Victor Wanyama scores a goal during Spurs 2-1 Man Utd in the finale last match at White Hart Lane in the Premier League.

Spurs 2-1 Man Utd: exposing the right back

A rampant Lilywhites team exposed stand-in right back Eric Bailly as it finished Spurs 2-1 Man Utd at White Hart Lane.

A glorious afternoon at White Hart Lane was capped with a fitting display to close the hallowed stadium. Tottenham evaded man markers and a late Man Utd charge to end the season undefeated at home. Eric Bailly was the focus of our attack as it finished Spurs 2-1 Man Utd in the last game at White Hart Lane.

Man marking Man Utd

Man marking is a bit of throwback tactic and Jose Mourinho seems to be intent on restoring it to mainstream status. Adopting the ploy against Eden Hazard with great success against Chelsea, Mourinho unveiled it once again.

Axel Tuanzebe was the man tasked with tracking Christian Eriksen, but Michael Carrick frequently matched up on Dele Alli as well.

Axel Tuanzebe man marked Christian Eriksen during Spurs 2-1 Man Utd in the last Premier League game at White Hart Lane.

Axel Tuanzebe man marked Christian Eriksen.

Whether Jose Mourinho was expecting us to play in a 3-4-2-1 set up and thus Eriksen and Alli would start more centrally was unsure. What wasn’t in doubt was that our duo pulled their man markers all over the pitch, as Alli and Eriksen never stood still for a second.

Mourinho tried to protect his man-marking duo by congesting the centre. Rooney, Lingard and Mata would often pinch in, making space a premium. This was highlighted perfectly by the penetrating run of Son Heung-Min right through it.

Son surged up the middle and saw his layoff deflect straight back in to his path. Somehow he‘d navigated four bodies and was clean through. Just as the move had been rather clumsy, so was Son’s finish. The South Korean lacked composure. Son kept his head down and struck straight through the shot rather than calmly slot it either side of David de Gea.

Spurs expose Bailly

Man Utd closing off the middle meant that the space was down the sides. Stand-in full backs Daley Blind and Eric Bailly were vulnerable and the focal point for many good Tottenham attacks.

Eric Bailly, a centre back by trade, was exposed as we took the lead. The excellent Jan Vertonghen cleared a David de Gea kick downfield and Harry Kane held the ball up expertly. Kane then laid the ball back to Victor Wanyama. Dele Alli was off down the line, beyond Bailly, who was slow to react.

Kane lays off to Wanyama as Dele sprints in-behind during Spurs 2-1 Man Utd in the last Premier League match at White Hart Lane.

Kane lays off to Wanyama as Dele sprints in-behind.

Victor Wanyama, who played several of these passes in-behind the full back against Arsenal, again sent a beautiful ball up the line. Dele was first to it and flicked it off the covering Bailly for a corner.

The short corner has become more and more prevalent in recent matches. The tactic has definitely been practised on the training field. What followed was a perfectly planned and executed manoeuvre.

Son Heung-Min started by running a curl that took Daley Blind away and caught the eye of Juan Mata. Ben Davies, starting centrally, then ran out to receive the ball from Eriksen.

Son's movement frees space for Ben Davies during Spurs 2-1 Man Utd in the last Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.

Son’s movement frees space for Ben Davies.

Mata couldn’t recover to get out to Davies in time and stop the cross coming in. Whilst this was happening, Victor Wanyama was losing Wayne Rooney in the centre. The Man Utd captain got a step too far under the ball, allowing separation and Wanyama to powerfully head home.

We’d seen Mauricio Pochettino try and isolate Victor Wanyama against Paul Pogba on set pieces in Man Utd 1-0 Spurs at Old Trafford. Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are usually our biggest aerial threats at set pieces. With these players being marked Smalling, Jones and Bailly, was this Pochettino using the same ploy by trying to use the man over, Wanyama, against a lesser defensive player?

