Handling the Rouges et Blancs counter attack and then their formation switch proves too much as it finishes Monaco 1-1 Spurs in our Europa League clash.
What started off as a classic case of a team trying to break down a deep-lying counter attack side, finished rather more disjointed with the final score Monaco 1-1 Spurs in our Europa League match.
This was really a game of two halves, dependent on Monaco’s approach. They tried to stifle in the first, but then had to attack more in the second, getting back in to it with a switch of formation that played to their strengths.
Countering the counter attack
The first half was a game of cat and mouse between Monaco’s counter attacking approach and our patient possession game that tried to lure them out and then strike.
The home side were set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation and they dropped off looking to intercept or recapture the ball in the middle third, trying then to spring forward.
They had some success with it. An under hit pass to Danny Rose saw Adama Traore scoop up the ball in our half. With time and space to run in to, he drilled a shot that Hugo Lloris could only parry and Jan Vertonghen had to swoop in and clear. Later and the same player was able to dribble at Kieran Trippier from another errant pass. This time his shot fizzed past the near post when more composure was needed.
Whilst Monaco were having some success with their set up, we were beginning to recognise where the spaces were. These were either side of defensive midfielder Jeremy Toulalan and we were getting joy when we could switch the ball in here. This saw both full backs, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier, become assets in the game, but also Erik Lamela. The Argentinean was drifting in to pockets of space off the defensive midfielder from his starting position on the right. It was no surprise to see our best two chances of the first half come from Lamela’s right side and him to be heavily involved in both.
As the half wore on, our possession, especially by playing it around at the back, started to lure Monaco forwards. This was because they were seeing very little of the ball, but also as we had committed a couple of sloppy passes that had allowed them to break. This was enough to tempt them in, looking for more.
Being drawn forward caught Monaco’s players up-field, allowing us to create a couple of good opportunities down Lamela’s right side.
The Argentinean opened the scoring, but when he won the ball back in our penalty area and played it forward, there were seven Monaco players taken out of the game.
Lamela played it up to Nacer Chadli who was immediately able to run at the right side of their defence. The Belgian neatly skipped around two challenges and was off towards the Monaco penalty area unopposed. His pass picked out Dele Alli who cut inside and fired a shot towards the corner. It was saved and squirmed loose via a deflection off the goalkeeper and a defender, allowing Erik Lamela, who had run the length of the pitch, to have the easiest of tap-ins.
The Argentinean looked around for an offside flag, but he had timed his run perfectly, ghosting in unnoticed, something that he has improved at doing this season.
With us taking the lead, Monaco were forced to come out from their deep-lying shape. This gave us more opportunities to counter on their counter attacking setup. Minutes after scoring and Erik Lamela was now higher up the field on the right as we countered again. He was able to spring Dele Alli with Monaco caught trying to recover their shape.
Alli got in to the penalty area, checked back and laid the ball off for the arriving Harry Kane. Our striker scuffed his shot and saw it blocked and rebound away off the goalkeeper’s face.
Whilst we were having success by luring Monaco on and countering off their counter attack approach, the home side were creating chances by two methods.
The first was through trapping in the middle third to cause errors and looking to break quickly on us. Adama Traore’s two efforts detailed earlier were good examples of this.
The second was through creating crossing situations. Fabio Coentrao was at the centre of the action in the first half where he played a number of good balls in, looking for the head of Lacina Traore.
However, their chance of the half came when Coentrao got himself in the box, but couldn’t stretch far enough with the goal at his mercy. The opportunity came from our mistake at the back, something that they were looking to jump on and punish all game. Nacer Chadli’s errant pass allowed them to do this, but Coentrao got his body in a really awkward position when just needing to get a firmer contact to head home.
Monaco’s crossing remained a constant theme throughout the game. Their equaliser would come from one, but it was their formation switch that allowed it to happen.
Subs and formation switches
After a lively first half, the second was a more lethargic affair, as both teams knew what the other was up to and cancelled each other out. Recognising this, both managers used their changes to influence the game. Leonardo Jardim was positive in his approach and switched his formation to be more attacking. Mauricio Pochettino made like for like changes, but in his switches made us weaker on the flanks.
Jardim made two changes to introduce El Shaarawy and Nabil Dirar, switching to a 4-3-3 formation.
El Shaarawy was put on the left to help Coentrao to create crossing situations down this flank, but also to get another player in the box. Monaco were struggling to get support up with their centre forward for much of this game, but adding Dirar and El Shaarawy and going 4-3-3 helped this. One of the newly introduced wide forwards would cross; the other would get in the box and join the striker.
Mauricio Pochettino replaced Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela. Both players had been doing good work defensively in helping out their full backs to mitigate Monaco’s crossing threat. Pochettino’s changes introduced players that aren’t as good defending in the wide positions. Andros Townsend went to the right and Clinton N’Jie going up top sent Christian Eriksen to the left.
Nabil Dirar was causing problems down our left side for Danny Rose, but Christian Eriksen not tracking him played a major part in Monaco’s equaliser. Dirar was able to run off Eriksen and in-behind Danny Rose to get himself in to a crossing situation. This pulled Jan Vertonghen out from the middle, leaving Carillo and El Shaarawy 2v2 against Alderweireld and Trippier.
Dirar’s cross gave El Shaarawy the chance to get a run on and out-jump Kieran Trippier, placing his header down at the feet of Hugo Lloris. Trippier hadn’t done enough to hinder or stop El Shaarawy’s leap and Hugo will feel he should’ve done better to keep the header out.
With the score tied at Monaco 1-1 Spurs, I expected to see a reaction from us, but instead it came from the home team. Dirar continued to be a thorn in our side and another pesky run and venomous shot saw Lloris again parry back in to the danger area. Fortunately, Danny Rose slid in to clear the loose ball before Guido Carillo could sweep home.
Monaco 1-1 Spurs overall
To go away from home in the Europa League to a major group rival and get a point is a good result.
We played well in the first half to counter against their countering attacking approach, but the Monaco switch in formation and changes really hurt us. They were helped by Mauricio Pochettino’s substitutions, which harmed our ability to defend well on the flanks.
Our head coach probably had one eye on Swansea and wanted to rest Lamela and Chadli who were working hard. However, once Eriksen and Townsend were placed in the wide positions, the tide began to turn.
Mauricio Pochettino bemoaned our ability to kill off the game at 1-0, but both his substitutions and then player errors contributed to Monaco getting back in it. From our first half display it could’ve been more, but a point ended up being a fair result.
Final score: Monaco 1-1 Spurs.