After our best ever points total in the Premier League, it’s time for my top 5 performances of the season. Of course they have a Spurs Fanatic twist in that they’re from a tactical viewpoint.
If you want to read the full match tactical breakdown, just click on the score line headers, but without further ado…
5). Chelsea 2 Spurs 2
A draw might not be the first result that comes to mind, but our trip to Stamford Bridge had a bit of everything with Champions League qualification at stake. Heart, effort, resilience and a never say die attitude to come back twice, as well as a meticulous tactical plan.
Chelsea started off the match with great energy, pressing us high up the pitch, which resulted in turnovers and Hugo Lloris often having to clear long downfield. After we lost the ball, we frequently fouled the tricky trio of Oscar, Mata and Hazard midway inside our half. This saw the Blues open the scoring, as one of these free-kicks was cleared for a corner and Oscar was left free to nod home.
Emmanuel Adebayor, who had been largely anonymous – as he has been for a lot of this campaign – suddenly burst out to have one of the games of the season.
The Togolese striker went the length of the pitch to equalise with an audacious curling effort on the counter attack. He then set up Kyle Walker with a neat back-heel flick round the corner, then repeating the trick later in the game on Gylfi Sigurdsson’s equaliser.
Adebayor got through an immense amount of work, especially down the left, Chelsea’s weak spot.
We’d looked at the space down the left behind full back Cesar Azpilicueta in the Tottenham tactics for Chelsea vs Spurs prior to the match. The Spaniard likes to get forward, but this can be used against him. Andre Villas-Boas use of his substitutes bench, combined with working this area behind the full back proved pivotal after the interval.
With Spurs trailing 2-1, Andre Villas-Boas sent on Gylfi Sigurdsson to play down the left and the Icelander combined with Adebayor and Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Azpilicueta was caught up field trying to jam Benni, allowing Sigurdsson and Adebayor to slip in behind.
The Togolese striker’s vision and creativity to flick the ball back was superb; the Icelander’s finish was calm and collected.
Spurs could have gone on to win the game, having several chances to win it, including Gareth Bale’s free-kick at the death.
The performance was outstanding against an extremely tough Chelsea side, on a ground where we haven’t tasted victory in an extremely long time.
4). Spurs 3 Man City 1
This performance was about the most exciting six minutes at the Lane all season, but all hinged on a switch of formation and tactics.
Man City were very much in control of the game at the interval. Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure were doing an excellent job of congesting space around Gareth Bale, limiting his involvement and effectiveness.
Whilst our number ten was being kept out of the game, Carlos Tevez in the same role for City was having a field day.
He created their opening goal with a beautifully crafted pass from an impossible angle. Milner received the pass and squared the ball for Nasri and the visitors were in front. Not just content with being heavily involved in their first goal, Tevez also created chances another golden opportunity for Nasri, whilst also slipping in Edin Dzeko.
With Man City keeping us at arms length, Andre Villas-Boas first moved Gareth Bale out of the middle to the right – a theme for much of the rest of the season. He then introduced Tom Huddlestone and Lewis Holtby to move the ball forward much quicker and shifted to a 4-3-3 formation.
In the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Man City, we looked at the space their full backs leave, as they provide the Citizens’ width going forward. With City looking to add a game-sealing second, we were able to expose this space in six pulsating minutes.
With Gael Clichy caught out of position, Gareth Bale sent a beautiful pass across the goal to Clint Dempsey at the back post to level the scores.
Then, Pablo Zabaleta was caught up field by a turnover in the midfield zone and Lewis Holtby released Jermain Defoe to gallop in to space. Vincent Kompany let him drift back inside on his right and the resulting arrow in to the corner was a throwback to the Defoe of earlier in the season.
Next it was back to Clichy’s side, as Gareth Bale streaked in to the space behind the full back. Tom Huddlestone dissected Matija Nastasic and the Frenchman with a pinpoint pass, 3-1 and the Champions of last season were done for.
3). Spurs 2 Arsenal 1
This was a game of Russian roulette as both teams pressed up and tried to expose each other’s high lines. The game was won through the inside left channel with two almost identical goals from Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.
Arsenal had the lion’s share of possession, but we were much more clinical. The Gunners were able to do this through often having 3v2 in the midfield zone. Gareth Bale was playing too high up and this left Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey to dictate play and hold the ball.
The problem for the Gooners though, was that when play broke down, Bale was in advanced positions going the other way and they didn’t have enough pressure on the ball.
The first goal arrived in this fashion, as the ball was turned over and Gylfi Sigurdsson drove forward uncontested. Gareth Bale made a diagonal run through the inside left channel and the Icelander fed him to slot past Wojciech Szczesny.
