Dele Alli scores during Swansea 1-3 Spurs in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium, Wales.

Swansea 1-3 Spurs: breaking down a narrow opponent

A momentous comeback saw a narrow opponent opened up three times in the dying minutes as it finished Swansea 1-3 Spurs at the Liberty Stadium.

In the blink of an eye, frustration turned to jubilation. Once more the team never gave up to come through a tricky test. Struggling to break down a narrow and compact opponent, we attacked their weak centre back pairing. Opening them up to turn a one-goal deficit in to a two-goal lead, as it finished Swansea 1-3 Spurs at the Liberty Stadium.

Narrow and compact Swansea

Swansea have been revitalised under Paul Clement. He has installed a lot of structure, but here he was ultra defensive. Fighting a relegation battle, maybe it was out of necessity or maybe it was just out of respect for the opponent.

Clement had his team line up in a very compact and narrow 4-3-3 shape. Jack Cork, Tom Carroll and Leroy Fer made up a central trio with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Routledge tucking in from the wide positions.

Sigurdsson and Routledge tuck in to be narrow during Swansea 1-3 Spurs in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium.

Sigurdsson and Routledge tuck in to be narrow.

Swansea were determined to do two things. Firstly to congest the central areas that our 4-2-3-1 formation looks to overload. Secondly, to keep their midfield and defence close together to protect their weak centre back pairing.

In the Swansea vs Spurs match preview, we’d looked at how centre backs Alfie Mawson and Federico Fernandez had received little protection in recent matches. Swansea’s previous opponents have got at the pair too easily, opened them up and scored goals.

Clement was determined for that not to happen here. He persisted with his team’s ultra narrow shape and defensive low block position right throughout the match due to Swansea gaining an early lead.

Swansea maintained their narrow defensive setup during Swansea 1-3 Spurs in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium, Wales.

Swansea maintained their narrow defensive setup.

Swansea set up to counter attack

With the speed of Jordan Ayew and Wayne Routledge, Swansea were set up to counter attack. The South Wales side took the lead through the pair using their pace.

The goal came from a Swansea corner that turned in to a counter attack. The set piece was cleared and they were forced back to their goalkeeper.

Spurs were employing a very high line throughout the game. Swansea’s deep-lying approach meant we were constantly drawn up the pitch. However, with a back four, we were not respecting the Swans counter attack speed. A long, straight clearance from Lukas Fabianski sent the ball over our high line for Jordan Ayew to run on to.

Ben Davies was no match as he scampered back to try and check Ayew’s progress. The Ghanaian’s fleet feet circled the ball before he jinked back towards the by-line to centre for Routledge to jab home. Davies had been scared to get drawn in by the quicker Ayew. Toby Alderweireld was too soft when trying to stop Routledge getting across him.

Tinker man Pochettino

Tottenham huffed and puffed through much of the first half, but could not blow through the narrow Swansea block. The space was often in the wide areas. Although we used it, we didn’t have a target to aim for in the centre with Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli frequently floating around outside the box.

Mauricio Pochettino has become a tinker man recently. In Burnley 0-2 Spurs he shifted formations several times due to injuries and the state of the game. At the Liberty Stadium he rotated formations and the player positions within them.

In the second half, Pochettino went tinker-ballistic as he searched for a formation that would find a goal.

He immediately reverted from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-2-1. Eric Dier dropped in to the back line and Moussa Sissoko moved in to central midfield. Pochettino then brought on Vincent Janssen for the ineffective Sissoko and went 3-4-1-2. Desperate for a goal, Pochettino then reverted back to 4-2-3-1 with Jan Vertonghen at left back and Eric Dier as left-sided centre back. Finally, after the introduction of Georges-Kevin Nkoudou we had what only could be described as a 4-2-4 shape. Ahead of the back four Christian Eriksen partnered Mousa Dembele in the pivot. Ahead of them, Nkoudou joined Son Heung-Min, Dele Alli and Vincent Janssen up top as we chased the game.

