Spurs 1 Norwich 1
It happened again! A week on from conceding late against West Brom, the Canaries equalised with 5 minutes left to play as our third Premier League match finished Spurs 1 Norwich 1.
It was a game of two halves as the encouraging signs from our first two matches were dispelled in the first, as Spurs looked anything but a fluid unit. In the second stanza the team came alive with the introduction of Moussa Dembele, only to fall to another defensive error and concede late.
The game was won and lost in a number of key areas though.
Possession and tempo
Andre Villas-Boas had Chelsea as the highest possession team in the Premier League during his time there and he is setting Spurs up to play in the same way. The manager wants his team to keep the ball and probe the opposition, wearing them down in order to create openings.
This brings a rather methodical tempo without the right personnel, as patience is the key to unlocking the opposition defence.
This was the reason that he went for Sandro and Jake Livermore in the middle of the park once more, in order to win back and retain the ball. They were just the wrong personnel.
Spurs were keeping control though, we had the ball 62% of the time, but the tempo just wasn’t quick enough until Moussa Dembele entered the match.
As we’ll look at in a minute, Dembele changed the game in a couple of ways, but his introduction was important. He provided a link between the base and the three advanced midfielders in Andre Villas-Boas’ 4-2-3-1 system.
Starting with two defensive, ball-retaining players in Sandro and Livermore leaves a gap in the formation, which I talked about after the Newcastle 2 Spurs 1 result.
If we look at the average position of the team at the start of the match, we can see this gap appearing again.
One thing I liked about Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea was that he wasn’t afraid to make substitutes early in matches and change things if it wasn’t going well.
He was probably banking on us dominating possession and taking a lead in to the break, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. At half-time he changed the team up, bringing on Moussa Dembele, thus bridging this gap.
The impact of Moussa Dembele
Moussa Dembele came in to the game and immediately Spurs looked like a better team. Whereas Sandro and Jake Livermore sat deep, the Belgian provided a drive forward from this position. Something we can expect to see more from Moussa Dembele this season.
He was always available for a pass and if we look at Stats Zone, we can see that he picks the ball up in and around the centre circle, mainly from passes back to him. He can then give a pass and look for a return up the pitch, which is how he scored his goal, highlighted by the yellow line.
If we look at Dembele’s passing, we can see that he provides a directness to the game with 17 of his passes forward, 5 square and only 8 backwards according to Stats Zone.
Moussa Dembele’s goal came from just one of three shots that were taken by Spurs in the box, highlighting a problem that has lingered from last weekend.
Spurs Shoot from outside the box
Spurs 1 West Brom 1 saw us shoot way too many times from outside the box, with 14 of our 22 attempts being from long range (64%). This match was a similar affair with 12 of our 15 shots again being from outside the area (80%).
This was in complete contrast to the Canaries, who managed to get 8 of their 12 shots away from inside our area (66%).
If we look at how the two teams created chances we can see a distinct difference. Spurs fashioned opportunities outside the penalty area, from wider and cutting the ball back, which included Moussa Dembele’s goal. The Canaries bombarded us with crosses, as we predicted in our preview ‘5 keys to Spurs vs Norwich.’
Norwich came in to the game averaging 26 crosses per match and we identified this as their main threat in our keys to the game. They like to move the ball wide to Anthony Pilkington and Robert Snodgrass quickly through Bradley Johnson and Jonathan Howson. From there, the two wide men can put balls in to the box.
Norwich only had 38% possession, yet they were still able to stick 20 crosses in to our 18-yard area. Not quite at their 26 per game average, but with so little possession still indicated what they were trying to do.
They have liked to go down their right flank through Robert Snodgrass. This game was no different, with 49% of their attacks coming down this side on Saturday according to Whoscored.com.
We got an early warning as Russell Martin hit the bar from a ball whipped in from Snodgrass. Then, Brad Friedel had to pull off a spectacular save, clawing the ball back from behind him, as Pilkington whipped in a ball for Snodgrass.
Robert Snodgrass makes a cross pay off
We talked about the danger of Robert Snodgrass in our 5 keys to Spurs vs Norwich and he equalised late on from a cross.
The Norwich winger had been playing wide all day, creating scoring chances from his crosses. His goal came from one of his few forays in to the middle.
After forcing a save from Brad Friedel with a header in the first half, he made sure with his next chance in the middle at the end of the second period.
Predictably with Norwich going down their right side 49% of the time, it came from here. However, it was Anthony Pilkington who started it having switched wings, crossing for Russell Martin. The full back found Grant Holt who was able to slip it to Snodgrass for one of the few passes he received in the middle.
In almost an identical area to where he had his header saved, Snodgrass made no mistake, tucking the ball in to the corner, making it Spurs 1 Norwich 1.
We hadn’t heeded the warnings all game, so it was only apt that Norwich would draw a point from one of their many crosses.
Spurs 1 Norwich 1 conclusion
This was really a game of two halves. We looked slow and methodical in the first, but much better after the introduction of Moussa Dembele in the second. Norwich’s crossing gave us trouble all game though, with their best chances, and goal, coming from balls in to the box.
The match will leave Andre Villas-Boas with more to think about than Chris Hughton. The former Spurs player and assistant has really turned his team around since their 5-0 pummelling by Fulham on the opening day.
For Andre Villas-Boas, he has a few questions to answer.
Firstly, does he stick with Brad Friedel? The American is playing well, but we have now signed Hugo Lloris for number one money.
Secondly, Is it time to start Emmanuel Adebayor? Jermain Defoe hasn’t worked as a sole target man and Adebayor gets 87% of his shots away inside the penatly area.
Thirdly, is it time to start the more mobile Steven Caulker instead of William Gallas?
Finally, and perhaps the biggest, is around the formation. Will he stick with 4-2-3-1 or now make the move to 4-3-3?
The performance of Moussa Dembele was encouraging and with Clint Dempsey still to come in, there is still much cause for optimism, as expressed by AVB.
“We have to assume responsibility for what is happening, which is disappointing, but everybody inside the dressing room feels if we get the win that we need, it will be the boost we need to take this through.”
With players to integrate and a system to learn, things may get worse before they get better. I still have faith in Andre Villas-Boas, do you?
Final score: Spurs 1 Norwich 1