Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace: working off Kane as the 10

Tottenham went with Harry Kane as a number ten with varying success as it finished Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace at White Hart Lane.

What is it with close run games against Crystal Palace at home? Despite being dominant for large parts, Spurs couldn’t find the finishing touch. A set piece goal from Victor Wanyama decided it, as it ended Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace. But, the focal point was Harry Kane as a number ten.

Palace’s medium block

The game revolved around Crystal Palace’s approach. Alan Pardew went with a 4-1-4-1 set up in a medium block and it both bolstered and hindered his side.

Without the ball he used Jason Puncheon and Lee Chung-yong in front of Joe Ledley to try and deny us playing through Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier. It didn’t work and often left space between the lines. The movement of both Dier and Wanyama, coupled with Eriksen, Lamela and Kane in front, just simply overran Palace in midfield.

With the ball, Pardew’s setup aided their game of getting it rapidly out to wide players Andros Townsend and Wilfred Zaha. They got on the ball, but then struggled with their service. Frequent over dribbling, shooting or poor crossing saw Connor Wickham cut a lone and frustrated figure.

Spurs defend and attack the wide areas

It was the play of our full backs that really stifled Crystal Palace from getting anything done.

Kyle Walker and Danny Rose’s tracking of Zaha and Townsend was pretty much perfect. Whenever the pair received the ball, Rose and Walker were there, straight on their first touch. If they couldn’t pounce and strip the ball, our full backs were forcing Zaha and Townsend backwards.


Spurs defended Crystal Palace’s wide players.

Alan Pardew tried switching the sides of his wide men, but they still didn’t get any joy. Rose and Walker had been briefed on what to expect and weren’t giving them an inch.

The same couldn’t be said going the other way. Both Rose and Walker weren’t just tracking back, but also thundering forward. Townsend and Zaha weren’t tracking them well at all. Joel Ward and Pape Souare behind them were getting sucked inside covering Lamela and Eriksen, leaving space down the flanks for Rose and Walker.


Townsend slow to track Rose in to the space created by Lamela.

Rose was particularly active. Winning several corners and almost darting in through the inside left channel. A better touch and he would’ve been celebrating the opening goal. His winning of corners would be key though.

Harry Kane as a 10 between the lines

It wasn’t just in the wide areas that we were active. Crystal Palace’s medium block set up of trying to deny the ball through Wanyama and Dier left space between the lines.

We’d looked at the areas left around defensive midfielder Joe Ledley in the Spurs vs Crystal Palace preview. They were here once again for us to exploit.

Mauricio Pochettino deployed Harry Kane as a number ten. Maybe this was to utilise this space or to get additional firepower on the pitch against a usually stubborn opponent? It actually ended up achieving both. Kane was popping up in these vacant spaces between the Palace lines and shifting play out to the marauding full backs.


Kane free between the Palace lines.

Kane would then get in the box to give support to Vincent Janssen. Rose and Walker would put the ball in as we sought to get numbers in the penalty area.

The tactic was effective, but the finishing touch wasn’t forthcoming. Palace often cleared to saftey or blocked the shots. Kane did rip one effort just past the post. It seemed as if this could be another long, frustrating day.

In the second half, the chance of the match arrived at Vincent Janssen’s feet. Kane had dropped incredibly deep to pass the ball forward to Erik Lamela. He, Janssen and Dele had all got between the Palace lines of midfield and defence.


Lamela, Dele and Janssen loose between the lines.

Lamela found Alli, who in turn dinked a beautifully weighted and spun pass in to the path of Janssen. This was the moment. The net was surely going to bulge, but Janssen fluffed his lines and skewed his side-footed chip wide.

Yohan Cabaye

At half time Yohan Cabaye came on for Joe Ledley. Cabaye, like Palace’s setup both bolstered and hindered his team.

With the ball his passing was excellent. Cabaye was then getting further forward than Ledley and having a greater influence on the attack. Receiving the ball from Townsend in a great position in our penalty area before skying over the bar showed the threat that he could be.

He was also hindering his side. Cabaye is a master of the dark arts, but needs a defensive midfielder alongside him. This is because he can get drawn forward looking to pressure the ball and leave space between the lines behind him.

As the second half wore on, the space between the lines began to open up. It culminated in the only goal of the game, where everything came together. Kane was free between the lines. Rose got in untracked down the flank. We then won a set piece, which we’d been dangerous at all game.

Strong set pieces

We’d looked at Crystal Palace’s vulnerability at set pieces in the match preview. We could’ve taken the lead earlier in the game from at least one. Toby Alderweireld missed a glorious free header at the near post in the first half. Victor Wanyama also headed one over when he was free in the box.

The game would be settled by a set piece. It was the culmination of a lot of good work and all of the above factors.

Harry Kane dropped off and got himself free between the lines behind Yohan Cabaye.


Kane free between the lines finds Rose free on the wing.

