Lucas Moura scores during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham in the FA Cup.

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: speed off the striker

Running beyond a deep dropping centre forward saw two goals scored. However, our FA Cup 5th round tie finished Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham at Spotland Stadium.

The pitch wasn’t the only talking point during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham in our FA Cup 5th Round clash. Mauricio Pochettino constantly ran two quick players in to the space beyond a deep dropping centre forward. The tactic paid dividends with two goals.

Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min initially ran off and beyond Fernando Llorente. Harry Kane replaced the Spanish striker with Dele Alli and Erik Lamela continuing to do the same.

Throwing the Kitching sink

The first half started with Rochdale causing problems through their set up and closing down.

Keith Hill opted for a 3-5-2 system and continually pressed our centre backs on a slippery surface. Newly re-laid pitches are notorious for giving way underfoot. The Rochdale boss wanted to expose the potential for an error from the off. Just seconds in to the game and Toby Alderweireld lost his feet, almost gifting Rochdale an early opportunity.

Going with two strikers allowed Rochdale to close down both our centre backs. As a result, Victor Wanyama was dropping in-between them in order to bring the ball out.

The tactic allowed Tottenham to move possession forward with ease as the game wore on, but initially we had problems. Rochdale could send one of their midfield trio to close Wanyama, limiting his time on the ball. The ploy almost paid off as Cannon stripped a pondering Wanyama, but Ian Henderson couldn’t convert.

Wanyama drops in but is closed down immediately during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.

Wanyama drops in but is closed down immediately.

Quick closing down did pay off just prior to half time, as Rochdale were rewarded for their persistent pressing. Mark Kitching took the ball off Harry Winks and started a counter attack at an exposed defence.

Juan Foyth was drawn out from the back line to cover Stephen Humphrys on the initial pass. Toby Alderweireld was therefore left playing Ian Henderson onside. Alderweireld was first drawn towards the striker, but then broke his run off to challenge Andrew Cannon on the ball.

Foyth drawn out as Alderweireld drops too deep during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.

Foyth drawn out as Alderweireld drops too deep.

Alderweireld’s change of decision left himself in no man’s land. Henderson arrived to neatly stroke the ball in to the corner of the net and put Rochdale 1-0 up.

Spurs were shaky given Alderweireld’s deployment at left centre back. Coupled with our difficulties against Rochdale’s pressing, an upset seemed on the cards.

Spurs speed off the striker

The bright point for Tottenham was the combination of the hold-up play of Fernando Llorente with the speed of Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min. Both attacking midfielders pelted forward with frequent bursts beyond the deep dropping striker.

Llorente’s goal touch may have deserted him, but his feet still remain dangerously adept and possess an excellent weight of pass. He created the first real opening as he exchanged with Son in a neat one-two. Later, Llorente sent the Korean scampering through as he held up, span and laid in a perfectly weighted pass.

Fernando Llorente releases Son Heung-MIn during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.

Fernando Llorente releases Son Heung-MIn.

Son saw his shot saved. Llorente then took the rebound and calmly cut back inside, but rashly fired his left foot shot past the post.

Lucas and Llorente

The ploy by Pochettino to surround Fernando Llorente with quick players to run past him paid off as we levelled the scores.

Lucas Moura’s dribbles had been a feature of the first half. The Brazilian would combine with Llorente’s hold up play to fire his first Spurs goal.

Moura started the move by taking the ball from the back and fizzed it in to Llorente’s feet. The striker had drawn centre back Jimmy McNulty out with him. Space was now left behind and Moura headed straight for it.

Lucas Moura runs off Llorente to score his first Spurs goal during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.

Lucas Moura runs off Llorente to score his first Spurs goal.

Moussa Sissoko was the recipient of Llorente’s lay off. Seeing the space and Moura’s run, Sissoko wasted no time in hitting the wide forward’s run.

Sissoko plays Lucas Moura in to the space created to score during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.

Sissoko plays Lucas Moura in to the space created to score.

