Lucas Moura celebrates a goal during Roma 1-4 Tottenham in the International Champions Cup.

Roma 1-4 Tottenham: attacking the left back

Left back Luca Pellegrini was repeatedly exposed as it finished Roma 1-4 Tottenham in our International Champions Cup match.

Mauricio Pochettino wheeled out a sporadically seen formation as he went 4-3-3. However, it allowed us to relentlessly attack young Roma left back Luca Pellegrini. Four goals were the result as our International Champions Cup match ended Roma 1-4 Tottenham in San Diego.

Tottenham 4-3-3 formation

Mauricio Pochettino has briefly flirted with the 4-3-3 formation during his time in charge of Tottenham. In San Diego, he used it to achieve two distinct aims.

Firstly, in order to surround Fernando Llorente with two quick and skilful players. Llorente is not a mobile striker and he struggled with being an isolated front man last season. With Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura buzzing around him, Llorente could be the hold-up, lay-off and target man for crosses that he excels at.

Second, Lamela and Moura were tasked with attacking the spaces left by Roma’s advanced full backs.

Davide Santon and Luca Pellegrini both wanted to get forward and help press to regain the ball and then attack. Spaces were left however and Tottenham exploited them to the full in cruising to a 4-1 victory.

Santon and Pellegrini high vs Spurs 4-3-3 formation during Roma 1-4 Tottenham.

Santon and Pellegrini high vs Spurs 4-3-3 formation.

Roma press

The match started with Roma aggressively closing down. Spurs struggled as they sought to play through what was a lively and energetic press. Coupled with a makeshift back line and Tottenham were in all sorts of problems.

Cameron Carter-Vickers and Ben Davies was a surprise centre back pairing. Both players looked like they hadn’t worked together before and huge gaps appeared between them. Throw in the erratic Serge Aurier at right back and it’s easy to understand why Roma were so aggressive in their press from the start.

Three minutes were all that Roma needed to take a 1-0 lead. Left back Luca Pellegrini pressed Serge Aurier deep in our half. The subsequent turnover ended up at the feet of Patrik Schick in acres of space between centre backs Ben Davies and Cameron Carter-Vickers.

Schick exposes the space between Carter-Vickers and Davies to score a goal during Roma 1-4 Tottenham.

Schick exposes the space between Carter-Vickers and Davies to score.

If anything highlighted the different wavelengths our makeshift back line were on, it was this. It was also noticeable after the goal that Michel Vorm played directly up to Fernando Llorente much more often rather than try to build through the centre backs.

Tottenham attacking the Roma left back

Roma had targeted what it had identified as a weak Tottenham back line. Spurs then retaliated by attacking Roma’s perceived weakness, the space around left back Luca Pellegrini. The young full back was good at going forward, but suspect defensively. Spurs got at him and the spaces he left to rattle off four first half goals.

Tottenham draw level

Five minutes after going behind, Spurs were level through some equally good pressing.

Excellent closing down forced a long kick out by goalkeeper Antonio Mirante. Left back Luca Pellegrini cushioned down the clearance, but then set off up the line, leaving Javier Pastore in trouble.

Pastore was set upon by a combination of Luke Amos and Lucas Moura. The pair relieved him of the ball and laid it off to Erik Lamela. The wide forward could then slip the ball in to Amos in the area that left back Pellegrini had vacated.

Erik Lamela finds the run of Luke Amos in to the left back zone during Roma 1-4 Tottenham.

Erik Lamela finds the run of Luke Amos in to the left back zone.

Amos’ attempted cross in to the box flicked up off Maxime Gonalons. However, the arriving Fernando Llorente towered over Kostas Manolas to head in the equaliser.

Set piece attacks the Roma left back

After exposing the space Luca Pellegrini had vacated to draw level, Spurs took advantage of the young left back at a set piece.

Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen played a number of short corners in the match and this was another. At the far post, Lucas Moura and Cameron Carter-Vickers had isolated themselves against the smaller Pellegrini.

Carter-Vickers rose to meet Lamela’s surprising right-footed cross. As Carter-Vickers jumped, he pinned Pellegrini underneath his leap. Lucas Moura could sweep in behind and volley a terrific first time shot that was well saved by Mirante. However, the Roma goalkeeper palmed the ball back in to the danger area, straight to the waiting Fernando Llorente to get his second goal of the game.

Carter-Vickers and Moura overload Pellegrini at the back post during Roma 1-4 Tottenham.

Carter-Vickers and Moura overload Pellegrini at the back post.

More left back attacks

Taking the lead put a skip in the Tottenham stride as we pressed forward looking to add more goals.

We didn’t have to wait long as the exceptional Lucas Moura got in on the act, as we attacked left back Luca Pellegrini once more.

The passage of play saw us isolate Pellegrini with a two versus one, as Eriksen and Aurier drew the left back away from his back the four.

Eriksen and Aurier two versus one against Pellegrini during Roma 1-4 Tottenham.

Eriksen and Aurier two versus one against Pellegrini.

