Hull 1 Spurs 1: Tottenham start wide then go central

It was honours even at the KC Stadium, as it finished Hull 1 Spurs 1 in our Premier League clash.

Hull had much the better of the first half through their pressing and looking to hit direct balls up to their strike partnership. We came much more in to it in the second as they tired and dropped deeper, clogging the centre where we were trying to play through.

Tottenham set up and tactics

Tim Sherwood went back to his twin striker approach and the play of Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado was the most interesting thing on show.

We’ve seen since Sherwood has taken over how we’ve tried to hit Emmanuel Adebayor at every opportunity in to feet, or long if this is not possible, in the build up.

Here, the Spurs coach must have expected Hull to have come out with three centre backs when he saw the team sheets, as both strikers were pulling out in to wide zones. This would be a usual tactic against a back three to get behind the wing backs and drag the outside centre backs out.


Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado passes received, Hull 1 Spurs 1.

With the strikers moving out, Christian Eriksen and Aaron Lennon were playing much narrower than usual. This was done as supposedly with the strikers pulling the centre backs around, these two would move in to the space they vacated – that seemed to be the plan anyway.


Christian Eriksen and Aaron Lennon passes received, Hull 1 Spurs 1.

Sherwood’s tactics would have been spot on against a back three, but Hull lined up with a back four. This meant that we were still trying to drag their centre backs around, but they had additional cover in the wide areas with two full backs supported by two wide midfielders.

We have been set up to work the ball wide in to crossing situations since Tim Sherwood took over. Steve Bruce was obviously wise to this and brought pressure in the wide areas.

Hull pressing

A key feature of the first half was Hull’s pressing and recovery of the ball in wide areas.

Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic up top were content to give our centre backs the ball. As soon as it went out to the full backs, they moved over to block a pass back inside, as the Hull wide player and his full back then squeezed up.

This was effective for Hull in the first half, regaining the ball in good areas to spring an attack, but required a lot of energy. After the interval the team noticeably dropped deeper and deeper as they tired. Steve Bruce replaced his two hard working wide midfielders, Ahmed Elmohamady and Robbie Brady, midway through the second half.


Hull ball recoveries in each half, Hull 1 Spurs 1.

Hull spent much of the second period playing quite effectively on the counter after having taken the lead through their use of the long ball.

Hull long ball

When Hull signed Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, their intent to use a target man and a support striker to run off him was quite clear. In their second game together, that was the tactic once again, as the Croatian and Irishman already looked to have struck up an understanding.

Hull went directly to Jelavic early and often, but also looked for Long, who is good in the air, but a much greater threat to run in-behind. The Tigers were going back to front, as Steve Harper was often launching the ball downfield in search of the pair.

This was how their goal came about, as Harper’s downfield kick went over Long and Jan Vertonghen who were jumping for the ball. As it did, Long turned and span off towards the goal. The ball went through to Jelavic, who had matched up on the smaller Danny Rose. He flicked it over the head of Michael Dawson to put the Irish international in on goal.


Shane Long runs off Jelavic’s flick-on.

Long made no mistake with the finish, but it was a tactic employed through much of the match.

Spurs start wide then go central

Going a goal down early wasn’t ideal, but we continued to play to get Soldado and Adebayor in behind in the wide areas. We were attempting to form neat passing triangles with the central midfielder and the drifting winger to do this.

Our best opening of the half came this way, as Lennon put the ball inside to Soldado, who laid it off to Paulinho. Note the four Hull players who were trying to stifle us in the wide areas with their pressure.


Tottenham’s neat passing triangles.

The Brazilian then found Christian Eriksen who had moved inside to create another triangle in the centre.


Eriksen plays Soldado in-behind.

The Dane returned the ball to Soldado who crossed for Adebayor to volley a shot towards goal that was tipped over by Harper.

It was a neat move as we created chances from wider, especially down our right side, in the first half.


Tottenham chances created from open play in 1st half.

Recognising that Hull were playing with a back four rather than three centre backs, Tim Sherwood altered us after the interval to attack much more through the middle. This was an effort to turn Hull’s centre backs and get away from the pressing they were applying in the wide areas.

This saw us gain a greater control of the game as Hull tired and dropped increasingly deeper. Chances were limited though, as they now clogged up the centre.

