Son Heung-MIn celebrates his goal during Leicester 0-2 Tottenham inthe Premier League match.

Leicester 0-2 Tottenham: space around the six

Exposing the space around defensive midfielder Vicente Iborra saw our Premier League clash finish Leicester 0-2 Tottenham at the King Power Stadium.

Fresh off making some big calls in the North London derby, Mauricio Pochettino made more here. Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen started on the bench, but his biggest decision was an early change of formation. Recognising the space around defensive midfielder Vicente Iborra saw Pochettino alter our team shape. Two goals subsequently followed as it finished Leicester 0-2 Tottenham at the King Power Stadium.

Diamond leaves space out wide

Spurs initially started in a diamond formation. Eric Dier was the base. Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko on the outside points. Dele Alli operated at the top as a number ten behind the strike pairing of Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura.

Pochettino’s early tactics centred on overrunning central midfield with the four-player diamond. However, with Leicester playing a 4-1-4-1 formation, too much space was conceded on the flanks.

Full backs Ben Davies and Serge Aurier were left to individually battle two players as the Leicester wide midfielder and full back ganged up on them. Aurier consequently struggled against Maddison and Chilwell. Davies against Gray and Pereira.

Leicester looked for quick passes out of defence for their full back and wide midfielder combination. Ben Chilwell had the best chance to prosper as he got forward to put in a dangerous low cross. Fortunately, Jan Vertonghen slid in to stop the ball reaching Kelechi Iheanacho for a tap-in.

Pochettino changes the team shape

Mauricio Pochettino has not been shy in shifting formations mid-game this season. He did so once again here to achieve two aims. One defensive and one attacking.

To achieve these two objectives, Pochettino went to the 4-2-3-1 formation. The first aim was to stop Leicester outnumbering our full backs by providing wide midfielder help.

The second was to attack the space around Leicester’s defensive midfielder, Vicente Iborra. By playing a 4-1-4-1 formation the Foxes left pockets of space around their number six. Pochettino therefore shifted Dele, Sissoko and Son in to an advanced trio to get in the space around Iborra.

Dele, Son and Sissoko fill the space around Vicente Iborra during Leicester 0-2 Tottenham.

Dele, Son and Sissoko fill the space around Vicente Iborra.

The move instantly shifted the flow of the game. Spurs now started to take over and dictate possession as a result. More importantly, two goals subsequently followed by getting in to the space around the Leicester defensive midfielder.

Son in the space

Neither team had registered a shot on target until Son Heung-Min opened the scoring.

Spurs twice got around Vicente Iborra in the move that led to Son’s superb strike. Dele Alli and Son raced in to this space, played a neat one-two around Iborra, but were denied a clean look at goal by a brilliant Wes Morgan recovery tackle.

Seconds later and the ball wound up with Serge Aurier. Iborra had dropped in to the Leicester back line, which created space for Son to drive in to. Son received the ball from Aurier, left Nampalys Mendy floundering and drove in to the space where Iborra should’ve been defending.

Iborra too deep leaves space for Son to drive in to and score a goal during Leicester 0-2 Tottenham.

Iborra too deep leaves space for Son to drive in to and score.

Son now had the room to execute one of his trademark curling efforts towards the top corner. Kasper Schmeichel was left clutching at air as the ball whistled past him. Spurs were in front from a moment of magic, created by Pochettino’s formation shift.

Leicester moves to a double six

Spurs had been moving the ball nicely around Vicente Iborra in Leicester’s 4-1-4-1 formation. Claude Puel must’ve seen this as he addressed it just after half time. Vicente Iborra was withdrawn and Nampalys Mendy and Wilfred Ndidi were put in as a double number six in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

The move seemed to be made by Puel to get his full backs forward once again. After their early success, Ben Chilwell and Ricardo Pereira had been forced back by Mauricio Pochettino’s formation change.

The Leicester full backs did take up more aggressive positions as a result. However, a Mendy turnover and a brilliant Ben Davies pass took them out of the game and afforded Spurs a two goal lead.

As Ben Davies intercepted Mendy’s misplaced pass, Lucas Moura had already got himself in to the space behind Leicester’s twin number sixes. Davies therefore found him with an exquisitely driven ball across the turf.

Davies passes to Moura behind the Foxes twin number sixes during Leicester 0-2 Tottenham.

Davies passes to Moura behind the Foxes twin number sixes.

Moura turned on the ball in an instant and raced towards the Leicester goal. With the Foxes full backs caught forward, Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min could therefore run in to the spaces that they had left.

Dele and Son head for the spaces that the Foxes full backs had left during Leicester 0-2 Tottenham.

Dele and Son head for the spaces that the Foxes full backs had left.

Moura passed to Son and he subsequently dinked a perfectly weighted chip pass for Dele to head home at the back post before the Leicester City full backs could make up the ground. Leicester 0-2 Tottenham and some well earned breathing space.

Ineffective subs

Both managers made changes that didn’t really affect the game. Claude Puel dispensed with his double number six to get an additional striker in Shinji Okazaki on the pitch. However, except for two Rachid Ghezzal shots, Leicester didn’t trouble Hugo Lloris.

