Spurs 1 Stoke 2: traps and counter attacks

A disjointed and lacklustre display see us come away with nothing from our Premier League encounter with the Potters, as it finishes Spurs 1 Stoke 2.

“It is my job and my responsibility to find the solution,” uttered Mauricio Pochettino after yet another post Europa League performance that lacked energy, but also direction.

Stoke came with a game plan that was simple and they executed it.

Stoke traps

Mark Hughes has turned Stoke in to a fast breaking counter attacking team away from home. They sit deep and compact in their 4-3-3 formation and they look to create turnovers in midfield. Once the ball is regained, they spring forward at pace through Victor Moses, Mame Biram Diouf and Bojan Krkic.

As many teams have done to us at the Lane, Stoke started by taking away the middle of the pitch. They were content to drop off and crowd the centre, looking to hunt in packs whenever the ball went in to our midfield of Eriksen, Chadli, Townsend or Mason.

Etienne Capoue is our passing hub who drops between the centre backs and Mame Biram Diouf tracked him. Bojan sat just in front of our midfield to not allow short passes in to Ryan Mason; the rest sat behind in order to deny any entry passes to Chadli, Eriksen or Townsend.

We can see just how Stoke set up to trap here. They were content to give the ball to Kaboul and Fazio. Diouf tracks Capoue whilst Bojan in front and the rest of the Stoke midfield behind trap Chadli and Mason.


Stoke central trap.

Kaboul’s out pass should be to Naughton who is calling for the ball, but the centre back rarely saw where the spaces were. We can see from his passes played in the match how he completed easy sideways passes, but anything forwards was turned over.


Younes Kaboul passes played, Spurs 1 Stoke 2.

This lead to a slowing of the tempo, which wasn’t very high to begin with. It also meant that anytime we did move the ball out wide, it was easy for Stoke to get midfield numbers across.

Here Naughton has the ball on the sideline and Stoke are able to shift their midfield over to get three players around him. We are sat too narrow to move the ball quickly out to where the space is around the referee and thus it’s turned over.


Stoke sideline trap.

Stoke’s trapping in the centre and wide areas was extremely effective. As we can see here, Eriksen manages to get a run in through the middle, but is brought down by N’Zonzi and Sidwell. If we did break their lines, they adopted an attitude of ‘they shall not pass’ and were content to concede free kicks.


No way through for Eriksen.

Stoke counter attacks

What these traps then set up were quick counter attacks, as Stoke regained the ball and moved it quickly to Bojan, Diouf and Moses.

It paid off for them after just five minutes, as Bojan opened the scoring.

Nacer Chadli had the ball in central midfield, but was immediately set upon by three Stoke players and lost possession to Steve Sidwell. Notice also how Ryan Shawcross is running towards Christian Eriksen to challenge him should the ball run loose.


The pack hunt down Chadli.

The ball then went square to Steven N’Zonzi who passed it towards Steve Sidwell, but in missing the former Fulham man, put it fortunately in to the path of Bojan.

We looked in the opposition scouting report at the speed of Bojan and Moses on the counter as both can run with the ball and make good decisions. Here he was instantly on our back line, which also had the run of Diouf to contend with, whilst Moses was also out on the break.


Bojan with Diouf and Moses behind our midfield.

Bojan held on to the ball and fired a shot from just outside the box that deflected off Diouf on the way through, taking it past Hugo Lloris. Neither the referee nor his assistant saw the touch from Diouf who was miles offside.

Their second goal came from an equally swift transition. Danny Rose tried to clear towards Harry Kane, as he was under pressure from Diouf.

Ryan Shawcross picked up the flight of the ball extremely early and charged in to out muscle Kane and head forward.

With Stoke’s front three still up field, we had moved out and Younes Kaboul was way up from the rest of the back line. Danny Rose was also caught on the wrong side of Diouf and allowed the ball to go through the channel between him and his centre back, Fazio. Two major mistakes.


Kaboul caught up, Rose caught out.

Stoke’s front three had filled their lanes and Diouf was in to cross for Walters who had broke in to the space where Kaboul should have been behind Fazio.

It was a goal that perfectly summed up our lack of cohesiveness and how disjointed we were.

Kane shows the way

Despite all that had gone on, we did actually show that we knew the way to play against Stoke.

We needed to be much quicker moving the ball so they couldn’t trap us as easily in midfield. But, as looked at in the pre-match scouting report, we needed to get in to their full back zones to cross. Stoke aren’t the force they used to be on crossing situations without the tandem of Huth alongside Shawcross.

After just three minutes we did just this. Townsend moved the ball swiftly to Eriksen, who in turn played it first time in to the run of Nacer Chadli. The Belgian broke in-behind Pieters and picked out a peach of a cross for Harry Kane.


Chadli crosses for Kane.

The England U21 international threw himself at the ball and connected with a diving header, but couldn’t direct it in to the net. Instead it went straight back in to the arms of Asmir Begovic and Stoke were let off the hook.

It was a great piece of play and maybe it was too early to point the way through the minefield that was Stoke’s trapping midfield, but we didn’t capitalise on the tactic.

