Son Heung-Min scores a hat trick during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup Quarter-Final tie at White Hart Lane.

Spurs 6-0 Millwall: stretching a narrow setup

The Lions’ narrow formation was stretched in two ways as our FA Cup Quarter-Final tie finished Spurs 6-0 Millwall at White Hart Lane.

Millwall came to make the game tight and compact, whilst Spurs endeavoured to pull their narrow formation all over the place. The score finished Spurs 6-0 Millwall with all six goals from stretching the Lions in two ways.

Millwall compact and narrow shape

Our Spurs vs Millwall match preview scrutinised the Lions’ compact and narrow shape. Away from home, it was no surprise to see them once more adopt their usual setup. Millwall were determined to block out the centre of the pitch with a mass of bodies in two banks of four.

Narrow set up leaves wingback Trippier free during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup.

Narrow set up leaves wingback Trippier free.

Content to concede space in the wide areas, Millwall would often leave defending our wingbacks to the wide midfielder on that side. The issue for the Lions was that this player was often slow to get out and mark, creating space for crosses.

Left midfielder slow to get out and challenge Trippier during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup at White Hart Lane.

Left midfielder slow to get out and challenge Trippier.

We said Spurs needed to attack these spaces to win the game. We did and five goals were the result of getting the ball wide early.

Harry Kane leaves the game

The injury to Harry Kane is devastating on our season. The long-term affect is unknown, but they are huge boots to fill. In the context of this game alone, it actually served to improve how we combated the Millwall shape.

Mauricio Pochettino had selected Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min behind Harry Kane. In leaving Christian Eriksen on the bench, we had three players that like to run forward and no one to pick the passes through to them. Essentially we were running right in to the heart of Millwall’s mass of centrally located bodies.

The unfortunate injury to Harry Kane meant that Christian Eriksen was introduced much earlier than anticipated. Pochettino switched from a 3-4-2-1 to a 3-4-1-2 with Eriksen sitting behind Alli and Son. This got the creative player we were going to need in to the game. It also pushed two players up the pitch that were going to run in-behind and now occupy both Millwall centre backs.

Given only 10 minutes were on the clock, it was a quick and smart move from Mauricio Pochettino. Especially so given the criticism he has received for the use of his substitutes bench. It would have been easy to put on Vincent Janssen in a like-for-like change, but Pochettino addressed an early tactical issue.

Creating space for Christian Eriksen

Now in the game, Christian Eriksen started to buzz between the lines. Stretching Millwall both vertically up the pitch and horizontally across it created the space for him.

Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min pushing on to the two centre backs stretched Millwall vertically with their runs in-behind. The Lions were also being pulled across the pitch by our use of wingbacks. Millwall were trying to mark them with their wide midfielder to keep their back four together and compact. Racing into the wide areas before they could react, Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies stretched Millwall across the pitch.

Wingback Davies, Son and Dele create the pocket for Eriksen during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup at White Hart Lane.

Wingback Davies, Son and Dele create the pocket for Eriksen.

The different movements created space for Eriksen to play in the pockets of space created and wreak havoc.

Spurs get two goals from wide

Pulling Millwall in two different directions created the space Christian Eriksen needed to get the vital first goal. Son and Dele were occupying the centre backs. Davies and Trippier had flooded the space in the wide areas. It created a huge pocket for Eriksen to drop in to and receive the ball to get our attack moving.

Pocket created between the lines for Eriksen during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup.

Pocket created between the lines for Eriksen.

Play moved quickly from Eriksen in acres between the lines out to a wide-open Kieran Trippier on the other flank. This pulled Millwall from one side of the pitch to the other.

Trippier delivered a high cross from the right, which was cleared straight up in the air. Millwall’s two centre backs had been shifted by our quick switch of the ball and were now occupying the same space. This afforded another nice pocket for Eriksen to drift in to and sensationally fire home whilst on the spin, 1-0.

Eriksen in space fires the ball in to the goal during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup at White Hart Lane.

Eriksen in space fires the ball in to the goal.

Making good use of both runs in-behind and the space out wide, we added a second. Eric Dier won the ball back in defence and launched a quick counter attack.  Son had drifted in to the vacant space out on the right. Dele Alli was powerfully running in-behind.

Son free on the right draws CB Cooper out during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup.

Son free on the right draws CB Cooper out.

