Tottenham tactics: Cardiff vs Spurs preview

After our Europa League clash with Tromso, we turn our attentions back to the Premier League as we head to Wales for Cardiff vs Spurs.

So what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Cardiff vs Spurs?

Cardiff set up and style

Cardiff have made an impressive start to their first Premier League campaign. Malky Mackay lines his side up in either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-4-1 formation playing some effective counter attacking football.

Whichever formation, they sit deep and defend narrow, trying to force opponents wide. They do this by getting a number of bodies in central areas when not in possession. Holding midfielder Gary Medel sits in front of the back four and he is joined by Aron Gunnarsson and Kim Bo-Kyung, as they try and clog the middle and create turnovers from which they can spring forward.

In possession they are heavily geared to attacking down the right. This sees new full back Kevin Theophile-Catherine as key to moving forward down this side.

Ahead of him, Craig Bellamy (Don Cowie last weekend), provide a nice link for both themselves and the full back to get forward. Theophile-Catherine has only played once, but last week against Hull, he was very aggressive and often overlapped on the outside of Cowie, attempting to cross in to the box.


Kevin Theophile-Catherine passes attempted, Hull 1 Cardiff 1.

In the middle, Gary Medel may be responsible for screening his back four but he also commands a lot of the ball to move it up field from the defensive third. He is often the out-pass for his centre backs and also goalkeeper, as he is involved in the first phase of transitioning the play forward.

In alongside or just ahead of Medel, Aron Gunnarsson plays as the link to playmaker Kim Bo-Kyung, but he is also dangerous at bursting forward for a shot. Gunnarsson is often the target for Medel when he can’t move the ball to the full backs. He can also be a problem arriving late in the box and unmarked, just as he did to grab Cardiff’s first goal against Manchester City.

On the left, Peter Whittingham moves inside looking to create overloads in central positions. When further up field, he makes forward bursts through the inside channels to join Frazier Campbell in attack, as they attempt to get support for the striker in the box.

Cardiff attack down the right

With the team set up, Cardiff are heavily focussed on attacking down the right. This can be through a combination of wide player and full back or through the central midfield players drifting out to this side to create triangles.

Last weekend against Hull, Cardiff’s equalising goal came in this manner and illustrated their team movement perfectly. Nicky Maynard, who had come on for Kim Bo-Kyung in the number ten position, drifted to the right and flicked a ball in to the path of Don Cowie. Peter Whittingham, who had raced in through the central channels to join Frazier Campbell in the box, met his cross.


Nicky Maynard gets the ball to Don Cowie who crosses for Peter Whittingham.

Cardiff’s only other goal from open play this season also heavily involved the number ten. This time it was Kim Bo-Kyung, as he went on one of his trademark mazy dribbles before supplying a short cross, again from the right.


Kim Bo-Kyung crosses. Campbell’s shot is saved, but Gunnarsson follows up.

Overall, Cardiff have shown a real appetite to create from this side from open play so far this season.


Cardiff chances created from open play against Man City and Hull.

The Tottenham tactics for Cardiff vs Spurs here will see our left side having a busy day trying to mitigate the Bluebirds’ attack. Danny Rose and Gylfi Sigurdsson/Nacer Chadli will need to close the space in that area and don’t be surprised to see them joined by Sandro or Moussa Dembele.

Rose should be able to use his speed against any overlaps from Theophile-Catherine, but playing high up and pressing will be key, as we’ll look at in a minute.

Cardiff set pieces

Cardiff are a threat from set pieces as they load the six-yard box.

Two of their goals from came from corners against Man City, but the key was the number of players they had in the six-yard box and also the number of bodies they got around the goalkeeper.


Cardiff get numbers in the six yard box at corners.

Frazier Campbell scored twice from corners in that game, but as we know from his time at the Lane, Steven Caulker is also a real aerial threat from set pieces.

Under pressure

Cardiff do like to play on the counter attack and the key to controlling the game is to press them early and high up. This restricts the time that players like Gary Medel can have on the ball, but also unnerves former Spurs man Steven Caulker.

