Exposing their weak right side wasn’t enough to counteract our sloppy defensive errors, as it finished Spurs 1-2 Monaco at Wembley.
It felt like the final. 85,000 raucous Spurs fans decked in lilywhite made for an amazing atmosphere and awesome sight inside Wembley. Whether it was the size of the pitch or nerves on the big stage, we suffered first night Champions League jitters. Costly defensive errors are ruthlessly punished at this level and it was too much to recover from as it ended Spurs 1-2 Monaco.
Monaco stifling tactics
Monaco came with a game plan. They didn’t want to be worn down by covering too much ground and so they kept their shape narrow and compact. Defensively, they rarely pressed the ball when our centre backs had it, instead opting to only close down our full backs. They wanted to stop Kyle Walker and Ben Davies getting forward to create from the flanks.
Once the ball crossed halfway, they were tucking in and shrouding the centre. There was no space between the lines and we were regularly crowded out as we tried to play in to the final third.
Our advanced midfield trio rotated frequently in here. Whether this was to combat what Monaco were trying to do or just part of the game plan was unsure. Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min and Erik Lamela all spent time on the left, right and at the number ten position.
Monaco’s shape gave us issues, which were compounded by our slow ball movement. Whether it was the occasion, nerves or not wanting to make a mistake, it wasn’t quick enough. Players were taking three or four touches and cross field ball switches were going through three players when they needed to go through one or directly.
Spurs sloppy errors
Spurs were controlling much of the possession of the ball. Monaco were content with this as they were controlling the tempo.
The speed of the game made us very ponderous with the ball and with our decision-making. It ended up getting us into trouble and in a two-goal hole.
The first saw Erik Lamela inexplicably take the ball from Eric Dier. Lamela then lost it and both he and Dier were out of position. Bernardo Silva then raced the other way straight at our unprotected centre backs.
Jan Vertonghen obviously didn’t get the brief that Silva is all left foot. He duly showed him on to his favoured side and could only stare at the sky as Silva unleashed a rasping drive in to the corner of the net, Spurs 0-1 Monaco.
Monaco then added a second. A short throw was returned to Djibril Sidibe and as he crossed, Thomas Lemar had slid by the pondering Dele Alli and Son Heung-Min.
Lemar rose and saw his first header blocked before lashing the rebound in to the roof of the net, Spurs 0-2 Monaco.
Two goals that were preventable, highlighting how mistakes are punished at the Champions League level.
Harry Kane right-sided raids
Monaco was looking to slow down our full backs. Kyle Walker had the speed to overcome their attentions; Ben Davies did not. It ended up with us creating a whole host of chances down our right side. Left back Djibril Sidibe was often caught high, forcing centre back Jemerson to come over and help.
It started with just two minutes on the clock. Walker in full flow rampaged down the right and looked to have got clear, only to force a corner.
Minutes later and this time Harry Kane pulled out to this flank in to the space left by Sidibe. The defence was sucked over and Kane’s cross picked out Son Heung-Min arriving unmarked at the back post.
Son beat the keeper, but not Kamil Glik on the line.
Ten minutes later and Kane was at it down the right again. Sidibe was caught high once more, meaning that Jemerson was pulled out and shrugged off by our striker. Kane then tried to pick out Eriksen, but both he and Lamela had a swipe at the ball, but failed to connect cleanly.
Kane was causing trouble down this side and on 28 minutes he was in-behind once again. Dele Alli rumbled through midfield and looked to slide in his run beyond Jemerson once more.
He just didn’t have the speed to run away from the centre back and the ball was cleared from Kane’s feet for a throw.
It was this nearly, but not quite, theme for Harry Kane that continued down the right side. However on 44 minutes it all changed. He again got behind Sidibe, pulling Jemerson over to force a corner.
We’ve often seen the near post corner for Toby Alderweireld, but this time there was a nice variation on it. Rather than have Alderweireld and Dier hit the vacant near post, we ran Alderweireld off two screens. One from Dele Alli to cause separation from his marker. The second from Eric Dier to stop the near post markers from moving backwards.
Erik Lamela only had a postage stamp to aim for. His corner had to be high enough to clear Dier, but low enough to find Alderweireld coming in behind. It was perfectly executed and the header flew home, Spurs 1-2 Monaco.
The first half had seen us play too slowly. This was in part due to our own cautious build-up, but also because of Monaco’s stifling tactics.
At the interval Mauricio Pochettino made a change. Mousa Dembele came on for Son Heung-Min and we returned to the tried and trusted setup of last season.
Dembele influences the game a great deal with his size, strength and power. However, here he just gave us a simple ball to puncture the first line of Monaco’s defensive structure.
