Harry Kane and Yohan Cabaye in action during Crystal Palace vs Spurs in the Premier League.

Crystal Palace vs Spurs: tactical scouting report

Ahead of Crystal Palace vs Spurs at Selhurst Park we tactically break down the strengths and weaknesses of Sam Allardyce’s team.

Crystal Palace have become one of the toughest match-ups in the Premier League. Sam Allardyce has turned their fortunes around and they’ve rocketed up the table. Ahead of Crystal Palace vs Spurs we tactically break down the strengths and weaknesses of his team.

Strength: team shape and structure

The biggest change in Crystal Palace since Sam Allardyce has taken over is the team shape and structure. Allardyce is renowned for setting teams up that are difficult to break down and cause the opposition problems. Crystal Palace are now organised and full of grafters.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in their defensive shape. Shipping goals under Alan Pardew, the Eagles have only allowed seven in their last eight Premier League matches. The team sets up very compact and narrow. The back four stay tight and together, protected by a 3-man screen in front. This forces the opposition out in to the wide areas where Crystal Palace are content to deal with the resulting crosses.

Narrow back four protected by 3-man screen ahead of Crystal Palace vs Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

Narrow back four protected by 3-man screen.

Against better opposition, such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, Allardyce has used his wide midfielders to defend the flanks. Crystal Palace effectively forms a back six. Andros Townsend and Wilfred Zaha defend out wide whilst the back four stays compact and in tact.

Narrow back four with Zaha and Townsend defending wide ahead of Crystal Palace vs Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

Narrow back four with Zaha and Townsend defending wide.

Drawing Crystal Palace out of this shape is hard. The defence is screened by three men in the centre to close off that Lane. Up top they have Christian Benteke who can aerially win and hold up any clearances. Crystal Palace then has the rapid speed of Zaha and Townsend to join him on the counter attack. Both wide players get through a tremendous amount of work.

Weakness: low crosses and cut backs

Crystal Palace are well stacked to deal with high balls in to the box, but low crosses have been their undoing.

Opponents that have created good chances and scored goals against Crystal Palace have done two things. Firstly, these teams have players that can beat their marker off the dribble from wide areas.

Southampton was the last team to beat Crystal Palace. The Saints had tremendous success using the speed of Nathan Redmond and their flying full backs, Ryan Bertrand and Cedric Soares, in wide areas.

Redmond was a thorn in the Palace side. His nimble feet got them ahead in the match as he broke the Eagles wide coverage off the dribble. Once past the initial wide player, he can attack the narrow back four. A neat pull back finds its way to Jack Stephens and then Maya Yoshida to tap home.

Watch the following video to see how Redmond firstly breaks Palace’s coverage from wide off the dribble. Next, the narrow back four is drawn towards him and gets stretched as panic sets in. Finally, Redmond can pick his target for a short pull back and Yoshida scores.

Southampton then put the game to bed by attacking in a similar manner down the other side.

The Eagles’ narrow back four is split by Steven Davis’ initial pass. They stay together, but Jeffrey Schlupp is then caught off guard by Cedric Soares flying run past him. As a result, Soares has the easy pull back for James Ward-Prowse to score. Watch the full goal scoring move in the following video clip.

The Tottenham tactics for Crystal Palace vs Spurs should focus on trying to create low crossing opportunities. The Eagles have a lot of aerial power to deal with high crosses, but lack the fleet feet to deal with lower balls once their defence has been punctured.

Speed in the wide areas is needed to do this and our wingbacks will be key to making it happen. If Ben Davies is unable to play, don’t be surprised to see Son Heung-Min get another chance on the left if Mauricio Pochettino again opts for a back three.

Weakness: counter attacks

The second area where Crystal Palace have conceded is defending against counter attacks.

All teams are vulnerable to counter attacks, but the Eagles have struggled and conceded goals from them recently.

The key is Crystal Palace’s defensive structure. It is excellent when allowed time to get set. However, when caught in transition, the speed of their centre backs can be exposed. This is especially true if Zaha and Townsend are caught up field. The pair are thus unable to offer wide area support that allows the Palace full backs to tuck in and protect their centre backs.

Both Leicester and Chelsea have taken advantage of this recently.

The foxes scored a trademark counter attack goal from a long ball that allowed Jamie Vardy to use his speed in the open field.

Leicester swiftly moved the ball for Vardy to score ahead of Crystal Palace vs Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

Leicester swiftly moved the ball for Vardy to score.

Chelsea also netted a goal after a long pass downfield sprang Eden Hazard in to space. The Belgian used his nimble feet and dribbling to get to the by line and cross low for Cesc Fabregas to flick home.

Hazard received a long ball to set up Fabregas' goal ahead of Crystal Palace vs Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

Hazard received a long ball to set up Fabregas’ goal.

Counter attacking Crystal Palace is difficult. The Eagles rarely leave themselves that open or vulnerable, but it is possible by teams that move the ball quickly from back-to-front.

Spurs do well against teams that we can counter attack against, especially if we are ahead in games.  The Tottenham Tactics for Crystal Palace vs Spurs should be looking to up the tempo when counter attack opportunities present themselves. Again, this is where using Son’s speed and rapid wingbacks, such as Kyle Walker, should be preferential.

