Our first away win in the Europa League under Andre Villas-Boas couldn’t have come in more style, as it finished Dinamo Tbilisi 0 Spurs 5 in Georgia.
The game was fairly simple from a tactical viewpoint, but Spurs made the difference through serious injections of tempo to get in-behind in the wide areas.
Tottenham set up and tactics
Spurs lined up in a 4-3-3, but with an inverted triangle in the midfield it looked more like a 4-1-2-3 formation. Etienne Capoue was floating around in front of the back four which gave licence to both Moussa Dembele and Paulinho to get forward.
Up front, Andros Townsend was playing as a wide forward on the right, whilst Gylfi Sigurdsson was moving in to central locations from his position on the left. This created overloads in the middle that Tbilisi couldn’t handle. Spurs often had 4v3, or even 4v2, in this area.
Sigurdsson’s movement also dragged his marker inside, allowing Danny Rose to bomb on down the left flank.
This allowed us to execute our tactic to shift the ball in-behind the defence to a runner on the other side who can then either cross or cut the ball back. Getting in to these zones means that the runner who receives the pass is closer to his target and therefore should have a higher chance of completing their cross or cut back.
As we’ll look at in a minute, four of our five goals were scored in this way. The wide players in our formation, Andros Townsend, Danny Rose and then later substitute Nacer Chadli, were heavily involved in all of them.
Dinamo Tbilisi set up and tactics
Dinamo Tbilisi lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Xisco up front with the tireless running of Dvali working off of him.
They spent a lot of time without the ball and whilst both Xisco (later Vouho) and Dvali tried to press and close down our centre backs, the rest of the team retreated to defend deeper.
With Capoue dropping in to offer a ball out for both Dawson and Kaboul, this provided an outlet and allowed us to control possession by navigating the initial press. Once Capoue was on the ball, he often had time and space to pick out a pass.
When Dinamo Tbilisi were in possession though, they were trying to work the ball wide in to crossing situations.
Elguja Grigalashvili was their main target and he was able to put in a couple of telling balls in to the box. Dvali’s first half close range header, which was tipped round the post by Hugo Lloris, was the best of his deliveries.
Tempo, Tempo, Tempo
Spurs controlled possession through overloading the central midfield zone with at least four bodies. This gave us a grip on the game, but the tempo was fairly slow as the ball was recycled and play was shifted from side to side.
When we troubled the Georgian Champions, it was because there was an injection of pace, as the tempo was quickened in order to get a runner in-behind their defence.
The first came from a Dinamo Tbilisi corner which naturally had them up the field. Moussa Dembele initially cleared it, then Kyle Naughton nudged the ball forward in to the path of Andros Townsend.
The wide forward’s serious injection of pace took him clear, as he raced up the field leaving defenders in his wake. With just one man to beat, he cut inside and fired an unstoppable shot in to the corner of the net, 1-0.
The second arrived courtesy of another increase in tempo. Andros Townsend was once more set free by Kyle Naughton, as this strike was created in the style we’re becoming accustomed to this season. That is a goal created by a ball over or through the defence to a runner in-behind who can then cross, cut a pass back or shoot.
Townsend laid the ball off to Naughton, then spun in-behind the Tbilisi full back down the line. Naughton executed a beautifully lofted pass over the top and Townsend was away and in to the space.
He then dribbled towards the area and a neat roll of his foot over the ball beat the full back, allowing him to create a shorter distance for his cross.
Townsend placed a neatly chipped ball on to the head of Paulinho to score, but he also had Roberto Soldado on the cut back if he wished to choose that option.
Two became three after the interval with a third injection of pace from Andros Townsend, as he once more got in behind his opposing full back. Another neatly chipped ball over the top set him free to gallop up the line.
As the centre back came over to challenge, Townsend dribbled past him with ease to create another short crossing angle. He neatly cut the ball back to Roberto Soldado who made it three.
After three injections of pace by Andros Townsend, the fourth arrived courtesy of Danny Rose’s blistering speed. The full back won the ball deep in our half, and then raced forward, evading two challenges.
Nacer Chadli had come on for Gylfi Sigurdsson and whereas the Icelander was moving inside from the left flank, the Belgian stayed wide.
After breaking forward in to the Tbilisi half, Rose found Chadli with a pass to put him in behind the full back this time.
The Belgian, like Townsend, moved quickly in to the penalty box and then laid a short pass back to Rose who curled a beautiful shot in to the top corner.
With Dinamo tiring, the fifth arrived after the tempo was swiftly raised again.
Michael Dawson took the ball from the back and with one touch moved it forward to Capoue. The Frenchman then shifted it vertically to Moussa Dembele on the run between two defenders. The Belgian slid it wide to Nacer Chadli who had again got in behind the full back.
Chadli’s pinpoint cross was met by Roberto Soldado to make it five.
It was the first ball delivered from just outside the box of the four goals we scored from crosses or cutbacks.
Dinamo Tbilisi 0 Spurs 5 conclusions
An excellent performance considering the long trip to Georgia and also keeping the crowd out of the game had we let Tbilisi get any kind of foothold.
Spurs controlled possession, but when we quickened the tempo, we were able to get in behind the Georgian side’s defence.
Andros Townsend was the chief tormentor out on the right, but left-sided wide players Danny Rose and later Nacer Chadli were also heavily involved. When these three were played in behind their opposing full backs, they had shortened the crossing distance and were able to pick out their targets.
Final score: Dinamo Tbilisi 0 Spurs 5