A mesmerising performance saw us dominate the Canaries throughout the 90 minutes of our Premier League clash at White Hart Lane. Our use of triangles and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s runs through the inside left channel, saw it finish Spurs 2 Norwich 0 and it could have even been more.
Tottenham set up and tactics
Andre Villas-Boas once more went 4-3-3 and the most interesting feature was the midfield trio of Moussa Dembele, Paulinho and Christian Eriksen.
Dembele was the hub, but the roles played by Paulinho and Eriksen evolved as the ball was moved from the defensive to the attacking third.
When Michael Dawson or Jan Vertonghen were in possession, both Dembele and Paulinho dropped in to form a triangle with the centre back, allowing any press to be negotiated. When the ball was here, Christian Eriksen took up a central role to build the triangle in to a diamond. The centre back at the base, Dembele and Paulinho in front, with the Dane at the top.
As the ball was transitioned from the defensive third forward, Christian Eriksen floated to the left and Paulinho moved to the right. This flipped the triangle from having two at the base to just one, as the Dane was floating from the left and Paulinho the right.
These two filled these lanes and they were especially prevalent on the second goal, which we’ll look at in a minute.
This triangle in midfield was also fluid, as when Dembele moved forward to the head, Eriksen and Paulinho would fill the left and right channels at the base.
This had the effect of pulling the Norwich markers all over the place, as they wanted to sit deep, but the rotation pulled them out of position.
Norwich set up and tactics
In the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Norwich the biggest danger from the Canaries was the right-sided combination of Steven Whittaker and Robert Snodgrass. The pair have combined well so far this season, with Snodgrass cutting inside to cross and Whittaker offering options on the overlap.
Here Norwich wanted to play down this right side, but were constantly pushed back by the Tottenham press and our high full backs.
The energy with which Norwich were closed down was impressive for this early in the season and resulted in us controlling the game with 70% possession. When the ball was lost, it was quickly pursued and won back. A number of times this was in the Canaries’ half.
The result of the pressure wasn’t just turnovers from tackles, but also forcing the Canaries to clear the ball long, as they had no short passing options.
As a result, Spurs not only won the ball back, but Norwich’s persistence in trying to work something with Snodgrass down the right saw him often thwarted by the excellent Danny Rose.
Ironically their best chance of the first half arrived when they actually worked a ball down the left and in-behind Kyle Walker for Nathan Redmond to run on to. Ricky van Wolfswinkel met his cross, but Rose blocked his effort.
Christian Eriksen, he floats from the left
Christian Eriksen was impressive on his debut and here he floated from the inside left channel in to central areas as he had done for Ajax.
His movement was excellent and as highlighted in the clips above, he formed a nice partnership with Paulinho. Whilst the Brazilian was bursting forward from his staring positions alongside Moussa Dembele, Eriksen was moving outside as Gylfi Sigurdsson moved in. Intriguingly, he also darted in to central areas ahead of Roberto Soldado whenever the Spaniard came short.
As looked at in the article “What Christian Eriksen brings to Spurs” the Danish international is not a passing trequartista, but a more direct player. Here that was on display from the off, as he dribbled in to the area, nut-megged one defender, beat another and then got a shot away. It was one of three efforts in the match and although his passing earned him an assist, goals will also follow.
Gylfi Sigurdsson fills the inside left channel
Although our pressing and movement of our midfield three was impressive, the defining moments arrived when Gylfi Sigurdsson ran through the inside left channel.
As looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Norwich, the Canaries centre backs are excellent in the air, but passes on the ground through the inside channels can hurt them. Just as Everton had opened them up with Pienaar and Jelavic through the inside left channel, the runs of Gylfi Sigurdsson did that here.
The first arrived after a sweeping pass from Moussa Dembele out to Danny Rose on the left. His early curling ball found Roberto Soldado in a central area. The Spaniard’s control to chest it down and lay it off for Christian Eriksen was superb. The play had developed so quickly, that the Dane was still in his central position with Dembele having received the ball from the centre backs moments earlier.
His pass to Sigurdsson rampaging through the inside left channel between Michael Turner and Steven Whittaker was exquisite, as was Sigurdsson’s finish.
The goal, like many of our chances this season, was created by a pass to a runner cutting through the defence. This allows the cutter to shoot or provide a cross or square the ball from a shorter distance (usually inside the box), thus increasing the chances of scoring.
The Icelander’s second also arrived after a Christian Eriksen pass got a runner in-behind. This time the Dane was floating in from the left as he picked out a pass to Paulinho. The Brazilian had charged forward from his position alongside Moussa Dembele to fill the inside right channel.
With Paulinho now in the space behind the full back, he could pick out a short, low-driven cross to Sigurdsson who had ran the inside left channel once more.
Gylfi started off by jetting through the space between Michael Turner and Steven Whittaker, but then finished off the move by getting beyond the full back.
With Norwich sitting deep, the ball had to be moved quickly in transition to open them up and on both occasions it was.
Spurs 2 Norwich 0 conclusions
There was a lot of impressive work going on here, something echoed by Andre Villas-Boas in his post match comments.
The pressure applied without the ball was immense and both the right and left flanks did well to push their opposite numbers back. Sigurdsson and Rose did an especially good job to keep Norwich’s usual combination of Snodgrass and Whittaker quiet.
The fluid nature of our triangles was key in drawing the opposition markers out in to areas they did not want to be. Christian Eriksen and Paulinho were at the heart of it, moving to the inside channels from their starting positions when the ball was with the centre backs.
When in possession, the ball was being moved quickly to hit the cutting runner. Not only for both of our goals, but also in creating other chances too.
Overall, this was an excellent performance and the score could have been more were it not for Sebastien Bassong. The former Spurs man made several key challenges to stop Soldado, blocking his shot in the first half and sliding in to stop crosses reaching him for tap-ins in the second.
Final score: Spurs 2 Norwich 0