systems that we can change both shape and personnel on the fly and not miss a beat. That is impressive in itself and shows a well coached team where everyone knows not only their role, but everyone else’s too!

      Finishing top four again is quite an achievement. Next season will be much tougher in my opinion. Man Utd and Man City are going to lob some serious money around to back Pep and Jose so they have the teams they want. I’m enjoying their collapse, but Arsenal will have to respond in some way and they are supposed to have quite the war chest in reserve. I’m also expecting Liverpool to back Klopp with money as well. Add to this a season at our least favourite ground, Wembley, and next term will be our hardest season yet to maintain a top 4 position.

  5. YouShubes 28th April 2017 at 5:20 pm #

    Brilliant as always Mark for some reason I thought it was the Sakho injury that allowed Eriksen more space I am not so sure about zaha purely because if Everton paid 30 million for a 27 year old yannick bolassie then I think Palace would demand 40 million plus for him.

    Big Victor should have seen red as both were clear yellow card offences we were very lucky on Wednesday with the Decisions of the referee

    if dembele is injured and unfit for the North London Derby I would like to see Eriksen un the Luka role alongside Victor in the Sandro role in a 343

    Haze sat nav brain combined with the running of Sonny and Dele aka Sonny D 😉 could be pivotal

    PS not sure how you saw it but I thought Sissokho had very nervy feet…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 28th April 2017 at 7:32 pm #

      I thought the Sakho injury would affect the game as well, but the only thing it seemed to stop was him trying to being very physical and kick lumps out of Harry Kane. It wasn’t really a surprise that he injured himself trying to do this. It didn’t really affect Eriksen or the space he had for me.

      Yes Zaha’s price tag is increasing by the minute and the likes of Chelsea and City circling will only see it pushed higher and in to a potential bidding war. Reports are that he’d like to come to Spurs and I hope we get him, but with the money Chelsea and City have that may talk louder.

      Sissoko did have his usual clumsy game with the ball. He looks extremely lacking in confidence with it and his touch at the minute is one of the worst i’ve seen.
      Without the ball he was excellent at containing Zaha. Unfortunately, it takes more than that to be in the team each week!

  6. Toby4eva 29th April 2017 at 3:44 am #

    100% Daudi.

    I take in a lot more off the ball stuff since reading Mark’s great reads. I’m lucky that my son sees a lot off the ball as week so I’m benefitting on two fronts.

    I’m wearing my remote control out watching replays though.

    What used to take 90 minutes now takes hours…..

    😀

    COYS!!!!!