Our best chances before we scored arrived from free kicks. Lamela put in a tempting cross from one that Kane headed wide. The Argentinean also saw his shot from another set piece tipped round the post by Begovic at full stretch.

It wasn’t until Danny Rose got open on the left flank that he put over an appetising cross for Nacer Chadli to come in on at the back post this time. The Belgian made no mistake as he rifled home a thunderous volley.


Rose crosses for Chadli.

Why we didn’t try to expose Stoke more from getting in to their full back zones only Mauricio Pochettino will know.

Pochettino changes

Whilst Stoke were patching up their backline with their substitutions, Mauricio Pochettino was making more curious changes.

At half time he made a straight swap with Lamela for Townsend. This move looked to be one to add jump to our rather lacklustre tempo with Andros looking lethargic from playing in Greece.

However, he also brought on Mousa Dembele for Christian Eriksen. I like Dembele as a player, but to introduce him alongside Etienne Capoue at this point was a strange move. With us chasing the game and needing to move the ball faster, Pochettino now had two that play at a slower rate in Capoue and Dembele.

It wasn’t until the standard Capoue off, bring a striker on change was made that this balance was addressed. Emmanuel Adebayor came on and had some touches that were indicative of his comments afterwards about preferring to play away. However, we did start to bring more of a threat as Stoke sank deeper.

Within 12 minutes we were back to 2-1 and had a chance to somehow level a game that we had no right of still being in. That was until Kyle Naughton was sent off. Typically it was from Stoke winning the ball back in midfield, as Victor Moses was straight on Ryan Mason’s first touch. Moses sprinted clear and Naughton’s petulant flick of his boot to bring him down summed up the frustration that he and many of the rest of the team were feeling.

Stoke did well to stifle our attack with their tactics. Along with Asmir Begovic killing time from the moment they went ahead, the Potters also frustrated us with their gamesmanship. This lead to us giving away silly, needless free-kicks and losing a man, which allowed them to kill the clock and momentum.

Spurs 1 Stoke 2 overall

This was one of the most lacklustre and disjointed displays seen from the side in a long while.

Post Europa League our awful record continues, but here we had way too much inexperience on the pitch. Harry Kane, Ryan Mason and Andros Townsend are not long off graduating in to the first team squad. Whilst Kyle Naughton and Danny Rose are still relatively inexperienced when it comes to Premier League football.

The average age of the side was just 24 and whilst it’s good to give youth a chance, too much inexperience also leads to a lack of knowledge in on-field game management.

Mauricio Pochettino has a lot to address. Getting a good blend of youth and experience is one thing, but developing a style and brand of football in his image should be top of the list. At the minute, the team look as directionless as Younes Kaboul’s captaincy.

Final score: Spurs 1 Stoke 2.

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9 Responses to Spurs 1 Stoke 2: traps and counter attacks

  1. jim 10th November 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    So here we are. We have our worst team since the dreadful 1990’s..

    I agreed before yesterday that sacking Poch would be madness but now im not so sure. His is woefully under qualified for a club like Tottenham. The sack in Spain followed by an 8th with a Southampton team who are better without him. I said in the summer that it would be Avb all over again, that he is ‘ a work experience manager with an empty CV’ but I really hoped I would be proven wrong. I wasn’t.

    If your players don’t buy into your philosophy then you have to adapt until you can get the players in who can. He hasn’t adapted at all.

    The fans need to take blame as well. When Poch appeared as favourite in the beginning of the summer there was a noticeable mood that he was the wrong man, but after a couple of weeks this changed round dramatically with people not only supporting the appointment but getting swept up in the whole ‘philosophy he will bring to the club. It was collective madness.

    The players couldn’t give a damn about the club, there are no leaders and no feeling for the club. Dawson, King, Defoe, Keane. They may not have been world beaters but they were Tottenham, this lot are a bunch of wandering mercenaries who probably cant believe their luck. Why buy average players when we can produce our own?? Is Pauhinho & Strambuli any better than Bentaleb & Mason?? No. So why spend £20m on them???

    The chairman is flawed with every vision he has, completed on the cheap and every one doomed to fail. What right minded chairman would hire Pochetino as their manager & give him a 5 year deal?? Then the unrealistic fans who failed to see what a clown Poch would be and until very recently still expected a top 4 finish.

    The whole club is poison and it will take years to correct. We need major surgery. All the good work of 2005-2010 ruined.

    Sherwood was right, he could see the truth but the fans and chairman preferred to think we were better than he said. How wrong they all were.

    now for next year we wont have Europe at all, yet we will have the biggest most bloated squad in our history yet some of the fewest games. We have to forget selling at the Levy price and just sell sell sell to get most of this lot out of the door, try and get back what we can and spend it on areas we need rather than buying up every identical midfielder in europe.

    We are pathetic.

    • Chris 10th November 2014 at 5:44 pm #

      Sadly this sort of negativity and calling for the manager’s head is part of the problem. I’m not sure what fans want… Pulis in charge or something? Wow, how long would it be before we were booing his boring style of play. Somehow we think we should be Real or Barca or something.

