Tottenham tactics: Spurs vs Crystal Palace preview

After our awful FA Cup exit, Saturday sees us return to Premier League action with Spurs vs Crystal Palace at the Lane.

Much has changed since we edged the Eagles 1-0 on opening day, with both clubs having appointed new managers. So, what can we expect from Tony Pulis’ side and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Crystal Palace this time?

Crystal Palace set up and style

Tony Pulis has lined his side up in a 4-4-2 or a defensive 4-3-3 formation that looks like a 4-5-1. The emphasis is on getting the ball in-behind the opposition, so that it can be cut back or crossed to the strikers. This is done through the wide players, who are also not shy about cutting inside for a shot themselves.

After Ian Holloway’s side were shipping goals left, right and centre, Tony Pulis has tightened up Palace without the ball. Only Everton have conceded fewer goals in the Premier League since Pulis took over. The side now defend better as a unit, with the emphasis on tackling.

They can press and harass opponents when they use two strikers. Pulis will have two or three players to close down, the rest then sit deeper to mop up any clearances. They did this extremely effectively in giving Chelsea trouble at Stamford Bridge.


Crystal Palace tackles against Chelsea.

Marouane Chamakh scored their goal from a Joel Ward cross, but the play started with Palace winning the ball high up through a tackle in the Chelsea half.

They can also sit deep and be difficult to play through, as they can operate in a very defensive 4-3-3 or 4-5-1. Man City have been scoring for fun at home, but Crystal Palace conceded just once.


Crystal Palace ball recoveries against Man City.

Whether Palace press or sit back, they still have had the least amount of possession of any Premier League side during Pulis’ time in charge. Their 34% is way below anyone else, with Hull at 40% the closest team to them.

The reason for this is that Palace can often go long from back to front, which can be successful, but can also turn possession over. Both Chamakh and Jerome are good in the air and can hold the ball up to bring their team mates in to play. The Eagles can also be quick in transition and take long shots or cross the ball, which frequently results in possession being turned over or the ball cleared.

Whilst Pulis doesn’t preach quantity of possession, he certainly aims to get the most out of the ball when his side have it. And, like any Tony Pulis coached side, Palace are dangerous at set pieces. Especially, as they continue to work his near post corner. At Stoke, Ryan Shawcross was the target to flick on or head goalwards for others to get on to. For Palace, Damien Delaney is usually the focal point.

Chamakh and Jerome

When Tony Pulis opts for two up top he uses Cameron Jerome and Marouane Chamakh, but the pair operate in different ways.

The Moroccan comes towards the ball and drops in, looking to be the link-man between midfield and attack. The Englishman plays higher up to occupy the centre backs, whilst also looking to use his pace to run in-behind if the opposition is pushed up.

A typical example of how the pair function in tandem was in beating Cardiff 2-0.

Chamakh works the channels on each side of the pitch as he drifts from back to front. He can win long balls and clearances, but he also has a neat first touch and is comfortable being involved in the link play. When the ball is worked wide, he gets in to the box to get on the end of any crosses.


Marouane Chamakh passes received against Cardiff.

Cameron Jerome on the other hand is a target striker. He is often the focal point when the ball goes from back to front. He can win the headers and knock the ball down, but he also has the pace to race in-behind the defence when the ball is hit over the top. Like Chamakh, when the ball is worked wide, he too looks to get in the box and on the end of crosses. Just as he did here to nod home a chipped ball from Jason Puncheon.

spurs-vs-crystal-palace-jerome-pr cardiff

Cameron Jerome passes received against Cardiff.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Crystal Palace will need to focus on this pairing if Pulis opts for two strikers.

Chamakh is a difficult cover as he drops in, which gives centre backs trouble, as they have to decide whether to come out or pass him on. This could see him exploit the space between our lines of defence and midfield that we’ve seen appearing since Tim Sherwood took over. A player like Etienne Capoue would be good here, but if Nabil Bentaleb gets the nod, then he needs to be aware of this.

Jerome on the other hand can be easier to mark from his high starting position. However, his pace to run in-behind will give both Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches trouble if they are caught up the field.

Jason Puncheon

Whilst the movement of Chamakh and Jerome stretches opponents in opposite ways, Jason Puncheon is able to pull the opposition about through his pace and dribbling.

He can be deployed on either side, but once he has the ball, he is a major threat to work it in to a position where he can either shoot or cross.

His focus is to get beyond the opposition full back. From there he can either pull the trigger on his favoured left-foot or provide a short cross or cut back to a waiting striker.


Jason Puncheon take-ons against Aston Villa and Norwich.

Puncheon leads Crystal Palace in shots taken per game and also chances created, as he plays the position more like a wide forward than a winger.

The Tottenham tactics will need to focus on keeping him in check. Puncheon is extremely left footed and needs to be forced on to his weaker side. Pulis can play him on either the left or right, but both Walker and Rose should have enough pace in their own locker to stay with him.

Spurs vs Crystal Palace creating chances

Crystal Palace mainly look to generate chances through getting in to crossing situations.

This is usually from one of the wide players, either Jason Puncheon or Yannick Bolasie, getting beyond the opposition full back. However, don’t discount Joel Ward getting forward from his full back position too.

From here they can play either short cutbacks or crosses, which have a higher chance of completion. This was effective against Aston Villa to create many chances.


Crystal Palace chances created against Aston Villa.

Despite hitting the post and forcing some good saves, Palace’s goal came from a through ball to a player running in-behind, something they are also dangerous at.

In their previous away match at Chelsea, they attempted longer crosses, but found the back of the net through Ward’s low ball in to Chamakh.


Crystal Palace chances created against Chelsea.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Crystal Palace will need to see us be aware of their wide players trying to get in to these crossing situations. They will try and drive in-behind in order to deliver shorter crosses and pull backs, but they can also pick out Jerome and Chamakh from the flanks.

What’s more, we need to be aware of Barry Bannan’s set piece delivery if he is included.

Spurs vs Crystal Palace conceding chances

As Norwich showed, and also Man City and Chelsea before them, the way to creating chances against Crystal Palace is to get in beyond their own full backs.

Gary Hooper did this as the Canaries opened the scoring through Bradley Johnson in their last Premier League match, a 1-1 draw.


Gary Hooper gets in-behind to set up Bradley Johnson.

Manchester City fashioned their winner after creating several chances by getting in-behind the Palace full backs. As did Chelsea, who exposed Adrian Mariappa in the right back position.


Man City and Chelsea chances created against Crystal Palace.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Crystal Palace here would see us do well to adopt a similar approach to our trip to Southampton. Here, both Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado pulled wide in order to get beyond their full backs. We then looked to get crosses in from these wide locations – just as Adebayor did to volley home our opener.

Spurs vs Crystal Palace outlook

Since Tony Pulis has taken over, Crystal Palace have become a tough nut to crack. Only Everton have conceded fewer goals in the Premier League in this time, so don’t be expecting a goal fest.

Whether Pulis goes with two strikers or drops one to include Barry Bannan as an extra midfielder will have a major influence on the openness of the game. After going with both Chamakh and Jerome against Chelsea, he has opted for just one of them in their last two Premier League away days at Aston Villa and Man City.

We need to get players in-behind their full backs, which will be easier against the twin striker set up. They will be trying to get Puncheon and Bolasie running out our defence.

The team news that Tim Sherwood has Andros Townsend, Lewis Holtby and Gylfi Sigurdsson available is promising. Both Townsend and Sigurdsson offer options in the wide positions.

This should be a tight game, but I expect us to squeak it by a goal.

Spurs vs Crystal Palace prediction: 1-0.

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