Basel 2 Spurs 2: tactics right, spot kicks wrong

Guts, determination, belief, heart and spirit are just some of the words that could be used to sum up our performance in our Europa League Quarter-Final. A never say die attitude got the score back to Basel 2 Spurs 2 to force extra time, but an energy sapping additional period left little in the tank when it came to converting spot kicks.

This was a tremendous effort from a Tottenham team missing key figures. The game was heavily influenced by tactical switches, as both coaches made use of their benches, but also by Spurs having to play extra time with ten men.

Basel set up and tactics

Coach Murat Yakin had promised the Basel would play on the front foot by “putting on pressure and creating chances.” He sent his side out in the same 4-3-3 that had drawn at White Hart Lane, but this time with Philipp Degen and Park Joo-Hoo returning from suspension at the full back positions.

As looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Basel vs Spurs, both players were looking to get forward and support the attack as often as they could. Degen was much more involved than Park, with the Swiss Side moving the ball forward down the right side for the majority of the match.

Fabian Frei once again anchored the midfield, with Mohamed Elneny and Geoffrey Serey Die playing narrow and then shuttling out wide to provide additional cover to their full backs.

Up front, the trio of Valentin Stocker, Marco Streller and Mohamed Salah worked their intertwining magic, especially on their opening goal. For large parts of the 90 minutes they were kept at arms length by a determined Tottenham side that shielded the centre.

Spurs set up and tactics

Andre Villas-Boas lined the lads up in what flitted between a 4-3-3 and a 4-1-4-1. Scott Parker was anchoring a space at the base of midfield with Lewis Holtby just ahead of him and Moussa Dembele often operating as the most advanced player of the trio.

This helped force Basel out of the centre and towards the flanks in the final third, as well as causing them to play a large amount of long balls to move the play forward.


Basel 2 Spurs 2: Basel passing in the final third and Tottenham interceptions (90 minutes).

We looked at how to keep Basel from moving the ball through the central channels in the Basel vs Spurs preview and this trio did an effective job.

Clint Dempsey playing narrow on the right aided them, as the American was always looking to move in to central locations. Over on the left, Gylfi Sigurdsson once again tried to play with as much width as possible, but also helped his full back.

Up front, Emmanuel Adebayor was doing a good job holding the ball up when it was played long from the back and also running the channels. Lewis Holtby found him in the first half with a neatly chipped ball over the Basel defence, but the scourge of Adebayor’s play all night, his finishing, let him down.

Spurs open the scoring

Spurs dictated much of the early tempo through possession based passing, whilst Basel seemed to be nervous now that they had something to hold on to.

Clint Dempsey opened the scoring after a defensive error from Aleksandar Dragovic let him in, but the build-up was very clever.

Spurs kept the ball for a long time just prior to the strike and Basel seemed to sag off when Vertonghen received the ball high up on the halfway line once more. Jan then played an incisive through pass, but Dempsey spotted the lane through the inside left channel very early and pointed where he wanted the ball to go.


Clint Dempsey points the way to the empty channel.

Vertonghen’s pass caused Dragovic to slide and miss-time his clearance, which kind of highlighted Basel’s cagey start. A very focussed Dempsey then rounded the keeper to score.

Salah through our inside left channel once more

Spurs 2 Basel 2 at the Lane saw Mohamed Salah open up our inside left channel and the diminutive Egyptian provided the Basel equaliser from here.

Dempsey’s strike seemed to kick start a nervous Basel side in to gear.

After their own defensive error, they forced one from Moussa Dembele, who held the ball too long when he should have passed out of the zone to Jan Vertonghen earlier.


Dembele fails to take his chance to play an out ball as Basel circle.

Kyle Naughton was caught hopelessly out of position, leaving Mohamed Salah free through our inside left channel to stab home after a heavy first touch.


Just as in the 1st leg, Mohamed Salah gets in through our inside left channel.

This passage of play apart, we did a decent job of keeping Salah from charging in through this inside channel in order to shoot or cut the ball back during 90 minutes.

In the first leg, the Egyptian had given Benoit Assou-Ekotto a torrid time, but here Kyle Naughton was quick to get to his first touch, with help from Gylfi Sigurdsson tracking back. The boundless energy of Scott Parker and Lewis Holtby was also stopping him from coming back inside, keeping him mostly out towards the right.


