Spurs 2-2 Stoke: loss of the pull effect

We surrender a two-goal lead in our Premier League clash as it finishes Spurs 2-2 Stoke at White Hart Lane.

We have only ourselves to blame. We were playing well, horizontally and vertically stretching Stoke, looking in control of a highly winnable game. The withdrawal of Harry Kane not only removed the focal point we had up top, but also took away the player that was dragging the Stoke centre backs out, allowing others to run in to the space created. The result was giving up a two-goal lead, as it finished Spurs 2-2 Stoke.

The pull effect

There was a lot going on here, but the most important factor in us taking control of the game was the effect Harry Kane was having on the Stoke backline.

Without Ryan Shawcross, Stoke’s centre backs have a real makeshift feel about them this season. Coupled with this is the lack of the powerhouse ball winner that is Steven N’Zonzi screening in front of them and there is now an area to exploit. Mauricio Pochettino obviously identified this before the match and decided to target it.

Pochettino went about this by having Harry Kane drop off the front and look to pull one, or both, of the centre backs with him. This movement drew attention, allowing other players to run in-behind in to the space he created. Kane, or one of his teammates, could then deliver the pass to create a scoring chance.

The first half was littered with these opportunities, some more prevalent than others.

Kane played a delicious scoop to Eriksen, much like his pass at Old Trafford for the Dane, to get things started. It continued with Mason chipping one over for Chadli and then Eriksen also playing an exquisite lob pass for the Belgian. Had Chadli’s clumsy over hit touch not let him down; we could’ve opened the scoring even earlier.

The pick of them, which highlighted this pull effect was the Harry Kane chip pass for Ryan Mason. Kane had come off short, dragging Stoke centre back Marc Muniesa with him, giving Mason a huge channel to run through.


Kane drags out Muniesa to free space for Mason’s run.

Kane delivered the ball and Mason stretched out a leg to try poke it past Jack Butland. The keeper denied him in what was a pivotal moment in the match with us already a goal up.

Kane’s next pass from pulling away from the centre backs and coming short would get the result it deserved. The striker came out towards the touchline, dragging centre back Geoff Cameron with him. This left one centre back in the middle picking up Mousa Dembele and Ben Davies could charge in to the channel created.


Kane comes short, Davies goes in to the space created.

Davies showed good speed and strength to hold off the challenge of Jonathan Walters who was forced back to track him. He then played an excellently controlled lob-cross for Nacer Chadli to spank home.

The move not only highlighted the pull effect to draw the centre backs out that Kane was having. It also showed the horizontal stretching we were trying to do, by getting the full backs forward in to wide areas.

Horizontal stretching

Our second goal started with the pull effect of Harry Kane and was finished by getting a man forward in to a wide area to cross. We were getting our full backs up the field in to these wide areas in order to stretch Stoke out.

We looked in the 5 keys to Spurs vs Stoke at how the Potters try to defend narrowly and they started the game out this way. Here we can see how Kane has come short, looking to get Chadli’s run in-behind, but Stoke are compact, narrow and snuff it out.


Stoke compact shape.

In order for the vertical pull effect of Kane to work, we needed to stretch Stoke out across the width of the pitch and we began to do this. Ben Davies and Kyle Walker were getting up the field in to some good crossing positions.

Our opening goal arrived from a corner, but the passage of play that forced it came from Kyle Walker bursting forward on an overlap. Walker was able to pull the ball back to Ryan Mason. He saw his shot deflected out for a corner.


Walker gets in-behind down the right.

The corner routine would’ve pleased Pochettino. It is one we have seen time and again under his management, the vacant near side of the six-yard box routine.

In this set-up, which looks like it is practiced regularly on the training ground, we leave the near corner of the six-yard box empty. Three good aerial players are stacked in a bunch towards the middle and back of the six-yard box. They then charge in to the vacant space as Eriksen delivers a driven cross. Being on the run, they look to be first to this spot at the corner of the six-yard box and head home.


Vacant corner of the six yard box for three players to run in to.

Both Spurs goals had come from our full backs getting in to wide areas. Walker to set up Mason who won a corner for the first. Davies for the second as the Kane pull effect paid dividends.

In the second half, the game could’ve been out of sight as we again stretched Stoke horizontally. Chadli got in down the left and his exquisitely curled ball picked out Kane charging in to the six-yard box. Harry flicked the ball on towards the goal, but saw his effort brilliantly saved by Jack Butland.

Loss of the pull effect

Spurs were doing well and creating chances from Harry Kane pulling off the front. Nacer Chadli was the main beneficiary making some very intelligent runs in to the spaces Kane created. Sometimes he was found, often he was not, but Chadli’s movement, like at Old Trafford, was excellent here once again.

The removal of Harry Kane was the real turning point in the match. This not only took away the focal point up front, but also the player that was dragging Stoke’s centre backs around.

After Kane went off, Nacer Chadli was put up top. He didn’t have the same effect as he was playing on the shoulder and looking to run in-behind. This allowed Stoke’s centre backs to simply just drop off 10 yards and hoover up any of the balls played up to or over the top for him.

This allowed Stoke back in to the match along with the introduction of Stephen Ireland.

Stoke splitting our back four

Before Stephen Ireland came in to the game, Stoke were creating chances and they were doing it by having their front three filling the lanes between our back four. We looked at this in the 5 keys to Spurs vs Stoke, as it was a major part of their 3-0 win at the Britannia last season and something they continue to do.

One of Stoke’s best chances of the first half illustrated this perfectly. They got the ball in on a cross with their front three players filling the spaces between our back four. Mame Biram Diouf got free inside the six-yard box, but put his header straight at Hugo Lloris when it seemed easier to score.