Kane then fed it out to Danny Rose who had slipped away from his marker, Andros Townsend. He was late tracking Rose, as right back Joel Ward had gone with Dele’s inside run.

Rose fizzed a ball across the near post, which was put out for a corner by Damien Delaney. In his challenge with Vincent Janssen, Delaney was injured and had to go off. This was crucial. Delaney had been marking Harry Kane at set pieces. Victor Wanyama then screened Delaney’s replacement, James Tomkins, at the back post. This allowed Harry Kane to run free.


Wanyama blocks off James Tomkins to let Kane get free.

Tomkins then tried to recover, but Kane jumped completely unmarked to head the ball goalwards. In his panic, Tomkins ran right past Victor Wanyama, who had slipped away from his marker, Pape Souare in the confusion.


Wanyama loses Tomkins and Souare to score.

Wanyama virtually had the freedom of the six-yard box as he flicked the ball in to the roof of the net from point blank range. The quick change of direction on the ball gave Wayne Hennessey no chance and White Hart Lane erupted in to euphoric celebration. Finally the deadlock had been broken, Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace.

The goal was timed perfectly. After much huffing and puffing, it gave Crystal Palace very little time to respond. About the same amount of time as Andros Townsend had to react to Erik Lamela nutmegging him with the deftest of dribbles.

Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace Harry Kane as a 10

After months of 4-2-3-1 and being able to name the starting line-up, Mauricio Pochettino went with another interesting twist. Starting Harry Kane as a number ten gave plenty of food for thought.

This was at home to Crystal Palace, a game where we needed to be more aggressive with our selection. Two strikers is much more feasible than, say, away to Man City.

The move had both positives and negatives for me. On the plus side, Kane was able to exploit the space that Crystal Palace have always given up between the lines. His movement of the ball was good and he often made the right choice of pass.

On the downside, it can force Kane to come much deeper. I’d hate to see him become a victim of the ‘Rooney effect’. He did have 6 shots in the match, but 4 were from outside the box and only 1 was on target. Kane is the Premier League’s reigning golden boot winner for a reason. He finishes moves off inside the box. 23 of his 25 Premier League goals last term came from within the 18-yard area. He can hit a long-range screamer, but it is the exception rather than the rule.

He also struggled when the game was congested and time was at a premium. Other teams won’t afford him such time and space.

It is too early to judge whether this is a successful move or not. Pochettino certainly didn’t use Dani Osvaldo as a number ten off Rickie Lambert every week at Southampton. However, it does offer a plan B and formational flexibility, which I like and is the step we need to make this season.

Kane may well transform in to his boyhood hero Teddy Sheringham, just as Eric Dier has evolved in to his idol, defensive midfield destroyer Roy Keane.

The key may well lie in who is around him. So far, for me, Kane has definitely looked better when played as a number ten in a 4-1-4-1 with Dele Alli alongside him. Kane doesn’t have to come as deep for the ball and can make late, untracked runs in to the box. He also has Dele’s service, which was such a huge part of many of his goals last season.

Just as we had to be patient for the winning goal at the Lane on Saturday, these next steps of how the team evolves will take time. Nothing should be dismissed nor eulogised about on just one performance.

Final score: Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace.
MOTM: Vincent Janssen.

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25 Responses to Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace: working off Kane as the 10

  1. Andy B 22nd August 2016 at 6:20 pm #

    Excellent and interesting analysis.

    It is good to have flexibility in the formations, especially when changes are needed for a breakthrough. It will be interesting to see how Dele Alli and Janssen look together, as a partnership, as well.

    I am still not convinced about Dier and Wanyama playing together in midfield. I just don’t think it offers enough going forward. Wanyama played a lot of sideways and backwards passes. I think we need more of a box to box player to play with Dier. Wanyama is best suited to being a backup to Dier’s defensive midfielder position.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd August 2016 at 6:48 pm #

      Dier and Wanyama does seem a temporary combo until Dembele is back. I’d like to see Winks in there alongside one of them if we insist on 4-2-3-1, but if we are going to play Kane and Janssen i’d like to just see one of Dier or Wanyama in a 4-1-4-1.

      • Andy B 22nd August 2016 at 8:31 pm #

        Yes I agree. I couldn’t believe that Winks wasn’t even on the bench, after all he did in pre-season.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd August 2016 at 9:42 pm #

          Yeah that was a surprise. Wasn’t sure if he was left out or there was another reason like illness or injury? Def had a good preseason.

          • Reinert 23rd August 2016 at 6:43 pm #

            Great piece, Mark (as usual)! Personally, I think Winks will be blooded in an english cup-game. Then, if he impresses, he will become bench-inventory.

            I agree that Winks has impressed in pre-season, but I think Pochettino plays it safe until after the opening three matches, and starts what he believes are the players least susceptible to get carried away.

            • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th August 2016 at 10:07 am #

              You are probably right Reinert and I imagine Poch will go with Dier and Wanyana against Liverpool’s plethora of attacking midfielders, especially if they play without Origi or Sturridge.

  2. Paulo 22nd August 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    Interesting read! How do you think we’ll go against Liverpool? I have a feeling we might go the same but with Alli coming in for Eriksen.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd August 2016 at 9:38 pm #

      Cheers Paulo. It’ll be a very fast paced game with the way both teams play. Both managers play reasonably high lines too so could be lots of chances from running in-behind. We should edge it tho.

  3. Big Bob Bitchumen 22nd August 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    Ali in Eicksen on the bench.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd August 2016 at 9:40 pm #

      One game doesn’t make a bad player. Didn’t like him playing from the right. Like to see one of Dier or Wanyama drop out and a four of Eriksen-Dele-Kane-Lamela behind Janssen.

  4. Kin 23rd August 2016 at 4:21 am #

    Seeing as how Liverpool play with a ton of AM, we’re going to need those who are great at tracking runners…I can easily see Wanyama and Dier in this one, if Winks is up to the task he may get the nod but its a big ask for Winks though. Also with the 4-1-4-1 formation I’m starting to see the reason why we’ve been linked to wingers this season, that’d be the perfect way to stretch team I think.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd August 2016 at 9:35 am #

      I was pleasantly surprised at Winks in preseason, as he was much better defensively than I thought he was. Wanyama and Dier are obviously much better and stronger defensively, but the team still needs a bit more balance in this part of the field. I’d like to see Winks given some time, but yes I think Poch will go for the experience and strength of Dier and Wanyama against Liverpool’s attacking midfielders.

  5. SonShine 23rd August 2016 at 4:31 am #

    The way you write about Janssen miss was quite epic :)

    What if Kane or Janssen operates like Jay Rodriguez at Poch’s Southampton ? I think Janssen can do that for us.

    I would like to see Winks play. But if we need to bring in a passer, looking at the match day squad, then it would be Carroll for me.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd August 2016 at 9:41 am #

      Good question SonShine. I’ve not really seen either Kane or Janssen play from wide and burst off a striker that comes short, so I’m not sure. I’m sceptical that Poch would try it as we have so many players for the wide positions in the squad. Although, Dele Alli did come on and operate out there from the left, and created Janssen’s chance on Saturday, so I’d never say it won’t happen.

  6. david 23rd August 2016 at 9:36 pm #

    expect a surprise line up from Poch this weekend..
    . anybody nervous against Liverpool**

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th August 2016 at 10:09 am #

      A bit. They have periods in games where they can score 2 or 3 quick goals, which was the undoing of the Gooners and Burton last night. As long as we can guard against that then we should be ok.

  7. david 24th August 2016 at 6:51 pm #

    just noticed that spurs fanatic replies to comments, that’s fabulous.. hats off. can’t wait for your pre-liverpool analysis .

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th August 2016 at 7:07 pm #

      Always enjoy talking Spurs David. There are always lots of interesting viewpoints, comments and discussion on here, which is why I set the blog up. Thanks for taking time to comment, Liverpool analysis coming up sometime Friday afternoon. COYS

  8. Matt 25th August 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    Much better analysis than I’ve read elsewhere, especially regarding Kane’s contribution. We now have options which we didn’t really last year. Two edged sword as part of our success was built on consistency and everyone knowing exactly their role. At the risk of being dull, I’d go back to Ali at 10 and Kane up top for Liverpool. Thought Janssen and Kane did well but Liverool will be more dangerous. Though I was an advocate of Winks for Palace I’d stick with Wantama and Dier. Eriksson has got to get on the pace though….

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th August 2016 at 7:08 pm #

      Yes I’m not sure Kane and Janssen is a good idea. Although, pressing Liverpool is key to creating turnovers, so we may well see the pair again. Janssen’s closing down vs Palace was immense.

      Eriksen has looked off the pace. Maybe it is something to do with not playing over the summer and an extended break, which is seeing him not as sharp as usual?

  9. anotherwisemonkey 26th August 2016 at 12:54 pm #

    An excellent piece, and really engaging discussion in the comments as well. Congratulations on the most incisive blog around. I particularly enjoyed the analysis of Wanyama’s goal.

    Big match tomorrow, three points would be very helpful. The Champions League draw has been relatively kind; there are no easy games but no insurmountably challenging ones either. COYS.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th August 2016 at 3:28 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed it Anotherwisemonkey. The draw has been good to us. Am hoping complacency doesn’t sneak in.

    • David 26th August 2016 at 3:56 pm #

      i too had to watch the wanyama goal again after Mark’s analysis, Dele For Ericksen tomorrow. these are the kind of game that we needed dembele the most..

  10. David 26th August 2016 at 4:03 pm #

    first champion league game falls on my birthday, cake and 3 points would taste nice

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th August 2016 at 5:46 pm #

      What a great present!