To the annoyance of Dele Alli, who had raced in to space at the far post, Son’s first touch was horrible. However, what Son’s poor control did was draw out centre back Jake Cooper. Millwall’s game plan didn’t even want their full backs to be drawn out, let alone their centre backs. However, Cooper had no choice, Millwall had been stretched. He had to try and stop Son’s run.

The South Korean is much more fleet of foot than the gigantic centre back. Stepping over the ball and then darting inside, Son’s feet were just too quick. He unleashed an unstoppable curling shot in to the far corner, 2-0.

Spurs go in-behind

Two goals up from getting the ball in to the wide spaces before a narrow Millwall team could react, Spurs then stretched them vertically by going in-behind.

We’d looked at the Lions conceding chances to teams running in-behind with no pressure on the passer in the Spurs vs Millwall match preview. Playing three centre backs, Spurs could navigate Millwall’s two strikers and would thus have the time and space to attempt this.

The signs were there early. On fourteen minutes, no pressure on Kieran Trippier saw him spray a 40-yard pass for a classic Dele Alli out-to-in run. Dele got his head to the ball to send it past goalkeeper Tom King, but couldn’t beat the recovering defender behind.

A minute in to the second half and Eric Dier had the time and space to pick out the same run. This time Dele cushioned the ball perfectly, but then attempted a weird flick with the outside of his right boot on the turn as his momentum took him away.

Eric Dier long pass finds Dele Alli's run in-behind during Spurs 6-0 MIllwall in the FA Cup at White Hart Lane.

Eric Dier long pass finds Dele Alli’s run in-behind.

The third try was the charm. No pressure on Kieran Trippier allowed him to attempt to find Son Heung-Min’s run in-behind. The South Korean’s blistering pace got him beyond the Millwall defence. His poise and guided finish was simply sublime.

No pressure on Trippier sees him find Son's run in-behind to score during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup.

No pressure on Trippier sees him find Son’s run in-behind.

Back to attacking the flanks

Two goals from stretching Millwall horizontally across the pitch and one from vertically going over the top, we went back to utilising the space on the flanks.

Dele Alli added a fourth after Harry Winks quickly got the ball out wide to Kieran Trippier in acres of space. The pass, combined with Trippier’s movement, stretched Millwall to create another pocket for Christian Eriksen to work in.

Trippier out wide creates the space for Eriksen during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup.

Trippier out wide creates the space for Eriksen.

Trippier laid the ball off for Eriksen to drive a low cross for Dele Alli to tap in at the back post, 4-0.

With the tie put to bed, Vincent Janssen entered the game and broke his duck from open play. The left flank was the focus this time as Millwall were caught trying to press us up the pitch. Eric Dier just managed to slide in and send the ball back to Michel Vorm, but our goalkeeper’s excellent pass set us on our way. The ball went from Eriksen to Davies to a wide-open Son out on the flank in seconds.

Son in space down the wing finds Janssen to score during Spurs 6-0 Millwall in the FA Cup.

Son in space down the wing finds Janssen.

Son had once more isolated a centre back retreating towards his own goal for fear of the South Korean’s quick feet. This created separation and space for Vincent Janssen to drift in to and neatly guide the ball in to the near post. A great finish for a player out of form and seemingly out of contention.

Mobbed by his team mates and with White Hart Lane on its feet, the jubilant celebration was heart-warming to see. It’s clear that Janssen remains popular amongst the squad and his own relief was palpable. Could this kick start his Spurs career at a time when we need him to come through?

Five up and with Janssen getting on the score sheet, Moussa Sissoko also gave us a glimpse of his promise. Introduced in the pivot, Sissoko burst forward on a powerful run not seen since Euro 2016.

Whilst Sissoko was on his way, Christian Eriksen had drifted in to the space beyond right back Shaun Cummings. Sissoko found Eriksen, who had time to pick out Son Heung-Min’s run to the back post.

Eriksen in space beyond the RB picks out a cross to Son during Spurs 6-0 Millwall on the FA Cup at White Hart Lane.

Eriksen in space beyond the RB picks out a cross to Son.

Son connected well on the volley, but Tom King will not want to see the replay back as he spilled the shot between his legs and in to the net. A miserable end for the keeper, but a deserved first Tottenham hat trick for Son. The goal made it Spurs 6-0 Millwall and completed the rout.

Spurs 6-0 Millwall overall

Spurs are through to the FA Cup Semi-Finals, but at what cost?

