Southampton 2 Spurs 3: Adebayor and Soldado get behind the full backs

An extremely open and entertaining game finished Southampton 2 Spurs 3 at St. Mary’s. The feature was Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado getting in-behind the Saints full backs in order to score three times.

Spurs set up and tactics

After sending out a very attack minded side in midweek, Tim Sherwood once again went with a very aggressive 4-4-2. The difference between his first and second selections was that on Wednesday he played with two out and out wingers, whereas here he opted for two inverted wide players.

Gylfi Sigurdsson and Erik Lamela got the nod and both were asked to play extremely narrow without the ball. Once we gained possession, they were to race out in to wider positions to stretch the attack. This had the effect of crowding central midfield, forcing Southampton to move it out wide.

Up top Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor were both tasked with moving out in to wide areas to get in-behind the full backs. We looked at this area as weak spot in their defence in the Tottenham tactics for Southampton vs Spurs, as several sides have had success from doing this. The fact that the Saints were playing with two reserve full backs made them even more susceptible in this area.

Without the ball, Emmanuel Adebayor was asked to drop off and create an extra body at the top of the midfield, often picking up Jack Cork. This made it difficult for Southampton to transition the ball forward at times and they had to go long to Ricky Lambert.

The only problem was that with such an attacking line-up and no real natural defensive midfielder, we were giving away far too much space between the lines.

Saints exploit space between the lines

With our midfield very attack-minded and a defence that was sitting much deeper than the high line deployed under AVB, there was space to work in.

Ricky Lambert was coming short and finding room in here from where he could play through balls to James Rodriguez and Adam Lallana bursting past him. Lallana was also able to drift in and out of this pocket and was causing trouble all afternoon.

The exploitation of this space was evident on both Southampton’s goals, with Lallana scoring their first and creating their second.

Southampton took the lead as a result of our narrow midfield being caught out and Lallana drifting in to a pocket between the lines.

After Southampton regained possession, they quickly moved the ball out to full back Danny Fox. This caught Erik Lamela infield trying to play narrow, as our midfield four were condensing the central space. It also left Lallana free in a pocket in between the lines.

southampton-2-spurs-3-1st-saints goal

Adam Lallana finds space as our midfield is caught narrow.

Fox was able to dribble forward unchallenged right up to our back four.

Vlad Chiriches then had a decision to make whether to back off or challenge. In trying to jump the passing lane between Fox and Lallana, he got caught wrong side. Still with much to do, the Southampton midfielder’s shot was rifled accurately in to the corner past a diving Hugo Lloris.

After conceding twice, Southampton also got back in to the game by exploiting this space once more.

This time it was Ricky Lambert coming short to receive the ball, but Adam Lallana was also in this pocket.


Southampton get two men between the lines.

As soon as Lambert laid the ball back, Lallana was on his way and Jack Cork looked to get the ball through the inside right channel to him.


Jack Cork finds Adam Lallana bursting in-behind.

Spotting the danger, Hugo Lloris came racing out but was caught in no man’s land, leaving Lallana to square the ball for Lambert to roll in to an empty net.

The problem on this goal was not just the space between the lines, but also having a sweeper keeper when you are playing a deeper back four.

Hugo charging from his line is more effective when the defence is high up and there is more space and reaction time for him to see the play developing. With the defensive line so deep, his time for decision-making and space to charge out is less. So, his style of goalkeeping will mean that he will get caught more often, unless he reins it in and picks his moments.

Adebayor and Soldado in-behind the full backs

Although Southampton were finding joy in between the lines, Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor were terrorising the space behind the Saints’ full backs.

The pair were not only doing this to expose the full backs getting forward, but also to drag the centre backs around.

Emmanuel Adebayor was often the focal point to move the ball up the pitch. Especially from long passes to go over the first wave of Southampton’s pressing.

Roberto Soldado was looking to receive the ball played up the line, then get in to areas where he could either go in on goal or cross the ball for Adebayor.


Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor passes received: Southampton 2 Spurs 3.

