Dier, Kane, dembele and Moura disconsolate after conceding a late goal during Inter 2-1 Tottenham in the Champions League.

Inter 2-1 Tottenham: space around the six

Spurs failed to exploit the space being afforded around Marcelo Brozovic and paid the penalty as it finished Inter 2-1 Tottenham in Champions League Group B.

Tottenham did more than enough to put away Inter Milan in Champions League Group B. However, for all of our possession and good chance creation, we fell to two sucker punches that made the score Inter 2-1 Tottenham in the San Siro.

Space around the six

Tottenham failed to exploit the space being afforded around Marcelo Brozovic. The Croatian was playing as a number six in Luciano Spalletti’s 4-3-3.

As equally good as Inter were at pressing and causing us problems playing out, the knock on effect was that the Italians were also leaving gaps around Brozovic. As a result, he was often being dragged around and out of position, creating spaces for Christian Eriksen to play in.

Eriksen became our chief creator in what was a frustrating first half that was epitomised by Harry Kane’s glaring miss. Spurs managed to navigate Inter’s press to play out. As a result, Marcelo Brozovic was drawn out, allowing Eriksen to peel off the back of him.

Eriksen’s neatly lofted pass saw Harry Kane pull off the back of his marker, round the keeper, but then fail to get a shot away.

The move really highlighted Spurs way to goal in a first half short on chances. After the interval, it would be Eriksen himself who would take matters in to his own hands. He once more drifted in to the space off Brozovic, turned and got a stinging shot away.

Eriksen in the space behind Brozovic shoots and scores from the rebound during Inter 2-1 Tottenham.

Eriksen in the space behind Brozovic shoots and scores from the rebound.

Samir Handanovic made a good save, but the ball rebounded back to Eriksen. He sent it back in to the net via a deflection and a poor flappy hand attempt of a save by the keeper. A goal that was as scrappy as the game was, but equally highlighted the gains to be made in the space off Brozovic.

Two minutes later and Spurs should’ve wrapped the game up. Christian Eriksen drifted in to the huge space off Brozovic once again as Inter pressed.

Eriksen in the space beyond a stretched Brozovic finds Lamela during Inter 2-1 Tottenham.

Eriksen in the space beyond a stretched Brozovic finds Lamela.

Eriksen then played in Erik Lamela whose shot was destined for the top corner, but got a slight deflection that took it just wide.

Further chances followed to take a two-goal lead. Serge Aurier dragged the overstretched Brozovic out wide. Aurier dribbled past him and played in Lamela brilliantly. Lamela once more saw his shot denied by the goalkeeper. As Son Heung-Min put the ball in the net, Harry Kane was flagged offside.

Substitutes change the game

Spurs were in control, but lost the game with poor substitutions. Lucas Moura came in to the match and was devastating in attack, but ended up having his defensive frailties exposed.

Harry Winks was neat on the ball, but didn’t have the defensive awareness nor legs to cope with Inter’s rampaging full backs.

Danny Rose was brought on, which saw Harry Kane removed. The switch also took away an additional aerially strong defender at corners. All of these factors, combined with some Mauro Icardi brilliance, saw Inter snatch an unlikely win.

Spurs exposed on the flanks

Erik Lamela and Son Heung-Min had done an excellent job assisting Serge Aurier and Ben Davies against Inter’s full backs, Kwadwo Asamoah and Milan Skriniar. The removal of both Lamela and Son for the defensively weaker Harry Winks and Lucas Moura left our full backs exposed and allowed Inter to get back in to the game.

Our formation switch to a 4-3-2-1, did not help both Winks and Moura, and potentially the Tottenham team either. With five minutes to go, we were caught extremely narrow as Winks got stuck inside, which allowed Asamoah to steam forward.

Narrow Winks allows Asamoah to get forward in space during Inter 2-1 Tottenham.

Narrow Winks allows Asamoah to get forward in space.

Winks then compounded his positional error by then not stopping Matias Vecino in his tracks and permitted him to find Asamoah with an easy pass.

Whilst this was happening, Mauro Icardi, who had been initially hurt in a challenge with Ben Davies, walked forward untracked. His volley from Asamoah’s cross was stunning and unstoppable. Inter were level with a moment of pure genius.

Set piece disaster

Set pieces have been the bane of Spurs this season. Yet another dead ball situation cost us as three things went horribly wrong.

Firstly, Mauricio Pochettino has moved away from his traditional defensive corner structure. We used to have three men in a zone along the six-yard box line to deal with anything in front of goal. They use the six-yard box line on the pitch in order to set their defensive position. These players stay zonally and only vacate once the ball has been cleared.

This season we have been using just one or two players positioned along the six-yard box line. Danny Rose was the only player in this position when the corner was taken. It could possibly be argued that Lucas Moura was also supposed to be a zonal marker, but his actions took him out of the equation.

Danny Rose is the only marker along the 6-yard box line when Pochettino used to have three players here during Inter 2-1 Tottenham.

