Leicester 1-1 Spurs: left backs under attack

Both left backs are at fault as an extremely tactical encounter finishes Leicester 1-1 Spurs in our Premier League clash.

Drinks breaks were required in the searing heat, but having taken the lead, we lost our cool in the in the intense cauldron of the KP Stadium. Lack of focus, lack of concentration, call it what you want, but for a second week in a row we threw away a match from a winning position, as it finished Leicester 1-1 Spurs.

The key area for both teams was at left back. Ben Davies had a match to forget as he left Jan Vertonghen exposed for Riyad Mahrez to take advantage. On the other side Jeffrey Schlupp’s forward thinking nature and slowness to recover his defensive position let us in.

Leicester counter attacks

Leicester City have burst out of the gates this season by playing extremely rapid counter attacking football. In all three of their matches so far, they have been content with less possession, just so that they can get the ball forward extremely quickly to their front and wide players in space.

Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki have boundless energy and are livewires running the channels. Riyad Mahrez jinks and changes direction on a sixpence as he darts in from the right. Marc Albrighton supplies a stream of dangerous crosses from the left and is a danger to pop up in the box when the ball is over on the opposite side.

In the hot conditions, Claudio Ranieri maybe told his side to setup slightly deeper than usual and then counter attack with greater intensity, so that energy was only expended in bursts. Leicester had just 35% of the ball, but were a menace when they did have it. Riyad Mahrez led Ben Davies a merry dance, but also showed up the slow feet of Jan Vertonghen and how our centre back struggles to quickly twist and change direction.

Leicester weren’t just playing a counter attack from deep game; they were also set up extremely narrow. As we looked at in the keys to Leicester City vs Spurs the Foxes have been playing narrow this season in the defensive phase. This sees them tuck their full backs in towards their centre backs and have the wide midfielders track the outside players. This is to force the ball outside so that the back four, with Huth and Morgan being good in the air, are able to deal with the resulting crosses.


Space for Spurs was in the wide areas.

The space, as it was so often for Spurs was out in the wide areas. The problem for us was that our three advanced midfielders were all switching positions, which was good from a fluidity standpoint, but they were often all drifting in to the middle. This is not a problem if the full backs can get forward. Kyle Walker did a decent job of getting up the pitch, but the more apprehensive Ben Davies, as per usual, struggled.

Spurs struggles

There were a few struggles that we were having due to Leicester’s set up and style of play.

Firstly, we had the majority of the ball, but much of it was in front of Leicester and they were content for us to do this.

On top of that, we were failing to get the ball out quickly enough in to the wide areas in order to stretch their narrow formation out.

Thirdly, without Christian Eriksen linking the play and drifting between the lines, we lacked any kind of central anchor in order to play off. As a result, Harry Kane often looked isolated and adrift from the rest of the formation.

Finally, linked to the fact that we didn’t have Eriksen, we weren’t pulling the Leicester centre backs around as we have done in previous matches. In our first two games this season we’ve seen Harry Kane dropping off and pulling the opposition centre backs with him. This has allowed for other runners to burst past him and look for through passes or a ball over the top. Against Leicester this rarely happened.

A brief moment that highlighted the lack of a runner beyond the striker was Kane himself getting on to a long ball over the top and shanking a left-footed shot towards the corner flag.

All that appeared to change after the interval. At the start of the second half, we did create a fantastic chance for Nacer Chadli as we used the wide areas well for once. It came about from getting the ball out quickly to Kyle Walker before Leicester could get set defensively. Marc Albrighton wasn’t able to recover in time to catch Walker and with the Leicester full backs tucking in, he was able to slide a pass around the corner and beyond left back Jeffrey Schlupp.


Kyle Walker feeds Nacer Chadli in for a shot.

Unfortunately, Chadli snatched at the chance and rifled it past the near post and high in to the stands. It was an excellent opportunity and highlighted what we should’ve been doing. What’s more, it was a remarkably similar passage of play to how Sunderland had scored their second goal in Leicester’s last home game.


Sunderland RB finds Lens’ run beyond Schlupp.

Spurs take the lead

With all that had been going on, we took the lead after two Mauricio Pochettino changes.

Our head coach removed Mousa Dembele and Erik Lamela, replacing them with Tom Carroll and Dele Alli. This was an interesting change as Pochettino had both players, Carroll and Alli, take up much more central positions. Leicester were playing with just a central midfield duo and Pochettino wanted to overrun them in here by purely outnumbering them. It worked and manifested itself on our opening goal.

The ball was recovered in central midfield by pure weight of numbers and Harry Kane rumbled forward with it. Leicester were caught extremely narrow, as Kane slid a pass on the diagonal for Nacer Chadli to run on to.


Spurs surge forward on narrow Leicester. Alli has the legs on Schlupp.