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th November 2014 at 6:05 pm #

        I did see quite a few Tweets and some forum posts to get Pulis in yesterday. I just hope this was a crazy knee-jerk reaction!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th November 2014 at 6:01 pm #

      Great post Jim. I said before the season that Pochettino was a coach that filled me with excitement, but also a great deal of trepidation. I am still of that thinking. On one hand i know that we will have to go through some adjustment to play the way he wants. On the other, it doesn’t appear as if the players are getting it. Adebayor’s comments of the players trying to understand his message are worrying.

      It does come back to the debate of did Pochettino get the players he wanted in the summer to run his system or did he just get one’s that Baldini recommended and Levy sanctioned the money to buy? The whole wanting Muassachio and getting Fazio episode points to that.

      Pochettino does have to work with players that were bought for someone else and they don’t appear to fit his natural high-energy game. Maybe he is trying to adapt his tactics as a result and is failing? Maybe we will have to wait until he can get in who he wants, if that is actually done by Levy/Baldini.

      As i’ve written before i really want us to have a season out of Europe. Less matches is fine by me and so too is less travel to the ends of the continent. More time to work on the training field so Pochettino can get his system across, as well as more time to practise it, would be good for the team in the long term.

      • ultrapunch 10th November 2014 at 9:08 pm #

        At Espanyol Pochettino would have worked with a DoF and would have been expected to get the best out of players he didn’t buy. That’s the system on the Continent. Don’t forget Southampton also had a DoF in the Continental mould. It looks like Southampton’s then biggest ever buy of a striker for circa £12m in the summer of 2013 wasn’t Pochettino’s decision.

        With the DoF system, which Levy appears determined to pursue, the manager is effectively just a first team manager and coach tasked with getting the best out of the players at his disposal. Pochettino is obviously not getting the best out of the players at his disposal.

        Sherwood managed to get much better results out of the players at his disposal even though key players were out injured during his time in charge. He got the best out of Adebayor, which Pochettino obviously can’t.

        Unless results improve Pochettino will get the sack, because Levy will panic, understandably, over the threat of relegation.

        Unfortunately the vocal fans on the fans message boards and blogs are their own worst enemy. They wanted the likes of Dawson, Siggurdson, etc, sold because they didn’t think they were good enough for Spurs, even though they always gave 100% regardless of who was the manager at the time.

        Fans complain that the likes of Fazio were only cheaper alternatives to more expensive targets Spurs were unable to buy. However even when Spurs have bought their original “expensive targets like Soldado and Lamela (£56m for the pair) they have fared no better than the “cheaper” buys. Often worse!

        Fans complained non stop about Sherwood when he was manager. They despised him because he was a mouthy cockney who was a gooner as a child. Levy obviously thought the same!

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 11th November 2014 at 3:23 pm #

          Good comment Ultrapunch. Yes Pochettino has worked with Directors of Football before and that would’ve been one of the reasons for hiring him in that he had to work with one here.

          The coach, as Pochettino is, is just that, a first team coach. The Director of Football is tasked with actively pursuing and obtaining the players, the Chairman sanctions the spend. The coach however, does and should have a big degree of input as to whether he wants the player. Whether he does or not have this input at Spurs is not known. We’ve all read the stories that AVB didn’t want certain players who were signed for him eg Lamela. Also Juande Ramos’ quotes about wanting certain players and getting Darren Bent, Roman Pavlyuchenko and David Bentley. “He came” remembered Ramos. ‘Russian — he didn’t understand anything. He was here for six months and he hardly played. Damien Comolli signed him.’

          The DoF is there to take all the negotiations and bargaining off the coach’s shoulders so he can get on with training the team and not bogged down in this. A good DoF will be in constant contact with his chairman and the coach so that all three are working together. I fear this isn’t hapening at Spurs.

          There was a very interesting footballers football show on the Director of Footbal position with David Pleat, Brian McDermott and Damien Comolli. They talked about everything a DoF does from running the scouting network to doing background personality checks on a player through to negotation and how much more time it frees up for the coach. McDermott had some very interesting points from the manager’s side and how he has worked with both good and bad DoF. He identified his best one was at Reading and they were in constant contact everyday talking about potential players and could he work with them. The worst forced players on him, sometimes because of Agents, that he had never heard of or no desire to sign.

          It’s a good system if all three – Chairman, DoF and coach – are all communicating effectively with each other, but also one that has the potential to go easily wrong if they are not.

  2. Ess 10th November 2014 at 5:15 pm #

    What Jim said.

  3. Chris 10th November 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    We clearly have issues with style of play and the team gelling, but I do wonder about the pitch size (and maybe the rake on the pitch doesn’t help, it really does slope away at the sides). Even when we had Lennon hugging the touchline, he was never really that far away from the midfielders. It seems to make it very easy for teams to drift across to block our forward path.

    If you’re a team like Man City or Chelsea, then you have the top quality players like Silva, Aguero, Hazard and this sort of thing isn’t so important. You have to double up to defend against them and so there will always be gaps. But we don’t have those players (and we can’t expect to have them).

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th November 2014 at 6:08 pm #

      Yes this reminds me of the comments from Di Maria when he said it ‘hurts to be linked with Tottenham” when he didn’t want to come, also the same with Coentrao.