Danny Rose is the only marker along the 6-yard box line when Pochettino used to have three players here.

Lucas Moura, who inexplicably darted and dashed up field as the ball came in, then committed the second error. Whether Moura was gambling on a counter attack is unclear, but his vacation of his position allowed Matias Vecino in to acres of space.

Vecino was afforded the room to score the winner as his marker, Serge Aurier, was blocked off by Icardi. Aurier  did very little to fight through the block. He just simply stopped and this was our third error.

Aurier and Moura combine to make space for Matias Vecino to score the winning goal during Inter 2-1 Tottenham.

Aurier and Moura combine to make space for Matias Vecino to score.

It could have been argued that if Harry Kane were still on the pitch he would’ve added someone in this area to challenge Vecino. Kane does take up a near-post positions at set pieces and may well have done something. However, that is just pure speculation, but also doesn’t aid our set piece defensive setup when he was removed from the game.

As a result of all of these errors, Vecino had the easy task to head the ball in to the gaping net to make the score Inter 2-1 Tottenham for the most unlikely of wins.

Inter 2-1 Tottenham overall

The game highlighted our season so far. We found a weakness – the space around Inter number six Marcelo Brozovic – but didn’t exploit it. We then made some changes in both personnel and formation that resulted in us becoming dysfunctional defensively. Ultimately, we succumbed to poor defending at a set piece.

Back-to-basics really needs to be the mantra of this Tottenham team to get out of our current poor form. World Cup fatigue may be playing a part, but we need to go back to a tried and trusted formation – either 4-2-3-1 or three at the back – and restore Pochettino’s three-man zone across the six-yard box at corners. Too many easy headers are being given up close to goal this season.

Too much tinkering with line-ups, formations and set piece defence is currently dong more harm than good. The majority of the squad have had no preseason to practice them and it is costing us in big moments in matches.

Final score: Inter 2-1 Tottenham.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.

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15 Responses to Inter 2-1 Tottenham: space around the six

  1. barney 20th September 2018 at 1:08 pm #

    Substitutes change the game spot on

  2. Toby4eva 20th September 2018 at 1:45 pm #

    1-0 and can’t close out a win…

    Getting to be a very familiar story.

    The Lucas/Aurier debacle prior to the second late Inter goal is most illuminating.

    Nil commitment when it absolutely mattered.

    Concrete required in the Gatorade bottles.

    Sanchez v Deeney at Watford.

    Dembele v Pogba in the FACSF last year.

    What happened to our bite/spine/mongrel that the gaffer instilled over the past few seasons?

    We need big Vic to start putting himself about and scaring people again.

    Davinson too.

    Coco does his best.

    Do as the great Doug Pirhana might do.

    Nail their bloody heads to coffee tables!

    Or use dramatic irony for God’s sake!




    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd September 2018 at 3:38 pm #

      Very good points, Toby. We have lost some of the toughness that we’ve previously had. We used to knock teams around with Dembele, Dier et al putting themselves about a bit. We seemed to have lost some of that physical edge that would make opponents back off.

  3. Carrigbawn 20th September 2018 at 1:55 pm #

    Excellent analysis, as usual, Mark. I think Pochettino has to shoulder the blame for this loss. Very poor substitutions and defensive tactics.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th September 2018 at 2:47 pm #

      There’s something not right with Poch at the minute. Whether its down to Levy, lack of new recruits, the stadium, something is not sitting well with him.

  4. Mark from Virginia 20th September 2018 at 3:39 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    I agree – something is amiss with Poch. We were very excited about his game management improvements displayed over the first 3 games this season but seems to have forgotten the things he learned – a bit like Jekyll and Hyde!
    I didn’t have much issue with the Moura sub, but Winks was a bit baffling to me. I thought Wanyama would have been a better candidate and should come on for either Dier or Dembele. Dembele looked off the pace in the last third of the game and the midfield was lost. Also – Davies has been out of form and I felt he should have come off for Rose earlier in the second half.
    The one thing that impressed me though was how well Spurs dealt with Inter’s press. I could see the team becoming more confident in dealing with it as the game progressed – especially in the first half.
    I agree with your thoughts regarding defensive frailty during set pieces – a big worry for sure. It seems they are missing Loris in a big way!



    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th September 2018 at 10:18 pm #

      Hi Mark, I didn’t really understand the Winks sub and put it down to Lamela not being fit enough to go the distance. He still looked decent to me and after he went off the tracking on our right flank declined rapidly.

      I thought Moura was excellent going forward, inter didn’t have an answer for him. There were less attacks down his side, but his movements at the final corner were reckless and played a huge part in us losing.

      I would like to see Wanyama back. He looked like he really needed some minutes when he came on against Liverpool as he was clumsy and all over the place. Understandable as he’s been out so long, but he needs to get up to speed playing reserve matches as currently it’ll hurt the first team even more if a 25% fit player is coming in.

      We are def missing Hugo, and some discipline and organisation at set pieces.