The subsequent good movement of Fernando Llorente then did two things. Firstly, centre back Juan Guilherme Nunes Jesus was drawn out with him. Secondly, left back Luca Pellegrini collapsed back in to help, creating room for Serge Aurier to deliver a cross.

Pellegrini and Jesus drawn to Llorente creates space for Aurier's cross during Roma 1-4 Tottenham.

Pellegrini and Jesus drawn to Llorente creates space for Aurier’s cross.

Aurier’s ball in was excellent. The removal of one centre back from the middle by Llorente’s movement made room for the arriving Lucas Moura to power his header in to the corner of the net. Spurs were two up and cruising.

Left back attack for number four

Two minutes before half time and Lucas Moura made the score Roma 1-4 Tottenham as he finished off a sweeping end-to-end move.

By this point Roma’s press had begun to tire and it allowed one pass out from Ben Davies to get Erik Lamela straight on to their back line. More good movement by Fernando Llorente then drew one of the centre backs out with him. As a result, left back Luca Pellegrini had to pinch in to the middle, creating space for Moussa Sissoko.

Eriksen finds Sissoko running in to the space outside Pellegrini during Roma 1-4 Tottenham.

Eriksen finds Sissoko running in to the space outside Pellegrini.

The Frenchman raced in and although his cross was palmed out by goalkeeper Mirante, Lucas Moura slammed in the rebound. Roma 1-4 Tottenham and a truly excellent half of attacking football.

Second half switches

The second half saw Roma continue to press and Tottenham increasingly play on the counter attack. Both managers making a host of changes upset the flow and rhythm of the game.

Roma introduced their big names as De Rossi, Dzeko and Strootman all entered the match. As a result, Roma had a much better midfield shape and could increasingly control the play.

Mauricio Pochettino also made changes. He went to a back three with the introduction of Davinson Sanchez. Seeing how Roma were then increasingly getting down the sides of the three centre backs, Pochettino reverted to a back four with the introduction of Anthony Georgiou. The team subsequently saw the game out as it ended Roma 1-4 Tottenham for an excellent preseason workout.

Roma 1-4 Tottenham overall

Mauricio Pochettino’s use of a 4-3-3 formation was the standout takeaway from this match. The setup achieved the aim of getting players around Fernando Llorente. Two goals for the centre forward showed that he still has something to offer.

The formation also allowed us to expose the inexperienced Roma left back, Luca Pellegrini. Four goals were all scored through attacking him and his zone.

Standout performances from Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela were equally pleasing. Lamela looked back to his pesky best after long-term injury. It’s also difficult not to be excited by the play of Lucas Moura, who could well be this season’s big differential.

Luke Amos also put on an excellent display. His role in the first goal typified his excellent ball recovery and forward bursts from defensive midfield throughout the match.

Final score: Roma 1-4 Tottenham.
MOTM: Lucas Moura.

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13 Responses to Roma 1-4 Tottenham: attacking the left back

  1. Chas 26th July 2018 at 7:23 pm #

    Thanks for the report, Mark. I was unable to watcb live and have seen only the highlights but the infliuence of Moura and Lamela was evident even in those.
    I’ve never been hot for Lamela and have been begging for Moura to get more game time since we signed him so I’m pleasantly surprised by both.
    Personally, I’m a fan of 4.3.3 and it’s interesting that we looked suspect when we changed to a back 3, keeping in mind the inexperienced players were maybe a little to blame. But then, they looked better when reverting to 4 again.
    Certainly a great start, though. Way beyond expectations.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th July 2018 at 8:50 pm #

      Moura was superb and although this was a preseason game, he did play like he is settled in now, which is a big deal.
      Lamela played well and pulling out a peach of a cross with his right foot hopefully means that he has been practicing and won’t be so one-footed. It’ll really open up his game.
      I like the 4-3-3 as well. The back three seemed to be thrown out by adding Davinson to the Davies and CCV mix, which didn’t look like a comfortable partnership to begin with. Understandable as our centre backs haven’t returned yet. Much bigger test upcoming against Barca!

      • YouShubes 29th July 2018 at 10:18 pm #

        Hopefully Lamela and Wanyama can shake off their injuries and get some minutes into their legs…with pace like rose and buried I like the 4 3 3….i prefer the 352 when we play wingbacks…

        We really have to adapt our system for Nando which makes sense as while he does look leaner I cannot think of any powerful 6 footer that moves as often and as intelligently as Kane…and it is unfair to ask Namco to do the same

        IF with the window closing in 2 weeks we could get Zaha do you think we could make a fast front 3 works as well as Liverpool do…

        Should we get either him or grealish will you do an analysis as to where you see them fitting in please?

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th July 2018 at 11:46 pm #

          Poch experimented with a front three of Moura, Son and GKN here after he took Llorente off so he is obviously thinking about it a rapid front three as an option.

          I’d like to see us sign Zaha but I don’t think it’s going to happen. I have a feeling that if we do actually sign someone then it’ll be a name out of left field who is not currently being touted by the media.

