Tottenham failed to turn up the tempo in wide areas to break down a well-drilled team as it finished Spurs 1-1 Burnley at Wembley Stadium.
A lack of speed, particularly in the wide areas, saw Tottenham struggle to break a resolute and compact Burnley team. Chances were created, but not taken, before Sean Dyche’s tactical change landed a sucker punch at the death. The match finished Spurs 1-1 Burnley at Wembley Stadium.
Burnley solid formation
Sean Dyche lined his team up as expected. Burnley pinched their back four in tight together to take away the centre of the pitch. The wide midfielders were thus tasked with defending the flanks.
In front of the back four, Dyche employed at least two central midfielders to screen them. However, Scott Arfield often joined them by dropping in to help keep this area congested.
Burnley does this to force opponents in to the wide areas. The ploy is to deal with the resulting crosses and frustrate the opposition before counter attacking.
Spurs lack isolation players
The space for Spurs was out wide where Burnley is content to leave their wide midfielders often in 1v1 situations. Good isolation players are therefore needed to go past the wide midfielder off the dribble or make a run to receive a pass in-behind them.
With Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier as full backs, Tottenham lacked the speed and ability on the ball to make this happen. Both are good crossers, but don’t have the speed or often willingness to run in-behind their opponent to receive a pass.
As a result, Spurs were too frequently crossing the ball from positions far away from goal in very narrow locations. Burnley would simply head clear, happy to let us play in to the congestion.
Spurs best chances against the set Burnley defence, when they did arrive, came from the more willing runs of Ben Davies. The left back nicely overlapped Dele Alli after he beat Burnley’s right midfielder. Before right back Matt Lowton could react, Dele had slid Davies in.
Davies’ pull back from the by-line was fractionally behind Harry Kane. Unfortunately, taking a touch to reign the ball in gave centre back James Tarkowski enough time to recover and block the shot.
The answer was in this move for Spurs. In the second half the pair would repeat the trick. This time Davies’ low pull back would find Kane for a first time shot. However, Tom Heaton got down well to save at his near post.
Spurs set pieces
Working the ball wide in to a crossing position saw Spurs take the lead. Kieran Trippier and Son Heung-Min combined to create a 2v1 out wide and free the full back. Trippier’s cross then deflected out for a corner off Stephen Ward.
We’d looked in the Spurs vs Burnley match preview at the Clarets poor defending of set pieces. Burnley has given up the second most chances from set pieces in the Premier League this season.
Spurs would punish their lapse marking with an old favourite of a routine. The corner of the six-yard box is left open for Eric Dier to run towards and flick the ball on.
Dier timed his run perfectly to met Christian Eriksen’s well-flighted delivery. Dele Alli then pounced on the loose ball as Ben Mee failed to clear. Dele calmly took his time to pick his spot and put us in to the lead.
The goal, as did our other good chances, came from us working the ball wide to create a 2v1 mismatch or use a free player. Kane and Eriksen’s 1v1 opportunities both came from getting them in to these spaces down the sides of the Burnley defence. Ben Davies’ two pull backs to Harry Kane outlined above also did this. However, outside of these four moves, we didn’t use this tactic frequently enough and paid for it.
Sean Dyche’s tactical change
With his team now on the back foot, Sean Dyche wasted no time in making a tactical change. Sam Vokes and Johann Berg Gudmundsson were withdrawn to be replaced by a sizeable twin strike force of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood. Burnley started to hit long balls forward for the pair and it was effective.
In response Mauricio Pochettino made a tactical teak of his own. Eric Dier was moved in to the middle of a back three. Dier is our best aerial defender and he was tasked with anchoring the back line.
Chris Wood runs in-behind
Burnley wasn’t just playing route one. The initial balls up to the strikers were to clear their lines and negate our pressing, which was hemming them in their own half. However, once they had secured the ball, they were looking for the runs of Chris Wood in-behind.
Wood caused problems with not only his size, but also his movement. Twice he was caught just offside trying to nip in-behind our back line as Burnley searched for him with a through ball.
Wood then caused a major scare. Robbie Brady’s perfectly weighted through ball looked to have him in on goal. However, a tremendous sliding challenge by Hugo Lloris rapidly racing out from his box denied him.
Not heeding the warning and with our back line being caught increasingly square, the inevitable sucker punch came.
Spurs weren’t wise in the build-up. Once more the passage of play started with a long ball forward for Burnley to win the knock down. The play was then moved to Robbie Brady who again looked for Chris Wood’s run.
Kieran Trippier then froze as he was left marking two players. Trippier was attracted by Scott Arfield’s position in front of him with the rest of the back three going with Ashley Barnes’ run. Chris Wood then saw his opportunity to nip behind Trippier and in to the space.
The moment of hesitation by Trippier was fatal. Wood could run on to Brady’s pass and prod the ball home before Toby Alderweireld could recover. Suddenly it was Spurs 1-1 Burnley and there was no time to respond. A killer blow at the end of what should’ve been a routine victory.
Spurs 1-1 Burnley overall
Poor in-game situation management rears its ugly head once again. The team is coached to keep attacking and go for the jugular to put the opposition away. It works with a relentless build-up of pressure that has seen us score goals and win matches in the dying seconds.
However, there also needs to be a sense of managing the match situation. Spurs were still going for the second goal in injury time when Burnley struck their equaliser. There was no need for us to get a second goal at this point when being resolute was all that was required. The ball was easily given away three times in the build-up to Chris Wood’s strike when better situation management and controlled possession was all that was required.
Wembley hasn’t been the problem, our lack of speed and good isolation players on the outside has. Mauricio Pochettino’s key players in his system are the full backs as they supply the width and motor up and down the line.
Davies and Trippier are excellent backups, but they’ve been called upon far too often to be consistent contributors. The speed and aggressive runs of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker have been sorely missed, especially to cover the ground of the bigger Wembley playing surface. It’s an issue that must be addressed before the transfer window closes.
Final score: Spurs 1-1 Burnley.
Spurs MOTM: Mousa Dembele.