Changing to a diamond formation saw the only goal of the game as our Premier League match finished Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham at Selhurst Park.
A war of attrition in the driving rain saw Spurs emerge victorious. A move to a diamond made all the difference against a Crystal Palace team playing extremely narrow. With the middle of the pitch crowded, space opened up for the full backs and a set piece won by Ben Davies proved the difference. A Juan Foyth header saw a final score of Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham.
Narrow Crystal Palace
Crystal Palace continued with their trend of playing extremely narrow without the ball. The Eagles are coached to congest the middle of the pitch in order to force the opponent to the flanks. The Palace defence then rely on their centre backs to deal with the resulting crosses.
The tactic continued in this match. Crystal Palace clogged the middle and then would shift their formation to the side the ball was on.
Kieran Trippier should’ve been a central figure in this match as a result. Trippier’s chance generation from wide is amongst the best there is. However, Tottenham’s slow movement of the ball across the pitch, combined with Trippier leaving the match injured on 25 minutes, meant that chances came at a premium.
On the other flank, Ben Davies put in two good crosses. The first saw Dele Alli cushion a header back across goal that bounced just past the post. The second found its way to Serge Aurier arriving from the other wing. However, Aurier’s shot was brilliantly blocked.
Spurs continued to struggle to generate good chances in spite of working the opportunities. Time and again the ball was moved wide, but little end product ensued.
Townsend vs Foyth
Tottenham controlled possession, but Crystal Palace brought a threat on the break. Juan Foyth had a shaky Premier League debut during Wolves 2-3 Tottenham and he was singled out here. Andros Townsend was constantly trying to get in or around Foyth in order to run beyond or dribble around him.
Foyth coped well overall. Townsend showed flashes of danger either to get a shot away or be brought down for a free kick. In general, Foyth was calm and composed to keep the danger Townsend posed to a minimum.
Pochettino’s Diamond shift
Seeing Crystal Palace’s narrow setup without the ball, Mauricio Pochettino decided to make a mid-half change. The initial 4-1-4-1 formation was dispensed with in a favour of a 4-3-1-2 diamond.
Moving so many players centrally in a diamond may have looked as if it was playing in to Palace’s hands. However, whilst the middle of the pitch was congested, Spurs could spring the full backs in to the acres of green space. The pair then had more targets in the centre to aim for.
Good crosses from Serge Aurier and Ben Davies followed. Lucas Moura headed just over and Harry Kane was also unable to finish, as our full backs got further forward.
Set piece wins the match
The diamond pushed Crystal Palace further back and eventually saw Tottenham win a corner midway through the second half.
The brilliance of Mauricio Pochettino’s coaching has often centred on each player knowing the system so well that they can perform one another’s roles. That happened here as Victor Wanyama found himself at the side of the diamond and Moussa Sissoko at the base.
Ben Davies was in oceans of room with Crystal Palace once more playing narrow. Wanyama’s long pass ended up at Davies’ feet. Aaron Wan Bissaka raced out and deflected Davies’ attempted cross for a corner.
The set piece routine combined a near post run for Toby Alderweireld with a touch of luck. Alderweireld looped out of the pack to work off a screen set on his marker, Mamadou Sakho, by Harry Kane.
Toby Alderweireld created the separation he needed, but Erik Lamela’s over hit corner found its way to Kane who got a header in on goal anyway.
Kane’s header bounced up off the thigh of Luka Milivojevic. Juan Foyth pounced after running off his marker, Cheikhou Kouyaté, and stole in ahead of the pondering Jordan Ayew to head home. Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham and Foyth’s first Premier League goal was greeted with rapturous celebrations.
Lloris denies at the death
Hugo Lloris was worked over by Crystal Palace during 90 gritty minutes. The Eagles often tried to close down his kicking, forcing miscues from attempted passes out. Palace also tried to unsettle him by packing the penalty area on crosses and set pieces. The result was Hugo flapping at several high balls.
However, when called upon for a big save, just as he was at the death during West Ham 0-1 Tottenham, Lloris was more than up to the task. As time ticked down and Luka Milivojevic’s shot cannoned in to the path of Aleksander Sorloth, Lloris was there once again to deny another striker from stealing a share of the points.
Sorloth took plenty of criticism for firing straight at the Spurs stopper, but an amazing recovering lunge from Toby Alderweireld appeared to deflect the ball, making the reaction save even better.
Hugo’s heroics kept the score at Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham and three more valuable Premier points were in the bag.
Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham overall
In testing conditions, there was plenty to admire in grinding out this result.
The shift of formation to a diamond setup helped take advantage of the space in the wide areas. Flooding the middle of the pitch with the diamond midfield and two strikers created the room that the full backs needed to launch attacks.
There were good individual performances too. Dele Alli continues to have a quiet but strong influence. Victor Wanyama put in 90 solid minutes as he continues to shake off the rust from many months out of the line-up. Moussa Sissoko looked unbelievably calm and purposeful with the ball. Passing and running with a decisive conviction we’ve not seen from him in a Spurs short. A far cry from the clumsy, bumbling and bereft of confidence player we’ve known.
Juan Foyth shone brightest of all in the diamond. After early struggles getting to grips with Andros Townsend, Foyth put on the kind of display we’ve known he was capable of and many of the “2 penalties” pundits have missed.
Final score: Crystal Palace 0-1 Tottenham.
MOTM: Juan Foyth.