Dembele set up in the space behind Monaco’s front two in their defensive scheme and offered an out ball. With Eric Dier frequently dropping in to the back line, Dele Alli rarely did this in the first half. With Dembele on, it gave us a higher starting position to launch attacks and more importantly, momentum.
The move also pushed Dele Alli further forward and he became a bigger influence on the game. Just three minutes after half time and Alli popped up in the inside-right channel to force a good save from Danijel Subasic.
Whilst Dembele was a good change, Mauricio Pochettino then made one that didn’t work. Vincent Janssen coming on for Erik Lamela killed the momentum we were building. Harry Kane was forced deeper where he isn’t as effective and we lost Lamela’s energy and closing down.
Spurs continue right-side raids
With Alderweireld’s goal and the score at Spurs 1-2 Monaco, Harry Kane had been the chief creator and tormentor down our right side. After the goal, others got in on the act. Just seconds after Alderweireld’s strike, Erik Lamela swung a ball in that just evaded the stretching Dele Alli. Going in level at half time would’ve really shifted the momentum.
After the interval and theme continued. Harry Kane once more rumbled in-behind Sidibe, only to be blocked by Jemerson’s swift recovery.
We then created the chance of the half. Vincent Janssen got in down the right side behind Sidibe, bullied Jemerson off the ball and laid it in to Harry Kane.
Kane took a touch when a first time strike might have been the better choice. He then sent a tame effort with his left foot in to Subasic’s hands.
With the clock running down, Mauricio Pochettino atoned for his second substitution by introducing Mousa Sissoko. Our £30m new arrival came on for Eric Dier and created havoc down the right.
First of all he was inches away from latching on to Janssen’s through ball. Again Sidibe and Jemerson had been sucked in, allowing the runner off them.
Then, he swung in a cross from the right that found Dele Alli free on the other side. Alli skewed his shot wide across goal. It was the last chance of the match, but could do nothing to stop the score being Spurs 1-2 Monaco as time ran out.
Spurs 1-2 Monaco overall
While the quality of opposition might not have been one of Europe’s elite, we still got a lesson in how defensive lapses are punished at this level. Monaco were clinical and concise when the opportunities presented themselves.
Our speed of ball and player movement wasn’t what it usually is. Whether this was the increased size of the playing surface, nerves or Monaco’s setup, only the players themselves will truly know.
We did create a host of opportunities down the right side, many of them from Harry Kane’s runs. However, we didn’t take full advantage of them or be as ruthless as we needed to be with them at this level.
Final score: Spurs 1-2 Monaco.
MOTM: Harry Kane.
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Good read, again, Mark, and you know my thoughts on our slow build up play from my previous two or three posts. Vertonghen and Dier, guilty as charged!
I would venture to say that the result against Stoke gave several of our players a false feeling of security and the painful 3 and 4 pass cross-field “build-ups” – that didn’t matter against a dreadful Stoke defence – suited Monaco perfectly.
Right now, our backs (Toby excepted) look like deer in the headlights at times.
This is probably too radical for most but if Dembele started, Alli for Eriksen, Sissoko for Lamela and Son behind Kane, I reckon Harry would start scoring freely again.
Like you, I thought Kane was effective and worth more than most of the ratings I’ve seen. Possible loss of pace looks a bit of a worry, though.
Eriksen is seldom dangerous, a non-event defensively and we are carrying him for most games (40 mins out of 80 against Stoke being one of his better efforts, but again, the opposition was abysmal).
You like him – as do I for his effort – but Lamela lingers on the ball too long and is woefully one footed. And throw in cheap fouls aplenty!
Alli is so much better as a 10 and Sissoko gives us the width that Lamela doesn’t – and his crosses will benefit Kane, Son, Alli and even Janssen if he plays.
Despite their big contracts, neither Eriksen or Lamela are adding goals or assists at a good enough rate for AM’s.
I suggest Son, whilst looking lightweight and wobbly at times, is worth persevering with. Two good feet for openers and he’s quick.
It’s not only the fleetness of foot, movement into space and the speed of thought… Spurs look good when they have width. Effective width.
Son and Sissoko – if he lives up to his cameo performance – give us that.
Probably wrong, but just my thoughts.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Great comment Chazza. Kane’s lack of pace is the one thing that’s a concern. Twice Jemerson caught him when he was away, but the rest of his game is that good that we just have to accept it. Last night I thought he was by far our best player.
I felt Eriksen isn’t effective as a number ten in games like that. Sitting teams hinder his ability between the lines and render him ineffective. I’d only like to see him as a 10 against teams where we’d have space. He is so much better being able to cut in from the left.
Lamela does linger on the ball and this needs coaching out of him. I do feel his energy and effort are sorely missed when he’s not on the field. It all went a bit flat when he went off last night. He just provides an X factor that others just dont have.