Attacking the inside left channel

Throughout the game, Spurs successful attacks had often come through the inside left channel. The space between Kyle Naughton and Federico Fernandez was our most lucrative corridor.

Son Heung-Min in through the channel between Naughton and Fernandez during Swansea 1-3 Spurs in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium, Wales.

Son in through the channel between Naughton and Fernandez.

Dele Alli had floated in through here to receive Eric Dier’s chipped pass to spectacularly volley over from an overhead kick. Son Heung Min had also jetted down this lane to receive a ball from Christian Eriksen to go close. After Vincent Janssen came on, he rumbled through the inside left channel after Dele’s lobbed pass, only to clatter in to Lukas Fabianski, leaving the goalkeeper floored.

The substitution of Kyle Naughton opened up this channel for us. Leroy Fer was moved to right back and his lack of positional awareness was exposed.

Firstly, Christian Eriksen floated a ball over for Dele Alli to run off the back of Fer, only to see his header brilliantly tipped away by Fabianski.

Dele Alli runs off Leroy Fer to head at Lukas Fabianski during Swansea 1-3 Spurs in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium, Wales.

Dele Alli runs off Leroy Fer to head at Lukas Fabianski.

Leroy Fer got away with that one, but he would not do so again. Swansea maintained their compact and narrow shape as Christian Eriksen received the ball. The space, as it had been all evening, was out wide.

Kyle Walker free against a narrow defence during Swansea 1-3 Spurs in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium, Wales.

Kyle Walker free against a narrow defence.

The ball was shifted out to Kyle Walker who delivered a cross. Alfie Mawson cleared, but straight to Christian Eriksen. The Dane fired the ball back across goal via a deflection.

Leroy Fer had been marking Dele Alli in the build up, but as Mawson headed the ball, he switched off thinking that it had been cleared. Dele Alli sneaked in-behind the pondering Fer to prod Eriksen’s shot home.

Dele Alli runs off Leroy Fer to tap the ball in to the goal during Swansea 1-3 Spurs in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium, Wales.

Dele Alli runs off Leroy Fer to tap the ball in to the goal.

Spurs had the lifeline that we needed. Swansea were visibly rocked at coming so close to holding on.

Spurs attack the centre backs

The equaliser had come from Dele Alli running off Leroy Fer in to the inside left channel. Spurs then went to work on attacking the Swansea centre backs.

The Swans shape had been strong and compact to keep us out for most of the evening. The equaliser saw old habits return. Space started appearing between the lines and the centre backs were exposed to through balls.

Vincent Janssen had come on and given us the hold up play and target man we lacked in the first half. He would be instrumental in adding two more goals.

Moments after getting on level terms, the go-ahead goal followed. Swansea were once more trying to play narrowly, but their discipline had gone.

Gylfi Sigurdsson jumped up too high when Christian Eriksen had the ball to stop him passing out to the wing. Sigurdsson should’ve been denying the ball going inside through the middle. Tom Carroll also got drawn out too far. Expecting the ball to go to Kyle Walker on the flank, Carroll was over-compensating.

As a result, a lane opened up and Christian Eriksen immediately saw it. Eriksen fired in a pass to Vincent Janssen who had pinned centre back Alfie Mawson. Getting the ball straight on the centre backs exposed the space around them. Son Heung-Min darted down the empty channel that had been left by Carroll and Sigurdsson to calmly slot home and send the away end delirious.

Son Heung-Min races on to Janssen's flick to score during Swansea 1-3 Spurs in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium, Wales.

Son Heung-Min races on to Janssen’s flick to score.

Watch the video below to see a number of things. Firstly, Swansea’s compact and narrow shape. Secondly, the mistake of Gylfi Sigurdsson, as he over runs to try and stop Eriksen passing out wide. Thirdly, Tom Carroll over-compensating to mark out wide, allowing the ball inside of him straight to Janssen. Finally, Vincent Janssen pinning the centre back to flick through for Son’s run down the channel. A more beautifully worked move to pick on the exposed centre back you will not see.

