Son Heung-Min shoots at goal during Spurs vs Stoke in the Premier League.

Spurs vs Stoke: opposition strengths and weaknesses

Spurs vs Stoke is next for us in the Premier League, so we look at the strengths and weaknesses of Mark Hughes’ men.

After their customary slow start, Stoke are in the midst of another good season. We’ve historically struggled against Mark Hughes men, but do back-to-back 4-0 thumpings mean that Mauricio Pochettino has got the measure of them? Ahead of Spurs vs Stoke we look at their strengths and weaknesses.

Weakness: full back zones

Stoke have struggled against teams that have attacked them through their full back zones.

The main area of issue has been right back. Glen Johnson when he plays there is solid. However, injuries to Johnson have meant that Phil Bardsley and Geoff Cameron have stepped in and this is often where the trouble is.

Take their last away game in the Premier League. Stoke controlled much of the match, but right back Phil Bardsley was exposed for most of the WBA’s chances and their goal.

West Brom created chances from the RB zone ahead of Spurs vs Stoke in the Premier League.

West Brom created chances from the RB zone.

Nacer Chadli was on Bardsley’s flank and he ran at the right back at every opportunity. This included creating the only goal of the game for James Morrison as West Brom won 1-0.

Manchester United were another team that attacked Stoke through their full back zones. The Red Devils had success against both Glen Johnson and Eric Pieters as they created chances from wide.

Man Utd created chances from both full back zones ahead of Spurs vs Stoke in the Premier League.

Man Utd created chances from both full back zones.

Although not shown on the graphic, Wayne Rooney scored Man Utd’s only goal of the game from a free kick after being fouled in the right back zone. That saw Rooney break Sir Bobby Charlton’s club goals record.

Interestingly, Mark Hughes has adopted a back three when travelling to the Premier league’s powerhouses. Recent trips to both Chelsea and Liverpool saw Hughes go with the tactic. Maybe he will try the same at White Hart Lane?

However, a back three didn’t stop both Chelsea and Liverpool notching four times. Chelsea ran out 4-2 winners, Liverpool emerged victors 4-1. At Anfield, Liverpool created numerous opportunities and goals from both full back areas. The better chances inside the box and goals came from the right back zone.

Liverpool created chances inside the box from RB zone ahead of Spurs vs Stoke in the Premier League.

Liverpool created chances inside the box from RB zone.

Whether Glen Johnson will be fit enough to return will be one of the big questions ahead of Spurs vs Stoke on Sunday? Johnson is their defence’s key player and if he doesn’t make it then Spurs need to attack his replacement.

Weakness: Moving the centre backs

What has become apparent in our recent games with Stoke is just how much Harry Kane is signalled out for attention.

Mark Hughes has one of his centre backs track Kane wherever he moves. This has both positive and negative effects. On the plus side it can stop Kane being a goal-scoring factor. However, the negative is much bigger. Kane’s movement is smart enough that he pulls the tracking centre back way out of position, which creates space for others to run through.

We can see this in Stoke 0-4 Spurs at the end of last season. Kane’s short run towards Erik Lamela on the ball allows Dele Alli to sneak in-behind and score.

Dele on his way as Kane draws the centre back in Spurs vs Stoke in the Premier League.

Dele on his way as Kane draws the centre back in.

In last season’s match at White Hart Lane, Kane’s movement out towards the touchline dragged centre back Geoff Cameron with him. This allowed Ben Davies to burst past in to the space and set up a goal.

Harry Kane comes short, Davies goes in to the space created during Spurs vs Stoke in the Premier League.

Harry Kane comes short, Davies goes in to the space created.

Kane’s movement to drag his covering centre back is highly effective when he comes short. It also works in the box as we can see from Stoke 0-4 Spurs earlier this season. His movement deep in the box drags both centre backs in. This allowed Son Heung-Min acres to drift in to and convert the pull back from Christian Eriksen in to the net.

Son untracked as Stoke get caught on Kane during Spurs Stoke in the Premier League.

Son untracked as Stoke get caught on Kane.

Stoke are so worried about Harry Kane that they are prepared to sacrifice one of their central defenders to try and contain him. In spite of effectively being man marked, Kane has really excelled against it. Not only has his passing come to the fore to create opportunities for others, but he also has three goals in the last two encounters.