Roberto Soldado had an early chance to volley home after he miss-hit Paulinho’s deflected shot. The Brazilian had a forest of deep lying Hull players to shoot through though, as eight were inside the area.


Paulinho is face by a pack of Tigers.

The goal, when it did arrive, took advantage of Hull sitting so deep. David Meyler fouled Nabil Bentaleb in the middle of the park. Kyle Walker took the free kick short to Danny Rose who was in acres of space with every Hull player backed right off.


Hull sit far too deep at our free kick.

If this part of the free kick was by design, Danny Rose’s long range shot which turned out to be an excellent pass to Paulinho clearly wasn’t. However, the Brazilian’s touch to get the ball under his control, swivel and fire was exquisite.

Not long after, Nabil Bentaleb struck a fine effort just past the post, but was again faced with a forest of Hull players crowding him out in the centre.


Bentaleb again faces Hull crowding the middle.

With Spurs in the ascendancy, I expected them to kick on and find a winner. However, with Bruce replacing his wide players with more direct attackers, Hull created much the better chances on the counter attack.

Shane Long got free to cross for Nikica Jelavic to slide the ball against the base of the post. Jelavic had pulled on to our full back, Kyle Walker. This was something he was trying to do for much of the match after getting on Danny Rose to create the opener.

Then substitute Robert Koren dispossessed Nabil Bentaleb in the middle of the park. His pass put Jelavic through and Hugo Lloris came flying out. The Croatian chipped the ball over the Frenchman, but Michael Dawson cleared it just before it reached the goal line.

Both teams had chances, but in the end a draw seemed a fair result.

Hull 1 Spurs 1 overall

The KC Stadium has been a tough place to go this season and we found it no different, despite Tim Sherwood’s verdict of being ‘disappointed.’

I kind of feel Sherwood was out coached here by a wily veteran.

In the first half we got our initial set up wrong and played in to Hull’s hands. The team sheets did make it look like Hull would pay with a back three, but going with a back four and pressuring in the wide areas negated any advantage we were trying to gain by having our strikers move out.

After the interval, a switch to attack more centrally was the natural move against their slower centre backs, but Bruce had anticipated this. With the Tigers playing much deeper, packing the middle and hitting on the counter, we did get back in the game, but Hull were also creating chances.

It also showed in Bruce’s use of his bench to replace his tired wide pressing midfielders. Tim Sherwood’s only change was to replace the limping Adebayor on 90 mintes to avoid having ten men on the field.

We may have been tired after having to play against Man City with ten for much of the second half on Wednesday, but Steve Bruce set his side up well with the extra 24 hours Hull had to prepare.

Final score: Hull 1 Spurs 1.

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2 Responses to Hull 1 Spurs 1: Tottenham start wide then go central

  1. will from Jersey 6th February 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    Hey Mark, Excellent analysis as always. A couple thoughts. First, as you rightly point out, the constant pressure from Hull, especially in the first half, had their midfielders and team in general very tired by the 60 minute mark. This seemed to beg for Spurs to put on fresh legs to take advantage of this, and to go for width as well. To me it was astonishing that Sherwood did not see this and instead made no changes at all until Kane came on very late for the injured Adebyor. Also, this game seemed to show the huge mistake in letting Hotby go in my view. Ericsson was having a terrible game, and Hotby’s energy and movement would have seemed to be the perfect ingredient to counter the tired City midfield. Finally, as I understand it, Defoe was not even on the bench. If any game seemed to be perfect for him to come on for Soldado and nab a late goal, this was it. It was clear to me that Bruce out managed Sherwood at every turn in this game. He just seems over matched at this level.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th February 2014 at 11:58 am #

      Hey Will, apologies your post went in to Spam for some reason, i’m looking in to why this happened as you’ve not put in any links or anything.

      Agree about using someone like Holtby, we’ve kind of left ourselves with only one creative player since his loan and his energy and passing would have been a benefit here. A straight switch with Eriksen might have worked, for me, Paulinho was out of steam by the 70 minute and Holtby wold have been a good change for him. This would have got two players who can pick out a pass for our two strikers in to the game against a deeper sitting Hull side. Defoe’s absence was a mystery as he would have made a good change for Soldado.