A goal up, Spurs didn’t try and hang on to the slenderest of leads. A third goal came from a counter attack as we exposed the Swansea centre backs, who by now, were all over the place.

The goal came from a Swansea throw that was cleared up field by Georges-Kevin Nkoudou. The Frenchman then impressively raced forward, out-sprinting everyone to act as a decoy.

Nkoudou’s forward dart was powerful, but so to was Vincent Janssen’s hold-up play. The striker’s strength to hold off Alfie Mawson was exceptional, as was his perfect layoff. Dele Alli was the recipient as he drifted forward.

Swansea’s centre backs were now all over the place. Nkoudou’s lung-bursting sprint had taken Federico Fernandez out of the middle. Janssen’s hold up play had drawn Alfie Mawson towards him. The constantly moving eagle-eyed Christian Eriksen spotted that the middle of the pitch was now wide open and raced forward.

Swans centre backs leave huge hole through the middle during Swansea 1-3 Spurs in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium, Wales.

Swans centre backs leave huge hole through the middle.

Dele found the Dane with a pinpoint pass. Eriksen remained calm and composed to jink and slot the ball in to the corner of the net, Swansea 1-3 Spurs.

Three goals in five minutes and the away end, that was still bouncing from the two before, went crazy. The score was suddenly Swansea 1-3 Spurs. Eriksen had his customary goal in this fixture that his performance deserved.

The third goal was vital. In Spurs 3-2 Everton we’d almost thrown away a winning position at the end of the game. A two-goal cushion guarded against that. However, had Kyle Walker’s miscued clearance gone the other side of the post, we may have had another uncomfortable couple of minutes until the final whistle.

Swansea 1-3 Spurs overall

Two tough road victories have shown the resilience of this team and our resolute manager. In previous seasons, Mauricio Pochettino has been accused of lacking a plan B. However, once more this term, we’ve seen options C and D up his sleeve. Pochettino’s in-game formation tinkering, along with the player’s spirit, has seen us ascend to another level this campaign.

Vincent Janssen was pivotal after his introduction. Two good outings for the Dutchman in a week will do his confidence the world of good. He is just lacking the goal that his efforts deserve.

Christian Eriksen was the heartbeat of our attack once more. Everything good that we do starts at his feet. Traditionally Eriksen has looked burnt out by this stage of the campaign, but he is still buzzing around the pitch as fresh as a daisy.

Spurs have gained the most points from losing positions in the Premier League this season. Determination and resolve like this show why.

Final score: Swansea 1-3 Spurs.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.



Share this with other Spurs fans:

, , ,

21 Responses to Swansea 1-3 Spurs: breaking down a narrow opponent

  1. Johann Weissmann 6th April 2017 at 4:32 pm #

    This site is up there with the best Spurs’ sites around. Great analysis and balanced comment which pretty well always gets it right.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th April 2017 at 4:49 pm #

      Thank you Johann. It turned in to quite an epic match!

  2. Dave N 6th April 2017 at 5:36 pm #

    Before the Saints game you spoke about getting at the Centre backs – the first goal and the penalty came about by doing that.
    Before Burnley, you spoke of low crosses across the box being a good route to goal – Alli’s ball to Son evidenced that.

    In your preview for last nights game, you suggested getting at the Centre Backs again, and I’d say all three goals came from a central area.

    Well done Sir, top stuff!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th April 2017 at 6:07 pm #

      Thank you Dave, very kind of you to say so. Plenty of study goes in to the match previews, which will hopefully lead to a path in opposition scouting. The Watford one will be on the site tomorrow.

      • Mos 6th April 2017 at 8:40 pm #

        Its true, your pre-game analysis is so spot on, I often regurgitate your analysis to mates and act smug when I’m right (sorry I take full credit for that as if its my own) –

        Back to the match – I was certain we would get a goal late on, although 3 was beyond my imagination. Fergie time is ours now and its a great feeling. I’m also happy for Janassen, but I worry that his strong hold up play is causing his poor goal scoring, before he arrived I thought he would be better running onto the ball to finish than with back to goal (more Jermain Defoe like). Also it seems that his teammates (mainly Alli) get frustrated when he doesn’t pass – even if the shooting has been poor – surly its his job to virtually shoot on sight when in the box.