Moura made no mistake as he calmly slotted home over the onrushing keeper. The score was now Rochdale 1-1 Tottenham and we were gaining momentum.

Change of personnel

The goal had come from Pochettino’s tactic to continue running players off the deeper dropping Fernando Llorente. However, it was achieved through a change of shape that had three aims.

Firstly, to force wingback Joseph Rafferty, who had been getting forward extremely effectively in the first half, to retreat. Secondly, to switch Toby Alderweireld and Juan Foyth in order to get the Belgian on the ball on his preferred right side. Thirdly, to get Lucas Moura in to the space Rafferty had been leaving.

Speed running off Kane

The personnel changed, but the tactic to have the striker drop deep to draw a centre back out and run speed in to the space continued. Harry Kane entered the game for Fernando Llorente and persisted with the plan.

By this time Dele Alli and Erik Lamela had also joined the action and both looked to make surging runs. The pair was heavily involved as we won a penalty with minutes remaining.

Now on his preferred right side, the passage of play started with a gorgeous sweeping pass from Toby Alderweireld. Harry Kane then dropped deep to pull centre back Harrison McGahey out from the back line.

McGahey is drawn out by Kane during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.

McGahey is drawn out by Kane.

Lamela took the ball from Kane’s layoff and surged past the striker in to the space created. His neat pass found the even quicker Danny Rose jetting past him and bearing down on goal.

Danny Rose is released in to the space during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.

Danny Rose is released in to the space.

Rose was initially stopped, but the defence was out of position and now in panic mode. Lamela swept in to see his shot blocked, but it fell nicely for Dele Alli who had continued his run past Harry Kane. The recovering McGahey upended Dele and Referee Bobby Madley pointed to the spot.

A confident Harry Kane fired the spot kick in to the bottom corner beyond the outstretched arm of Josh Lillis. Victory now seemed assured.

Rochdale crossing

Throughout the match, Rochdale had two avenues to goal. Closing and counter attacking had seen their goal scored and best chances created. However, crosses from the wingbacks had equally seen them flood the box with players to get on the end of them.

Right wingback Joseph Rafferty had been the main source, but left-sided Matt Done would set up a shock last-minute equaliser.

Spurs initially had what they wanted. A back pass to the keeper that was punted downfield under pressure. Victor Wanyama won the header, but as it ricocheted off the back of Mark Kitching’s head, Rochdale suddenly had their preferred means of attack.

Steve Davies picked up the loose ball, instantly sent it out to Done and then sprinted for the penalty area. While this was happening, Spurs were caught too tight closing up centrally to control the long clearance. Moussa Sissoko, who was now operating alongside Victor Wanyama in defensive midfield, and Kieran Trippier, were both caught too narrow.

Trippier and Sissoko caught narrow as Matt Done gets forward during Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.

Trippier and Sissoko caught narrow as Matt Done gets forward.

Both Sissoko and Trippier raced out to challenge Done, but on getting close didn’t charge down the cross. Done was allowed to get his ball in to the box where Rochdale had numbers. As he stretched to try and head clear, Toby Alderweireld got a glancing touch on the ball that helped Davies. The substitute took controlled and swiftly swept the ball in to the corner of the net, sparking righteous Rochdale celebrations.

From having seemingly struck the killer blow from the penalty spot, it was suddenly Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham. An FA Cup replay at Wembley was the home side’s reward for a spirited performance.

Rochdale 2-2 Spurs overall

A newly re-laid pitch made it difficult, but so too did Rochdale’s approach to the game. The home side closed down well, but equally broke quickly upon winning the ball and were dangerous in crossing situations.

To expose Rochdale playing three centre backs, Mauricio Pochettino had our striker drop short and used quicker players to burst off him. A neat ploy that worked on both our goals. Could this be one way how Mauricio Pochettino will work the newly signed Lucas Moura in to the team?

Final score: Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham.
MOTM: Lucas Moura.

