The repositioning of Eric Dier in defensive midfield allows him to dominate the game as it finished Burnley 0-2 Spurs at Turf Moor.
Mauricio Pochettino has received a lot of flak for his in-game switches and use of his bench. At Turf Moor, our manager was forced in to changes through injury, but he responded. A move to a back four along with Eric Dier restored to defensive midfield made the difference. Dier dominated the game through his clever positioning and passing. He then scored the vital go-ahead goal as the match ended up Burnley 0-2 Spurs at full time.
Burnley cause problems
Burnley’s formation caused us problems right out of the gate. The Clarets closed down from the front and squeezed the playing area. Their twin strikers both marked one of our centre backs, aided by a wide midfielder. Each of our back three was occupied and it made it difficult for us to play out.
Our centre backs received little help from Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks ahead of them. Burnley’s twin central midfielders, Joey Barton and Jeff Hendrick, closely marked the pair.
Playing the ball out was an issue. Due to this marking scheme our wingbacks were forced backwards. If the ball went to either Kieran Trippier or Ben Davies, then the Burnley wide midfielder or full back would close them down quickly.
Burnley were expending a lot of effort, but our slow ball movement aided them. The usual zip and ping to our passing and movement wasn’t there. Pondering on the ball, wanting extra touches or simply turning backwards saw us struggle to play out.
Spurs in the inside left channel
Burnley were excellent in the speed of their closing down. However, the big moment in the first half arrived when we managed to break their press. It saw us quickly move the ball through one touch passing to create a counter attack situation that Dele Alli blazed over.
Watch the following video to see it unfold. Our centre backs were being pressed by Burnley’s two forwards as their wide midfielder, George Boyd closes Jan Vertonghen by sprinting across. Vertonghen passes first time though to Ben Davies. Boyd then races towards Davies as Burnley right back, Matt Lowton, also closes. Davies is able to beat the trap to find Dele Alli. Suddenly we have navigated their press and now can expose the space between the lines that their four-man midfield gives up. Christian Eriksen races in to it and down the inside left channel to get his shot away. Dele then fires the rebound agonisingly over.
The speed of our passing and movement had punished Burnley’s over commitment to closing down. The chance came through the inside left channel, which turned out to be a fruitful avenue, especially in the second half with opportunities originating from or in to this lane.
Eriksen released Vincent Janssen through the inside left channel for a drive that stung Tom Heaton’s palms early in the second half. Unfortunately, Moussa Sissoko couldn’t control or bundle home the rebound.
Sissoko then had a huge chance as Mousa Dembele created a turnover in midfield. Janssen rumbled through the inside left channel on the resulting counter attack, but was crowded out. The ball ran loose to Sissoko who impetuously slashed his shot high and wide.
Janssen was once more the provider as he positioned himself in the inside left channel to receive a low cross from Ben Davies. Janssen laid the ball back in to Davies path as the left back looked for the far corner. Heaton was once more quickly across to deny him.
After Son’s introduction, Eriksen released him through the inside left channel to ping his shot in to the side netting at Heaton’s near post. Son would then race through the inside left channel to score the game clinching goal to make it Burnley 0-2 Spurs.
Switch to back four sees Eric Dier dominate
Baring Dele Alli’s blaze over the bar, the chances through the inside left channel came after the interval. The difference in our play in the second half was based on the switch of Eric Dier.
Mauricio Pochettino had been pressed in to two first half changes. Injuries to Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks had forced the manager’s hand. Mousa Dembele was an excellent introduction as it brought on a man that can shield the ball and spin away from pressing players. It was the restoration of his partnership with Eric Dier that allowed us to dominate.
Switching to a back four and reinstating the Dier, Dembele partnership gave us the foothold to take over the game. Rather than starting in the back three, Dier dropping in to it from defensive midfield spread our centre backs much wider. This stretched Burnley’s press that was beginning to tire from its first half exertions.
Sean Dyche replaced Andre Gray with Sam Vokes, but this saw Burnley lose closing speed and their threat to run in-behind. Our back line, and thus Eric Dier, could push higher up the pitch as a result.
Victor Wanyama is immense in regaining the ball. The one area Dier excels over the Kenyan is in his range and accuracy of passing. Dier used this to spread the ball quickly wide or to penetrate the Burnley lines.
Dier’s speed of thought and ball movement allowed us to get up and through the pitch quicker. He was an integral part of the move that saw us take the lead shown in the next video below. Dier drops in to split our centre backs to receive the ball. He then pings a pass straight through Burnley’s midfield to turn them to Vincent Janssen. Burnley’s wide midfielders immediately get drawn in, creating space for Kieran Trippier to get forward and cross to win the vital corner.
Dier would calmly slot home from the loose attempted clearance of Jeff Hendrick to put us a goal up.
Burnley’s man-to-man marking at the corner was questionable. It was easy to see why they’ve given up the most chances from set pieces in the last six Premier League matches. As the corner comes in they are set up well to defend.
However, as the ball comes in to the near post, all of Burnley’s coverage gets drawn here. Eric Dier just simply stood still and became free.
Dier’s finish was cool and composed to wait for the opening and then guide the ball in to the corner of the net, 1-0.
Spurs counter attacks
In the Burnley vs Spurs match preview, we’d looked at the Clarets’ vulnerability from counter attacks. As the match wore on, our ability to create these from hounding Burnley in to turnovers or errors became increasingly frequent.
Mousa Dembele had slid in on halfway to expertly win the ball and create the counter that saw Sissoko lash wildly wide. Dele Alli had several chances from turnovers. The best saw his feint put Ben Mee on the floor before side footing his shot across goal, but wide of the far post.
Christian Eriksen was the tormentor in chief. He created a number of turnovers that saw him manufacture counter attack situations. He was instrumental on the goal that sealed the game at Burnley 0-2 Spurs.
Eriksen tracked back and dispossessed Joey Barton to immediately get himself in space behind Burnley’s four-man midfield.
Burnley were now out of shape and Eriksen instinctively looked for Dele Alli’s run in-behind. Dele took the ball in his stride and pulled it back across the box. A perfect low pass, straight in to the path of Son, who had raced in through the inside left channel. Son slotted home to make it Burnley 0-2 Spurs and the match was over.
Burnley 0-2 Spurs overall
Credit to Mauricio Pochettino for thinking his way out of trouble. The manager’s switch to a back four and repositioning Eric Dier gave us the platform to take over and dominate the game.
Dier’s positioning and passing bossed the tempo of the second half. It was quick, incisive and delivered to the recipient on-point. The sharpness of Dier’s passing built attacks, started the move for the pivotal opening goal and gave us a position to build from.
Final score: Burnley 0-2 Spurs.
MOTM: Eric Dier.