  5. Terry 20th September 2018 at 9:28 pm #

    I agree mostly with just about everything all have posted. What we are doing yet again is not realising the obvious, no real plan, no thoughts about even ‘parking the bus’ to protect a 1-0 result. We don’t seem to be learning from whats going on? Our international players are not playing as if they mean it, even if they deserve being internationals. They most certainly don’t play as if they were international quality? Dier has in my opinion been terrible, bad positions taken, really poor passing, usually putting the defence into even more chaos. Aurier is a walking disaster, as a full back he’s guilty of foul throws, he’s so often on the wrong side of his opponent, he has a real problem in tackling, in fact I’m not sure what he’s got going for him.Winks at this stage is just not ready or fit enough, and Wanyama would have been a much better ploy. I do’t know what’s going on currently, but we are now like Spurs of old. Gone is the high energy, the pressing, the ability to keep the ball, even though we didn’t score, at least by keeping the ball the opposition cannot. Things have to improve even just a little, and soon. We are like the new Spurs ground which I went by on Monday night, nothing was going on at all, no signs of activity, or noise from work being done to lift us all by moving to the new ground.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 20th September 2018 at 10:36 pm #

      Agree that we’re not learning from what’s going on. Far too many goals being conceded from set pieces, pressing energy levels are at an all time low and Poch is now tinkering too much after several seasons of not tinkering enough. The type of response we see against Brighton will tell us just where this team is right now – tired and fatigued or still itching to get results.

  6. Chas 21st September 2018 at 3:05 am #

    I agree, Mark… the Lamela replacement was strange and seemingly unwarranted. A game-changer for all the wrong reasons.
    I’ve had a very low opinion of Aurier – same as Terry – but I thought he was our best best player against Inter apart from Eriksen. The reckless part of his game gone completely. He was definitely more aware of fouling players than previously. Arguably the only plus from the game.
    But if the rumour is true that Trips and Toby had a dust-up after the Liverpool game, then there is something more sinister in the camp than tiredness. A worry, whatever the issue is.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd September 2018 at 3:25 pm #

      It may well be teh reason those two were left back at home. Interesting to see if either of them play at Brighton.

      Aurier did pretty well overall. He just has moments in matches were he switches off or doesn’t put in the hard yards. That was the case once again here and Poch still has plenty of work to do with him if he’s going to turn him in to a decent full back. Aurier does have the attributes but is just lax with them. He’s 25 now so this season is make or break for him if he has a future with us, for me.

  7. brian 21st September 2018 at 3:58 am #

    Hi Mark
    Too be perfectly honest with you,on this game.I do not think that any summing up is really necessary,other than the fact,our inability too handle set peicies.Plus iit was a game we gave away,rather then them winning it.We were masters of our own demise.

    Many Regards Brian

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd September 2018 at 3:26 pm #

      Very well put, Brian. We were very much masters of our own demise and that’s what made it so infuriating!

  8. Andy B 21st September 2018 at 10:15 am #

    A brilliant analysis.

    This game was a good example of how football can be so unpredictable.

    The first half was a sluggish mess, but in the second half Spurs woke up and sprang to life. I thought it was the best they had played all season. Spurs were looking comfortable, until it all went kamikaze.

    What was even more unpredictable were the two players that I had most concerns about – Vorm and Aurier. They both surprised me with their decent performances. I am not a fan of Aurier, but credit where it is due.

    I agree with Chas’s comments about Aurier. Like the rest of the Spurs side, he was a bit all over the place in the first half, but in the second half looked the part in both defending and attacking. It was a shame that his mistake at the end led to their goal.

    I do think that the second half performance gives us all hope that things will get better. I thought that Lucas Moura was sensational in attack.

    Even though I agree with your assessment that Son offered defensive cover, I thought that he offered little in attack.

    I am concerned that Son has been brought back too early. Since the end of last season, he played initially in 4 international friendlies, 3 world cup games, played preseason for Spurs in USA, came on in 2nd half against Newcastle, played 6 matches in the Asian games, and then 2 more international friendlies after that.

    In my opinion, Son, Kane and Dier should all be given a month off, so they come back fresh and raring to go. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd September 2018 at 3:34 pm #

      I really think that could be great for those players just to have some time off, but you’re right in that there is no way it’ll happen. I understand the Son situation. In order to have him have the best chance to win a gold medal, he had to be in top shape. Therefore, playing him on the preseason tour and then sending him off to the Asian games was the right call to have him at 100% as he now has the medal that prevents a huge problem. No one would’ve bought him if he had 2 years military service pending and then we’ve got no resale value on a £25 million asset. Yeah he’s probably suffering now, but in his case its worth it to have cleared this situation up.

      In the case of the other players, then I think we should’ve rested them longer and brought them back after the Newcastle match. They are suffering. Dele being out injured should hopefully see him have so much needed rest, but the others could do with a break. Maybe the answer is to stagger some time off. Or just pull all the England and Belgian players from the next round of internationals with various injuries.