Manipulating man-marking centre backs saw us gain three valuable Premier League points as it finished Stoke 1-2 Tottenham at the Bet 365 stadium.
Bruno Martins Indi and Ryan Shawcross were determined to do a man-marking job on Harry Kane and Dele Alli. However, Spurs were able to give them the slip to run out winners. Two goals saw the final score of Stoke 1-2 Tottenham for a vital victory.
Stoke slow Spurs down
Paul Lambert set his team up to slow down our build-up. The Stoke City manager did it successfully through three ploys.
Firstly, Lambert had his team close down any build-up from Hugo Lloris. Stoke tried to have three men shutting down Jan Vertonghen, Davinson Sanchez and Victor Wanyama dropping in. Spurs countered this by Mousa Dembele also dropping in to move the ball out.
Solving the first issue, Tottenham then had to deal with two more.
Stoke were excellent at retreating in to shape quickly. They looked to form a very tight back four that saw the full backs Glen Johnson and Erik Pieters pinch in to their centre backs. Wide men Ramadan Sobhi and Mortiz Bauer then acted as full backs to form a back six.
What’s more, given Stoke’s tight shape, they also used their centre backs to restrict Harry Kane and Dele Alli to very little time on the ball.
Bruno Martins Indi and Ryan Shawcross frequently tracked the Tottenham pair. This saw both centre backs dragged forward in to higher positions than they would arguably liked to have been in. On the flip side, they often had cover and it unsettled Kane and Dele, forcing them further from the Stoke goal.
Separating the centre backs
Stoke’s tactics caused Spurs to have a slow start. However, getting to grips with the task saw Tottenham strike quickly when the centre backs were otherwise engaged.
Son Heung-Min was the chief beneficiary of Shawcross and Martins Indi’s obsession with marking Kane and Dele. The South Korean burst through to have an excellent chance at scoring after 23 minutes.
Christian Eriksen played an exquisite pass to Dele Alli. Ryan Shawcross was instantly drawn out towards him. Dele’s quick thinking saw Shawcross have to scamper back and retreat towards Martins Indi. Their aim was to deny Harry Kane any chance to get to the pass. However, Son had slipped by all of them. He raced through, but saw his one-on-one chance blocked by the sprawling Jack Butland.
It took until the second half for the next big chance to arrive. From it Tottenham would take the lead.
Dele Alli set up the arriving Christian Eriksen to score. However, it was Bruno Martins Indi’s error that allowed his cover, Dele Alli, to be so free. Mousa Dembele intercepted Martins Indi’s poor pass. His quick thinking to thread the ball through the crowd sprung Dele in to the space that Martins Indi had left.
In the middle Ryan Shawcross had predictably picked up Harry Kane. Shawcross’ good positioning denied the pass in to Kane. However, once more no one had picked up the third man run. Christian Eriksen arrived to sweep the ball in to the corner of the net and give us a well-deserved lead.
Following the goal, Son almost added a second as Spurs separated the centre backs once again. Ryan Shawcross was attracted by Dele Alli’s positioning. Son was therefore allowed to sneak in through the channel that he had left to latch on to Harry Kane’s through ball.
Son’s heavy touch allowed Shawcross to get back and deny him with a last-ditch tackle.
Stoke balls in-behind
Stoke’s defensive shape had been solid, but it limited their attacking threat. Where the Potters did cause trouble was from early balls in-behind our back line.
Mame Biram Diouf was the target. The Senegalese striker blazed a glorious first half chance over the bar. Diouf would then level the game through a strike of good fortune.
Xherdan Shaqiri played a dangerous ball beyond our back four. Diouf gave chase and got beyond Davinson Sanchez. Spotting the danger, Hugo Lloris raced from his line. Instead of coolly slotting the ball either side of the rapidly closing Diouf, Lloris elected to put his foot through it. The ball cannoned off the Stoke man and gave him the simplest of tap-ins to level the scores.
Spurs set plays
Stoke’s solid setup caused them to commit a great number of fouls. These led to free kicks that allowed Christian Eriksen to swing a great number of dangerous balls in to the Stoke box.
Stoke committed 19 fouls in the match. One on Danny Rose led to Tottenham regaining the lead.
Spurs were able to separate the centre backs in a different way. Harry Kane had been pulled and held at a number of set pieces. Kane having a word with the referee may have led to Ryan Shawcross not being as tight to him as he previously had been. As a result, when the teams lined up for the set piece, Shawcross had given Harry Kane far too much room.
Christian Eriksen’s whipped-in delivery flew straight in to the net. However, Kane’s run forced goalkeeper Jack Butland to hold his position. He therefore had no chance to stop Eriksen’s ball in, whether Kane touched it or not.
The ball curled n to the back of the net to make it Stoke 1-2 Tottenham. Kane celebrated as if he had got a knick on it, but the Premier League awarded the goal to Christian Eriksen.
Move and counter move
Needing a goal, Paul Lambert went to his bench. Tyrese Campbell and Peter Crouch were introduced as Stoke went to a 4-3-3 formation. Crouch became the target with long balls up towards him. One such pass and knock down led to a free kick that saw Shaqiri ring the dead ball off the upright.
Seeing this, Mauricio Pochettino responded by introducing Eric Dier for Victor Wanyama. Dier is our strongest aerial player and with Sanchez and Vertonghen in the back line, the trio attempted to mitigate Crouch from front and behind.
As a final resort, Lambert moved Ryan Shawcross up top to get further aerial power to combat the Tottenham trio. However, with 90 seconds left on the clock, the move was too late. The match ended Stoke 1-2 Tottenham with the three valuable Premier League points heading back to North London.
Stoke 1-2 Tottenham overall
A real grafting victory against a team setup to frustrate. Paul Lambert sides are difficult to break down, but offer little by way of attacking threat. Stoke were the epitome of that here and gaining the first goal was hugely important in our win.
Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi were detailed to do a job on Dele Alli and Harry Kane. The Tottenham pair was largely kept away from goal. However, quick thinking and ball movement in the moments when they were out of position saw us win the match.
Final score: Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.
MOTM: Mousa Dembele.