Defeat to Norwich saw our top four aspirations take a major hit at Carrow Road. Now the Europa League hardware hangs firmly in the balance, with a win by two goals or more required against a dangerous Dnipro.
So, what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Dnipro this time?
Level of pressing
How aggressive Juande Ramos will be when he lines his side up will be the key to this game.
Dnipro pressed hard in the first 20 minutes in Ukraine in an attempt to grab a quick goal to knock us on the back foot and influence the flow of the tie. This was a bold move from a team that should have technically been out of condition having not played a competitive fixture in 2014.
For Dnipro to continue with it for a full 90 minutes would’ve been suicidal. After this initial burst, the pressing dropped as the triangle of Kankava, Rotan and Giuliano focussed on nabbing the first pass in to midfield.
Leading from the first leg, Ramos has the choice of how aggressive he wants to be here.
Another initial wave of high tempo pressing could yield an early blow and a vital away goal that would leave us needing three. On the other hand, given our struggles at breaking teams down that have sat back on the smallish White Hart Lane pitch, that is also a very valid option.
Ramos’ approach will be instrumental to how this tie is played out and we may have to be patient given our slow starts.
What won’t change in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Dnipro is the away side looking to score from quick transitions
Dnipro quick transitions
Having not seen Dnipro play this season in the Europa League, what became quickly apparent, and then increasingly a factor, was the speed of their transitions.
After winning the ball back, it was quickly moved forward. Whether this was over a great distance from the boot of Ruslan Rotan or at the feet of Yevheniy Konoplyanka, it made no difference. The key for Dnipro was to surge up the pitch and hit before our defence or midfield could get set.
Konoplyanka was extremely direct in his dribbling, having a masterful command of the ball on an uneven surface. He moved it forward very quickly and with purpose, as he skipped past challenges to cut inside on his favoured right foot.
Ruslan Rotan was also looking to move play directly forward for striker Matheus to run on to, but with his passing.
The midfielder had looked for his Brazilian striker twice, but saw Brad Friedel clear the first and Danny Rose cut the second out.
The third time he found Matheus in acres of space, but the striker’s pondering on the ball and scuffed shot straight at Friedel was all very pre-season.
The three passes highlighted the vulnerability of the high line we were playing, something that Tim Sherwood hasn’t subscribed to since taking over.
The move to use it in Ukraine was curious seeing as the pitch was so bad. Hitting the ball over the top and chasing on to it was a very viable tactic given that an uneven surface is difficult to pass the ball across.
Safety first and sitting the centre backs deeper should be a Tottenham tactic for Spurs vs Dnipro at the Lane. The Ukrainians will be looking to play their rapid transition game and conceding would leave us in a right hole.
A higher line could be used if we are in need of a goal later on after the interval, but requires pressure on the ball at all times.
Attacking the Dnipro full backs
Whilst Dnipro’s transition game was the first standout point, their vulnerability in the full back zones was the other.
The central trio of Rotan, Kankava and Giuliano were taking away the middle, whilst the full backs were being left 1v1.
Spurs went with inverted wingers, but still exploited this advantage through Danny Rose and Nacer Chadli combining down the left to get in-behind and cross.
After the interval, the right was exposed as Paulinho got in to set up Roberto Soldado with the chance of the match.
Later, Christian Eriksen got behind the full back and also provided a great cross for the Spaniard, but it was blocked and flew over the bar.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Dnipro here need to see us go after the full backs once again, but this time with wingers on their natural sides.
Spurs vs Dnipro outlook
This could well turn out to be a simple game of Dnipro sitting back and playing on the counter, whilst we attempt to break them down. This is fine if it goes this way, but Tim Sherwood needs to get some creativity in to the team and plenty of natural width.
The problem for us is that we won’t have either of our first choice full backs, which could well see Zeki Fryers and Kyle Naughton get the nod. With Dnipro being vulnerable in the wide areas, these guys have to get forward and support their wingers. This may be easier for Fryers than for Naughton.
Sandro is back in the frame but a defensive midfielder may not be required here if Dnipro plays deep. This would allow Sherwood to get his usual quota of box-to-box midfielders in the line-up, who can be apt enough to reclaim the ball.
This could be a game where patience is required, but on the other hand it may well be lively like the first leg. Sherwood will be emphasising the fast start after Norwich at the weekend and that could lead to goals on a better playing surface.
Spurs vs Dnipro prediction: Spurs 3 Dnipro 1.
Interesting analysis. We need to win this game and it needs to be convincing. Not so much in terms of goals, but that would be good, but rather the performance. We need to control the game from start to finish. We have been made to pay too often this season by teams sitting back and hitting us on the break. We need to control the ball and make them work for it. As they are in preseason they should tire, but as you have said this didn’t happen in the reverse tie.
Im not sure that i agree that Sandro isn’t needed if they sit back. They can obviously hit us with some pace which is already apparent. We have leggy central defenders with both Dawson and Vertoghen both in line to start. Im also not remotely convinced by Naughton and to a lesser extent Fryers (but he has had limited game time). I think Naughton may have to be moved on in the summer. He offers versatility, but isn’t particularly good on either side of defence and offers little or nothing at the other end of the park. Sandro can sit in and cover. The issue i have with this is that this will be his first game back. On the flip side he has to come back at some stage and game time is what is needed. I would say 45 minutes and see how he feels.
Erikson needs to play. We need the creativity he brings to get back into the tie. Bringing him on later will not do the trick. He will grow into the game and be extremely dangerous – hopefully providing killer balls for Soldado and possibly Ade (but i guess Kane is more likely as we can’t afford to play the first team).
Overall, i have been pretty deflated since the weekend. 4th spot is fading, but it is not an excuse to take the foot of the pedal. Tim/Dawson have asked for character and a response. Lets see what they have!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Good points Vimjonk. I agree about the performance needing to be convincing, this can often go hand-in-hand with scoring goals, but control of the game is what’s required.
Sandro is back, but like you say may only be able to muster 45 minutes and if he breaks down then that’s 1 substitute gone. I’m not a fan of having redundant players in defensive areas eg 3v1 and I wouldn’t suggest going without a defensive midfielder in away matches, but we’ve controlled games before at home by using Dembele and Paulinho in here and both can regain the ball whilst getting forward. This can be used to pen a sitting side in whilst having a lock-picker in Eriksen to open them up. I’d really like to see us go for it here!