        Maybe Im overthinking. Looking forward to your post on Watford.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th April 2017 at 10:47 pm #

          Haha feel free to use it. ;)

          Yeah I share your concern with Janssen, as his good hold up play can take him away from the box to finish chances. I’m hoping that Poch is working on it in training, as we need both goals and hold up play from him. Poch coached Rickie Lambert well, so hopefully he can do the same with Janssen.

          Dele has been frustrated with both Janssen and Son in recent matches. It’s good that he wants to win, but he needs to tone it down a bit, as it’ll become destructive. Janssen looked like he was trying for his own shot last night to get a goal. Dele should be focussing on trying to help get him scoring rather than grabbing another goal himself. It’ll really help the team in the long run to get Janssen in the goals.

          • FreeFlow12 7th April 2017 at 6:54 pm #

            I remembered (Fulham away) when Lineker asked Berbatov about Kane’s brilliance. Berba said that Kane has teammates that knows his playing style. Jenas also wrote about the same thing in his column. So why can’t the team play to Janssen’s style, create for him and help him to score? Maybe down to luck or the chemistry is still in progress?

            Dele’s visible frustration is puzzling. It’s not a concern if it’s Son, but Janssen is still new and adapting to the league! For Spurs sake, he should try to work it out with Janssen like he did with Kane.

            It would be lovely to watch more Son and Janssen partnership. Seems like they can work well together on the pitch. The next ballistic 3-4-1-2 Mr. Pochettino?

            • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th April 2017 at 7:22 pm #

              I think it is still a work in progress with Janssen. The squad obviously train together with him, but game situations can be diffferent depending on the opposition’s defensive schemes and reactions to stop us playing. These will obviously be different from what he and the team train against.

              I think Dele was just frustrated as he wanted the chance to shoot. He wasn’t in a great position to be fair and Janssen appeared to hold the ball looking for a better passing option or even his own shot. I can’t remember if it was GKN or Son making a backpost run, but it appeared as if Janssen was waiting for this to materialise and it would’ve been the best passing option as they would’ve had a tap in. When the passing lane didn’t open up, Janssen just looked slow and ponderous, hence Dele’s reaction. Dele’s passion is good, but he needs to cool it a bit.

              Interesting to see if Janssen and Son can work together. If go 3-4-1-2 it will mean dropping one of Dele or Eriksen…

          • SonShine 7th April 2017 at 7:07 pm #

            I remembered (Fulham away) when Lineker asked Berbatov about Kane’s brilliance. Berba said that Kane has teammates that knows his playing style. Jenas also wrote about the same thing in his column. So why can’t the team play to Janssen’s style, create for him and help him to score? Maybe down to luck or the chemistry is still in progress?

            Dele’s visible frustration is puzzling. It’s not a concern if it’s Son, but Janssen is still new and adapting to the league! For Spurs sake, he should try to work it out with Janssen like he did with Kane.

            It would be lovely to watch more Son and Janssen partnership. Seems like they can work well together on the pitch. The next ballistic 3-4-1-2 Mr. Pochettino?

  3. Toby4eva 6th April 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    Just more brilliant analysis.

    Agree 100% Johann.

    We are lucky lads to have this site when our team is flying.

    Three big Saturdays ahead.

    If we can knock over Watford and the Cherries, with 71 points we will be nailed on for auto CL qualification.

    Then a full week to prepare for the mega semi.

    One other small advantage that we have in the run home is that based on currently published fixtures the lads don’t have to set foot out of London until the trip to Hull on the final day.

    The only other trip will be Leicester.

    It will be in our interests for them to get past Atletico – and who would be game to say they can’t do it!

    Then at the end of the month we can put the icing on the cake!

    Chelsea can’t afford any mistakes the way we are playing.

    Love the Poch tinkerer observations Mark – he has had a stellar season.

