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.
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.
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.
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.
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’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’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.
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?
Need to get Walker on for Trippier as Martial is roasting him
— Spurs Fanatic (@spurs_fanatical) 14 May 2017
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.