Two goals up, Mauricio Pochettino curiously introduced Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen. Ahead of Barcelona on Tuesday both players could’ve done with a full match off. Eriksen for his chronic stomach injury that doesn’t allow him to play a full game every three days. Kane for the sheer number of minutes he has clocked up for club and country.

Both Kane and Eriksen came through their 20 minutes on pitch. However, injury to Serge Aurier saw Pochettino have to use his last substitution and hope there were no further complications in the last 15 minutes. A rare Kyle Walker-Peters sighting ensued ahead of what might become a start out of necessity on Tuesday.

Leicester 0-2 Tottenham overall

Another solid away performance to garner three more valuable Premier League points.

Mauricio Pochettino’s early shift from the diamond formation to a 4-2-3-1 setup had a tremendous affect. It shut off Leicester’s attacking intent in the wide areas. The move also took full advantage of the space around Vicente Iborra operating as the sole holding player in Leicester’s 4-1-4-1 formation.

Pochettino’s shift to an advanced midfield trio gave space for Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min to work around Iborra. Consequently, the pair were ruthless and clinical to expose the room being afforded to wrap up the Leicester 0-2 Tottenham score line.

It was tough to pick a man of the match between Dele and Son, highlighting the brilliant form both players have been in recently.

Final score: Leicester 0-2 Tottenham.
MOTM: Dele Alli.

If you enjoyed this post, please share:

, , , ,

15 Responses to Leicester 0-2 Tottenham: space around the six

  1. Jone meinich-bache 9th December 2018 at 8:43 pm #

    Really a fan of your analysis, Mark! I am not the biggest fan of Eric Dier as a midfielder or centre half. As a midfielder his passing is to sloppy and he’s certainly not a passing hub under strict pressure from the opposite team. Very often his passings are getting teammates into trouble. Is it a lack of options in midfield behind Pochs regular use of him? Against Barcelona we will for sure be under a lot of pressure in the middle of the park. Do you see him being dropped on Tuesday and maybe go with a midfield trio of Sissoko, Eriksen and Winks behind Son, Dele and Kane?


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 9th December 2018 at 9:50 pm #

      Hi Jone. Dier is in the team to be a destroyer and break up opposition attacks. His play really allows guys like Harry Winks to have good games. Winks shone yesterday and Dier was a big reason for that. Absolutely see Dier starting on Tuesday, but curious to see what formation Poch goes with. I fear he may go with the diamond again when 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 may be better options for us.

      • YouShubes 10th December 2018 at 9:13 am #

        for me 433/352 are the only options

        game like this is when we desperately need the speed of Sanchez… Sissokho has been great but he is not really a destroyer the way Dier or Wanyama is

        Just hope Serge will be ok


        Serge Toby Jan Davies

        Winks Dier Dele

        Eriksen Kane Sonny

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th December 2018 at 10:25 am #

          Interesting team sheets and injury news to come. I wouldn’t be surprised if Poch goes a bit left field and plays Danny Rose at right back!

  2. Brian 9th December 2018 at 10:26 pm #

    Hi Mark

    Again anather great Analysis of the game Mark.All I did think,that for the first 20 minutes,we looked very suspect out wide,,and they exposed us down the flanks.,but with Sisisko,dropping back,or appeared too,it really nullified Leicester,s attack..And once we got that 1st goal,we seemed too control the game,from then on..Plus there seemed to be a lot more energy in the team.Where as against the Arse,we appeared to run out of steam,in the 2nd half..

    Many regards brian

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th December 2018 at 10:07 am #

      Hi Brian, yes we did run out of steam against Arsenal, so I think the changes in the Southampton match and then to this one allowed a few fresher legs in this game. We weren’t brilliant, but had enough to keep Leicester at arms length after their initial surge. The King Power is a tricky place to go and to keep the crowd quiet. I think we did a pretty good job in that respect and it was a controlling performance without being too great.

  3. Mark from Virginia 9th December 2018 at 10:30 pm #

    Hi Jone,
    While I agree with your comments about Dier’s occasional errant passing, I am a big fan of what he contributes – he is great at shutting down ball movement into Spurs’ defensive third, thus protecting the defensive line. He essentially acts as a stopper. He is also versatile enough to slot into the defensive line when needed. My concern with leaving Dier out and having a trio of Sissoko, Winks and Eriksen is not having protection for the defensive line. Winks and Eriksen are small in stature and struggle handling pressure from larger opponents – Winks has been left on the ground multiple times over the past couple games.
    I do think Winks is highly valuable but he is not a stopper. Sissoko can play that role but that is a risk I wouldn’t take against Barcelona. Maybe having three center backs – Juan, Toby & Jan with Sissoko and Winks in front of them could work. Either way, it’s gonna be a tough one!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th December 2018 at 10:13 am #

      Hi Mark, I agree about Dier. We need someone in this position who is able to put themselves about a bit – either him or Wanyama. It allows the likes of Winks and Eriksen to get on the ball and become the hub passers that they are. Winks and Eriksen usually nip in and nick the ball while it is out in the open rather than have the body strength to physically take the ball off someone. This is where the likes of Dier, Wanyama and Dembele come in to play and help us control the zone in front of the centre backs.