The pair linked up well in the opening exchanges, where a Soldado cross from the left back zone found Adebayor who forced a corner from his shot. Later the two combined on our first goal.

Spurs score 3 from the full back zones

With Adebayor and Soldado combining, the pair were heavily involved in many of our best chances, including all three goals. All of which were scored from play in the Southampton full back zones.

The first came after a Southampton corner and a quick counter attack.

Emmanuel Adebayor charged forward with the ball, but Roberto Soldado’s movement to pull in to the space down the left was excellent.


Soldado looks to get in where the full back has vacated.

Adebayor’s pass took him a bit wide. However, out in the empty full back zone, Soldado’s cross was absolutely pinpoint, Adebayor’s volleyed finish was sublime.

The second involved Soldado drifting out in to the left back zone behind Callum Chambers once again. The goal was neatly constructed and had a real stamp of Andre Villas-Boas written all over it.

Under the Portuguese we were looking to hit players on the run in-behind and cutting through defences. This goal had these two phases combining in perfect harmony.

Roberto Soldado raced in-behind the Southampton full back, in order to take a pass from Emmanuel Adebayor that put him in to space. This was the first AVB phase in order to get a runner in-behind the opposition defence.


Phase one sees Soldado getting in-behind in the full back.

Soldado than picked a pass back to Danny Rose to start the next segment. Rose then played the ball in to Christian Eriksen and went for a return, as he cut through the defence, the second AVB phase.


Phase two sees Rose play and give and go, cutting through the defence.

Rose was now in a position to play a short cross or cut back, which is what AVB was trying to coach our side to do. His low-hit cross saw the ball canon off Jos Hooiveld and under the keeper, 2-1.

After two goals through the left back zone, the third arrived through the right.

After a pass was played up the line to get behind the Saints defence once more, a throw-in was won.

The ball was put in to Emmanuel Adebayor, who used his strength to hold off the attentions of two defenders. A short layoff to Nacer Chadli rebounded in to the striker’s path and he curled a shot in to the corner, 3-2.


Adebayor’s layoff comes back from Chadli.

It wasn’t just the goals that were scored from the full back zones, but we also created a host of other chances through here.

Roberto Soldado raced on to a through ball and skewed a shot wide, whilst also volleying a Nacer Chadli cross from a vacated left back zone over the bar. Emmanuel Adebayor charged on to a pass, also through the left back zone. However, he was denied by the keeper, as the Saints’ full backs were caught forward chasing the game.

Overall, Spurs created a host of chances either through or from the wide the wide areas.


Tottenham chances created: Southampton 2 Spurs 3.

Southampton 2 Spurs 3 conclusions

This was an excellent attacking display to expose the Saints’ weakness in the full back zones. Soldado and Adebayor look to have the makings of an excellent partnership.

The approach was very ‘gung ho’ though and did leave space in between the lines that Southampton were able to expose. This is a concern going forward, especially against teams that are strong in midfield.

Whether we continue to see such an offensively minded approach, especially against the top sides, could be the making or breaking of Tim Sherwood.

Final score: Southampton 2 Spurs 3.

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2 Responses to Southampton 2 Spurs 3: Adebayor and Soldado get behind the full backs

  1. Bobby Bennett 23rd December 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    Thank you for the excellent analysis. What do you suggest for those teams you mention with stronger midfields?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th December 2013 at 12:35 pm #

      Great question Bob. Liverpool and Swansea are all very strong in the middle of the park and dictate possession by outnumbering teams here. This would really give 4-4-2 the run around and perhaps why Sherwood wanted the midfield 4 to play so narrow against Southampton. I would suggest either an extra midfielder against such teams, whether this is 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3. Or I’d also expect a 3-5-2 system to give them trouble, which would also keep 2 strikers (which seems to be the mandate at the minute) on the field. Hull have given these teams trouble with their 3-5-2 system, so this may work for us if the order of a more attacking team has come from above – as Danny Rose implied in a recent interview.