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16 Responses to Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham: speed off the striker

  1. Reinert 23rd February 2018 at 7:22 pm #

    I liked reading this, Mark: Like usual, this reads like an actual analyzis, instead of knee-jerking negatively towards isolated players’ performances based on bias towards them, i.e.Llorente’s poor goalscoring form. I much like looking at managing any team of individuals as a never-ending process of patience and trust. Sometimes it is hard to accept, but it is true: We don’t know as much as we think we do, and should be more forgiving and grateful. Thank you for lending your perspective, and for laying it out in such a digestible way.

    That being said, the re-match will be all the more exciting, now that our ‘second 11’ are more aware of their abilities and limitations. I personally think the TV-money will be the biggest prize for Rochdale, as we roll out the same 11 on Wednesday and smash them

    • Charles Crawford 23rd February 2018 at 7:28 pm #

      Very well put.

      I fondly expected a royal smashing of Newport but it never happened.

      That said, we now have MOURA who shd be able to use the wide open spaces at Wembley to flay them alive.

      I’d like us to be 5-0 up at half-time and have done with it. Tickets just bought…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd February 2018 at 9:25 pm #

      Very, very good comment, Reinert.
      Hopefully the eleven selected, which may well be the same, will be better for the 90 minutes they had during this outing.

  2. Charles Crawford 23rd February 2018 at 7:23 pm #

    Interesting that you are about the only person on the Internet having good things to say about Llorente!

    But you’re right – he did do a fair share of smart subtle effective things, as usual. He just looks so SLOOOOW.

    Winksy seems to have started to pass sideways more than forwards.

    Sissoko had another good game – yes some things look impossibly clunky, but his touch when it works eg for the first goal is really good.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd February 2018 at 9:29 pm #

      It seems as if I’m in the minority. Llorente is very much doing a Vincent Janssen, albeit at a slower pace. Having a good hold up and play on the ball, just not finding the net.
      Winks still looks rusty to me, but he’ll be better for 90 minutes under his belt. Sissoko had a surprisingly good game. Maybe the arrival of Moura has motivated him?

  3. Andy B 23rd February 2018 at 8:42 pm #

    Another interesting and informative report.

    Up to now, we only had one player, who I would describe as naturally gifted – Moussa Dembele.

    Could it be that we have two more? Lucas Moura and Juan Foyth. It is very early days, but the signs are looking encouraging.

    Towards the end of the game, Foyth did a couple of amazing things in possession, when he drifted passed Rochdale’s players using trickery with both feet. I just thought ‘wow’. Not many players have that ‘wow’ factor. These are exciting times to be a Spurs fan.

    Sissoko played against Rochdale, and will probably play in the replay, but after that, I would be very surprised if he starts another game for Spurs. I think that Sissoko has just been a temporary stop gap, while other players were not available for selection.

    With all the players who have been missing during the season (Alderweireld, Wanyama, Winks, Dembele, Lamela, Rose), it is a miracle that we won the Champions League group and are within just one point, of the top four.

    Now with the players returning from injury and the addition of Lucas Moura, Spurs will be a lot stronger, for the remainder of the season. Bring it on!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd February 2018 at 9:37 pm #

      Great comment, Andy. Foyth did show some lovely stuff on the ball. He looks naturally gifted and Poch can bring him on even more. I don’t have any concerns that he won’t be anything other than very good, but right now the only thing that needs work is his positioning, which will come with experience and teaching. His position and decision making on the first goal was at fault. He also took up a bad position after getting sucked in on the other great Henderson chance, which he shanked wide. He’s going to be good one though. With him and Sanchez our centre back foundations look solid for years to come.

      As said to Charles, Moura’s arrival might have motivated Sissoko? He was brought in to be the fast winger that can dribble past defenders and now Moura is here it may have stirred something inside him to be better. Time will tell.

      • Andy B 24th February 2018 at 11:54 am #

        Luckily for Foyth, he has Pochettino, Alderweireld and Vertonghen to learn from. He couldn’t be in a better learning environment. He is young and hasn’t played many games.