Attacking the left back

Stand-in right back Eric Bailly had been exposed to win the corner for our opener. Left back Daley Blind would be the focus for many good attacks throughout the rest of the half.

Spurs were doing three things that isolated Man Utd’s full backs. Firstly, we were switching the ball from side-to-side incredibly quickly and with effortless ease. Secondly, the trio behind Harry Kane were constantly changing positions. This dragged Man Utd’s man markers all over the place. Thirdly, Harry Kane was pinning Phil Jones and hitting the runners off him in to the space beyond Daley Blind.

Spurs created chance after chance down this side. Harry Kane bodied up and spun off Phil Jones to get in to an excellent pull back position, which was blocked for a corner. Kane then did the same to release Dele Alli in to this space in the inside channel for a fizzing shot.

Kane pins Jones and releases Dele Alli's run during Spurs 2-1 Man Utd in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Kane pins Jones and releases Dele Alli’s run.

Harry Kane would then be the recipient of the next pass through this channel. Christian Eriksen slipped his man marker, Tuanzebe, and fed Kane for a low drive that David de Gea kicked away at his near post.

Eriksen finds Harry Kane in the zone beyond the LB during Spurs 2-1 Man Utd in the last Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.

Eriksen finds Harry Kane in the zone beyond the LB.

Eriksen’s movement was a joy to watch as he frequently drifted out beyond Daley Blind. As Tuanzebe was supposed to be man marking, Blind paid less attention to the Dane and it allowed Eriksen to get on the ball and cross.

Eriksen sent in a few wicked balls from this flank. One saw Harry Kane’s header flick off the bar. Another was deflected by Tuanzebe and almost dropped in at the back post if it weren’t for de Gea clawing it away as it looped over his head.

Beating Bailly once more

Spurs were creating a large volume of chances from attacking the space behind Daley Blind. However, we fashioned the more dangerous opportunities and goals by exposing Eric Bailly’s position.

The stand-in right back was often caught high and was slow to recognise danger. Dele Alli had got beyond him to win the corner for the first goal. Alli would get beyond him once more to win the free kick that added the second.

The passage of play started with a Man Utd throw taken By Eric Bailly. Ben Davies won the first ball. Dele Alli scooped up the second, motoring past the static Bailly and in to space up the line.

Dele races beyond Bailly, dragging Smalling over during Spurs 2-1 Man Utd in the last Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.

Dele races beyond Bailly, dragging Smalling over.

Dele’s surging run brought Chris Smalling across. As the centre back slowed Dele down, Bailly recovered, but fouled Alli as he tried to nutmeg his way out of the situation.

A wickedly whipped in ball from Ben Davies had seen us open the scoring. Christian Eriksen followed suit with another devilish delivery. Harry Kane merely had to glance the ball past the helpless David de Gea.

Man Utd have given up a number of goals from free kicks recently. We’d looked at this in the Spurs vs Man Utd match preview and here was another.

Martial toasts Trippier

Spurs were cruising and should’ve been out of sight. Chances were being created through attacking the full backs and continued to come after we were 2-0 up.

The nagging issue that threatened to rain on our last game parade was the speed of Anthony Martial. Our defence just couldn’t live with the French forward.

Martial’s speed had seen him peel away from Toby Alderweireld and curl the ball just past the post in the first half. After the interval, he had Kieran Trippier on skates. Trippier knew he couldn’t get in to a running race with Martial and made several bad decisions.

The first saw Martial Cut inside and curl another effort just around the post. Trippier was trying to stop him doing this and show him down the line, but was powerless to stop Martial’s quick feet.

Seven minutes later and isolated against Trippier once more, Martial would create Man Utd’s goal.

Recognising the mismatch, Juan Mata sent a long ball out to Martial. Trippier made two errors in quick succession. Firstly, after being beaten inside moments before, he overplayed Martial to stop him doing it again. Trippier compounded this by then rashly going to tackle with his off foot. Martial jinked past him. With the defence retreating, he squared for Rooney to jab the ball in to the net via a deflection off Jan Vertonghen. The party atmosphere was instantly drained with the score now a nervy Spurs 2-1 Man Utd.