  2. Reidar Pedersen 26th July 2018 at 10:13 pm #

    Nice view again Mark, especially on how we exploited their left back in creating overload situations. Im starting to fancy 4-3-3 myself as our tempo on the ball seems to raise. When we figured out when to go long/clear an when to play our way through their pressing – we were brilliant.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th July 2018 at 11:20 pm #

      Looks like a formation Poch may well use more often this season, especially if we get another speedy dribbling type of player like Martial or Zaha. Definitely suits Llorente more as well.

  3. Karl Banister 26th July 2018 at 10:15 pm #

    Thank you for your report, and for the world cup reports. Insigtful and interestingvas ever.

    I’d thought when we signed Llorente that it was a welcome indication that we might have a plan b if our normal approach wasn’t working. Is there ant chance that Poch might keep him and actually try something like he did against Roma when it matters?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th July 2018 at 11:26 pm #

      I’m not sure if he’ll stay as there are a lot of reports saying he’s going. I’m curious to know if Llorente wants out himself or if he’s surplus to Poch’s requirements? At 33 I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted regular football rather than warming the bench as Kane’s backup.
      One thing that is for sure is that he looks much better in this type of system with players buzzing around him rather than as a front man in a 4-2-3-1.

  4. Matt 26th July 2018 at 10:17 pm #

    Thanks for the report Mark; I also didn’t get to see it. Delighted to hear Moura did well, I was excited by the cameos last year. Looks like he has a football brain to go with the skill and directness. Pleased for Llorente, I was surprised a lot of people thought a world cup winning goal scorer wa suddenly clueless. As your report pointed out, play a formation that suits and he’s dangerous and intelligent:

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th July 2018 at 11:33 pm #

      I think that’s the key for Llorente at this stage of his career. He is big, strong and powerful, but needs runners around him to be effective. Some of his layoff and hold up play in this match was superb. He also pulled their centre backs around to create holes for Moura, Lamela and Eriksen to work in. A very effective all round performance and one that’ll make Poch have a rethink if he did deem him surplus to requirements.

  5. Toby4eva 27th July 2018 at 1:16 pm #

    Thanks Mark

    That scoreline was a very pleasant surprise.

    I’m also a fan of Moura and he could well be the elusive player that can link perfectly with Eriksen to unlock those pesky mid/low table bus depot tactics.

    I also like the idea of the 433 – I’ve been tinkering with formations over the past few weeks.

    I’ve always advocated Eriksen playing deeper in a Madrid type role.

    He and Dele (similar to his England role) both in front of Dier as the mid three has me excited.

    It could also explain the perceived lack of panic over the departure of Dembele.

    I need a Braille covered Labrador to have any hope of believing what I’m typing here, but Poch must see Sissoko as the Dembele replacement. Perhaps sending Jesus down to Tescos for some adhesive spray for the big oafs boots might be the answer….

    All the stars are aligning to emphatically say that the market agrees with most of us – he ain’t going anywhere.

    Moura on one side of Kane up front – with either Lamela/Son/ new signing (I’m really starting to think Zaha) making up the front three would be very interesting.

    So if the Gaffer went that way, and assuming we sell Toby and The Moose – I can visualise this squad with the old zero net spend KPI ticked off by the Chariman.

    Zaha and Grealish the only buys to bolster the home-grown roster.

    Lloris (Vorm)

    Trips (Aurier/KWP)
    Davinson (Foyth)
    Verts (CCV/Davies)
    Davies (Rose)

    Dier (Vic)
    Dele (Winks/Sissoko)
    Eriksen (Grealish)

    Moura (Zaha)
    Son (Lamela)
    Kane (Llorente/Son)

    What opine thee folks about an experienced CB perhaps?

    The maths…


    Toby – 50 mill
    Dembele – 20 mill
    Edwards – 10 million

    80 mill


    Zaha – 55 mill
    Grealish – 25 mill

    80 mill

    Not exactly brave, but probably pragmatic enough to battle for top four again.

    It’s a five horse race – very early doors but I’m worried about Chelsea.

    They might have finally worked out they need a new coach every year…


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th July 2018 at 3:51 pm #

      I think you are exactly right on the homegrown aspect, whether it is Zaha and Grealish or somebody else remains to be seen. What is sure is that the club are definitely playing their cards close to their chest this summer. With less than 2 weeks of the transfer window left, we are once again cutting it fine!

      We do have a very decent squad and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few more, like Amos, come through this season. I know that a lot of people say Georgiou isn’t good enough, but i’d like to see some more of him as he looks a real wildcard to me that Poch might be able to do something with. He can beat an opponent off the dribble, something that we don’t have a great deal of. He can also swing in a decent cross. Again, a skill we don’t currently excel at.

      I am still surprised Sissoko hasn’t gone. I can’t believe anyone at the club still thinks he has a future with us!

  6. Toby4eva 27th July 2018 at 4:55 pm #

    And no one else wants him!

    He is unshiftable unfortunately.