        I agree that it would be good if Sissoko was more motivated, but after the Rochdale replay on Wednesday, I cannot see him starting a game ahead of any other Spurs player. He is just way below the technical level of the other players in the squad. I can see him coming on in a few games, as a sub, to rest players, but nothing more than that hopefully.

        Sissoko looked out of his depth in the Newport game, which summed it up for me.

        Saying that, the performance of Serge Aurier against Juventus was an absolute shocker. He couldn’t cross the ball. He couldn’t defend. He couldn’t dribble. It was a terrible performance. He badly let the team down.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th February 2018 at 3:41 pm #

          There is no doubt that Sissoko is down the depth chart and if a decent offer came in for him then of course we should get rid. He has been worse than the player he was at Newcastle and the berating he’s had since arriving has destroyed his confidence. However, Moura coming in may have made him realise that he needs to up his level, not only to stand a chance of getting in the team, but also to put himself in the shop window, if he does indeed want to leave. Very few takers will be in for a player that has looked devoid of confidence, is performing badly and is not playing so can’t be assessed. What’s more, it’s also a World Cup year and being 29 in August this will be his last chance to represent his country. A country that could feasibly win it.

  4. MurphyN 23rd February 2018 at 10:04 pm #

    Great to have you back and hope you can cover one of the Juve games.
    This reads a bit like one of your analyses of Poch’s Saints tactics – do you think he’s considering Moura in the Jay Rodriguez role? Could be good news if It makes us less reliant on Kane’s heroics.
    And do you think this tactic was more prominent because the defenders are League 1? Have we seen less of it in the PL and if so is it because defenders there are more used to zonal responsibility and less prone to be pulled out of position? Look forward to your thoughts as always.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th February 2018 at 11:00 am #

      Very good points, MurphyN. The Jay Rodriguez wide forward role is a very interesting comparison. There were elements of that in Moura’s play. He was getting on the ball a bit deeper and running with it more than Rodriguez did, but in terms of running past the striker as he comes deep, this part was definitely there. Definitely Something to keep an eye on.

      I think the tactic was part in due to League 1 defenders being less positionally as aware and good as the premier league level, but also the fact that there were three of them. Three against the striker without support is tough at any level, so maybe we’ll see more of this tactic against back threes. Both Son and Moura were at it so it’s obviously something Poch is considering.

  5. Matt 24th February 2018 at 6:15 pm #

    Good to see you back Mark. I was impressed with Moura, not only quick and tricky but he also seemed to constantly have his head up; good awareness. Re Moura, I don’t want to sound like a dinosaur but though I felt he was impressive on the ball I worry about his physical presence. He’s under 6’ I imagine and I’ve just not seen too many world class CBs that size. Hope I’m wrong!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th February 2018 at 12:49 am #

      He is a tad undersized but I’d imagine we’ll see him beef up a little for the premier league as many an overseas player has initially struggled with the physicality. I think Poch has brought him in to break down deep lying teams off the dribble so his height doesn’t really matter. I am curious to see whether he challenges for Son’s place or how Poch includes him and alongside whom. This should give us a better indication of Poch’s plans for Moura and in what situations we will see him deployed.

      • Chas 25th February 2018 at 11:15 am #

        Hi Mark and welcome back – again!
        I’m confused here by the reference to Moura being undersized for a CB.
        A CB?
        Poch has been quoted as saying he could be used as a stand-in striker so it’s pretty obvious he’ll be used in a similar way to Salah.
        Certainly height has nothing to do with anything.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th February 2018 at 4:59 pm #

          I’m not sure what was meant by Matt’s centre back reference. As said in that reply, Moura’s height doesn’t really matter, but he will need to strenghten up a bit to deal with the Premier League.

          • Andy B 25th February 2018 at 5:34 pm #

            From reading the comments, I think Matt may actually be talking about Foyth, but called him Moura, by mistake.