Pochettino changes

Mauricio Pochettino responded by making changes. The much more rapid Kyle Walker came on for Kieran Trippier. If Trippier hadn’t been injured in an aerial collision with Martial, would Pochettino have made this otherwise necessary switch?

Walker dealt with Martial’s speed much better after he was introduced simply because he could stay in front of him. Cutting off, winning the ball, followed by a neat turn and back heel past the Frenchman indicated that Walker had this situation much more under control.

Pochettino’s other change was to introduce Mousa Dembele and go to a 4-3-3 formation. Jose Mourinho had removed man marking Axel Tuanzebe and gone to the system, so Pochettino matched suit. Dembele joined Dier and Wanyama to create a robust central trio that nothing was going to get through.

Mourinho introduces speed

Suddenly we were on our heels with the score now Spurs 2-1 Man Utd. Jose Mourinho recognised a couple of things and introduced more pace. The Man Utd Manager had already sent on the nippy Henrikh Mkhitaryan before introducing the jet heeled Marcus Rashford.

With Rashford, Martial and Mkhitaryan on the pitch, Mourinho now had plenty of speed to execute the second part of his plan. To send the ball over our high defensive line for these three to run after.

Rashford was caught offside, Martial was just missed, but then Michael Carrick created a heart in mouth moment. The former Spur sent a long ball over the top that was perfectly placed for Rashford to run on to. As he surged through the centre, no one could catch him. However, Rashford had to wait for the ball to come down, which alowed the Spurs defence to catch up. Rashford then had to rush his lob attempt, which sailed wide as the Tottenham defence closed on him.

The chance and the game went with it as it finished Spurs 2-1 Man Utd and the celebrations could begin.

Spurs 2-1 Man Utd overall

The game was a fitting way to close the old stadium and in a way mirrored many a Spurs team during the Premier League era. We played some scintillating football to race in a to a two goal lead. In spite of this, the crucial third goal wasn’t forthcoming and suddenly shipping one creates a nervy finish.

However, the one difference with this current team is its ability to stand fast in the face of adversity. Previous Tottenham sides would’ve caved and allowed the last gasp equaliser. Not this one. The current team is built of much sterner stuff and it is that resilience which will carry us forward to the next level.

Final score: Spurs 2-1 Man Utd.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.

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15 Responses to Spurs 2-1 Man Utd: exposing the right back

  1. Matt 15th May 2017 at 6:54 pm #

    Nice write up as ever Mark. I know I’ve banged on a lot about Victor but as well as his athleticism and destroying abilities he’s looking much more creative recently. That midfield 3 was as you say, formidable. Think we’ll see more of it?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th May 2017 at 11:45 pm #

      Great question Matt. Yes we’ve seen that Dembele, Dier and Wanyama midfield in a couple of games now, so it’s obviously something that Poch is working in training. So my guess is that it is a formation we’ll see more of, probably next season. Whether it’s just a go to formation to sure up games or one that will see us play deeper and on the counter attack away to good sides, we’ll have to wait and see.

  2. YouShubes 15th May 2017 at 11:14 pm #

    Did the man marking employed by Jose enable us to move the ball so quickly? I know his mind is clearly on the Europa league final bt this does seem and odd choice for him. But for some excellent saves from De Gea we could have been further in front. Given how high are goals tally it does seem somewhat greedy to want us to be more clinical but I think that is needed as we were not able to grind out away wins until later on in the season which I think is where the tithe was lost.

    I am hoping the Walker rumours are untrue and he can sort things out with Poch. Lallana aside I cannot think of many of Poch’s charges that have done as well after they have left his direction.

    I am hoping over the summer Sonny can improve his finishing so he can do the simple as well as the spectacular..

