Fernando Llorente in action during Girona 4-1 Tottenham at the Municipal de Montilivi Stadium, Spain.

Girona 4-1 Tottenham: narrow Spurs get stretched

Our narrow setup was attacked with speed and width, which swelled the score to an embarrassing Girona 4-1 Tottenham in our final preseason match.

A young Spurs core with a spattering of first team talent was humiliated in Girona. The La Liga side took advantage of our narrow defensive setup and ran all over it. The match ended Girona 4-1 Tottenham in a heavy defeat that didn’t bode well for the new 4-3-3 formation.

Narrow Tottenham

The new 4-3-3 formation that has been used throughout preseason has seen both positives and negatives. Barcelona 2-2 Tottenham highlighted its susceptibility to teams that can switch the ball quickly wide. Girona adopted a similar ploy to their Catalan neighbours and dominated the scoreboard to win 4-1.

Narrow defensive setup gives space to Borja and Portu during Girona 4-1 Tottenham.

Narrow defensive setup gives space to Borja and Portu.

The key for Girona was often attacking the spaces outside and behind our full backs. Anthony Georgiou was standing in at left back and was torched by Cristian Portu. First team right back Serge Aurier should’ve been much more adept, but he was given a torrid time by Borja Garcia.

Play switched quickly in one pass to open space out wide during Girona 4-1 Tottenham.

Play switched quickly in one pass to open space out wide.

Girona moved the ball swiftly out to both Portu and Borja Garcia, which allowed them to use their pace before our full backs could get over and cover. The pair were at the heart of many of the good moves that Girona made.

Set piece start

In the searing heat the opening to the game was quite frenetic. Tottenham were trying to press and close down from the front. Girona wanted to adopt a medium block, win the ball back and counter quickly. It saw a fast beginning and each team earn and score a free kick from its tactical plan.

Lucas Moura gave Spurs a brilliant start. The Brazilian was pressing up the field and swept in to hoover up a partial clearance that dropped his way. A jinking dribble saw him upended on the edge of the box.

Moura smashed the set piece in to the far corner, staking a claim for more free kick duties this season.

Girona levelled two minutes later. The Catalan side had already given Tottenham a warning as an early ball was sent in behind our high line for Cristian Portu to steal in and get a shot away. The next pass earned a free kick on the edge of our box.

Girona’s wide players were key in their attack against our narrow defence during open play. At the set piece they remained wide to keep the ball in-play. Borja Garcia and Cristian Portu held their wide positions and this aided Girona’s rebound control.

Borja and Portu remian wide for rebound control ahead of Juanpe's goal during Girona 4-1 Tottenham.

Borja and Portu remian wide for rebound control.

David Timor’s strike thumped the post and went out wide. Portu kept the ball in. The arriving Juanpe met his chipped cross back in to the danger area. The stadium errupted as the La Liga team were immediately back on level terms.

Girona continue to attack the wide spaces

Girona were back in the game and would continue with their wide attack aimed at our full backs.

Twelve minutes later and they would take the lead. Tottenham had actually done a good job of sliding across defensively as the ball arrived at the Girona right back. However, Anthony Georgiou filling in at left back, was caught too high and the ball was immediately sent in-behind him.

Georgiou caught too high allowing Portu to run at Davies and create a goal for Lozano during Girona 4-1 Tottenham.

Georgiou caught too high allowing Portu to run at Davies.

Stand-in centre back Ben Davies was now isolated against the pace of Portu. Davies was no match for Portu’s speed. The wide forward’s pace, combined with a pull back of Davies shirt, left him trailing.

Easily in the clear, Portu squared for Anthony Lozano to roll the ball past a helpless Michel Vorm.

Open Tottenham errors punished

One of the positives of Mauricio Pochettino’s new 4-3-3 formation has been that it opens up in the attacking phase. The midfielders and wide forwards try to stretch the opposition by making the playing area as big as possible. However, being so open in the attacking phase does leave us extremely vulnerable when a poor turnover happens.

