Opposition scouting report: Spurs vs Stoke preview (h)

Mark Hughes brings his side to the Lane for Spurs vs Stoke on Sunday in our Premier League clash.

A week on from grabbing the most unlikely of victories at Villa Park, we will need to show similar resolve to take three points from a traditionally tough Stoke side.

Mark Hughes has imprinted his own style on the men from the Potteries, so much so, that they look a vastly different team from the Tony Pulis era. So what can we expect and what should we be on the lookout for in Spurs vs Stoke this time?

Stoke set up and style

Mark Hughes lines his side up in a very distinctive and structured way. They play on the counter attack, but the system is finely tuned with defined player roles.

He screens his back four with two very good ball winners in Steven N’Zonzi and either Steve Sidwell or Charlie Adam. All three of these players are also comfortable on the ball and are a threat to break ranks from their role at the base of midfield and maraud forward.

Ahead of them he opts for a number ten in Stephen Ireland or Bojan, both of whom are good running with the ball on the counter attack and can pick a pass. Alongside these he goes for a winger in Victor Moses to the left and a wide forward in either Mame Biram Diouf or Jonathan Walters on the right.

Moses is the main source for any outlet passes so that he can use his speed and take opposition players on with his jinking dribbles. Diouf or Walters on the right are tasked with getting in to the box to join the centre forward.

Moses leads Stoke in crosses attempted, something the team still do from under the Pulis era. Only five teams have attempted more balls in to the box in the Premier League this season, which is impressive given they average 50% possession in matches. This possession figure is also well up on the Pulis era, highlighting Hughes’ attempts to get them to become a more ball playing and retention based side.

Whilst Moses is the key crosser, the width is often supplied from the full backs, as they look to get forward and support with crosses from wide areas.

Up top he uses Peter Crouch or Mame Biram Diouf when the former Spurs man is unavailable. The front man is a hold up player and Crouch is the target for many a long ball forward in order to get attacks moving quickly.


Longer passes to Crouch.

Interestingly this doesn’t alter when Diouf has the role. However, rather than playing the ball aerially, Stoke will often hit longer passes in to space for him to run on to. Crouch wins 65% of his aerial duels, Mame Biram Diouf just 33%.


Mame Biram Diouf passes received against West Ham.

The overall flow of the Stoke formation is like this.


Stoke formational flow.

It’s a system that has been improving and causing teams problems. We sit just three points off the Champions League places and although Chelsea have been dominant through ten matches of this Premier League season, the other spots in the top four seem to be up for grabs this season.

The drop off

We’ve not seen much of the high intensity pressing that Mauricio Pochettino is renowned for. Instead we’ve seen it in occasional spurts and only in certain matches. With Stoke being a counter attack team, opponents that have had success have actually dropped back in order to lure the Potters forward.

Ronald Koeman’s Southampton have made an excellent start and they have been a high pressing team this season. However, in Stoke’s last away game, Saints dropped off and engaged the ball much deeper. They did this to give themselves space to get their wide forwards, Sadio mane and Dusan Tadic, on the ball.


Southampton only engaged Stoke at the middle third.

In Stoke’s previous away trip at Sunderland, the Black Cats, who are also a counter attacking team, did the same. The only times they won the ball back in the Stoke half were in wide areas. A zone on the field whereby you can quickly counter attack Stoke’s full backs.


Sunderland drop and recover in wide areas.

Last weekend, West Ham adopted a similar strategy. Although big Sam engaged just his front four players to close down in the Stoke half, while the other six dropped deep.


West Ham two zones of ball recovery.

Breaking down counter attacking teams at home has been a problem for us for many years. The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Stoke should see us give them enough space to lure them out before trying to recover and swiftly break ourselves.

Where Stoke concede

A lot of Stoke’s attacking play comes through the wide areas from Victor Moses or their full backs getting forward to cross the ball. As a result, they can be got at in these zones, especially in the areas their full backs have vacated.

In their last match with West Ham, this was highlighted particularly well, especially on West Ham’s first goal. Stoke had the ball on the counter, but a bad pass from Victor Moses turned possession over and West Ham swiftly moved it to Stewart Downing.

The winger turned and burst down the right flank, leaving left back Erik Pieters in his wake, before whipping the ball in to Enner Valencia at the back post to head home.


Downing leaves Pieters behind to cross.

The Hammers second also arrived from getting in beyond the full back, this time it was right back Phil Bardsley, as Valencia found Downing to rifle in to the corner.


West Ham score 2 from the full back zones.

