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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.