Errors in the attacking phase when being so open saw two more goals and a final score of Girona 4-1 Tottenham.

Firstly, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou sold George Marsh short with an under hit pass. David Timor flew in to win the ball and start a counter attack when we were in a very exposed position.

Timor wins the ball as Spurs players are wide apart during Girona 4-1 Tottenham.

Timor wins the ball as Spurs players are wide apart.

Timor’s interception went straight to Anthony Lozano. With our defence wide open, Lozano had the easiest of passes to play in Cristian Portu who had the simplest of finishes.

Wide open defence allows Cristian Portu in to score a goal during Girona 4-1 Tottenham.

Wide open defence allows Cristian Portu in to score.

Eight minutes later and a Kyle Walker-Peters error whilst under pressure caught us wide open once more.

Ben Davies had surged forward from centre back thus leaving our defence exposed. His pass was slightly under hit and rushed Walker-Peters in to a miscue. Borja Garcia swept up the loose ball and played in Cristian Portu’s run.

Borja Garcia plays in Cristian Portu's run from wide during Girona 4-1 Tottenham.

Borja Garcia plays in Cristian Portu’s run from wide.

Portu hit the post, but the arriving Aleix Garcia smashed the rebound in to the roof of the net. Girona 4-1 Tottenham and an absolute defensive meltdown.

Girona 4-1 Tottenham overall

An excellent Girona team woefully exposed the new 4-3-3 formation. Its narrowness in the defensive phase was pulled apart by swift passes to speedy wide players. As the formation opens up in the attacking phase, poor defensive errors left us stretched and wide open to counter attacks.

Better quality players coming back from World Cup duty will no doubt make this formation more of an option. However, they only return to training on Monday. With this current group of up-to-speed players, going against a Newcastle United team that relies on counter attacks and crossing, Mauricio Pochettino will need to explore other tactical setups.

Final score: Girona 4-1 Tottenham.
MOTM: Cristian Portu.

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10 Responses to Girona 4-1 Tottenham: narrow Spurs get stretched

  1. IOAN X 5th August 2018 at 2:02 pm #

    I guess Spurs have a manager who should be able to read the tactics of the opponents and find an answer.
    Isn’t it?

    The truth, for those who have watched the game, is that Girona’s manager Eusebio Sacristán made tactically a monkey out of naïve Pochettino!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th August 2018 at 3:29 pm #

      I wouldn’t say naive as the personnel were just as much at fault as the tactics. For example the midfield trio of Amos, Marsh and Skipp looked like boys against men. Throw in Dier, Dembele and Eriksen then it’s a different proposition.

      If this is Poch’s choice of system, especially with City, Liverpool and Chelsea all using 4-4-3, then it is important that everyone learns it and equally that Poch tweaks how we are to play it given what we’ve seen in preseason. If he doesn’t tweak it and we continue to get torched from wide areas, then yes, he is naive.

  2. Zaph Mann 5th August 2018 at 8:21 pm #

    I watched all the friendlies and despite the earlier results several things seemed to be not quite working out. Both Aurier and Walker-Peters have been dreadfull, causing numerous problems with errant passing and slow tracking back, Son was annonymous. But increasingly I began to wonder if all the players were playing under orders not to risk injury… Even the goalkeeper Gass.. didn’t come out to try to stop the last two Girona goals.

    Then there’s the ‘recycle’ issue – retaining ball possession through recycling and switching is a hallmark of Pochettino teams but unless you have continuous inventive running off the ball (Llamela/Alli and the mid-season Kane) and a playmaker (Eriksen) it just gives opponents a chance to smother. Amos – who looks promising – many times won the ball or received it in a forward position and then turned and killed off the attack.