Harry Kane’s injury has the potential to derail our season. Kane going off did make way for Christian Eriksen to enter and open up the game up. Son and Dele Alli could stretch the Millwall centre backs vertically, Trippier and Davies horizontally. The dual movement opened up space for Eriksen to work in the pockets created by pulling a narrow Millwall team in two different directions.

Final score: Spurs 6-0 Millwall.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.



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26 Responses to Spurs 6-0 Millwall: stretching a narrow setup

  1. Daudi 13th March 2017 at 9:46 pm #

    I’d prefer Son to start in Kane’s place and Janseen off the bench. But seeing him walk of on his own is a good thing right? Hopefully less time out than the lat injurt. Son running the channels was a joy to see, especially on Trippiers side… and Trippier always impressing when he deputises.
    The change of formation has allowed Dier to get a role in the team when it was initially thought he would be on the bench a lot more, like that he’s holding his own, my only worry is how he seems to overcomplicate things and get in trouble, in this game there were a couple of instances, a few weeks back to the Liverpool game and an error by him when he could have kept it simple led to a goal i think. Dont mean to single him out, just an observation, hope he learns by his mistakes, just keep it simple.
    Good rout to raise the spirits, now hope Wembley will be kind to us as this is a different cup. Less pressure I presume..
    COYS…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th March 2017 at 11:19 pm #

      I’m really not sure with Kane’s injury. My first thoughts were ligaments and 4-6 weeks out but we’ll have to wait for the official news.

      Three at the back does give Dier a role in the team and it’s part of the reason I like the formation, as he’s too good a player not to include. As you point out he does make errors, but I’m hoping, like last season, that a continued run in the same role sees him rapidly improve. He’s been moved around a lot this season and it’s messed with him after consistently being a defensive midfielder last year.

      Chelsea in the semi final, should be a good one!

  2. Cleanpea 13th March 2017 at 9:48 pm #

    Good read, Mark! Keep on keeping on! :) COYS

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th March 2017 at 11:19 pm #

      Thank you mate ;)

  3. Daudi 13th March 2017 at 9:49 pm #

    Also a mention on young Master Winks, a good midfield schemer from that deep role…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th March 2017 at 11:20 pm #

      Another good outing

  4. Chas 14th March 2017 at 3:56 am #

    It all worked out as you predicted, Mark (except the score… I was closer!)
    It’s not hard to compare our results without Kane to those of the past 10 weeks or so with him, but there’s one point that a lot of ‘pundits’ are missing in their doom predictions.
    Eriksen.
    In 2017 he’s in MUCH better form than he was before Xmas when Harry was out.
    When Eriksen is on his game we are a potent force. When he’s not, the team is carrying a passenger and the whole attack looks less than ordinary.
    Here’s hoping his goal means he has found his shooting boots again… and his corners were vastly improved against Millwall, too.
    We’re looking OK.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th March 2017 at 1:05 pm #

      Lol fair play on the predictions. I was surprised by how many we ended up scoring against them. Very good point about Eriksen. He is coming in to some form at a time when we will need him to step up. If he can score the odd goal and create a consistent supply line then he can help plug the gap of Harry’s absence.

  5. Toby4eva 14th March 2017 at 9:56 am #

    Great read again Mark.

    Sorry everyone, I’m not usually a rampant sycophant.

    Just for fun, I checked a few other Spurs centric blogs today, thinking that my enthusiasm for Mark’s work may be a tad, er, over the top.

    I found some sound narrative – meat and two veg stuff – that a simple “ball follower ” like me would likely scribe.

    But no – nothing close to the quality of the work to be found at this domain.

    So not only have I experienced two wonderful seasons to share with my sons and close Spurs mates – I’ve now found Mark’s excellent work.

    I recently made comment to my son that finding this site was a “cathartic” experience.

    If that also sounds OTT, just search “social catharthis”.

    Excuse me everyone – but credit where credit is due.

    And so to the Gaffer (great move putting Chris on early), Sonny (wow) and Trips.

    Not often I get team selections within the correct solar system, but after reading Mark’s expose of the highly likely congested Millwall central defensive set up – I fancied Trips to get plenty of room to groove.

    And he went better than Keef on “Let It Bleed”!

    That was his best game in a Spurs shirt (I seem to be writing that a bit lately) and his Tom Brady-esque rifled lob onto Sonny’s right booted volley for the third goal was stratospheric.

    I’m tipping that the investment at Enfield is getting a return.

    They had a day out on the right.

    Dele again made a delightful burst into the box for the fourth and Vinnie finally did the business for the fifth.

    But it was the manner of the victory that was important.

