It took us a while to figure it out that vertical passing was the way through a stubborn defence, as our Premier League clash finishes Spurs 2-0 Hull at the Lane.
In the glorious sunshine at White Hart Lane we took a while to get going. Hull’s formation and set up was giving us creative problems, whilst also allowing them to fashion some half opportunities, but their final ball and finishing wasn’t good enough.
Hull go narrow to open up
For much of Mauricio Pochettino’s first season in charge, we’ve talked about how narrow our team is. With Pochettino’s philosophy to try and get four players in to the central zone of midfield to overload the opposition, it’s often been stifled out by opposition managers that know what he is up to.
Steve Bruce’s 3-5-2 was no different here and he played his midfield five extremely narrow in the defensive phase. He used his central trio of Quinn, Huddlestone and Meyler to roam the middle. He supplemented this with his wingbacks, Elmohamady and Brady, tucking in. To compound this he had one of his front two often drop off as well.
It all lead to Hull at least matching up 4v4 in the centre of the park and often outnumbering us. The few times we did break through, we played some lovely neat one-touch passing that quickly shifted the ball through the levels of the Hull defence.
In the first half, Hull’s set up was proving difficult for us to solve. What it allowed them to do was win the ball back and then shift it out to their wingbacks to put in crosses.
We looked in the Spurs vs Hull Preview at how the Tigers are set up to be a crossing side. With their best aerial player back in the line-up, Nikica Jelavic, they were much more of a threat here. The Croatian would have most of their opportunities in the game, including four half decent efforts in the first half.
With the Tigers playing narrow and then opening up once they had the ball, they were often getting it to Ahmed Elmohamady, who got in-behind Danny Rose. They were aided by some poor defending and clearances, but failed to profit from some glaring opportunities.
Hull were able to flood the box and often had men over in the middle as they got Jelavic, N’Doye, Meyler and often opposite wingback Robbie Brady up in support.
Jelavic first of all put a header over when in acres of space, but was not aided by a poor cross from Elmohamady, which was too high. He then was able to bring the next one from the Egyptian down, but saw his shot ping off the bar. His third opportunity of the half was an overhead kick that sailed just wide. He topped it off with arguably Hull’s best chance, which didn’t come from a cross at all. He was fed in via a through ball, but his sluggish foot speed let him down, otherwise he’d have been in 1v1.
Spurs through the channels
Whilst Hull were failing with their final ball, we’d highlighted the way through their back line, but hadn’t taken advantage.
We looked in the Spurs vs Hull preview at how the Tigers had conceded chances this season and it had been in two ways.
The first is via balls down the sides of their three centre backs. The second is by vertical passes played beyond their back three for men to run in to the space behind them and finish.
We rarely created much in the first half, but when we did it came via these two methods.
Harry Kane highlighted the first way. Some neat one-touch passing through the congested central midfield zone led to Christian Eriksen feeding the striker in down the sides of the centre backs.
Kane’s squared ball across the box was the right idea given Lamela was arriving. He did need more options though and a shot may have been the better choice.
The second way to score was shown as Kane sent a long pass over the top of Hull’s defence for Ryan Mason to run on to. Hull don’t play a high line, but third man runs or just quick players can expose their lack of pace in their back three.
Mason ran on to the ball and Lamela again arrived in the box, but could only put his shot wide.
Vertical passing pays off
Kane’s ball to Mason had highlighted where Hull where vulnerable, it was a rarity in the first half though. Mauricio Pochettino must have addressed this at the interval, as after the break, we saw a much more vertical Tottenham. We were looking to get the ball up the pitch through more forward passing and it paid off in seven second half minutes.
Both goals were an example of the second way in which Hull have conceded goals this season.
The opener started with Erik Lamela managing to weave and wade his way through the congested minefield that was central midfield. He was faced by Hull trying to get bodies in his way to slow him down, but a quick jink saw him slip free.
As Lamela drove forwards, Nacer Chadli made his usual out-to-in run. The Argentinean found him with a neat reverse pass that was played vertically through two levels of the Hull defence. Lamela took a load of weight off the ball as he played it with deft touch, giving Chadli the time to make his run past his marker and latch on to it.
Chadli then remained composed to round the goalkeeper and complete the passage of play by rolling the ball in to the net, 1-0.
After one vertical pass to set a man free beyond the Hull back line, we did it again seven minutes later. This time it was through Ryan Mason’s beautifully flicked lob pass.
Between the two goals, something else important happened. Mauricio Pochettino introduced Mousa Dembele and the Belgian had an immediate impact through pressing and winning the ball back up the pitch. He was a major factor in the second goal. First in giving the ball away, but then immediately going after it, jumping in front of his man and regaining Michael Dawson’s out-pass.
Dembele then worked the ball across to Ryan Mason, who when faced by two Hull midfielders, creatively flicked the ball over their heads. Danny Rose had set off on an out-to-in run like Nacer Chadli had done and latched on to it, firing a slightly miss-hit volley in to the top corner.
Again it was another vertical pass that took out two levels of the Hull defence for a runner in-behind their back line.
The game, at Spurs 2-0 Hull, was up for the Tigers, as they were physically knocked back by this second blow.
You felt from this point that we’d go on and add another, but it just didn’t happen. Apart from Harry Kane, again running in-behind, before being put off by Michael Dawson’s sliding recovery challenge, we rarely created anything else. Up the other end Hull failed to convert a goal line scramble. As the ball was sent past the post, any kind of Hull comeback went with it.
Spurs 2-0 Hull overall
We did a good job of figuring the game out here. The first half was very pedestrian as we struggled to get through Hull’s set up, apart from the times where we moved the ball well with some neat one-touch passing. The game manifested itself in seven second half minutes where we exposed Hull’s weakness to vertical passes for players getting beyond their slow back line.
Final score: Spurs 2-0 Hull.