Repositioning Christian Eriksen in Pochettino’s diamond proves decisive as it finished Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham in our Premier League clash at Old Trafford.
Man Utd threw an awful lot at Spurs. An unpredictable setup and an energetic closing down game initially hindered the effectiveness of Mauricio Pochettino’s diamond formation. However, a change to move Christian Eriksen from the top to the right point allowed him to shine and Spurs to win. The match finished a rather more comfortable Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham as the unshackling of Eriksen allowed Lucas Moura to steal the show.
Man Utd 3-5-2 vs Tottenham diamond
Mauricio Pochettino kept faith with the 4-4-2 diamond formation given its success during Tottenham 3-1 Fulham. The setup allows Lucas Moura to be a real factor, buzzing around and running off Harry Kane rather than being pushed out to play as a wide forward.
The formation affords Pochettino domination of the centre of the pitch, an area of the field he wants to control. Pochettino tinkers with the quartet in the middle. Mousa Dembele started at the base with Eric Dier at the right point. Early Man Utd pressing saw these two switch roles after 20 minutes.
The key move though was to unleash Christian Eriksen. Operating initially as a number ten, Eriksen was starved of space as he was often overpowered by Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic. Shifting Eriksen to the right point and making Dele Alli the number ten setup Tottenham for victory.
Jose Mourinho was even more radical in his tinkering. Lining his team up in a 3-5-2 with Ander Herrera as the right centre back in a three caused initial confusion.
The 3-5-2 formation also gave us a load of trouble. The diamond was anchored in the centre of the pitch, but affording space on the flanks. It was therefore no surprise that Man Utd’s chances predominantly came from here. Luke Shaw providing crosses for Lukaku to head wide and scuff at Hugo Lloris. However, it was Danny Rose’s poor back pass when outnumbered out wide that gifted Lukaku his best opportunity.
Lukaku rounded Hugo Lloris, but scuffed horribly wide with the goal gaping.
Errors from pressure created the best chances throughout this game. Danny Rose’s poor back pass gifted Man Utd the opportunity to take the lead. If Lukaku had scored it we may well have seen a shift to the usual Jose Mourinho bus parking tactics.
Mousa Dembele also gifted Lukaku a glorious chance. Dembele’s heavy touch allowed Lukaku to fizz a shot towards Hugo Lloris’ far post. However, Lloris’ diving save was enough to get a glove on the ball and deny Lukaku once a gain.
Spurs were also benefiting from mistakes and miscues. Dele Alli closed in on Nemanja Matic and relieved him of the ball. As Dele bore down on goal he got caught in the headlights and neither found a pass to Harry Kane nor got a shot away.
Dele would do better in the second half after pouncing on a Victor Lindelof under hit back pass. After rounding David de Gea, he unfortunately couldn’t find a finish to ice the game.
In a match heavy on mistakes, the biggest error came from Craig Pawson. The referee waving away claims for a penalty after Phil Jones felled Lucas Moura. Jones got caught wrong side and shoved Moura to the turf for a blatant penalty. However, nothing was forthcoming from referee. Jones wouldn’t get away with his next mistake though.
Eriksen diamond shift wins the game
The match was level at half time and Mauricio Pochettino made a change. Christian Eriksen had struggled to be effective at the head of the diamond against the presence of Pogba and Matic.
Pochettino therefore switched Eriksen out to the right side of the diamond and moved Dele Alli in to the number ten position at the top. Suddenly Spurs could get more men in the box as Dele supported Moura and Kane. Eriksen then became the supply line as he got behind Man Utd wing back Luke Shaw and down the side of the three centre backs.
The strategy paid off after just four minutes of the second half. Kieran Trippier’s pass around the corner found Eriksen sneaking in-behind Shaw and down the side of the three centre backs.
Eriksen’s pinged ball in found the arriving Dele Alli, who could burst forward more easily from the number ten position. Dele’s shot was blocked and went out for a corner.
The ensuing set piece was brilliantly executed to free up Harry Kane. Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld raced towards the near post to take their markers away. Whilst this was going on, Lucas Moura ran a loop around them and then out towards the edge of the box to lead Luke Shaw out from his position.
As a result, Harry Kane was left one-versus-one against Phil Jones. Kane shrugged him off and met Kieran Trippier’s inch perfect delivery to cushion a magnificent header back across goal.
The ball nestled just inside the post and Tottenham had the lead.
Eriksen at it again
Two minutes later and it was almost an identical passage of play. Trippier drew Shaw and released Eriksen in to the space beyond the wingback. The Man Utd centre backs were once more in disarray, as Ander Herrera hadn’t pushed out alongside Jones and Smalling, playing everyone onside.
Eriksen’s measured cross once more found its target as Lucas Moura stole in to sweep home. A brilliantly fashioned goal from Trippier’s nutmeg pass on Shaw through to Eriksen’s patient cross and Moura’s exquisite finish. Man Utd 0-2 Tottenham.
Man Utd defensive errors
Jose Mourinho responded by making changes of his own. The Ander Herrera experiment was brought to an end as they went to a back four. However, the introduction of Victor Lindelof made an already shaky defence begin to creak.
The Swede first gifted Dele Alli a glorious chance to wrap up the game with an under hit back pass. Lindelof then got caught hopelessly out of position, leaving Chris Smalling isolated and exposed to the pace of Lucas Moura.
The passage of play started with the ball at the feet of the dangerous Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean had given Trippier a tough time after his introduction. Sanchez’s clipped cross was cleared and Spurs swept forward. Fred got caught under the ball. Lindelof was then unnecessarily drawn in and gave Kane an easy pass to Lucas Moura. The Brazilian was now isolated one-against-one with Chris Smalling.
Smalling was no match for Moura’s speed or change of direction. Lucas tore past him and smashed the ball beyond the despairing dive of David de Gea, right in front of the jubilant away fans. Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham and all three points were headed back to north London.
Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham overall
After playing 4-3-3 throughout preseason, the diamond has surprisingly emerged as Pochettino’s new weapon.
The setup really benefits the hardworking pace of Lucas Moura. He can get in to advanced central spaces where his speed and sudden changes of direction can hurt opponents.
A tweak to shift Christian Eriksen from the top to the right played a major part in the first two goals. Eriksen could then find space for him to operate away from the congested central midfield zone. The shift proved the difference and allowed Lucas Moura to be the star of the show.
Final score: Man Utd 0-3 Tottenham.
MOTM: Lucas Moura.