    As per your vote and many other Eriksen got POTS ahead of my choice of SuperJan. The return of Winks and Lamela will be like new signings I feel and can do much to ease the need on our Danish maestro to be our creative hub. And I am hoping we can add one or two signings that can increase our squad depth

    This has been an incredible season. We have learned how to win without Dembele starting, found goals when Harry had injury lays off s and how to keep a tight defence even when Toby was out. And while silverware may have eluded us we have played some of the best football I have ever seen us play, ended St Totteringham’s day with a flourish and said goodbye to our much beloved stadium in the best possible way.

    This season has been immeasurably enhanced by the previews and most match analysis you have given us Mark and I would like to thank you for that. IF you get time it would be nice to see how you feel Poch has evolved his tactics over the past three seasons or even over this season.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 15th May 2017 at 11:56 pm #

      Good point Shubes. I thought we were aided by the man marking, as Carrick and Tuanzebe were pulled all over the place and were thus drawn away from what would’ve been natural defensive stations. Tuanzebe was especially prone, as he was often dragged out to the touch line, which is unnatural for a central midfielder. This allowed us to create holes and pick them apart.

      In spite of what we’ve seen this season we do need to be more clinical. That translates to killing teams off and getting that all important third goal while we are on top in games.

      I’m hoping Walker stays too. So far we have seen rotation each game with Trippier, so Walker should start vs Leicester, but something just doesn’t seem right. He does have that quality that cannot be taught, speed, and we sometimes do need that, as trying to defend Martial proved.

      Thanks for reading this season and the kind words. I have some pieces on Poch’s tactical evolution this campaign lined up for the quiet summer months, so keep an eye out on here, Facebook or Twitter for them.

  3. Antonyj7 16th May 2017 at 7:56 am #

    Good finishing review thanks.

    A thought, if Walker goes which seems possible we will miss his speed.

    On the left Rose and Davis can cope but on the right Trippier is a good crosser however speed is not his thing so hopefully this will be addressed in the summer.?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th May 2017 at 5:53 pm #

      The full backs are the most important part of Poch’s system and we’ll definitely need more than just Trippier for the right back slot. So, if Walker does go then we will need to bring someone in. That is, unless Poch is intent on bringing Kyle Walker-Peters through…

  4. Erik Zen 16th May 2017 at 8:04 am #

    This time didn’t have the chance to read your preview until after watching the game and saw more than ever how you correctly predicted the way we would win. Nice one!

    Great season sum-up YouShubes and definitely agree with this point:

    “This season has been immeasurably enhanced by the previews and post match analysis you have given us Mark and I would like to thank you for that.”

    Hopefully we can finally beat Leicester, and Harry can still claim the golden boot in his last two games. He’s only 2 being Lukaku now!

    Eriksen 1000% POTS for me… Love that elfine Danish sprite.

    Been having WHL flashbacks of going regularly during the ludicrous season of Ardiles’ managership where we’d lose every game 4-3. Extremely exciting days but ultimately disastrous. Never thought we’d be where we are now. COYS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th May 2017 at 6:01 pm #

      Thanks Erik Zen. It’s great to put these previews and post match analysis pieces together and I enjoy the comments and banter they generate. Hoping Kane can pip Lukaku and also that Dele can reach 20 PL goals. Would really highlight his outstanding season.

      I remember the days of Ardiles managership well. No game was ever safe, at either end! We have come a long way!

  5. Jerry Ward 16th May 2017 at 6:23 pm #

    I really appreciate you Mark for enhancing my understanding of games. Thank you.

    What a team. Can you name one current first team player who is not a star in his own right? It’s amazing!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th May 2017 at 11:17 pm #

      Thank you for the kind words Jerry. Glad you enjoy the articles and that they enhance the games. That’s always great to hear.

      We have built some team. Quite the unit to grace the new stadium when it opens!