      • Jone Meinich-Bache 10th December 2018 at 9:38 pm #

        I share your points about Dier’s contribution in terms of being a destroyer and giving us strength in midfield. I just think he sometimes lack that last bit of aggressivity which should be demanded in that specific role and pace to get to the opponent quick enough. This being the Arsenal 3-2 goal and versus Saints when Hugo gave him a mouthful because he wasn’t covering to block a shot. But i really hope he can continue developing and be that efficient block that gives freedom to roam to our more offensive minded midfielders.

  4. Matt 9th December 2018 at 11:13 pm #

    Great analysis Mark. Re Tuesday I’m wondering if we’ll go 3 at the back with Dier RHS, he did a turn at RB. I’m not sure Poch rates KWP as highly as some Spurs fans. Juan isn’t eligible or fit. Personally I’ll be happier with Dier on the pitch at Camp Nou. A question Mark; is it a coincidence Son seems to play better when HK isn’t there? Remember when Harry was injured and Son stepped up and scored a load of goals? Just wonder if the freedom to wander suits his speed and two footedness?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th December 2018 at 10:23 am #

      I’d like to see a 3-5-2 against Barca but I’m quite worried we’ll see the diamond again. In pre-season a 4-3-3 got us back from 0-2 to 2-2 by running wide forwards in to the spaces that Barca’s full backs left, so that really gives food for thought.

      As for Son it’s really tough to say as he has had good games and not so good games with Kane in and out of the lineup. Going back a bit, but initially Son was pretty average when filling in for Kane. Go back to when Kane was injured for that 6 week spell a couple of seasons ago and all the talk then was that Son couldn’t play as a striker. Since then Poch has got more players around him with the likes of Dele, Lamela and now Moura which seems to be better for him and the team when Kane is not playing. I still question the Moura and Kane relationship, but as for Son, I think he works well with Harry. I think Son is better deployed out on the left as a wide midfielder in 4-2-3-1 or as a wide forward in 4-3-3 than as a strike pairing with Kane. That seems to get the best out of both Kane and Son for me. Right now, Son is an automatic choice on the team sheet, as he is back to his best form.

  5. Reinert Indrehus 10th December 2018 at 10:31 am #

    Congratulations Mark,

    Imo this is the best piece I have read from you: Great points, execution and flow. Such a great read (it helps that we won)!

    I think this spurs-team is so cool to watch, each player becoming more aware after each match, essentially acting as their own coach, even during the matches. I would love to read a deeper analysis on this, if indeed it is a trend: Pochettino making every player more aware and smarter?


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th December 2018 at 12:37 pm #

      Thanks Reinert. I think you have mentioned a very important functioning part of this Spurs team. Each player not only knows their role in the different formations, but can switch between the different formations almost seamlessly during the match. What’s more each player seems to know every role in each system and can therefore fill in for any other player. We saw it in this match where someone like Dele found himself as the furthest man forward after a run, so he just slots in as the striker and Son or another player drops in and fills his roll. This seamless switching helps defend much better as its not like some teams whereby the striker will just switch off defensively, which if another player is caught forward, exposes a hole in that team’s defensive structure.
      The team is therefore greater than the sum of its parts! Pochettino has definitely coached and brought this out of each player.

  6. Toby4eva 10th December 2018 at 10:59 am #

    Thanks as always Mark,

    How good is Sonny!

    Loves the Chicken Badge – and the only better thing he did all night than giving his shirt to a young fan was his sublime strike for our first goal.

    How can you not love him!

    Barca a conundrum for the boss.

    I’ll opine thus..

    Assuming Sanchez (not fit) and Foyth (ineligible) are not available – and I won’t consider Aurier (if fit) due to his inherent recklessness, The Oaf (as will need to field 11 players to be remotely competitive) and KWP due to inexperience.

    Remember that this is a MUST WIN game against BARCELONA FC.

    I’m going for a solid and experienced back three (Davies can do the job) that can quickly transition to a back four with Dier dropping back – and our best six attacking players to create the chances required to score enough goals to get the required result.

    This XI will allow us to stay compact and use our speed players to get back and help in defence – and importantly get forward quickly on the break,




    Toby Jan Davies


    Winks Chris

    Moura Dele Son



    Gazza v2.0
    Aurier (if fit)
    Boot Boy

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th December 2018 at 12:57 pm #

      Great comment, Toby. Really difficult to speculate at the minute for Barca without further team news. I’d either go 3-5-2 or 4-3-3 depending on who is available, but would resist putting players in anything but there best position due to the strength of the opposition.

      The big x-factor is Aurier or Trippier’s fitness. Without either of them a big call has to be made at right back. Danny Rose may play there, but if its KWP then i’d use three centre backs to give him some cover as Barca will definitely target him. Now to wait for the press conferences with baited breath!