    Pochettino calls for the club to take risks, he might also instruct his players not to be risk averse… recycling gives away goals when badly done – see Davies ball back to Walker-Peters – whereas a hopeful ball into the box may be fruitless or may result in a chance.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th August 2018 at 11:01 pm #

      I have been disappointed by both KWP and Aurier. KWP looks a bit messed up by being switched between right and left back. Aurier continues to make the same mistakes as last season, which I was hoping would be ironed out given a full preseason with us.

      I was surprised that both Son and Eriksen were on the USA tour. With both at the World Cup I was expecting both to be given more rest. Son wants to be ready for the Asian games, but I fear Eriksen may suffer mid-season burn out again as he is always atop the running stats. I think it’s crazy not to be giving him more time off. Along with Kane, he’s our most important player.

      I’m not sure about the recycling issue. I think we just simply lacked quality players that can affect games. It was easy to see just how much Eriksen changes matches when he was on the field. Without him we continue to look lost and that’s a hangover from last season that hasn’t been addressed.

  3. Ted Drake 5th August 2018 at 10:35 pm #

    Only a pre-season runout therefore not that important. However, the players on show were not up to the task. The team must be hoping for no major injuries to key players.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th August 2018 at 11:05 pm #

      This whole preseason has been important for Poch to establish this new 4-3-3 formation he is looking to play. Results don’t matter but learning the system dies. Getting everyone up to speed is vital, but if we send that lineup to Newcastle next weekend and play 4-3-3 we will get beaten again!

  4. brian 6th August 2018 at 5:17 am #

    Hi Mark

    To be perfectly honest,I never got too watch this game,so I am unable to comment.
    But from the score line,I presume,our inexperinced youngsters,ere not up to the taskset before them.The thing that worries me,is,with so many 1st teamers missing.That we are going too lack.any continueity,when it comes to the opening ahme of the season.

    Regards Brian

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th August 2018 at 11:58 am #

      Hi Brian, yes this was a case of too many youngsters and we got badly turned over. The squad for the Newcastle game is a worry as I can’t see any of Kane, Dele, Trippier, Dier, Rose, Vertonghen, Dembele, Hugo, Toby?! et al being in contention. That being said I think that they’ll be quickly up to speed as they still haven’t had much rest or time off. Honestly, i’d rather they miss a game or two and then are good for the whole season than have brought them back and then they are either laboured and worn out for the latter half of the campaign or much more susceptible to picking up an injury. Bringing back Eriksen and Son so early worries me for this reason, especially as Eriksen is so key. Hopefully we can get through the first two games without the stars and then go on a charge!

  5. Chas 7th August 2018 at 5:55 am #

    Mark, I just can’t see Poch letting Shelvey have a free run at those youngsters that played in Spain. For that reason, I’m optimistic he’ll field enough experience to get us through for what is an important opening game 3pts. The draw had been reasonably kind for the first few weeks and Poch would not want to let that advantage slip.
    Anything he has said has been non-committal which makes sense anyway. Why NOT give Newcastle some false hopes of meeting a severely depleted Spurs?
    Hugo’s a goalie – I reckon he’ll play – and I think Poch would have to legrope Harry Kane to stop him getting on the field for at least 30 minutes.

    Just being my optimistic, glass-half-full self!.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th August 2018 at 11:30 am #

      Hi Chas. I think Poch is going to play the long game here and that’s why the likes of Amos, Skipp and CCV got so many minutes in preseason so that they can aid the first teamers recovery and reintegration in to the squad after the World Cup. I fully expect Poch to go with a lineup something like:

      -Aurier, Davinson, Davies, KWP-
      -Amos, Skipp, Eriksen-
      -Moura, Llorente, Son-

      Poch has been giving CCV a lot of time as well, so we may see a back four of – Aurier, CCV, Davinson, Davies – but given the time Davies has been at left centre back in preseason I think Poch will use him there and play KWP at left back.

      Depending on the score, Kane might well get some time from the bench, but if we are in front I expect him to be rested.