  6. Chas 17th May 2017 at 7:51 am #

    Walker on at last and I thought Poch was a tad late in replacing Son who lost the ball a couple of times within the 5 minutes before the goal. He looked very tired.
    And whilst it WAS an impressive team performance, Lloris gives me the jitters with those feet of his.
    Plain awful at times.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 17th May 2017 at 2:27 pm #

      I can’t imagine that Hugo doesn’t work on his kicking in training as it’s the one part of his game that definitely needs work. It isn’t really improving though.

  7. Toby4eva 18th May 2017 at 9:14 am #

    Thanks again Mark.

    What a dream finish at the Lane – the only tiny negative was Rooney scoring the last ever goal when it should have been Harry!

    The club did a great job with the finale and I particularly enjoyed the reception for “shouty pointy man” – one of my all time favourites is the great Keano.

    The comments about Hugo are interesting and of course accurate.

    Has a stellar defensive set up flattered the Boss?

    I use the word “stellar” advisedly.

    I’ve just trawled through 20 years of PL tables and found that we will (assuming two clean sheets) be only the eighth team in 20 years (of 20 team competitions) to concede less than 25 goals in a season.

    Four of these teams (Chelsea and Utd both twice) have been champions, two were runners-up (Woolwich and Chelsea) and Chelsea were third in 08/09.

    Could any of us foresee the day when we would be taking about a THFC team being defensively dominant in the League?

    The Gaffer has built this defence around my idol Toby, whose personal stats over eight seasons at four teams conclusively show that he is the best Central defender in football.

    Being an ex-central defender himself, Poch would clearly have set this benchmark as core to his foundation of building a champion team.

    We conceded 26 from 35 last season before going 2-0 up at the Bridge.

    Then we shipped 9 in two and a half games including the last game Toon farce.

    Obviously we should have finished clear second last year, as per this year.

    So now we see a rock solid foundation that has been not just replicated, but honed and bettered.

    We are basically nailed on for a CL finish as long as we can keep this defensive performance going.

    Last year we scored 69 in 38 – this year it is 73 in 36.

    Again an incrementally honed performance with still only one striker – but with Dele and Sonny chipping in.

    This is first season that we have racked up 80 points and averaged more than 2 points a game consistently through the season (39 after 19).

    Chalking up an incredible 53 from 57 at the Lane of course underscores this achievement. Our away form looks less impressive – but two away wins to finish would land us on 33 away points compared to last term’s 34 ( a number to be thrilled about last year) – so not too shabby.

    We have firmly risen about the space that we previously occupied between 4th and 6th for 10 years.

    We are now a genuine title winning team.


    With another few per cent tweaked next season, we can do it.

    That is the test of greatness.

    Moving from the threshold to the trophy room.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th May 2017 at 10:42 am #

      Rooney’s goal was the only mark on an otherwise great day… Or maybe it is Jan who has the last goal at the Lane ;)

      Very interesting stats. Didn’t realise so few teams have conceded less than 25 goals. And the odds of winning the title when doing so are pretty good. Unbelievable what Poch has managed to do with our defence. The one thing I always notice when you see the players in the tunnel is just how much bigger and imposing our lads look. The days of “lads, it’s Tottenham” speeches from opposing managers have definitely gone!

      I think you are spot on when you say we are now a genuine title winning team. I would be highly confident if we were at the Lane, but Wembley has just come at completely the wrong time and threatens to derail everything from a playing standpoint. I understand that it’s necessary for long term growth, but I am concerned that next season we’ll struggle, finish 6th-8th and we may not keep the important chips of the team together, despite the prospect of playing in the new stadium. I was hoping that rainbow at the end of last week’s final game signifies the Wembley arch and that there will be a pot of gold at the end of it!

  8. Toby4eva 19th May 2017 at 12:25 am #

    Nice one Mark!

    But bugger Wembley – lets make King Power our home next year!

    Go Harry for the Boot!!