I would pick the advanced midfield three depending on the opposition. Each player excels against different types of opponents and so I’d select accordingly.
Interestingly, last night with so much success down the right, I’d have gotten Sissoko in to the game earlier. Also, it would have been tailor made for N’Koudou, but unfortunately he wasn’t even on the bench.
It was a painful feeling(for me), especially considering how they scored their goals. How we couldn’t at least equalize for a whole 45 is still a wonder to me. We have to accept the result though and hope the team is better next time out.
I don’t like Dele in that deep midfield role, his place is up the pitch running off Kane, and Kane playing the no. 10 role looks like not working out. we need as many players as possible in their natural positions
We still have enough games to make it right, the other games’ draw was helpful, we’re bottom but still fully in it.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Sometimes it does feel like square pegs in round holes. Kane might have done ok as a 10 at lower levels, but at champions league and premier league level, he just isn’t cut out for the position. I think it also has a knock on effect on others too. When Dele went to the left last night, it killed both Kane and Alli’s influence on the game. We do need to learn these lessons fast.
Mark, I just can’t agree with your choice of Harry Kane as man of the match. Although he made some good runs and got in promising positions, he was ponderous when presented with goalscoring opportunities and his shots lacked conviction. Eriksen, Toby or even Dembele would be stronger candidates for me. I thought Moutinho was the most effective player on the pitch.
With regard to the first goal, where was Dele in the build-up? It struck me at the time that he should have been alongside Dier, and that if he had been Lamela wouldn’t have had to come inside. I’ve not had the benefit of any replays and am just relaying my thoughts as I watched it at Wembley in real time. What do you reckon?
Vertonghen’s backing off for the first goal was also poor. If he couldn’t show him on his weaker side it would have been better to take the man out and give away a free kick than allow a free shot.
Finally, with the goal from the throw-in it seemed to me that Eriksen could have done more to defend the initial throw. What are your thoughts?
Thanks, as ever, for a great read.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi Anotherwisemonkey, Kane was our standout player for me, in spite of missing opportunities. To be fair, no one had a standout game on our side, he was the pick of the bunch for me. I saw he got slated on a few media outlets, but the whole team were bang average.
I really thought the error was between Dier and Lamela. Lamela never should’ve taken the ball off Dier. We were looking to fast break at that point and so everyone was racing forward, hence when the turnover came, we had so many players out of the game.
On their second goal, Eriksen maybe could’ve done more. Sidibe really should’ve been closed down to not allow the cross in the first place, but a lot of teams, us inlcuded, are prepared to allow a ball in to the box and deal with that rather than get beaten off the dribble, allowing the player with the ball to then get closer to goal. I understand its a percentage thing, being closer to the goal means the attacker has a higher chance of completing a pass/cut back/pull back/short cross, but I’d like to shut down the play at source, but that’s not the way we always play.
Interesting comments all however for myself it was a ponderous, moody, sad performance which we also saw several times at the end of last season.
As Poch said after the game the passion was lacking.
When we play with passion we naturally play faster and produce our best performances.
The psychology of the team.when we go on the pitch is all important and it is this as much as any technical choice of player or tactics that can swing the outcome.
Let us hope that this receives the attention it deserves..
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
I seem to remember some comments about this by Poch at the start of last season and we then went on a run. Lets hope it’ll trigger a similar same reaction!
Indeed both the team and Kane need to find their mojo!
Some of Spurs fans urged Kane to be rested. Do you think he’s tired ?
To be honest, i was really dissappointed with the result. Our very first CL game since 2010/11, record breaking crowd, great atmosphere .. but that kind of performance and passion was not the Spurs that i falled in love with.
Let’s hope it was just a one-off. Now Spurs, forever Spurs! COYS!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
It’s tough to say whether he’s tired. He’s definitely played a lot of games over the past few years so id like to see him and Janssen rotate in the starting position. One on Saturday the other midweek.
I’d go with Chazzas team though I’d have Dele at 10 and Son on the left. That’s a detail I guess as they’ll interchange. Regardless of those more radical changes I wonder if we’ll start Janssen. Kane as you say Mark is contributing a lot, but I guess, if we’re not going to play Janssen when Harry has played midweek, doesn’t look like scoring, and we’re playing relegation fodder at home – when will we play him? I think he has shown enough in his all round game to give him a run from the start with Harry on the bench.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
That i’d like to see, take some weight off Kane and get Janssen up and running quicker. The faster we can get Janssen scoring some goals the better.
am I missing something here… where are you Mark, haven’t seen any post for a while..
Reidar Pedersen says
Yeah, please come back at it Mark, miss your views/analyzes. Understand the massive workload it must be though….