Harry Kane fights for the ball during Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.

Brighton 1-1 Tottenham: difficulties dissecting a narrow block

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.

Knockaert and Izquierdo track outside as FBs tuck in during Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.

Knockaert and Izquierdo track outside as FBs tuck in.

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.

Tottenham 4-3-3

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.

4-3-3 formation during Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.

4-3-3 formation during Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.

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.

Knockaert caught not tracking Davies during Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.

Knockaert caught not tracking Davies.

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.

Moura's longer pass to Kane through levels of defence during Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.

Moura’s longer pass to Kane through levels of defence.

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.

Kane as a second striker number ten behind Son during Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.

Kane as a second striker number ten behind Son.

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.

Aurier slow to react to Izquierdo's inside run concedes a penalty to make the score Brighton 1-1 Tottenham.

Aurier slow to react to Izquierdo’s inside run concedes a penalty.

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.



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12 Responses to Brighton 1-1 Tottenham: difficulties dissecting a narrow block

  1. c b 18th April 2018 at 12:44 pm #

    If Poch has a fault (apart from hardly forgiving any player who may step out of line) it’s
    that he doesn’t let his players express themselves when the system they’re playing isn’t working on that day or night. That happens when key players like Eriksen and Kane etc. are
    completely off form (as was the case last night). In the final third, in the first half, we
    constantly played an extra pass instead of simply going for the throat. Sharp passing in front
    of the opponents’ goal is commendable ONLY when it’s incisive. And you don’t get that
    incision if you’re treating the ball like a hot potato (you have it back, no, you have it)
    shunting it at speed to a player who’s just a yard or so away from you, and hitting it too
    hard for it to be controlled. Fine, if you’re a goal or so up, and all playing well within that system, but Brighton tightened up far more in the 2nd half, which meant some of our players should have stepped outside our tight system.
    We still need the brilliance occasionally of a Gazza, a Hoddle, a Ginola, or a Klinsman! I’m not knocking our system of tight play centrally (as it’s been key for us over three seasons and we’ve played wonderful football) but we need our best to step outside it occasionally. Kane has worryingly been poor since his ankle return, although class over temporary form will win through (let’s hope he’s ‘back’ for United). Eriksen’s display last night indicated why we NEED another creative player (Lamela, Alli, Son, Dembele, Dier are different types of player), a midfield general or playmaker who can influence our movement and see a pass behind Eriksen and the forwards, and/or replace Eriksen in his role further forward when needed. It is vital, because Brighton smothered us last night, and our system discouraged someone (anyone) from grabbing the game by the neck. We haven’t been at the races since the Chelsea game (and we were without Kane that day). Stoke was a struggle, Man City looked like the team that had rested and not played 3 strength sapping matches in a week, and Brighton compounded our recent pale play. We need to get back to the form in Feb that saw us beat Utd and Arsenal, draw at L’pool, and nearly beat Juve. That should ensure a very satisfying end to a difficult season, where, to our great credit, we’ve not played ONE match at home!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th April 2018 at 6:19 pm #

      I think Poch does let our players express themselves, but just within his system. For example Eriksen has licence to roam and orchestrate, he just had an off day here. Is he tired from playing too much? – he used to tail off at the end of the season in years gone by as he was being overplayed and over relied upon. Or does he have one eye on the cup semi final?

      We have had trouble against teams that play narrow and jam the centre of the pitch. This is where good crossing full backs need to come in to play. Both Davies and Aurier are not good crossers of the ball, especially on the move. Trippier was the choice, but Poch probably felt he couldn’t match up with Izquierdo’s speed. Against teams playing by jamming the middle, wing backs would be a better option than full backs. We also need Kane and Dele as targets. I was surprised Llorente didn’t come on sooner, and when he did, we didn’t aim to loft crosses in for him, as he thrives on them.

      These are all factors that need to be considered and where we should be looking to recruit in the summer. We have a very good squad, but we need to add if we are going to take the next step forward.

  2. Zaph Mann 18th April 2018 at 7:27 pm #

    https://youtu.be/e2knloSF6a0 let’s get the turkish messi!

    That aside – I wonder why not only our wing-backs, but many throughout the premier league are so inaccurate in their crossing – Trippier is the best but he’s hardly ‘on the dime’ more than 50%. Is it because of the speed of play? The force with which they strike the ball?

