Spurs 0 Wigan 1
We dropped to our second home defeat in a row, as similar tactics to those that we have seen from our own Spurs this season undid us. Wigan came to the Lane and attacked early and often until they went ahead, then they defended well with their three centre back system. The Latics held on for a deserved win as it finished Spurs 0 Wigan 1.
Andre Villas-Boas brought Brad Friedel back between the pipes, with the usual back four in front of him, as Jan Vertonghen started at left back once again. Tom Huddlestone continued in the place of the injured Moussa Dembele, as Spurs went 4-3-3 to combat Wigan’s extra men in the middle of the park.
As we looked at in our 5 keys to Spurs vs Wigan, the Latics like to attack down the left side and here they were no different. They went 44% of the time at this flank according to WhoScored.com with the combination we identified of Shaun Maloney and Jean Beausejour heavily involved on this side.
This had the effect of tilting the Wigan formation to this area of the field, but as we also looked at in the preview, they weren’t looking to cross, but to move it back inside.
This created chances from short slid-through passes and both Arouna Kone and Shaun Maloney found themselves with excellent opportunities in the first half. Friedel easily saved Kone’s driven shot, but Brad made an even better stop to deny Maloney when one-on-one after he was played in.
Spurs are subdued
With Wigan heavily attacking down the left, their right side can become exposed and we looked at how other teams had created chances and goals in our 5 keys to Spurs vs Wigan.
Tottenham did attack this side 43% of the time, compared to just 31% down our right, but Wigan did a good job of doubling up on Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.
Bale was able to get on the ball, but rarely in areas high enough up the pitch on the left to be effective at exposing this weakness in the Wigan side.
He ended up attempting 23 crosses, 12 from open play, which was as many as the entire Wigan team. The problem for Bale was that majority of these crosses came from our right after he had switched wings to attack the Wigan left, which is their stronger side.
Aaron Lennon on the other hand was kept very quiet due to Wigan’s deployment of wingbacks and having to track back.
Going forward, he was unable to receive the ball on the run in areas behind the opposition full back, which is where Andre Villas-Boas likes him to get it. He only received three passes in the opponents final third all game and was rarely a factor.
Jermain Defoe also struggled to play against three centre backs, as he was forced to move out in to wider areas to gain possession of the ball. Defoe only received 7 passes in the 58 minutes he was on the field and failed to get a single shot at goal.
He was replaced by Emmanuel Adebayor, which offered a forward who has better lateral movement and is also able to win long balls and get on crosses. Spurs took 7 of their 13 shots for the match in the 32 minutes Adebayor was on the field.
The crowd booed and Jermain Defoe reacted by walking straight down the tunnel after Andre Villas-Boas had substituted him.
“The game wasn’t going well for Defoe in our thought process. Maybe he could think the opposite but we don’t take him off to punish him. We took him off to improve the team.”
Against Wigan’s three central defenders, Defoe had struggled and we needed a player like Adebayor on the field. He was frustrated, but his lack of movement and inability to get involved in the link-up play meant it was the right decision, seeing as Clint Dempsey was having a much better game.
Lack of quality shots
Wigan’s three centre backs, along with having Ben Watson and James McCarthy sat in front of them killed the space and also stopped us getting quality shots in the box.
Spurs attempted 13 shots in the match, but only 5 of these were from inside the box, with three of those inside the area being blocked. The most notable was a Steven Caulker header from a Gareth Bale corner, which was cleared off the line by McCarthy.
The injury to Sandro had a massive effect on the game, with the Brazilian being replaced by a lesser capable defensive player in Gylfi Sigurdsson. As soon as Sandro went off, Wigan began to expose the defence with their short neat passing, as both Kone and Maloney were slipped in.
With Sandro leaving the pitch, this meant that Tom Huddlestone once again became the deepest lying of our three midfielders. He has dropped deeper than Sandro to receive the ball in previous matches, but without the Brazilian destroyer alongside him, he wasn’t mobile enough to cope with Wigan’s movement.
William Gallas had a bad game against Chelsea and had another sub-par performance once again here. He was at fault for Wigan’s goal when he let Watson slip by him to volley in Friedel’s flapped clearance, whilst also being caught out of position when Friedel saved Kone’s driven shot.
Gallas is starting to look every bit 35 now, being slower over the ground and often sitting deeper than he has to, which could also be affecting Kyle Walker.
Walker was way too deep playing Shaun Maloney onside when he went through one-on-one with Brad Friedel, but I’m sure that he doesn’t trust the recovery pace of Gallas.
Spurs 0 Wigan 1 conclusions
Spurs really struggled with Wigan’s back three and wingbacks here. Lennon was forced back down our right, as Wigan played through their usual left sided duo of Beausejour and Maloney.
On the left, Gareth Bale was unable to capitalise and get in behind Emerson Boyce. He attempted a ridiculous amount of crosses in the game when we had a small centre forward going up against three central defenders.
The congested central area rendered Jermain Defoe pretty ineffective, as he wasn’t able to move between the lines to unsettle any of the defenders or get on crosses. Emmanuel Adebayor did a better job when he came on, giving us a glimpse of what we’ve missed.
Tom Huddlestone lamented the Latics loss.
“Wigan made it difficult for us. They are one of few teams that play three at the back and they utilised it well. We just didn’t turn up. They defended well but equally, we’ve got to work harder to create options.”
Andre Villas-Boas said we weren’t ourselves.
“It’s a team that play in a system that’s different to most other teams. We had difficulties setting up against them and putting them under pressure.”
The Wigan system really did give us problems and it’ll be interesting to see if another team who have trialled three at the back, Man City, utilise it against us next weekend.