We know a lot about Caulks and many of us were surprised when he was sold. He’s a solid defender, but can be forced in to mistakes when pressured quickly.

Both Man City and Everton had the lion’s share of possession on their trips to Wales. Forcing Caulker to play forward quickly resulted in incomplete passes and turnovers.


Steven Caulker passes played against Man City and Everton.

Everton had 63% possession and out shot Cardiff by 13-4 in their visit by pressing the Bluebirds early. This allowed them to recover the ball either in the Cardiff half or close to the halfway line from where they could break forward.

This season we’ve seen an even more aggressive pressing game from Spurs with the move to a 4-3-3 formation. The Tottenham tactics for Cardiff vs Spurs here should play in to our hands if we continue to go quickly after the ball once we’ve lost it.

Cardiff conceding chances

Cardiff may attack down their right, but this also sees them allow the majority of chances against them from this area also.

Manchester City were able to create a number of opportunities, including a goal, from either diagonal balls in to the box or cut backs from the right side. West Ham also had a lot of success, again including a goal, with passes either from the right or slid in to this side.


Man City and West Ham chances created against Cardiff.

The Tottenham tactics for Cardiff vs Spurs should focus on exposing this area, especially in quick transitions if players can be caught up field.

Cardiff vs Spurs outlook

The Bluebirds have taken four points at home so far in the Premier League, so this won’t be an easy game. With a raucous crowd behind them, they will also be fuelled on to do what they did to Manchester City.

They will be looking to attack down the right and this will be the key battleground, both defensively and going forward. Spurs must press to generate quick turnovers and then get in-behind to create scoring chances.

Cardiff vs Spurs prediction: Cardiff 1 Spurs 2

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7 Responses to Tottenham tactics: Cardiff vs Spurs preview

  1. Cardiffkickaball 20th September 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    Very good read and you make some great points. Theophile-Catherine had a cracking debut last week and showed a lot of promise attacking down the flank. I’d imagine Bellamy will start on the right ahead of Cowie, which might be a bit too attacking from Cardiff’s point of view.

    I like your point about the number 10 position, this is pretty critical for Cardiff to transition from midfield ball into attack – opportunities to do so are limited so we have to make the most of this. But Whittingham’s set piece delivery is the most likely source of goal attempts. I also hope that Caulker gets a good reception from your fans.

    A preview of the game from a Cardiff point of view in the link! (although written before the Europa League injuries)

    • Chris 21st September 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      I would be very disappointed if he doesn’t. Really thought/hoped the Caulker was one for the future, and hope he does well for you and gets into the England team in the next couple of years.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st September 2013 at 6:41 pm #

      Thanks, good preview yourself. I think Caulker will get a good reception, i believe that most Spurs fans were disappointed when he was sold.

  2. Boon 20th September 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    It’s interesting that the chances they conceded mostly came from their right. Whittingham plays so centrally that he is more of a No.10. That means his left back will be left alone at the back. I’m very surprised that City or whatever teams versus them never actually tested them there. Even Jesus Navas was subbed out after his ineffective performance. However, Spurs have a dangerous attacking combination down their left with Townsend and Walker. Provided Townsend can be less selfish and link up well on the right, I also think Spurs should try testing this lopsided flank as well with overlaps and overloads which could prove to be a surprising weak link for Cardiff. Else we’ll get to find out why their left seemed so defensively solid, despite having only 1 man.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st September 2013 at 6:39 pm #

      I think they are actually quite solid down the left as Medel often covers Whittingham if he’s not able to get back in to position in time. It’s a shame Rose might be out of the game, as he is a lot more potent going forward than what we saw from Vertonghen on Thursday night against Tromso.

      • Boon 21st September 2013 at 7:20 pm #

        Yeah I also think Rose is more incisive with his pace. Perhaps Vlad Chiriches could play there? Saw some vids of Chiriches going on some excellent surges forward with good ball control.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd September 2013 at 10:02 am #

          Potentially, but i think he’ll get his first run out in the League Cup against Aston Villa. Think it’ll be between Vertonghen and Naughton.