Tottenham tactics: Basel vs Spurs preview

After drawing the first leg of our Europa League Quarter-Final 2-2 at the Lane, now we travel to St. Jakob Park for the biggest game of our season so far, Basel vs Spurs.

The Swiss outfit were hugely impressive a week ago and coach Murat Yakin will be looking to finish the job at home where Basel are extremely tough to beat.

So what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Basel vs Spurs this time?

Basel set up and style of play

Coach Murat Yakin has his Basel side on the front foot following the 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane, but has stated that they will not be holding back.

“I don’t think the players will start the match thinking a draw will be enough; we will put pressure on the opposition in order to create chances, as we have done all season.”

He has often gone 4-3-3 in the Europa League, but has also deployed two strikers in a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 in this season’s competition. Against teams playing 4-3-3 themselves, like Zenit in the last round, Yakin has started with a 4-2-3-1 and been successful.

Whatever the formation, the attack, as we saw at the Lane last week, goes heavily down the right side.

This starts with the right back looking to play extremely high up and overlap. Throughout the season it has been Philipp Degen, but in his absence last week, Markus Steinhofer did an excellent job standing in and may get the start again here.

Ahead of the right back, Mohamed Salah likes to dribble with the ball, as he charges through the inside right channel and gets away shots and cuts back passes. We saw this in Spurs 2 Basel 2 at the Lane last week and this is where the Swiss side took advantage in the tie.

The pair are aided by Marco Streller drifting out in to the channels and creating overloads, as he gets involved in the build-up and link play. What’s more, if Streller doesn’t drift over, then Valentin Stocker moves across from his starting position on the left to create even more confusion. The Basel right, our left, will be a key area and this is where the game will be won or lost.

Without the ball, Basel deploys three central midfielders who condense the space in front of their back four. This created problems for Gareth Bale last week, but as we’ll look at later, leaves them vulnerable in wide positions with the full backs getting forward.

Basel do give a way free kicks though, with their 16.8 per game average one of the highest in the Europa League. Six of their eleven matches in the competition have seen a sending off; three for Basel and three for their opponents, whilst they have conceded penalties in the last two rounds.

Whilst the home side being reduced to ten men would aid Spurs, we also don’t want to get sucked in to any tactics used to frustrate and risk losing a man ourselves.

Streller, Stocker and Salah

The trio caused all of the damage at White Hart Lane last week and are an effective combination.

Valentin Stocker starts on the left, Streller through the centre and Salah on the other flank. They have a tendency to migrate towards the right as the play builds from there.

Mohamed Salah

The Basel attack begins with the right back, but Mohamed Salah ahead of him is a quick dribbler with an eye for a shot or cutting the ball back once he is in advanced positions. We saw that for their opening goal at last week, as the Egyptian played wide, then cut inside through the inside right channel as he burst in to the area.

He attempted 12 dribbles, the majority of which went through this channel, whilst also getting six shots away and playing a major part in their opening goal.


Mohamed Salah dribbles through the inside right channel and gets shots away.

The Tottenham tactics for Basel vs Spurs here needs to see our left back play narrow and force Salah to the outside. The Egyptian has completed one of his seventeen attempted crosses in the Europa League and is less of a threat when forced out to the flank where he doesn’t want to be.

Marco Streller

Marco Streller is a big unit, but his movement is his biggest threat to opponents. He is the focus for long balls forward, but he works the channels well, as he drifts out to both sides to get involved in the build-up play.

This predominantly sees him move to the right, but also sees him work with left back Park Joo-Ho and Valentin Stocker when the ball is out to this side. Once play is shifted in to the final third, he moves through the inside channels to receive passes played in from Salah and Stocker.

In the 2-2 draw at the Lane, we saw him do just that prior to hitting the post on their opening goal. Also moments earlier, as he brought a save from Brad Friedel after getting on the end of a cutback from Valentin Stocker having drifted through the inside left channel.


Marco Streller passes received, Spurs vs Basel.

The Tottenham tactics for Basel vs Spurs against Marco Streller should see concede space, but take some away. We should not get sucked out as he shifts out wide to link the play, but then take away any space as he drifts back in through the channels.

Streller is difficult to cover across the park, but with a defence playing narrow for Mohamed Salah, he should find less room for manoeuvre in those central channels.