Strength: running the channels

Mark Hughes often sets up in a 4-3-3 and uses his three attackers to run the channels. This sees them split a back four by having each attacker run in between the defenders. We can see it here from our match earlier in the season as Wilfried Bony, Marko Arnautovic and Jonathan Walters try and overload our centre backs by running the lanes between them.

Stoke look to run the lanes between our defence during Spurs vs Stoke in the Premier League.

Stoke look to run the lanes between our defence.

They also did it regularly during Spurs 2-2 Stoke at White Hart Lane last season to overcome a two-goal deficit.

Stoke's front three run the channels between our back four during Spurs vs Stoke in the Premier League.

Stoke’s front 3 run the channels between our back 4.

Stoke are dangerous when they do this as it gets men in the box. This is something that has come to the fore with the inclusion of Peter Crouch up top and their move to increase crossing.

Strength: crossing

Peter Crouch has been revitalised recently. Four goals in eight Premier League games have seen him enjoying a good run of form. With his inclusion, Stoke are crossing the ball much more.

Up until Crouch’s regular inclusion, Stoke were crossing the ball 17 times per match. Since Crouch was installed against Liverpool, the Potters are putting in 22 crosses per game. The main supplier has been Marko Arnautovic, Stoke’s most dangerous man.

Key match-up: Marko Arnautovic vs Kyle Walker

Stoke like to get the ball early to their wide forwards. This sees them often look quickly for Marko Arnautovic to instigate attacks. We can see this from the length of the passing lines to him in Stoke’s last away match with West Brom. Stoke look to get the ball to him up the line or over distance from central midfield.

Stoke move the ball, often over distance, to Arnautovic.

Stoke move the ball, often over distance, to Arnautovic.

Once on the ball Arnautovic can then dribble and try to get a cross in or a shot away. He is highly dangerous when on his game as he is difficult to stop off the dribble, but equally delivers a very accurate cross.

Right back Kyle Walker will be in for a busy afternoon to keep him in check, although I wouldn’t put it past Mark Hughes to switch Arnautovic to the other flank. That will see him against the slower Ben Davies and with a real advantage.

Spurs vs Stoke outlook

Stoke have been very strong at home recently, but have won just two and lost four of their last six away. How our lads will respond after we played 50 minutes against Gent with ten men will be a huge factor. A number of players looked exhausted at the end and very little recovery time will play a part.

Due to the close attention he’ll receive, Mauricio Pochettino will need to include plenty of players that will run past Harry Kane. Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli should be the standouts to have big games.

Spurs vs Stoke prediction: Spurs 1-0 Stoke.



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4 Responses to Spurs vs Stoke: opposition strengths and weaknesses

  1. Matt 25th February 2017 at 5:40 pm #

    On the basis of your analysis I’d go 4 at the back with Son on the left attacking their RB. When he’s on his game he makes things happen down that side. After the shift Walker put in, and after Fulham, I’d go for Trippier with Walker on the bench. If we have a defensive weakness it’s on the air especially at set piece, so I’m nervous about that Stoke forward line; we need to be careful about silly fouls and corners. A nervy 2-1 with Alli making amends!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th February 2017 at 7:55 pm #

      It’s going to be tough and depends on how certain players respond. Walker didn’t play against Fulham so he might be ok, he was certainly knackered by the end of Gent though. However, Trippier’s performances are pushing him for consideration. Son on the left is interesting as I think he can work from a wingback position and that’s how we should attack Stoke with high full backs, therefore a back three for me with Son and Walker as wing backs. Dele, Eriksen and Kane upfront with Winks coming in to midfield for Dembele.

  2. Matt 25th February 2017 at 8:52 pm #

    Interesting. I’m a fan of the 3; but I’d mentally checked out of that ’till Danny R is back, or we get a more adventurous backup (I rate Davies but see him as a verts bacup in a 3). Hadn’t thought of Son at wingback. Think he’s got the discipline not to leave defending duties? Certainly a thought.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th February 2017 at 10:29 pm #

      I’m not sure about Son being disciplined enough defensively. He’s really not had that level of responsibility yet. That’s why I’d go with him as a wingback as he has more wriggle room to get away with errors or being caught out of place with extra cover behind. It’s worth a trial for me whilst Rose is out.