Intelligent use of players in wide areas key to opening up Italian champions as it finished Spurs 2-0 Juventus at Wembley.
Wide players come in different guises. Some retain width, hugging the touchline and stretching opponents. Others drift inside to pop up in areas that the opposition don’t expect them to be. Mauricio Pochettino used both types to win our last preseason match by a score of Spurs 2-0 Juventus at Wembley Stadium.
Spurs vs Juventus narrow shape
Facing a highly organised Roma side 10 days ago aided Mauricio Pochettino when facing another well structured Italian team in Juventus. Tottenham had lacked natural width in that Roma match, so Pochettino ensured that there would be plenty of it here.
Pochettino selected Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Moussa Sissoko to play narrowly ahead of the full backs. The advanced midfield trio occupied Juventus’ central zones of defence, creating space for Trippier and Davies to be heavily involved.
Trippier and Sissoko
The selection of Moussa Sissoko was an eyebrow raiser given his current situation and rumoured move away from the club. The Frenchman had a very effective game though, highlighting his upside to potential suitors, but also indicating that he may somehow still have a future.
Sissoko’s selection saw him drift inside to create the lanes for Trippier to burst forward. However, Sissoko was also a menace in counter attack situations. The only player with real speed in the team, he tormented and bullied a Juventus back line with his pace and power.
The combination of neat passing, Sissoko on the counter and width saw us take the lead. A beautiful jink by Jan Vertonghen got the move started. Perfectly weighted passing through Harry Kane and Sissoko saw it continue. Patiently waiting to draw in the defender in before releasing Trippier down the flank in to the space put the right back in a great position to cross.
Trippier, in acres down the right, once more delivered a peach of a cross, planting the ball on to Kane’s forehead to open the scoring.
The goal was exquisitely crafted, highlighting Spurs’ improved sharpness compared to the International Champions Cup.
Moussa Sissoko’s role in it equally showed an enhanced player compared to last season’s broken confidence model. Sissoko’s passing and movement of the ball was much more assured. On the counter attack, he was an absolute pest, surging forward with speed and using his sizeable frame to hold defenders off.
Crafting the position for Trippier’s cross, Sissoko then tore forward from a Juventus corner and curled a shot off the post. Another one of his bursts saw him create an opening for a Harry Kane shot that was blocked for a corner. This was much more the Sissoko of Euro 2016.
Spurs were playing well with width, but Juventus weren’t helping themselves by making uncharacteristic errors. These miscues came from both individual mistakes on the ball, but also from their team shape. Juventus lining up narrowly allowed Spurs to press from our wide coverage of the pitch and pinch in to constrict the Italians.
The result was often a turnover or loose pass in Juventus’ defensive zone.
The worst error was a back pass under pressure by Miralem Pjanic that bounced back off Gianluigi Buffon straight to Harry Kane. The striker nicked the ball over the keeper, but Giorgio Chiellini cleared. Christian Eriksen then gathered and returned it with interest across the box, straight to Kane with the goal gaping. Somehow the striker with the crispest shot in the Premier League shanked his effort straight back in to Buffon’s grateful arms.
Eriksen switches to the right
You can tell Mauricio Pochettino trusts Kyle Walker-Peters. Firstly, he once more introduced KWP for the injured Kieran Trippier. Mauricio Pochettino then switched the inside-drifting Christian Eriksen to his flank.
Walker-Peters was then not only tasked with getting forward to deliver to the waiting Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Moussa Sissoko. He also had to defend the right flank with little cover from infield drifting Dane.
Eriksen’s switch to the right saw the use of our width in a different way. Starting centrally against a narrow Juventus saw him amongst the crowds in the first half. However, moving in from wide saw him untracked in the second.
Juventus, and more importantly Dele Alli, were given an early warning. Dele had the ball through the middle. However, rather than pick out the easier pass for Eriksen’s untracked run from wide, he tried to reverse the ball unsuccessfully to Harry Kane.
Three minutes later, and in a similar position, Dele wouldn’t make the same mistake. This time he picked out Eriksen’s run from wide perfectly, putting him through 1v1 against the keeper.
Eriksen coolly wrong-footed and jinked around Gigi Buffon to make it Spurs 2-0 Juventus.
Doubling the lead, Eriksen then turned provider to almost seal the game. Drifting from the right once more, he popped up in the centre to find Harry Kane’s run. A fortunate ricochet put Kane in on goal, but shooting under challenge from Chiellini, he rifled the ball back off the bar with Buffon soundly beaten.
Juan Cuadrado down the right
Moving Eriksen to the right meant that Moussa Sissoko switched to the left. The move was a designed ploy by Pochettino to give the pedestrian Ben Davies some helpful speed to aid in his defending of Juan Cuadrado.
The Colombian was introduced at half time to get some pace on the flanks and he gave Davies problems. He was at the centre of several dangerous Juventus attacks, most notably Paulo Dybala’s curling shot, which forced a fingertip save from Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman’s fingertips were again the difference later on, as he flicked Cuadrado’s blistering drive up on to the crossbar.
Our goal was leading a rather charmed life as the crossbar came to our rescue once again. Moise Kean saw his shot ping off the top of it after Dybala had robbed the ball from Eric Dier.
The score could’ve and should’ve been closer, but it ended Spurs 2-0 Juventus with a clean sheet from our final friendly.
Spurs 2-0 Juventus overall
What a difference a week makes. The performance here was markedly sharper than what we saw during any of our International Champions Cup matches.
The second pleasing factor was Spurs playing well at Wembley. Are the players finally becoming accustomed to what has proved the trickiest of venues?
Mauricio Pochettino made good use of the increased playing area through his use of width. Kieran Trippier was a menace staying wide. Christian Eriksen became a nuisance when he started drifting in from wide.
Final score: Spurs 2-0 Juventus.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.