Moments later, Santi Cazorla turned the ball over in the midfield zone. Scott Parker received it in the inside left channel once more and fed in a diagonally cutting Aaron Lennon to make it 2-0.
The second half saw Arsenal mount some serious pressure, but Michael Dawson was immense at the back with Jan Vertonghen.
Behind them, Hugo Lloris was putting on a goalkeeping clinic. He was often racing from his line to clear, collect a cross or smother a through ball.
Arsenal did score through a Gareth Bale own goal, but this was a tremendous performance at both ends from Spurs.
2). West Ham 2 Spurs 3
A game settled by a last minute Gareth Bale thunderbolt from outside the box, but Spurs came from behind to edge the Hammers by beating their central triangle.
Sam Allardyce went with Mohammed Diame, Kevin Nola and Gary O’Neil in a midfield trio set up to make it congested for Gareth Bale. It was a good idea, but he didn’t bargain on Andre Villas-Boas using Lewis Holtby as an additional player to spoil this.
The effect was seen on the first goal, where Holtby had moved inside from his starting position on the left, allowing Bale to slip in behind the triangle.
Once the Welshman had the ball via a deflection, he calmly worked his way across the park and arrowed a low shot in to the corner of the net.
West Ham would come back though through their use of long balls and crossing. A penalty was won after a long ball downfield to Andy Carroll. Then the Hammers took the lead after a long diagonal cross, as Joey O’Brien picked out Joe Cole.
Andre Villas-Boas responded through the use of his bench once again. After Holtby had been moving inside to create confusion in the central area, he was switched for Gylfi Sigurdsson who stayed wide. The Icelander was immediately in the action, having a shot pushed on to the post, then equalising after a scramble following a free-kick.
AVB then removed a dribbler in Moussa Dembele and introduced a passer in Tom Carroll. This allowed us to take over possession in the game and start to wear a tiring Hammers side down.
After Gary O’Neil was caught ball-watching and let Gareth Bale in for the opener, the same player was beaten twice on the winner.
O’Neil was caught up field trying to shadow Bale and the Welshman was able to let the ball cross his body and then drive forward past him in to acres of space.
Firstly, Winston Reid came to challenge him, then Joey O’Brien dumped him on the floor, but Gylfi Sigurdsson picked up the ball from his role on the left. The Icelander then recycled play to Tom Carroll who was operating much further up the pitch than Moussa Dembele.
Carroll’s short, neat pass allowed Bale to now match up one-on-one with an exhausted O’Neil who had chased him back moments earlier. Whereas before he may have been tight to Bale, a fatigued O’Neil left too much space and the rest was pure class.
One of the game’s of the season with arguably the best goal of the campaign too.
1). Man Utd 2 Spurs 3
This performance from Spurs had everything. Clear tactics that involved a blazing start with clinical swift attacking play to knock Manchester United on to the back foot. Then dogged defence to hold on to the lead.
Spurs were like lightning out of the traps. The plan was to hit surging runners from deep positions in a display of swift counter-attacking play. Sandro and Moussa Dembele were screening our defence and breaking up attacks, then shifting the ball quickly to move it forward.
Jan Vertonghen opened the scoring after laying the ball off to Gareth Bale, then darting forward through the inside left channel. Bale returned it to the Belgian who had left Nani in his wake. Jermain Defoe took Rio Ferdinand away from the play, allowing Vertonghen to drive in to the area and finish.
One quickly became two, as Bale turned recipient this time after Sandro had won the ball back and laid it quickly to Moussa Dembele. The Belgian then hit Gareth Bale in stride as he went on to roast an exposed Rio Ferdinand.
Two up at the interval brought a response from Sir Alex Ferguson, as he brought on Wayne Rooney. Andre Villas-Boas’ answer was to drop off and play dogged defence, then hit on the counter.
Rooney was influential in grabbing a goal back, but Spurs responded through Bale’s pace, as once again we drove forward from deep.
Jermain Defoe, who had an excellent game, received the ball out on the touchline and then passed it inside to Bale. The Welshman’s shot was parried and Clint Dempsey, who had tore forward, was there to gobble up the rebound.
Man Utd pulled another one back through Kagawa, but this half was all about Spurs’ solid defending. Man Utd may have had 76% possession and made 752 passes to our 295, but the rearguard action displayed by the team was one of the most impressive we’ve seen in years.
We only made one tackle was made in the Man Utd half, but we were able to keep the ball out of the net by forcing Man Utd wide.
It was not just our first triumph at Old Trafford in 23 years, but also a victory for tactics and organisation.
It was without a doubt our top performance of the season.