    COYS!!!!!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th April 2017 at 11:34 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words Toby4eva and some good points. I too am hoping Leicester stays in the Champions League as they have been back to their pesky best since their shocking treatment and ditching of Ranieiri. I’m sure they’ll still be up for a game against us after last season’s “banter” during the run in.

      Im looking forward to Chelsea in the cup semi-final. Out if the teams left in, I think our style matches up the best with them, so we have a good chance of turning them over. COYS!

  4. Chas 6th April 2017 at 11:33 pm #

    Spot on again, Prof!
    I have never seen Naughton play like he did. Their best player and I don’t think it was a coincidence that we powered home after he went off. Their shape disappeared immediately.
    And surely it has rammed home to Poch, once and for all, that Son as a striker simply doesn’t work.
    Despite Janssen’s “rumbling” (I liked that!), he deserves a start against Watford.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th April 2017 at 11:56 pm #

      Naughton was certainly motivated to put in a good shift against his former employers. I’m not sure why Paul Clement put Leroy Fer to right back, as it was a disaster when he did it against Bournemouth. Fer is too attack-minded and not switched on enough defensively. Thankfully for us, Clement moved Fer to right back again when Naughton went off and it provided our route back in to the game.

      Son can work as a striker, but only against teams that will come out and give us space to run in to. Teams that park the bus, like Swansea did, he is not good against them and Janssen should be preferred. I expect similar tactics from Watford, so Janssen should get the nod. More on that in the match preview.

      • YouShubes 7th April 2017 at 9:45 am #

        I really think a return to 4231 is really needed as Watford will park the bus, not sure about the Cherries as they are relatively safe so will not be scared to lose but at the same time any chance they will be on their holidays?

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th April 2017 at 10:25 am #

          I’ve seen Bournemouth’s last three games and they’re actually playing well and fighting hard. I think Chelsea will be in for a tough game, which hopefully they’ve underestimated and will come a cropper.

          I think 3-4-2-1 with wingbacks and Janssen up top is the way to go against Watford. I’ll explain more about this and why in the match preview later…

  5. Matt 7th April 2017 at 12:04 am #

    Great analysis as ever Mark. Delighted for Janssen, I really believe he has a future, plenty of players take time to settle and his touch is pretty good, lovely pass for Son. Hope Wanyama is back at the WE, thought we missed his athleticism a bit and I like us starting 3 at the back with dier. Dele, Son and Janssen looking very dangerous!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th April 2017 at 10:15 am #

      Yes I’m really hoping Janssen can get a goal or two as he’s doing everything else well. Unfortunately for Vincent, Kane is coming back soon and it’ll curb his playing time again, which may knock his confidence.

  6. Erik Zen 7th April 2017 at 8:03 am #

    Confirmed again as my all time favourite Spurs site… i think the writing style is also coming into its own as Spurs get better! Reading that was like watching the game all over again. “Tinker ballistic” is destined to enter the dictionary.

    As a life long Spurs fan I can’t remember such consistency, strength and resilience.

    I very much doubt Chelsea will slip up –which makes it all the more incredible how we are fighting at cup final level for each game. Considering how the loss of title hope last season caused collapse, and considering how many of our supposedly integral players have been out.

    Wouldn’t want to see us cope without Eriksen, I think he’s the one irreplaceable factor. But who knows, with this mentality we might even survive that.

    Was great to see Nkoudou come on, would love to see him get some more minutes.

    Can’t wait for the next one!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th April 2017 at 10:21 am #

      Thank you Erik Zen, I’m hoping tinker-ballistic catches on ;)

      The resilience Poch has instilled is fantastic and, as you say, we’ve not thrown the towel in even though Chelsea have one hand on the trophy. Anything can happen and I believe we have the fight to want to stay in touch in case it does.

      Eriksen has been immense and would get my vote for player of the season at the minute. He’s integral to everything good that we do and a joy to watch. And, he’s still only 25!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th April 2017 at 3:24 pm #

      nice read, thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply