Spurs 0 Lazio 0
Andre Villas-Boas’ first European match in charge saw us put on a good performance, but end up being denied by a staunch Lazio defence and some questionable refereeing decisions, as the it finished Spurs 0 Lazio 0.
The Italians were happier with the point than Spurs, but Andre Villas-Boas drew positives from the performance and there were plenty.
“We had the initiative of the ball, created opportunities, put the ball in the back of the net three times and deserved to get something out of the game, for sure.”
Spurs make positive changes
Andre Villas-Boas has slowly incorporated more of a 4-3-3 formation since the arrival of Moussa Dembele. When Jake Livermore was in the team alongside Sandro, it was more of a 4-2-3-1 set up, but Dembele has allowed a subtle switch to 4-3-3.
The Belgian is operating just in front of Sandro and forms a good central triangle with an advanced midfielder. Clint Dempsey came in to that attacking midfielder role against Lazio last night, after Gylfi Sigurdsson filled the position against Reading.
At Chelsea, AVB used Juan Mata as a wide forward on the left and Daniel Sturridge as an attacker who cuts in from the right. Spurs have flipped this around and are utilising Aaron Lennon as the wider forward on the right and Gareth Bale is cutting in from his left-sided position.
If we look at Spurs average positions, we can see the midfield triangle of Sandro, Dembele and Dempsey, along with the three forwards of Bale, Defoe and Lennon.
The diagram is not perfect as Bale switched sides with Lennon on a few occasions, causing a more central average position for the Welshman. However, Bale was coming inside off his left flank more in the second half and at times switched positions with Clint Dempsey. This was highlighted when Bale received a ball through the middle, squaring it for Defoe to tap in, only to be ruled offside.
We can also see from this how wide apart the centre back pairing of Steven Caulker and Jan Vertonghen were as they stretched the field. This once again allowed Sandro to drop in and start moving the ball forward, as he did in the 3-1 victory at Reading.
With Aaron Lennon playing wide and Gareth Bale moving in to more central positions with the full backs pushing on, the average positions are naturally skewed to the right hand side of the field.
Spurs were attacking heavily down this right side through the track team that is Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon. The two had the Lazio defence in trouble all night and most of Spurs’ good moments came from here.
Possession and passing
Highlighted in 5 keys to Spurs vs Lazio was the important factor of controlling and bossing the game. AVB is getting the side to keep the ball, moving it around and looking to wear the opposition down, stretching the field by moving it side to side.
Spurs did this well, having the ball for 58% of the time to Lazio’s 42% and completing 86% of their passes to Lazio’s 79%.
Completing passes helps retain the ball and we are using our defenders to move it around in order to stretch the opposition and look for a weakness.
Spurs completed a whopping 537 passes to Lazio’s 393 as we were able to open up the Italians on a few occasions to create some openings.
Lennon squared the ball when he should have shot after being put through by Defoe in the first half. He also failed to poke home in the midst of a scramble after being slid in during the second. Sandro also missed a clear header from 5 yards out, as Spurs were not only unlucky to have 3 goals ruled out, but also failed to capitalize on other clear opportunities.
Made captain for the evening, Aaron Lennon put in an excellent performance that should have been capped with a goal.
The Spurs skipper had two good chances, highlighted above, but also led the team with a further two goal-scoring opportunities created and three successful dribbles.
He was a constant pain for the Lazio defence all night with his combination of speed and skill on the ball, so it was no surprise he was also the most fouled player.
Spurs’ defence and Lazio’s long balls
With Lazio sitting deep and playing on the counter, Spurs were able to press high up the field and cause the Italians to have to clear the ball long or turn it over. The back four of Walker, Caulker, Vertonghen and Naughton were also able to play up the park in order to squeeze the play.
Lazio had to make a total of 23 clearances during the match as their defence was harried and pressured in to getting rid of the ball.
In our keys to the game, we saw how Lazio were playing the most long-balls in Serie A this season, with 74 per match and Cristian Ledesma was the main instigator.
At the Lane they played 61 long balls in total, 11 were from goalkeeper Frederico Marchetti as he cleared his lines, but Ledesma was again at the heart of it with 12.
The Argentinean looked to move the ball wide, as he did when setting up a crossing opportunity for Senad Lulic. The Bosnian’s cross was then almost met by Miroslav Klose, who was put off by the on-rushing Hugo Lloris.
Ledesma also looked to put the ball over the top of our defence when playing high up, as he did when putting in Miroslav Klose and also Stefano Mauri ten minutes from time.
Fortunatley Lazio were unable to convert any of their chances, but Cristian Ledesma is definitely one to watch in the Rome return.
Spurs 0 Lazio 0 conclusions
It was another good performance from Spurs and the centre back duo of Vertonghen and Caulker looked solid and assured. Surely it is not long before this becomes our regular centre back partnership?
Had one of the three disallowed goals stood, then Lazio would have had to come out and attack rather than sit deep. The Italians had just three shots at our goal; all three were from outside the box.
The manager also seemed positive about the way the side set up and played.
“It was a very positive game and I’m extremely happy about the performance. This is a team who are doing well, came here extremely motivated and thought they could win the game. But without fear, we held onto the ball to create our chances and promoted good, attacking football.”
Spurs did produce some good football on the night, creating enough chances to win the game, but unfortunately were let down by incorrect refereeing decisions on two of the three disallowed goals.
After the win at Reading, there were more good signs here that the side is getting used to what the manager is trying to create.
Final score: Spurs 0 Lazio 0