Monaco 1-1 Spurs: countering the counter attack

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.


Monaco 4-1-4-1 and where the space was.

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’s out pass catches 7 Monaco players.

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.


Erik Lamela puts Dele Alli through.

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.

Monaco crosses

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.


Monaco move to 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 runs off the back of Eriksen to cross for El Shaarawy.

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.

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19 Responses to Monaco 1-1 Spurs: countering the counter attack

  1. James Bailey 2nd October 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    Great analysis, as usual. Thanks. It was really hard to get much feel for what was happening with just the BBC radio feed through the Tottenham website. (Was still the middle of the work day here in the U.S.) Half the time you couldn’t tell who had the ball. The announcers seemed more interested in talking about yachts, fancy cars, and the casino than the game itself.

    A point is not an awful outcome, but it really feels like we gave away the 3 points, which is a little disappointing, particularly because we started such a strong lineup. Just hope everyone has a chance to rest a little before Swansea. We’ve had so many injuries the midfielders have got to be gassed.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd October 2015 at 6:09 pm #

      The TV commentators were largely at that as well, something about Monaco i guess?! A point wasn’t bad at all. Win the 3 home games and get at least 1 draw on the road should see us through.

  2. YouShubes 2nd October 2015 at 6:00 pm #

    Why play Eriksen who is shown to not be the most discipline in defending on the flank instead of say Clinton whose speed would have kept his full back honest?

    Your piece on how we defend now cannot come soon enough Mark

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd October 2015 at 6:17 pm #

      I was surprised at that, i didn’t see too much of a reason to gamble by moving Eriksen out of the centre and dropping Kane deeper just to get N’Jie up there. My thoughts at the time were that he wanted to get some breakaway pace high up the pitch to punish Monaco who were pushing forwards. There was a passage of play where we had 3 on 2 and Kane put N’Jie in but he was given offside, showing that this was possible. N’Jie should’ve held his run better, but he struck his shot straight at the keeper anyway. It was a gamble though and Pochettino has never been the type to protect a lead by throwing on another defensive player to kill the game, so this is just true to previous form.

    • anotherwisemonkey 2nd October 2015 at 8:51 pm #

      To be fair, Eriksen tracked back really well for the majority of the match, but he got caught ball-watching for the goal. It was only when he was pushed out wide that the cracks appeared.

      I’m loving the regularity with which we are now scoring true counter-attacking goals, winning back possession and striking quickly.

      David James had the nerve to suggest Erik Lamela’s goal was “lucky”. There was nothing lucky about his lung-busting run after starting the move on the edge of our penalty area. He really is ghosting into the centre-forward position regularly and effectively now.

      Danny Rose gave a blood and guts performance but I expect Davies will continue to be preferred in the league. The Welshman has been lacking in confidence, so let’s hope he doesn’t get found out by Swansea

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd October 2015 at 10:17 am #

        The counter attack goals are a thing of beauty at the minute Anotherwisemonkey. There was definitely no luck about Lamela’s goal. His run forward was all about desire to get up with the attack, create extra numbers in their box so that if rebounds, knock downs or loose balls happen we have a greater chance of it falling to one of our lads.

  3. SpurredoninDublin 2nd October 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    I think it’s far too simple for MoPo to talk about our failure to kill off teams, but this was no mug side from outer nowherestan. They had a pretty good run in the CL just last season, and if you look at the non-Uefa rankings tables, they are receiving similar ratings to us and Pool.

    I am delighted that MoPo took this game seriously and we put out a strong side, in spite of the fact that we play Swans on Sunday. Looking at the league so far this season, I think we have as much chance as anybody of winning it, not because we are “finished article”, but because nobody is currently setting the world on fire. But just in case, as I said, I am delighted that MoPo is keeping the second string to our bow with the EL. So all in all, I am happy with a draw.

    Anyway, I have been having this fantasy about how the season will end. It saddens me to say that in my fantasy, Arse again finish fourth, beating us on goal difference into fifth. However, because the PL teams have played so badly in the CL, Italy gets the third fourth place spot, while we, having won the EL get to play in next seasons CL. And who do we beat in the final to win the EL? Arsenal who just scrape through into a EL spot as a CL dropout. If ever there was a god of football….hear my prayer.

    • Sharkio 2nd October 2015 at 7:18 pm #

      I’m with your Europa fantasy all the way, save for our competition in the final.