    If you see these players in fun compettions they can hit a small target from distance.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th April 2018 at 6:23 pm #

      Crosses have a low completion rate. The best in the PL are at around 25% completion, but 20% or 1 in 5 is good. The average is about 18% success rate.

      I think crossing on the run lowers accuracy. A number of full backs and wing backs are decent when the ball and themselves are stopped or not on the move. When they have to deliver racing down the line or taking a player on then accuracy decreases. Its a tough skill and why good crossing full backs command a premium price.

      • Zaph Mann 19th April 2018 at 7:30 pm #

        That’s good information – playing at the highest 7th level I was more accurate than that but I think it’s because I was able to slow down and was much slower already.

        Do you know if crossing accuracy has declined compared to 10, 20, 30 years ago?

        PS: what are the ratings for our players? Who’s top? I’d guess Erickson, Trippier,

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th April 2018 at 5:17 am #

          Our completion rate for open play crosses in PL matches this season is:
          Davies 17/87 = 19.5%
          Trippier 11/63 = 17.5%
          Eriksen 9/64 = 14%
          Aurier 6/62 = 9.6%
          Son 4/42 = 9.5%
          Rose 3/33 = 9.1%
          Kane 3/17 = 17.6%
          Dele 3/15 = 20%

          The data only goes back to 2011/12 season, so difficult to tell how it compares as very up and down across that time frame. Top players are usually at 25% eg this season Cedric and Marcos Alonso lead the way at 25% and 24.4% respectively.

  3. Chas 19th April 2018 at 4:04 am #

    We were in trouble from the time Wanyama and Sissoko were selected together in CM. Distribution – especially forwards – is not Wanyama’s bag and Sissoko’s dreadful first touch pretty much ensured he couldn’t either.
    I thought Kane should have come off instead of Moura. Despite his goal he looked to be lacking confidence and speed and playing him as a No 10 seemed a strange compromise for one of the best strikers around.
    Add to all that Aurier’s penalty for the month and a draw was a face-saving result.
    Let’s hope all the unexpended energy from this game goes into Saturday’s semi!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th April 2018 at 6:28 pm #

      Wanyama and Sissoko wasn’t a good partnership. Sissoko on the field and we might as well be playing with ten men.

      Kane doesn’t look 100% right. It wouldn’t surprise me if he has come back too soon trying to chase the golden boot and be fit for the FA Cup Semi-Final and is still experiencing some pain. He wasn’t bad as a number ten as it got him away from the coverage he was receiving from the Brighton centre backs. It was highlighted on the goal as he arrived unmarked to slot home. Although it diminishes his role as a striker, in this situation it was a good move for him.

      Aurier is having a very up and down time. He needs a lot of work and i’ll give him this campaign as a free hit as he arrived after the season had begun. I don’t hold a great deal of hope, but if any one can turn him around then Poch can. However, if he continues in this manner next season then i’d move him on.

  4. Antonyj7 20th April 2018 at 4:46 pm #

    Not sure Aurier is able to think and run at the same time.

    Not what we need if we are to progress, having said that there are several others who seem to have reached their limits.

    Let’s hope that Poch is willing and able to move those on in the summer., and is able to do so early and nor at the last minute.

    One lives in hope!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th April 2018 at 6:04 pm #

      Aurier does give off that vibe. He gets a pass this campaign as he arrived after the season started, but i must admit that I think it will be Poch’s best ever coaching job if he turns him in to a high quality full back!

  5. Zaph Mann 21st April 2018 at 6:48 am #

    Interesting – your stats on crossing per player from my earlier comment
    Davies 17/87 = 19.5%
    Trippier 11/63 = 17.5%
    Eriksen 9/64 = 14%
    Aurier 6/62 = 9.6%
    Son 4/42 = 9.5%
    Rose 3/33 = 9.1%
    Kane 3/17 = 17.6%
    Dele 3/15 = 20%

    These overall (macro) analysis point towards Rose being overatted – but Eriksen so low – WHY because he’s actually attempting the ‘difficult’ or ‘ clinical’ cross verses the hit and hope

    The stats don’t lie, but they do mislead…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd April 2018 at 7:54 am #

      Eriksen does fire in a lot of crosses in to difficult areas. Also, the definition of a cross is subjective. A number of ‘crosses’ may be not be classified as maybe they are seen as a low pass, are inside the box when played or they are more of a cut back or pull back. I don’t know if cut backs and pull backs are recorded or if they just go in to the vat that is called a key pass?!