In Stoke’s last away match, Southampton won by a single goal, but they created by far the greater number of chances. These came from getting the ball in to the full back zones to shoot or square the ball back across goal.


Southampton create chances from getting in-behind.

Southampton have a big target man in Graziano Pelle who is excellent in the air. So too do Sunderland, who have the very underrated Steven Fletcher, a player that topped the Premier League headed goal-scoring charts when he moved to Wearside.

Stoke of season’s past conceded very few headed goals with Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross at centre back. However, with Marc Wilson now partnering Shawcross, teams have taken advantage of his lack of height. Graziano Pelle had several chances for Southampton, but Fletcher took advantage for Sunderland, who created all three of their goals by getting in-behind Stoke’s full backs.


Sunderland score 3 by getting in to the FB zones.

Width will be key in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Stoke this weekend and Mauricio Pochettino would do well to ditch at least one of his inverted wingers.

Spurs vs Stoke outlook

After we squeezed past a persistent Asteras side in the Europa League, this won’t be an easy game. Matches after a tie in Europe’s second competition haven’t bode well for us over recent seasons and we’ve continued to struggle this, even when changing up our entire team.

Stoke will be a tough unit to break down and we need to be wary of the speed of Victor Moses on the counter attack.

This game may well be won or lost in transition. If Stoke can get out on the counter attack with Moses and Diouf then they could cause an upset. If we can get quickly enough in to their full back zones after the ball is turned over, then we will be taking home the three points.

Energy, effort and speed of ball movement will be required, something that has so far been absent after Europa League ties.

Spurs vs Stoke prediction: Spurs 2 Stoke 1.

If you enjoyed this post, please share:

, , ,

6 Responses to Opposition scouting report: Spurs vs Stoke preview (h)

  1. Andy 7th November 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    Excellent analysis as always.

    If wingers are needed, it is a shame that Pochettino has ruined Aaron Lennon. He used to sprint past players on the right wing. Now he seems to be played out of position and given tactics that don’t suit his style of play.

    The Lennon of old on the right and Townsend or Ceballos on the left wing would make sense for this game. Lamela runs into the middle and loses the ball far too often. Lamela does some good stuff against poor teams in the Europa league and League cup but has been hopeless in the premier league.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 8th November 2014 at 12:35 am #

      Thanks for reading Andy. I still don’t understand why successive managers have tried to use Lennon on the left, it just simply doesn’t work.

    • SpurredoninDublin 9th November 2014 at 11:04 pm #

      In recent years, the best football we have played is with two flying wingers supported by two attacking full backs getting crosses in.

      Townsend is certainly one of the wingers, but he needs to remember that there is no “I” in team. Last season he had over 40 shots on goal in the PL, and his only goal was a flukey stray pass.

      Lennon is the other half of the winger equation. He may not always have a good “final ball”, but when he lets rip, he takes some stopping.

      At fullback, BAE used to fulfil the role, but he no longer looks as if he wants to play for us. Danny Rose is an adequate replacement though.

      On the other side, we have missed Kyle Walker desperately. When you look at the goal that Newcastle scored after half-time, you just know that Walker would not have been outpaced or caught like that.

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th November 2014 at 5:42 pm #

        Walker is a massive miss and it’s only when he’s out you realise just how much.

  2. Bretto 7th November 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    Great article again Mark. I was thinking the same thing. I would actually like to us to play with speed on the wing and a second striker to ghost in on the break. If we get behind the fullbacks, Shawcross/Wilson can be pulled away from the centre leaving room for somebody like Kane.

    Perhaps Mason may need to play a holding/tagging role in Adams where his first role is to stifle the passing that comes form deep midfield and then arrange for quick ball when he forces the turnover.

    I disagree about Pochettino ruining Lennon by Andy. Lennon ruined himself. He was (WAS!) fast yes, but that was all he had. He never added trickery, positioning and end product to his toolkit. His crosses (except for 1 year when we qualified for CL) have been hopeless and his goal scoring is non-existent. I think Pochettino, considering his track record, tried to find another position/role for him but he has not shown anything else. I so agree with Andros being on the left but would probably need Davies instead of Rose to provide some defensive solidity.

    Naughton vs Moses will be the key match up. If Naughton can stifle Moses then we should romp it home.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 8th November 2014 at 12:41 am #

      Thanks Bretto. I would like to see us play with wide players here, but short of putting Townsend on left, i think we really lack real quality that can play with natural width. Lennon is regressing, so much so that he is now just considered as a good defensive wide player. Chadli and Lamela are wide forwards, not natural wingers, and although they are individually good, they prefer to play inverted rather than on their natural side.