      I’d much rather beat Chelski in the final, since we still owe them one for snatching our fourth-place ECL place by “winning” the Champions League in 2012 while coming sixth.

      • SpurredoninDublin 2nd October 2015 at 9:28 pm #

        Actually, to both you and Mark, I am surprised that you don’t see the obvious flaw in my fantasy: Arse will be lucky to finish fourth in their group, never mind getting to the EL. (ROFL)

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd October 2015 at 10:22 am #

          Lol Arsenal finishing bottom of their group would be hilarious. It would let them focus on the league though and that’s one competition I couldn’t deal with them winning!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd October 2015 at 7:37 pm #

      Great comment SpurredoninDublin. Agree completely about Monaco not being a mug side, they may have lost players over the last year, but still have the likes of Coentrao and Moutinho. We needed to play and be coached smarter rather than going for the jugular. The young team and coach that we have will hopefully learn that.

      Beating Arsenal in the Europa League Final is the stuff dreams are made of!

  4. Andy B 2nd October 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    Lamela wasn’t offering any defensive protection for Trippier in the first half. He wasn’t dropping back to help. This improved in the second half. Likewise Alli was caught too far forward on several occasions when Monaco were on the counter attack. Hopefully Alli will learn from this experience because he looked quite good in attack but not so good in defence.

    I was really hoping that Harry Winks would get a decent run out, because he always looks impressive when he comes on for Spurs. He looks a better passer of the ball than Alli.

    It is difficult when Mason, Alli, Carroll and Winks are all competing for one spot, whereas Dier seems to only have Bentaleb as competition and Kane has no-one to compete with. The squad is still unbalanced and needs to be sorted out in January.

    • anotherwisemonkey 2nd October 2015 at 8:54 pm #

      I don’t agree regarding Lamela in the first half. He tenaciously won the ball on the edge of the penalty area to start the move he finished for our goal. On other occasions although he was behind the play he was getting back and putting pressure on the Monaco player on the ball, albeit not always in time to stop the danger.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd October 2015 at 10:14 am #

      Nice post Andy B. Agree that it is difficult for players like Winks to get a decent run out, there is much competition for places in midfield where we do have a lot of options. Hopefully we can qualify in 4 matches so that him, Pritchard etc can play 90 mins in the last two games to see what they can do.

      Lamela wasn’t a lock defensively in this game but he is much better defending a flank than either Townsend or Eriksen. Lamela was getting through a ton of work in both directions, but wasn’t helped by Coentrao, Lemare and Adama Traore trying to create 3v2 situations against him and Trippier to cross from that side. I like the way Lamela is progressing recently and hope he can continue.

  5. Chazza36 2nd October 2015 at 9:25 pm #

    Dunno what game AndyB was watching but Monkey has it pretty much spot on. Trippier was pretty awful defensively and was caught out of position far too often. He has a great cross going forward but quick wingers have found him out several times this season already in his own third.
    But Danny Rose was similarly vulnerable in 2014 and Poch has cleaned up his act, so here’s hoping Trip will adjust too.
    To me, the real disappointment was Eriksen…. another game where he went missing from kick-off. Happens too often.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd October 2015 at 10:20 am #

      For me, Eriksen still looks like he is coming back from a lengthy layoff Chazza36. I think we’ve honestly been playing him too much too quickly with the the Woolwich, City and now this game in quick succession. Think he really needed this game off to recuperate for Swansea.

      • anotherwisemonkey 3rd October 2015 at 8:24 pm #

        Good point.

      • SpurredoninDublin 5th October 2015 at 11:58 am #

        With the benefit of the Swansea game out of the way, I bet that just like me, when you make a negative comment about one of our players (Erikssen), you love it when they prove you wrong.

        At the same time, I am beginning to think that I have misjudged Lamela, and at last, I think he deserves his place in the team. Others that I have misjudged, include Kane, who I was convinced would never play for us regularly, and Rose who I was convinced would never make a full-back. I have to admit that I don’t have your mind for analysing the minutiae of every game, but as you can tell from the above, I have no problems identifying players who won’t make the grade (LOL). Now about Davies and N’jie…

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th October 2015 at 5:41 pm #

          lol Davies falls in to that category for me, hoping he proves me wrong! Not questioned N’Jie yet, i’m sure he’s going to do well in the Premier League – famous last words ;).