Basel 2 Spurs 2: Mohamed Salah passes received (90 Mins).

With Basel heavily attacking down this right side, their best chances during 90 minutes did still come from here, but a lot of their efforts were from outside the box.

After scoring from a near post flick-on from a Valentin Stocker corner at the Lane, Basel took the lead through another corner from the Swiss international here. This time Aleksander Dragovic was coming in behind the flick and atoned for his earlier defensive slip.

Carroll and Hudd change the game again

In Spurs 2 Everton 2 at the weekend, with us chasing a 1-2 deficit, Andre Villas-Boas brought Tom Carroll and Tom Huddlestone in to the game.

This time it was Carroll for Dembele, then Huddlestone for Parker, but the result was the same, a Spurs equaliser.

Tom Carroll was the first change, but he immediately swung the possession in Spurs favour as he got on the ball and kept it. He either shifted it through short passes or probed balls through the Basel defence.


Basel 2 Spurs 2: Tom Carroll passes played (90 mins).

This prompted coach Murat Yakin to remove wide forward Valentin Stocker and replace him with the more defensively minded Markus Steinhofer. The ‘hold what we have approach’ caused Andre Villas-Boas to go to his bench once more and bring a third passer in to the centre in Tom Huddlestone.

We’d looked in the Tottenham tactics for Basel vs Spurs at how the Swiss side had conceded chances from teams getting in behind their advancing full backs. The equaliser arrived from this zone.

After an initial free kick from Huddlestone had been repelled by the Basel defence, the ball found its way back to big Tom.

He clipped a lofted pass over the head of full back Park Joo-Hoo, who had moved forward on the initial clearing of the free kick, but then couldn’t get back. Dempsey was able to take the ball down as Gylfi Sigurdsson screened the Korean trying to get back and his tame shot found its way past keeper Yann Sommer, 2-2.


Clint Dempsey gets in behind the full back to make it Basel 2 Spurs 2.

Super Jan sees red

After the equaliser, Spurs were very much in the ascendancy, controlling possession and were looking for a winner until Jan Vertonghen’s red card.

The Belgian was having a terrific game both at the back and going forward, so it was a surprise that he got caught out on the wrong side of Marco Streller. He decided to go for a steal of the ball, when he just needed to stay goal side of the Swiss forward who wasn’t going to run away from anybody.

Vertonghen was given his marching orders and we went from a position of looking like the most probable team to score, to one having to hang on and defend for our lives.

Basel 2 Spurs 2: Extra time and penalties

With ten men, extra time saw Basel dominate possession whilst we played on the counter in a 4-4-1 formation.

We really didn’t create much, but neither did the Swiss side due to the fact that we tried to retain three midfield players operating centrally in front of our back four.

Whenever the play was in the middle, the outside player, whether it was Dempsey or Sigurdsson, would try to pinch in and create a central three with Holtby and Carroll. The tactic was effective until Dempsey’s legs went midway through the additional period, but it continued with our tactics of trying to force them wide or to shoot from distance.

In the first period they had a couple of efforts from range, as Mohamed Elneny struck the outside of the post and Marcelo Diaz curled an effort wide. It wasn’t until 5 minutes from time that they broke in to our box, but Alexander Frei’s effort that was blocked by a tremendous sliding challenge from Michael Dawson.

After a heroic effort to keep Basel at bay during extra time, we just ran out of gas in the penalty shootout.

Basel’s spot kicks were all well taken with conviction, fuelled on by a raucous home crowd. Ours just looked tired against a keeper who seemed well briefed on where our lads like to place them.

Basel 2 Spurs 2 conclusions

The ending wasn’t really befitting of what had been a tremendously gutsy and determined performance that warranted more from the game.

Andre Villas-Boas had his tactics right to force Basel out of the central channels, keeping them wide.

Both teams capitalised on defensive errors for their first goals, but Spurs were in the ascendancy at 2-2. Jan Vertonghen’s red card really swung the game, and also the momentum, back towards the home side. However, heroic performances across the pitch and tactics to still keep a central trio helped keep Basel at bay in the additional period.

We go out with our heads held high, but wondering what might have been.

Final score: Basel 2 Spurs 2 (Basel win 4-1 on pens).

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