Along with Kane and Chadli, the freshly introduced Dele Alli also had the legs to surge forward and join them, leaving Jeffrey Schlupp, who looked fatigued, trailing. As Chadli checked on the ball, Leicester were still caught extremely narrow with Kane and Alli filling lanes in-between and outside of them.

Chadli picked out a delicious ball to the back post that Alli just had to get some kind of touch on to guide in. He did and the youngster wheeled away celebrating his first Tottenham goal.


Dele Alli gets beyond Schlupp to finish Chadli’s cross.

We’d looked in the keys to Leicester vs Spurs at how left back Jeffrey Schlupp can be slow to get back in to position and the zone beyond him was the one to attack. Chadli had got in-behind him on his rash shot wide earlier in the half and now Alli had also exposed his forward-thinking nature.

Davies leaves Mahrez v Vertonghen

Whilst Leicester’s left back had been esposed, ours was also having a bad game. Ben Davies was often at fault for not protecting his centre back Jan Vertonghen. Thus, the big moments defensively came down to Riyad Mahrez exposing the slow feet and change of direction of the Belgian.

Mahrez has had a blistering start to this season and its well known that he likes to cut inside on to his left foot, with several fakes and changes of direction along the way. Ben Davies simply couldn’t handle him and got caught out of position, leaving Mahrez to expose Jan Vertonghen.

There were three big moments in the game where Davies’ defending left Mahrez open to give Vertonghen trouble. The first was on a typical Leicester quick breakout. The ball was swiftly delivered forward to Mahrez who was straight at Vertonghen with Davies trailing.


Ben Davies left trailing as Mahrez goes at Vertonghen.

The Algerian jinked and jived his way in to the box and Vertonghen brought him down for what should’ve been a penalty. Both players had hold of each other’s shirts, but Vertonghen was lucky to escape a decision after his tackle from behind took Mahrez’s standing leg before the ball.

This should’ve been a warning but it wasn’t heeded. In the second half another weaving Mahrez run saw Vertonghen turned inside out before he thumped a low-drive off the foot of the post. Davies had easily given the ball away in the left back zone with a stray sideways pass and then wasn’t in a position to recover or help the centre back he had exposed.

It then manifested itself on Leicester’s equaliser. The problem was compounded as we lacked concentration straight from the kick-off, not the first time this has happened in recent Tottenham memory. Wes Morgan sent the ball forward and Ben Davies lost a header to Jamie Vardy. Davies was outnumbered 2v1 without the help of Nacer Chadli, who had failed to track back.


Davies outnumbered 2v1 pulls Vertonghen out.

This left Riyad Mahrez free to take the flick-on unimpeded, drawing Jan Vertonghen out once more.

Mahrez, knowing he had Vertonghen on toast anytime they were in open space together, dropped his shoulder, drove inside and went straight for his trademark curling shot towards the far corner. He found the net with the unerring accuracy that has been the feature of his play this season.

In the blink of an eye it was Leicester 1-1 Spurs and the end-to-end game we had anticipated prior to kick-off was threatening to break out.

After throwing away a two-goal advantage last weekend to Stoke, we had again let slip a lead that we had worked hard for.

Leicester had the bit between their teeth and threatened to go on and win the game. At the death, another cross from Mahrez saw Wes Morgan rise above Ben Davies in a complete mismatch and send his header straight at Hugo Lloris. Either side and he would’ve scored, but thankfully it was right at our keeper.

Leicester 1-1 Spurs overall

The alarming lack of concentration to see out another match where we had grafted out a leading position is now becoming unnerving. It’s a problem we’ve seen under previous managers and coaches, but Pochettino appeared to get a handle on this last season. This was especially after talking about our lack of mental toughness after the defeat at home to Newcastle, an issue he said that he had to find answers too. It looked as if we had begun to turn the corner, as we started to score rather than concede late goals. However, the problem is back again and whatever was said and done last season needs revisiting.

Final score: Leicester 1-1 Spurs.

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17 Responses to Leicester 1-1 Spurs: left backs under attack

  1. Dan 24th August 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Great read thanks Mark

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th August 2015 at 5:48 pm #

      Cheers Dan, thanks for reading.

  2. James 24th August 2015 at 5:53 pm #

    I’m curious when we’re going to see Wimmer or Trippier. Much was made over the offseason of bringing in three new defenders, but only one of them has seen the pitch. Vertonghen looked overmatched on Saturday. It couldn’t hurt to give someone else a chance there and see what happens.

    As for Alli, I want to give him credit for more than having the legs to keep up with that play. He had the instinct to be in the right place. Sadly, the man he replaced doesn’t seem to have that knack.

  3. Richard 24th August 2015 at 7:14 pm #

    Hi Mark

    Didn’t you think Vertongen should have come out and won the header against Vardy? He’s the centre half…I cant imagine John Terry leaving a long ball like that to his left back. Also, we seem to be very open on the counter attack. There’s so much space. Are we over committing players when we attack?


