Unable to finish off a narrow and compact team meant our Premier league clash finished Brighton 1-1 Tottenham at the Amex Stadium.
A disjointed Tottenham team failed to finish off Brighton. Taking the lead against a narrow and compact defence, we couldn’t hold on as it finished Brighton 1-1 Tottenham at the Amex Stadium.
Compact Brighton block
The biggest obstacle Tottenham faced was the Brighton defence shape. The Seagulls made themselves very difficult to break down. Chris Hughton had his back four play extremely narrow. He then had his wingers, Anthony Knockaert and Jose Izquierdo, track our full backs on the outside.
The result was that Brighton often had a back six, but were heavily congesting the centre of the pitch. These are the areas that we like to play in.
Consequently we struggled to create chances. When opportunities did come along, they were often from pressing which caused turnovers or passes that went through several levels of the Brighton team.
Mauricio Pochettino lined us up in a 4-3-3 formation. There seemed to be two objectives of this setup. Firstly, to get Christian Eriksen much more of the ball in deeper positions to build attacks. Secondly, to get two wide forwards on the pitch in Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura, who could attack the Brighton full backs.
Brighton’s ploy to have Knockaert and Izquierdo track wide to help their full backs tuck in hindered our play to get the ball to Son and Moura. When chances to get in down the sides came along, it was often because Anthony Knockaert was caught not tracking.
Moving the ball quickly at the back line
The way Brighton had set up frustrated Tottenham. Our wide forwards often ran in to double teams. What’s more, apart from Christian Eriksen in midfield, there wasn’t the same cut and thrust we usually have as Victor Wanyama and Moussa Sissoko were operating at the base.
Our chances consequently came from when we were able to get quickly at an exposed Brighton back line.
Lucas Moura was the first to benefit. His steal of a loose Beram Kayal pass, saw him race towards goal and up ended by Lewis Dunk on the edge of the Brighton box. A poor Anthony Knockaert back pass then put Harry Kane straight on their back line, but he too was chopped down.
Moura created the best chance of the half. His pass took out the Brighton midfield to put Harry Kane straight on the Seagulls’ centre backs. Kane’s layoff found Son in stride, but Matt Ryan got down to superbly claw away his shot.
Spurs change shape
Mauricio Pochettino changed shape on seeing our frustration in the first half. We returned to 4-2-3-1 but with a twist. Harry Kane operated as a second striker number ten just behind Son Heung-Min.
What’s more, Lucas Moura was moved to the left side to attack 37-year old Bruno.
The personnel move paid dividends moments in to the second half. Some more good pressing forced an error from the Brighton back line. Gaetan Bong’s heavy touch saw Victor Wanyama relieve him of the ball. Son Heung-Min then danced along the by-line to evade Lewis Dunk and Matt Ryan with a sumptuous step over. Harry Kane arrived unmarked from his deeper starting position to rifle Son’s pinpoint cutback in to the net, 1-0!
Paying the penalty
Grafting hard to take the lead, we then threw it away in 18 seconds, as the score quickly became Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.
Brighton’s wide men, Anthony Knockaert and Jose Izquierdo, were their key outlets for any kinds of attacks. Knockaert had been the chief threat, but the runs of Jose Izquierdo gave Serge Aurier trouble.
Knockaert had been the outlet for providing Brighton’s crossing based attack. However, Izquierdo’s inside runs gave Aurier issues. One such moment in the first half saw Izquierdo beat Aurier, but fail to connect with Knockaert’s curling cross through the six-yard box.
Straight from the kick off and Izquierdo was running inside again. Aurier was late on his coverage once more. Hopping behind Izquierdo saw him trip the Brighton man. Referee Kevin Friend had no hesitation pointing to the penalty spot.
Pascal Gross stepped up and fired low and hard in to the corner of the net. Hugo Lloris got a hand to it, but didn’t have the strength to keep the spot kick out. The score was suddenly Brighton 1-1 Tottenham and a precious and hard worked for lead had been thrown away.
Spurs struggle to break Brighton
With the score at Brighton 1-1 Tottenham we were expecting a response and our team to go up a gear. However, with so many changes made from the side that started in Tottenham 1-3 Man City we struggled to create cohesive attacks.
Mauricio Pochettino made substitutions to introduce Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele. Lamela did have a good opportunity as we got him quickly at the Brighton centre backs. Lamela struck a decent shot with his rarely favoured right foot, which brought a good save from Matt Ryan.
The introduction of Dembele solved the problem we had moving the ball forward from defensive midfield. Moussa Sissoko had offered little cut and thrust. Victor Wanyama had his usually excellent closing down game, but he too offered little more than sideways passing.
Tottenham huffed and puffed, but couldn’t break a narrow and compact Brighton down. Pochettino’s final role of the dice saw him replace Harry Kane with Fernando Llorente.
Kane had another subdued performance. Is the injury still causing him issues or is he focussing too much on the golden boot chase that it is affecting his natural instinctive shot game?
As Tottenham toiled, good chances were not forthcoming. Time ran out and the match ended Brighton 1-1 Tottenham with the points shared.
Brighton 1-1 Tottenham overall
This performance was highly disjointed and strangely subdued. Six changes to the usual line-up looked a factor. Did the team also have one eye on Saturday’s FA Cup Semi Final with Manchester United?
Brighton’s use of a narrow and compact shape with their full backs tucking in tight to their centre backs caused us issues. We struggled to get our usual presence in the inside pockets between the lines that we like so much.
Turnovers or one direct pass that got a player instantly on the Brighton back line proved to be our most fruitful outlet. Our goal and best chances came from these methods. However, we didn’t generate enough of these types of chance and therefore couldn’t break down a determined opponent.
Final score: Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.
MOTM: Lucas Moura.