    We were never remotely in danger.

    Chelsea is a massive draw.

    We beat them and we simply must go on to lift it.

    A final against Woolwich would be incredible.

    This is the real litmus test of this team now.

    The next six games.

    Come late April we could be already CL qualified and be in a FAC Final.

    Heady stuff.

    Loving every micro second.

    COYS!!!!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th March 2017 at 1:20 pm #

      Thank you for the kind words and glowing testament Toby4eva. Very glad you’ve found the blog and enjoy chatting about the games. Its a lot of work, but worth it for the comments and the fans that i’ve met around the world.

      Trippier had another very good game. There was the occasional misfired cross, as their was with Son and his touches – see just before his first goal – but overall he does put in more good balls than bad. The pass on Son’s second goal was a thing of beauty, as was the finish. I would be highly surprised if other teams are not in for him trying to tempt him away with the promise of a regular starting role.

      The victory was much easier than i expected. Chelsea in the next round was actually my preference. I think we match up extremely well with them despite them being this all-conquering juggernaut. I’d be wary of facing Man City. They have the best attacking front three in the Premier League right now and I think they’ve improved since we somehow got away with that 2-2 at the Etihad. They are playing in a more Guardiola stye and the penny seems to have dropped for a number of their players. They are still not great defensively, athough they are keeping more clean sheets since Caballero came in, but they can score 4 or 5 on good teams and not have to worry too much about the back door right now. As for Arsenal, I’d rather face them in the final. Although they are in a huge spin at the moment, they always seems up for us and i’d rather take them on with Kane fully healthy. Wembley here we come!

  6. Erik Zen 14th March 2017 at 7:12 pm #

    Hey Mark, thanks for the top quality analysis as always.

    Trippier was so good, his delivery is really fantastic. Almost thinking the unthinkable, could he be better than Walker? I’m pretty sure there’s no way of crowbarring them both into one side.

    And also, what are your views on the best way to go forward without Harry?

    Thanks for all your scintillating work!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 14th March 2017 at 7:46 pm #

      Hi Erik Zen, Trippier was very good. I still have Walker ahead of him as I think he still has the edge. Walker is faster and has better defensive instincts. Where Trippier does have the advantage is being able to cross on the run. This is where Walker usually falls down and something he needs to work on. He is usually travelling too fast for his own good when trying to cross on the move. Dead ball or if he can stop the ball, then he is fine, but on the move he just seems to struggle.

      I’m with you in that I can’t see them being shoe horned in to the same side. Definitely not with three centre backs anyway as we only have one wide player.

      Without Kane I would go with either Son or Janssen. Son against opponents where i’d want to run in-behind and down the channels eg Leicester, West Brom, Burnley. Janssen where i’d want a target man eg Bournemouth, Man Utd and possibly Chelsea.

      Not the most exciting of suggestions I know, but we are limited and I feel its a case of horses for courses until Harry comes back. What do you think?

  7. YouShubes 15th March 2017 at 6:48 am #

    I think two up front especially with our home games can work very well… not sure if we can employ this on the road

    I think Eriksen benefited more from the pockets of space that Winks was able to to create with his passing to Trippier in particular…Think it was that Chelsea game that highlighted the understanding that Eriksen has with his right wingback

    My question is with playing two up front would you sacrifice the power Dembele bring to midfield for the forward passing Winks offers from deep?

    On a side note the Chelsea Man City game will be interesting as a neutral as if does seem the penny has dropped for Guardiola’s team but I think defensively they are still quite poor and can get found out if yous put them on the back foot

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th March 2017 at 5:52 pm #

      Good question Shubes. I think if playing two upfront then Dembele is a must to ensure ball recovery, retention and be resistant to being pressed. The use of two strikers negates one midfield place so I would favour the Dembele/Wanyama combination. The only time I would consider using Winks instead of Dembele if we are to play two strikers would be against teams that I would anticpate a huge amount of possession (ie 65%+) and them to park the bus.

      Man City’s attack has looked excellent in the last month, and as mentioned above, to me its currently the most potent in the Premier League. However, they haven’t really played anyone in that span who can put a lot of pressure on them. The Liverpool game will be an interesting watch to see how they react to another high pressing side and should give us some real answers.

