Spurs 3 Maribor 1: AVB does a Redknapp

Spurs 3 Maribor 1

Our first win in this season’s Europa League saw Andre Villas-Boas revert to a similar formation and tactics used by Harry Redknapp, as we won easily Spurs 3 Maribor 1.

Andre Villas-Boas made several changes to the side that lost to Wigan, this time opting for a 4-4-2 system. Hugo Lloris returned between the sticks, with Jan Vertonghen partnering Michael Dawson in front of him. Tom Carroll came in to midfield to play alongside Tom Huddleston, whilst Emmanuel Adebayor got his first start of the season up front with Jermain Defoe.

Maribor tactics

Maribor offered very little apart from their goal, which came through some very good fortune. I speculated in my 5 keys to Spurs vs Maribor, whether they would come out and press, as they did away to Lazio and in the first half of the home tie with us? Or whether they would sit back and soak up pressure, like they did in the second half of our match in Slovenia?

Here they defended from the halfway line, content to give us possession in our own half. There were some phases of sporadic pressing from Robert Beric and Marcos Tavares in the first period and also when they were chasing the game at 2-1, but overall the Maribor approach was to defend from the centre stripe.

Their goal was scored during one of these pressing phases. Marcos Tavares was making it difficult for Kyle Naughton and the left back played a blind back-pass to Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman, with Robert Beric only yards away, tried to dribble back past the Maribor centre forward, but the Slovenian got a foot to it and the ball rolled in to the Tottenham net.

Spurs formation

Andre Villas-Boas has been hearing it for a few days since he substituted Jermain Defoe for Emmanuel Adebayor when a goal down against Wigan. Here, he opted to partner the two upfront in a 4-4-2 formation, which operated similarly to the one used by Harry Redknapp at times last season.

Redknapp did prefer 4-4-1-1 with Rafael van Der Vaart sat behind Emmanuel Adebayor. However, he did at times go 4-4-2 with Adebayor partnered by Louis Saha or Jermain Defoe. The system looked good when rolling Newcastle over 5-0, but also was exposed when losing 1-0 to Everton, 2-1 to Norwich and the infamous 5-2 at the Emirates.

The way Harry had his front pairing operate was different depending on the phase of play.

With the ball, Emmanuel Adebayor would drop deep in the build-up, whilst Defoe or Saha would push on, playing on the shoulder of the opposition defenders. Without the ball, Adebayor would stay high up the pitch, whilst Defoe or Saha would drop on to the opposition’s deepest lying midfielder.

The problems Redknapp ran in to with this formation were that without the ball. Both Defoe and Saha were often not very good at dropping on to the deepest lying midfielder when possession was lost.

Andre Villas-Boas employed the same tactics here. When in possession, Adebayor came short to get involved in the build-up play and Defoe would play on the shoulder of the last defender. When Maribor had the ball, Adebayor would stay up the pitch, whilst Defoe would drop on to the deepest lying midfielder, which in most cases was Zeljko Filipovic.

If we look at their passes received in the match, we can see just that happening in the attacking phase.

Defoe is high up and rarely receives the ball deep – all three of his goals were classic centre forward play from being on the shoulder of the last defender.

Adebayor drops in all over the park and he receives three times as many passes as his strike partner, 76 to Defoe’s 25.


Spurs 3 Maribor 1: Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe passes received.

The tactic worked well here due to the calibre of the opposition. However, in the second half as Defoe went fishing for his hat trick, the ill discipline of last season was evident once more. As a result, Maribor came more in to the game when he wasn’t dropping on to Filipovic when we didn’t have the ball.

Spurs tactics

Spurs tactics were simple and effective. With Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon playing as two wingers, rather than wide forwards as they have been this season, the ball was moved quickly to them and crossed.

Gareth Bale was the main target, attempting 22 of Spurs’ 38 crosses in the match and setting up two goals for Jermain Defoe.


Spurs 3 Maribor 1: Tottenham move the ball wide in the final 3rd and get it in the box.

Tom Carroll

Tom Carroll was excellent in the Spurs midfield alongside Tom Huddlestone, keeping the ball moving and play ticking over.

No one touched the ball more than him during the 90 minutes and he was always available to receive a pass. When in possession he was either looking to spread the play to Gareth Bale to attack the full back, or to move it ahead to Emmanuel Adebayor dropping in between the lines.


Spurs 3 Maribor1: Tom Carroll ran the show.

His one touch pass to put Jermain Defoe in for his second goal was sublime. A perfectly weighted ball that helped to settle any nerves that may have built up had the score stayed at 1-1 during the second half.

Jermain Defoe was full of praise for Carrol on his special night.

“Tom Carroll was brilliant. I thought he dictated the whole game. For a young player to come in and do that is special, brilliant for Tommy.”

Spurs 3 Maribor 1 conclusions

Spurs were in control for much of the game, bossing possession 61% to 39% due to our accurate passing that stood at a 90% completion rate for the match.

The 4-4-2 formation worked pretty effectively when Jermain Defoe was dropping on to their deepest lying midfielder and we were winning the ball back with ease in the first half.

After the interval, Defoe grabbed his second, causing Maribor to be more aggressive and chase the game.

Maybe Defoe sensed more goals, or maybe it was a return to the ill discipline showed in the same role under Harry Redknapp? But after he grabbed his second, he was less quick to drop on to Filipovic and Maribor came back in to the game with their extra man in midfield.

Defoe’s third killed the game and was a great team goal that summarised Spurs’ tactics on the night.

Kyle Naughton played a ball forward that was brought down by Emmanuel Adebayor dropping deep and he slipped a pass inside to Tom Huddlestone. The midfielder then played a first time pass in to the path of Gareth Bale out wide and the Welshman was off and running. Bale’s perfectly weighted cross found Jermain Defoe, who had got in behind the last defender to place the ball in to the corner of the net. Game over.

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Final Score: Spurs 3 Maribor 1

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