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th August 2015 at 12:32 am #

      Hi Richard, that’s a good point, Alderweireld was marking Okazaki, maybe Vertonghen didn’t want to get pulled too far out to the touchline and believed Davies would win the header.

      We are commiting men forward and being much more open but not over commiting. The problem is our as speed in transition is slow. Leicester highlighted this as they are one of the quickest, if not the quickest, at turning defence in to attack.

  4. Chris 24th August 2015 at 8:17 pm #

    Our attack has become complacent, and defenses have figured out that if they keep their shape if front of the box, then we don’t have any answer for it. It almost makes you want to go back to a 4-4-2, so that we can spread the field out a little, and open up some passing lanes.

    Kane seems to be putting in a lot of effort, and for what?

    Lamela was a ghost, either due to poor positioning, or nobody wanted to pass it to him, so it was probably a little bit of both. In the end, I bet you Lloris got more touches on the ball.

    Chadli seems to only show up when its needed.

    Alli is a dynamic player. He was in the right position, because he was audacious.

    Verts needs to check his ego at the door, and watch Wimmer play a few games. I’m scared that this is going to be the Belgium blame game, and Dier is going to be their scapegoat.

    I really cant wait to see rose and trippier get some game time.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th August 2015 at 12:40 am #

      A change of formation may be good for the team, what we definitely need is some speed. N’Jie and hopefully someone like Berahino will add that. Rose’s return is key as he adds balance to the left and a threat going forward which Davies doesn’t. Kane has worked tirelessly and another striker is needed if not just for a change of pace. our deficiencies should be quite apparent so it’s just a question of whether Levy can bring in the necessary personnel required.

  5. Reinert 24th August 2015 at 10:33 pm #

    To the point, a shorter read. I liked it, good job! It is also well that you posted it later, so the dissapointment has wore off ;) COYS

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th August 2015 at 12:43 am #

      Thank you Reinert, I did write it on Sunday but didn’t have time to finish it. I still remain extremely disappointed tho!

  6. anotherwisemonkey 24th August 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    Great piece, as usual. Surely Rose is due a start against Everton? Wimmer needs to be blooded in the Capital One Cup before being thrown into the Premier League cauldron.

    Chadli was at fault for not tracking back on several occasions last season as well. He’s doing really well for us going forwards but I hope someone will put more pressure on his starting position so that he steps up soon and does the less glamorous part of the game.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th August 2015 at 12:47 am #

      I can only see match sharpness as the reason why Rose wouldn’t start against Everton. That or maybe someone is trying to buy him!

      Chadli’s lack of tracking is infamous. He also failed to close down Mahrez when he had the opportunity to stop him crossing for Morgan’s header at Lloris right at the end. He is good going forward but a liability in defensive coverage.

      • Reinert 25th August 2015 at 1:16 am #

        Chadli is not doing that part so well, but, improving from last season, Eriksen (at least I think so) has gotten better at his defensive job! He has become even more integral.

  7. Will 25th August 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Another thing regarding the goal: from kick off, Kane and All pressed but the midfield and defensive lines didn’t push up with them, leaving far too much space for Leicester to exploit. I don’t know whether Poch hasn’t given instructions for how to defend a lead (keep pressing or drop off) or the players weren’t executing his tactics, but someone got it badly wrong.

    And you highlighted Chadli and Davies for the goal but watch Walker as the ball is played forwards to Vardy. As the back line runs back, he’s walking. And he keeps walking until Mahrez scores. That is just awful because 1. It doesn’t look like he cares and 2. I think if he had got back fast enough, he could have taken Okazaki off Alderwierald which would have let Alderwierald cover Jan.

    In a sentence though, They ‘did a Tottenham’.

    • anotherwisemonkey 25th August 2015 at 10:44 am #

      Very good point, Will. Like most Spurs fans, I’m keen to see Trippier start ahead of Walker, but I doubt Pochettino will change both full-backs next match, so if Rose is fit, I reckon he’ll start and Trippier will have to wait.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th August 2015 at 5:26 pm #

      Good observations Will. It was a real catalogue of errors, much like the 7 seconds Newcastle goal and the dreadful start away to Man City two season ago!

  8. James Riddett 25th August 2015 at 11:23 am #

    Another interesting read. This lack of mental toughness / leadership problem goes a way back. I remember Harry Redknapp talking about it. He said we were the quietest team he’d worked with. I think we did improve to a certain extent on that score but then the leaders, the bigger characters left — Parker, Dawson and Sandro in particular.

    You could argue Lloris and Kane are leaders to a certain extent, but you need those characters at centre back and centre midfield. I thought Bentaleb was going to fulfill that role, and maybe he still will. But he’s young and currently needs to prove he should be in the team, let alone leading it.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th August 2015 at 5:29 pm #

      It’s definitely not something new and we are lacking a vocal leader/organiser at the heart of the side. As you say, the likes of Dawson and Parker previously did this but have gone, maybe it is the problem with us now having such a young team?