Our first home match of the season is Spurs vs Crystal Palace so we look at their tactical strengths and weaknesses.
Alan Pardew’s team have suffered a real dip in form. An initial surge last season then saw them drop in to the relegation fight as they won just two of their last 21 Premier League matches. Defeat on opening day to West Brom continued that dire run as they come to White Hart Lane for Spurs vs Crystal Palace.
Where Crystal Palace concede chances
The Eagles are a hard-working side, but they still concede plenty of chances. These come in two key areas. In front of the centre back pairing and through the left back zone.
The centre back pairing is big, physical and strong. However, they are not quick across the ground. This can see Palace’s opponents open up and expose them with speed of ball and player movement.
The problem often comes in front of the centre backs. Crystal Palace’s midfield plays an aggressive closing down game in the middle third. Cabaye, Jedinak and Ledley can often close towards the ball and get drawn in. Behind them, the centre back pairing is playing reactively and looking to deny the pass in-behind due to their lack of speed.
The midfield being drawn up, along with the defence dropping back, means that space opens up between the lines. Palace’s opponents can use this space to station men and get straight on or at the centre backs.
This is from Crystal Palace’s opening match with West Brom where there is space for both Berahino and Rondon to drop off in. Also notice the distance between the Eagles’ back four. The full backs are often way too far from their centre backs, leaving them isolated and the inside channels betwen them open.
With our tactics of having our advanced midfielders drift centrally, this should see them with free space to move in. It certainly did in last season’s Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace win at White Hart Lane.
Son Heung-Min’s winner in that match also came from getting the ball to him between the lines so he could run at the centre backs.
The left back zone has been the other area of weakness. Pape Souare usually starts here. His defensive positioning can leave a lot to be desired. He is also slow to recognise danger. This can see him late on recovery runs or tackles and conceding space to allow crosses.
Having a very aggressive winger or wide forward in front of him does not help Souare. This offers him very little or late help. Yannick Bolasie or Wilfried Zaha were in the wide positions last season. This term sees the equally attacking and trigger happy Andros Townsend join Zaha in offering the full backs little protection.
To get men free between the lines should form a major part of the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Crystal Palace. The left back zone should also be targetted. Kyle Walker should once again have an influential match.
Stopping the crosses
Crystal Palace’s major strength is in their crossing ability. With two pacey, quick wide forwards that are good open-field dribblers, they are able to supply plenty of ammunition to the striker. Joining the number nine in the box is often the wide forward on the opposite side to the crosser. This often gets someone coming in on the back post.
The Eagles attempted the highest number of crosses in the Premier League last season. It was putting them in the back of the net that was the problem. With a fee now agreed for Christian Benteke, he should get a good level of service when he moves to Selhurst Park.
They key to stopping Crystal Palace is to defend the wide areas well. This means stopping them at source, making it as difficult as possible to cross the ball. We did a good job of it last season with both of our full backs able to often jam and hinder their direct opponent.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Crystal Palace on Saturday will require more of the same.
Strategic set pieces
Both teams are strong at dead ball situations. Last season we scored 18 goals from set pieces, Crystal Palace netted 16.
The Eagles have good, strong aerial players that see them do well at attacking set plays, but they also concede a high number of chances. Last season only Aston Villa and Newcastle allowed more shots from set pieces than Pardew’s Palace.
The problem reared its head once again on opening day. West Brom scored the only goal of the match from a James McClean Free kick. Salomon Rondon ran across the near post to meet the delivery and nod in to the corner.
The goal had a strangely Spurs feel about it. It’s quite often that we see us leave the corner of the six-yard box vacant and run two players in to the space looking to connect with a header. Eric Dier or Toby Alderweireld popping up with a goal on Saturday wouldn’t surprise me.
Spurs vs Crystal Palace overall
There have been some close games at the Lane between Spurs and Crystal Palace recently. That increases the importance of set pieces to gain a vital goal and the upper hand.
The key battleground will be between us trying to get our trio of advanced midfielders between the lines and just how much space Crystal Palace give them.
Spurs vs Crystal Palace prediction: Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace.