Christian Eriksen celebrates a goal during Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

Stoke 1-2 Tottenham: separating the centre backs

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.

Dembele helps navigate the pressure during Stoke 1-2 Tottenham in the Premier League.

Dembele helps navigate the pressure, Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

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.

Back four pinch tight with wingers Sobhi and Bauer defending wide during Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

Back four pinch tight with wingers Sobhi and Bauer defending wide.

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.

Shawcross moves out to tackle Dele Alli during Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

Shawcross moves out to tackle Dele Alli, Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

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.

Shawcross goes far from goal with Kane to mark him during Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

Shawcross goes far from goal with Kane to mark him.

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.

Son sprints through the gap as Kane is heavily marked during Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

Son sprints through the gap as Kane is heavily marked.

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.

Dele Ali runs in to the space left behind Bruno Martins Indi during Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

Dele Ali runs in to the space left behind Bruno Martins Indi.

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 in to the space left by Shawcross tracking Dele during Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

Son in to the space left by Shawcross tracking Dele.

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.

Kane with separation from Shawcross during Stoke 1-2 Tottenham.

Kane with separation from Shawcross.

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.

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12 Responses to Stoke 1-2 Tottenham: separating the centre backs

  1. Reinert 10th April 2018 at 11:56 pm #

    Great read. I liked the part where you gave merit to Stoke’s team for their disruptive effort, it deserves mention, and the managerial battle..good read! If only Stoke were any good, then they would be terrifying! Btw isn’t this the most Stoke they have been in years?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th April 2018 at 4:47 pm #

      i thought the hauling down of Vertonghen at our corner, which should of been a penalty, was the most Stoke that they have been ;)

      • Reinert 12th April 2018 at 5:05 pm #

        They were passing the ball for a bit, but are now back to Stoke-basics, hehe

  2. Chas 11th April 2018 at 4:35 am #

    It surprised me that the Stoke foul count was only 19. It seemed like it was every time we had the ball and with 119 to our 8 and 4 yellows to our 3, more than a little unbalanced.
    I mentioned before that Dier threw in a bad error every game. and this time he excelled himself, making three in 10 minutes!. He worries me!
    Luckily Stoke have virtually nothing up front. We won’t be treated so kindly by City

    • Shuban 11th April 2018 at 12:30 pm #

      I think Dier struggled to get into the rhythm of the game. Stoke did revert back to type thankfully we did not…Felt the ref was quite lenient with them

      Never felt we got going properly… hopefully Dele celebrate his birthday by banging City out

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th April 2018 at 4:49 pm #

      Dier’s main error was poor and Stoke should’ve scored from it. Still a fan of his, but definitely has not been focussed in the last few games.

  3. Toby4eva 11th April 2018 at 1:40 pm #

    Changing my nick soon to Toby4rozenout

    Always a difficult watch, these games against the desperate scrappers and kickers from the north.

    Well, they used to be worse!

    You would just pencil in a 0-0, 1-1, or 0-1 in the “old “ days when our powder puffs really didn’t want to get out of the coach.

    Now this lot play to win the three – everywhere.

    Again – it’s all about culture.

    And the leader dictates the culture.

    He mightn’t like my main man anymore – but he takes a position and leads.

    This is a very different club we are supporting these days.

    And the impregnable, unstoppable Citeh come to Wembley on the weekend.

    They must be shell-shocked.

    We must make a statement.

    What a funny old season.

    And what about Roma!


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th April 2018 at 4:56 pm #

      Poch really has changed the culture and fair play to him as he often spoke about it in season 1. We are now not imtimdated by an opponent and we have no fear going anywhere against anyone.

      THe Alderweireld situation also shows Poch’s strong menatlity. He has no hesitation in ostracising players that don’t sit with the ethic of the team eg Adebayor and Townsend to name just two. When you stop being part of the collective unit, you are out, no matter how good you are.

      • Reinert 12th April 2018 at 5:13 pm #

        And, to be fair, I will not fault our club for hesitating to up the salaries; if there is any kind of sudden inflation or if any kind of (i.e. TV-)deal changes, spurs gets cut down by the banks. There is a good sense of both pedagogy and leadership at play in spurs, and I think we should admire the Levy-Poch for as long as we have them: As fickle as football-fans are, that is what I think we should be discussing, not how many £££ players ‘deserve.’

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th April 2018 at 6:28 pm #

          I wouldn’t want to see us go crazy just because we have the new stadium revenue. We can now pay players more, but the scale and ordered structure that we have with salaries needs to stay in place. We will probably see another round of contract signings and increased deals for all once we are in the new stadium, which will hopefully keep the players happy. However, if a player is demanding £200k+ a week then depending on who it is, we shouldn’t break the structure as that will put other players’s noses out of joint. Kane and then Eriksen and Dele should be the top earners. Everyone else falls in to the structure after that.

  4. Matt 12th April 2018 at 7:07 pm #

    Great analysis and read. I’m surprised Dier is rated strongest in the air, Sanchez always looks stronger to me. While I still think Rose is the poor mans Davies, i thought he had some of his hunger and belligerence back.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th April 2018 at 6:31 pm #

      Poch frequently uses Dier to match up with strong aerial players. It is why we often see him drafted in to a back three to deal with strong aerial players eg Benteke.

      Rose looked decent against Stoke. I do worry that his injuries are slowing him down and having an effect on him. Although minor, his latest set back is another notch on the worry scale that he may never be the same player again. Incredible to believe, but it is a serious concern!