Strength: crosses

Crystal Palace are a crossing based team. In fact, since Sam Allardyce has taken over, the Eagles have attempted the third highest number of crosses in the Premier League. Not bad when you consider they have had just 37% possession.

With the aerial power of Christian Benteke up top, why not? The Belgian has 22-headed goals since arriving in the Premier League four years ago.

Benteke is not just a threat from crosses aerially. As he demonstrated on the weekend, he can also guide them home with his feet. Yohan Cabaye supplied the ammunition for him against Liverpool, but so often it is through the excellent work in the wide areas of Wilfred Zaha and Andros Townsend. Both are tricky dribblers and can find the killer cross, pull back or cut back for Benteke to steer home.

Zaha is the Eagles’ most influential player and closing him down will be key to the Tottenham tactics for Crystal Palace vs Spurs. The Ivory Coast international has frequently been operating on the Palace left, a space that will be covered by Kyle Walker. However, with either Ben Davies or Son Heung-Min defending the other side, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Allardyce switch Zaha to this flank for prolonged periods of the game.

Strength: Set pieces

Sam Allardyce teams are always strong at set pieces.

Big Sam has an array of inventive free kicks, but we’re yet to see that from his Palace team just yet. What we have witnessed is his usual ploy to ring fence the six-yard box with at least four players and position a man on the keeper. Allardyce does this to impede the only man that can handle the ball, whilst seeking to control any deflections or rebounds to keep them within a close proximity to the goal.

Last weekend, Crystal Palace did this to score their second goal to beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield. Simon Mignolet was blocked off from coming for the initial ball. Crystal Palace then had four men spread across the six-yard box to attack and control any rebounds.

4 players across the six-yard box and no. 5 on the keeper ahead of Crystal Palace vs Spurs in the Premier League at Selhurst Park, London.

4 players across the six-yard box and no. 5 on the keeper.

The corner flicked off Jason Puncheon at the near post. Christian Benteke was moving in behind to head home.

The Tottenham tactics for Crystal Palace vs Spurs has to take in to consideration that the Eagles have a lot of height in their team. Therefore, three centre backs would look to be the way to go in order to match-up size-wise at set pieces.

Another observation is that Crystal Palace don’t have their wall jump at free kicks. Christian Eriksen hasn’t netted from a free kick for a while and frequently drills his shots in to the wall. A standing, static barricade might be just what he is looking for.

Crystal Palace vs Spurs outlook

Selhurst Park is a tight, compact and tricky place to go. Combine that with a well setup and hardworking Crystal Palace side and this will be no easy fixture.

Along with our trip to Leicester, this match is the biggest banana skin in our Premier League run in. Crystal Palace are in exceptional form at the minute and an extremely difficult unit to break down.

Crystal Palace vs Spurs prediction: Crystal Palace 0-1 Spurs.

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6 Responses to Crystal Palace vs Spurs: tactical scouting report

  1. Toby4eva 26th April 2017 at 11:39 am #

    Yes Mark, this has gone from looking like a gimme three-pointer several weeks back to the game that could kill off our season.

    Another comprehensive and greatly appreciated Preview.

    Sam started the mind games straight after their Anfield success, by saying he would rotate heavily for this game.

    Um, I don’t think so.

    With all the talk around us looking to poach Zaha – and Andros involved – the Eagles will be well up for it to guarantee they stay up. They certainly look safe – but they will want to add our scalp to those of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool sitting freshly in their nest.

    After the disappointment of Saturday, this is a MASSIVE test for our lads.

    A win here will set us up beautifully for the Derby, with the Toffees still offering us a faint glimmer of hope.

    A loss here will get that horrible word “Spursy” out of every pundit/journo/bloggers desktop recycle bin for a Lazarus-like comeback.

    Let’s try and use our speed early on the counter as you’ve suggested to nick a quick goal – then starve them of possession and shut up shop with a back five and Victor on for Sonny To frustrate them.

    I think Walker and Davies must start in the wide roles as we need their defensive attributes to counter Zaha and Townsend.

    I’ll go with…






    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th April 2017 at 5:09 pm #

      The first goal will be incredibly important in this one. I’m hoping that Palace have taken their foot off the gas after beating Liverpool, which sees them virtually safe. An early goal, or at least going ahead to put them on the back foot, might see them less motivated than in recent weeks.

      No Wanyama in your team? A very brave man!

  2. Daudi 26th April 2017 at 12:09 pm #

    Its very imperative that we chase Chelsea for as long as we can, be on their shoulder till the very end.. after they won yesterday, I’ve seen various website describe our Title hopes as killed… How I wish Karma would kick in..

    Not sure about Son on the left wing-back though, the only reason would be if Davies had a knock.

    On expecting teams to do us favours against Chelsea… Dont see it happening, that’s unless they are teams really fighting for something, or if Chelsea are away.

    The mentality of the team will really be tested tonight, hope they are up for it…


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th April 2017 at 5:10 pm #

      It is a big test and at a ground that can get very loud and raucous. We’ll learn a lot about our team tonight!

  3. Zaph Mann 26th April 2017 at 7:39 pm #

    Great to have you back doing this, however I saved a lot of time while you were away…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th April 2017 at 7:53 pm #

      Any time here is well spent ;)