Valentin Stocker

Valentin Stocker starts on the left, but drifts in to central areas to combine with Marco Streller. He also can float out to the right when the number nine stays central in order to link the play with Mohamed Salah.

What Stocker brings is an eye for a through pass when he has the ball, but also for a shot when he is in central areas. We saw this in the game at the Lane, when he fed Mohamed Salah with a nicely weighted ball through the channel, then moved in to the box to finish off the rebound on their first goal.


Salah is played in through our inside left channel by Valentin Stocker.

But throughout the match, he constantly drifted inside from his starting position on the left, allowing his full back to overlap and provide any width.

Stocker is most likely to tee up a team mate, leading Basel in chances created in the Europa League this season and his free role makes him difficult to cover.

The Tottenham tactics for Basel vs Spurs here again need to concentrate on congesting central areas. Stocker can’t be tracked man-for-man across the pitch, but can, like Salah be forced wide where he is less effective.

Unlike the Egyptian, Stocker is a slightly better crosser of the ball with a 20% completion rate. But we’d rather he be forced wide than allowing him to play in passes through the middle.

Marcelo Diaz

Marcelo Diaz was suspended for the 1st leg at the Lane, but will be back here and should be in contention to start in midfield for Basel.

He has played in both the number ten position and a more slightly withdrawn role in the Europa League, but always keeps the ball moving wide and is a threat to pick out a through pass.

In the last round, he was instrumental in taking care of Zenit 2-0 in the 1st leg, before being sent off during the return in Russia.


Marcelo Diaz passing, Basel vs Zenit.

Diaz missed Basel’s trip to St. Gallen on the weekend, so could be in line for a recall here. The Tottenham tactics for Basel vs Spurs should see Moussa Dembele or Scott Parker charged with getting early to him, so as to stop him dictating the tempo.

Spurs must move the ball wide

As we looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Basel before the 1st leg, the Swiss side concede chances from the full back zones. With both of them playing high up, this often leaves Basel open to opportunities being created from the areas these players have vacated.

In their last two home matches in the Europa League we saw just this. Both Dnipro and Zenit were able to create chances in these zones or manufacture an opportunity from the full back area.

Dnipro created crosses from Park Joo-Ho’s left back area, but also fashioned openings from shorter passes slid in behind right back Philipp Degen.

Zenit on the other hand created from balls played from the centre out wide, but also from shorter passes cut back from the full back zones to the middle.


Dnipro and Zenit chances created against Basel at home.

After Aaron Lennon went off in the first leg, we were really lacking in width. However, our two goals came from phases of play when we managed to move the ball wide. Emmanuel Adebayor eventually turned in Gareth Bale’s cross after good work from Scott Parker. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s equaliser was the result of a longer pass to move the ball quickly to the flank by Moussa Dembele.

The Tottenham tactics for Basel v Spurs need to see us move the ball in to wider areas, especially if we can create turnovers and hit them before they can get set. Without both Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, we may just struggle to do this.

Basel vs Spurs outlook

Basel will be tough to beat at home. They’ve not lost at St. Jakob Park in the Europa League this season and have kept clean sheets in their last four matches there, shutting out Zenit, Dnipro, Sporting Lisbon and Videoton. Genk were the last team to breach the Basel defence there, as they managed a 2-2 draw in October. The same score line for us would force extra-time here.

Valentin Stocker, Marco Streller and Mohamed Salah will be the main threat for the home side that will attack down their right. Our left side will need to stay compact and with the help of the midfield, keep them from coming through our inside left channel. Playing compact and narrow to congest the centre with a midfield trio of Parker and Dembele, aided by Lewis Holtby as a withdrawn number ten should accomplish this.

If we are to pull off an upset, we have to move the ball wide and look to create from there. Gylfi Sigurdsson will need to try and get behind the full back with his left foot – as he was doing in the second half against Everton, rather than always cutting inside on his right. Over on the right, if Clint Dempsey gets the nod again, he will have to stay wide and only move to the centre once the ball has gone out to Gylfi.

Andre Villas-Boas has said that the players will give everything, but unless it is effort in the right areas, it could prove fruitless against a strong Swiss side.

Logic says that Basel should run out winners here and keep a clean sheet, but a calculated and spirited Spurs performance may just be enough to pull off a shock.

Basel vs Spurs prediction: Basel 1 Spurs 2.

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