  8. Erik Zen 15th March 2017 at 10:10 am #

    Agree with the dual options of Janssen as target man / Son to run behind, but also think it might be interesting to start with both, perhaps against a team with a more fluid / less packed midfield.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th March 2017 at 5:55 pm #

      Starting with both might give us a good pull/push effect as one comes preferes to come towards the ball (Janssen) and one away from it (Son). The issue is who do you drop to accommodate them: Dele, Eriksen or someone else?

  9. Daudi 15th March 2017 at 8:08 pm #

    Playing two up top, it would be a hard decide who btn Eriksen and Dele to drop. But I think it would be more preferable to Have Eriksen work behind the striking duo, picking out passes and all, he fits the position as where Dele likes to play off a striker. But who wants to both Dele and Eriksen at the same time unless one of them needs some rest…

    I sense a general 343 as is the norm for the next game, my guess is Dele and Eriksen on either side of Son, but my usual feeling is that with Son we play a false nine, coz he ain’t no target man… that will mean Son and Dele up top and Eriksen working behind… okay, so I’ve chosen Son and Dele as two up front, not exactly wise but just came about is I was writing, that would be how it would pan out with the front three I choose… Add Janseen to the choice of who to play from the start and its a good selection headache to have.
    Let’s see what Pochettino will have for us come match day.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th March 2017 at 11:07 pm #

      I think Eriksen behind Son and Dele will be the way Poch goes after its success against Millwall. Janssen off the bench to shake things up a bit.

  10. YouShubes 15th March 2017 at 10:36 pm #

    Sorry by two upfront I mean Alli and Son…

    Instead of 3421 3412

    It will mean Eriksen having to put his foot in and act as a presser but i think Wanyama is our Kante and against Bus Parkers we play two forward passers being protected by 1 DM.

  11. Erik Zen 16th March 2017 at 11:17 am #

    Agree with YouShubes, as Wanyama is a monster who covers insane amounts of ground, and also our three defenders tend to push forward.

    I doubt this formation will ever happen but I’d be interested to see:

    Jan, Toby, Eric
    Walker / Davies
    Wanyama
    Eriksen Alli Son
    Janssen

    That would be interesting to see against a team with a less packed midfield.

    Would never drop Eriksen as everything good we do (barring the long balls into the box) goes through him.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th March 2017 at 2:04 pm #

      Very aggressive lineup!

  12. Toby4eva 16th March 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    I have always fancied Eriksen playing a tad deeper and more central, more like Luca in the old days. But Moose is nailed on in the centre of the park alongside Victor – and Winks is clearly going to get more game time as his understudy.

    Last year we struggled to break down the bus parkers at the Lane, but this year the 3/4/3 has given us the ability to run teams around and force them to lose shape. Mark has eloquently explained a few flavours of this.

    Sonny on the right worked beautifully with Trips in their own postal code on Sunday, but the Southamptons of this world may not be that consistently compact, albeit still hard to break down.

    Rather than play vertically on the inside channel to Sonny, getting the wing backs deep to the goal line to play to a target man (Vinny) in the small rectangle might be a successful play against the right teams.

    Vinny has been involved in more hold ups than John Dillinger, so Dele and Chris running riot off him is appealing.

    In that starting scenario Sonny comes on at 60/70 to expose already stretched and tiring defences and Winks brings on the slide rule to find his vertical or diagonal runs.

    There ain’t too many more options, but we have the perfect run of games to transplant more fun and games from Enfield to game day to cover for the loss of the Great One over the next four weeks.

    Intriguing.

    COYS!!!!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th March 2017 at 2:08 pm #

      Some good points Toby4eva. I think we’ll see Son, and potentially Dele up alongside him against Southampton, as they have been conceding a lot through their centre backs. More on that to come in the match preview…

  13. Toby4eva 17th March 2017 at 10:30 am #

    I’m salivating Mark.

    Not because I haven’t eaten since Tuesday…

    Is Harry still alive?

    Is Erik Lamela in our solar system?

    Will Leicester beat Barcelona 1-0 in the 2017 Champions League Final?

    Will Pep stand down?

    Where the bloody hell is Brian Cox when you ACTUALLY need him?

    COYS!!!!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 17th March 2017 at 11:30 am #

      Haha it’ll be out soon! Along with a have you seen Erik Lamela milk carton?

  14. Toby4eva 17th March 2017 at 10:41 am #

    Seriously folks

    Hats off to Spesh.

    Only 22 goals conceded in 26 games.

    It’s a testament to his genius that the mega pound infusion of Pogba and Zlatan have propelled them to a top 7 low of 1.5 goals per game.

    Wow.

    Wee.

    COYS!!!!

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