Successfully opening up the inside channels saw us win our International Champions Cup match PSG 2-4 Spurs in Orlando.
In the searing Orlando heat, Spurs caught fire after a slow start. Getting to grips with the challenge, a narrow PSG team was stretched, the inside channels were opened up and Tottenham cruised to victory. The final score finished PSG 2-4 Spurs for our first International Champions Cup victory.
The opening five minutes looked like a first game of preseason. The lack of cohesion was evident, as was a certain amount of rust and fitness.
Inside the first minute, we were caught pressing as individuals rather than as a unit. PSG played through us with one pass and were beyond our high defensive line. Fortunately, Edinson Cavani headed wide. Two minutes later, Eric Dier casually gave the ball away with an ill-advised square pass on the edge of our box. Luckily Thiago Motta rashly blasted over.
The third sloppy error was fatal. Once more, a single pass obliterated our disjointed attempt to press and released a PSG player through our high defensive line. Kyle Walker-Peters was caught too high. More alarmingly, Cameron Carter-Vickers indecisiveness left him in no man’s land.
Adrien Rabiot nicked the ball in front of the centre back and hurtled in to the wide-open space beyond him. Rabiot had the simple task of squaring for Edinson Cavani to make it PSG 1-0 Spurs.
CCV and KWP
Pairing youngsters Cameron Carter-Vickers and Kyle Walker Peters on the right side of our back four was an obvious area to attack. PSG had opened them up to take the lead. They would then expose the duo’s positioning to level the scores at PSG 2-2 Spurs just before half time.
Kyle Walker-Peters was caught too far up field, unaware of where his centre back was. Cameron Carter-Vickers was too deep, oblivious to where his defensive partners were and played three PSG players onside.
Javier Pastore waltzed in through the acres of space left available to him to receive the ball and calmly slot in to the top corner of the net.
Eriksen vs PSG shape
PSG started much the better of the two sides. The French team had already played an International Champions Cup match and looked to have the fitness edge over us in our debut game. However, taking the lead, PSG then dropped back and invited us on, which became their downfall.
Playing a 4-3-3 formation, PSG wanted to control the middle of the pitch through their midfield trio. They tried to keep them together, but Tottenham’s width provided by full backs Ben Davies and Kyle Walker-Peters, stretched them. Space was thus afforded in the centre and Christian Eriksen took advantage.
Eriksen became an increasing factor throughout the first half. His through balls and link play opened up the inside channels, often accompanied by the oohs and aahs of the crowd.
He christened his display with a stunning strike. The ball was worked wide and then back inside to the Dane with one pass. Fearing another through ball, the PSG midfield trio retreated back towards the penalty area. Eriksen was thus invited forwards and he didn’t need to be asked to have a go at goal. One sweet strike of his right foot unleashed a venomously dipping drive that flew in to the top corner. Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp had no chance, victim of an early goal of the season contender.
Beaten by an unstoppable drive, the game quickly went downhill for Kevin Trapp. Trying to pass out from the back, Eric Dier pounced on him to deflect the ball in to his net as Spurs took a 2-1 lead.
Trapp then received a red card for crazily handling the ball outside his area, as he used one hand and then the other in a state of blind panic.
His own ludicrous positioning didn’t help. The keeper was alarmed by the run of Harry Kane in-behind the PSG back line and the long ball towards him by Toby Aldereweireld. However there was no need for Trapp to race out of his box when there was enough speed on the ball to comfortably come through to him.
Red card changes
Mauricio Pochettino made a number of changes at half time. Having seen the success Eriksen was having in the inside channels, Pochettino introduced Dele Alli to accompany him. The pair operated just behind Harry Kane looking to expose these spaces further.
The duo was in these pockets of space occupying the back four on the red card incident – circled in the picture above. They continued to buzz in these areas throughout the second half. Their job was made easier as PSG played a 4-3-2 formation despite only having ten men.
In order to free them up, Spurs continued to use the full backs to stretch what was an increasingly narrow PSG team. Ben Davies and the newly introduced Kieran Trippier frequently saw the ball. The pair tried to draw PSG over towards them and then move the ball quickly back across the pitch.
Both full backs receiving and then shifting the ball back across was instrumental in goals three and four. Left back Ben Davies sucked PSG across towards him, affording space in the inside right channel for Toby Alderweireld to unleash a fearsome drive in to the corner of the net for number three.
Davies then chipped the ball out from a congested centre of the pitch to a wide-open Kieran Trippier. A tired PSG were so narrow at this point that Blaise Matuidi had to race out towards Trippier in an attempt to close him down.
Unable to slow himself, Matuidi blocked Trippier’s cross with his arm, conceding a penalty.
Harry Kane stepped up and despatched the spot kick to seal the win at PSG 2-4 Spurs.
PSG balls in-behind
Down to ten men throughout the second half, PSG were brave to play a 4-3-2 formation rather than the conventional 4-4-1 set up. They were constantly looking to play their two front men on the shoulders of our high defensive line as they looked for the ball in-behind.
Jese Rodriguez was a persistent threat as he looked to pull off the shoulder of Kevin Wimmer. Edinson Cavani equally caused problems, as did the runs of Antoine Bernede. PSG’s best chance fell to the youngster as he took advantage of the pensiveness of Kevin Wimmer. A momentary lapse from the Austrian allowed Bernede in on goal. Fortunately, Wimmer recovered to slide in and just get to the ball in the nick of time.
The game ended PSG 2-4 Spurs to the delight of the many Tottenham fans in Orlando.
PSG 2-4 Spurs overall
A sloppy start to our first preseason game was quickly turned in to a performance that Mauricio Pochettino could be happy with. Spurs opened up the inside channels through using full back width to stretch a narrow PSG team out.
There were a number of good performances. Christian Eriksen looked like he hadn’t taken a day off over the summer. Ben Davies was as solid and reliable as ever. Mousa Dembele was busy doing Mousa Dembele stuff.
There were also a few points for Mauricio Pochettino to consider. The Cameron Carter-Vickers and Kyle Walker-Peters combination on the right side of defence looked vulnerable. Both players need more experience around them rather than being paired together against top quality opposition at this early stage of their careers.
Equally Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and Josh Onomah offered little in the wide midfield roles. Onomah looked so much more comfortable in central midfield during England’s U20 World Cup success that his continued use as a wide advanced midfielder baffles. GKN struggled to affect the game against the highly experienced Dani Alves.
Final score: PSG 2-4 Spurs.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.