Stoke’s front three run the channels between our back four.

Stoke filling the lanes between our back four, along with the introduction of Stephen Ireland, got them back in to the game.

Stephen Ireland takes over

Stephen Ireland’s introduction came at the right point . Harry Kane had just been withdrawn and Nacer Chadli going up top meant our formation wasn’t as compact as it was with Kane dropping in. This left an area for Ireland to go to work in the spaces between the lines as he pulled Eric Dier all over the place.

With Stoke’s front three filling their lanes, Ireland’s pass down the inside left channel allowed Joselu to run on to the ball.


Ireland picks out Joselu.

The Spaniard drew an extremely cheap and unnecessary foul out of Toby Alderweireld inside the box to win a penalty. Arnautovic promptly dispatched it giving Hugo Lloris no chance.

He then filled the outside lane himself as Diouf and Joselu broke with him for Diouf to glance home the equaliser.


Stoke run the lanes between our back four on Diouf’s equaliser.

Not content with a draw, Stoke went for a winner and Ireland almost provided it as he Diouf and Joselu filled the lanes between our back four once again. Arnautovic’s cross just forced Ireland to have to get under the ball and head it upwards, just enough to take it over the bar.


Stoke’s front three run the lanes between our back four again.

We should’ve been out of sight, but then Stoke were back in the game and could’ve won it. To take a point with it finishing Spurs 2-2 Stoke seemed incredibly harsh given the work we’d put in.

Spurs 2-2 Stoke overall

The game really could have finished anything from 6-3 to 2-3 with the chances that were on offer. Like at Old Trafford, being clinical in front of goal was once again lacking when opportunities presented themselves.

Whilst Harry Kane was on the field and pulling Stoke’s centre backs around, we had the chances to put them away. We didn’t take them and were made to pay. After Kane was removed, the threat to drag their centre backs out to create room for others to run in to was gone.

Many will bemoan the lack of a centre forward to come off the bench, but the right centre forward is needed. We have players that can run in-behind, but a striker that can come towards the ball, as well as get in himself in the box to finish is required.

Final score: Spurs 2-2 Stoke.

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18 Responses to Spurs 2-2 Stoke: loss of the pull effect

  1. Andy B 16th August 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    Great article as always.

    What striker do you think Spurs should buy, who can come deep for the ball and finish in the box?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th August 2015 at 3:55 pm #

      Premier League experience is key for me in this. Charlie Austin fits the profile, Wilfred Bony is another I’d make a cheeky approach for and see how content he is at City. As Chris rightly says whoever comes has to be realistic and fight for a place with Kane.

  2. Chris 16th August 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    Andy, surely the question is ‘What top/decent/ambitious striker is going to come to Spurs knowing they will play second fiddle to Kane in the season before the Euros?

    • Andy B 16th August 2015 at 3:47 pm #

      I would go for Charlie Austin who is a proven goal scorer in the premier league.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th August 2015 at 3:56 pm #

      This is the reason why I think we have struggled to do this piece of business.

  3. Padders 16th August 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    Good read that. Very well put together.

    Agreed with you, taking Kane off gave you no out ball and we turned possession round very quickly in the last 20 minutes.

    From a Stokie

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th August 2015 at 3:57 pm #

      Cheers Padders, we’ll get you next time ;)

  4. Willikesspurs 16th August 2015 at 2:55 pm #

    Great read as usual. I agree that Kane’s departure changed the whole game. But I’m surprised you didn’t mention the subs. I thought Lamel was indescribable bad-within 5 minutes on the pitch I though he needed to be subbed out, he was killing us. He was another effective sub for STOKE! I have been one to give him the benefit of the doubt, but after his Man U performance and not this I think we just have to cut out losses. Let’s get juventus on the phone today. And pulling Mason, who I felt was having his best game in a Spurs shirt, was a terrible move, especially with Bentalab in such dreadful form. And, BTW, what has happened to him? Since he signed the new contract, he just seems to be phoning it in.. This not only feels like a loss, but a terrible loss….UGH……. And we desperately need reinforcements…..Levy waiting until the end of the window is and will cost us HUGE points in the table that we’ll need in May…..

    • Ses 16th August 2015 at 6:08 pm #

      He didnt last season or season before! also he’s not the only chairman to wait till end of window, dont believe what you always read!!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th August 2015 at 6:19 pm #

      The subs were ok in the circumstances and the main flaw was having Chadli up top. Kane did have to come off with a calf strain tho, so without a backup striker Pochettino had to improvise. He had tried similar experiments with Chadli and Lamela up top in Audi Cup, so I guess that is why he went that way here. I don’t think you can blame Poch for Lamela having a shocker. That is down to the player, the coach can only send him out there with instructions, its up to the player to execute them.

      Mason is short of match fitness also, hence the reason for his withdrawal. Bentaleb is going through some growing pains but he’ll come out the other side a better player.

  5. James Riddett 16th August 2015 at 8:29 pm #

    You’re a genius Mark, you see things mere mortals can only dream of. Can I borrow your glasses for the Leicester game? :-)

    You’ve highlighted just how important Kane is to us. Loved his recent comments about wanting to stay and become a club legend. Great to hear.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th August 2015 at 10:51 pm #

      A pair of x-Ray specs are on there way to you James!

  6. Zaph 16th August 2015 at 10:15 pm #

    I’d just like to make the link between Harry KAnes ever more frequent equisitely scooped passes and the Spurs ledgend – yes Glenda! It’s a rare skill which makes Kane valuable even when he’s not scoring.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 16th August 2015 at 10:55 pm #

      Nice one Zaph. There’s a link between Kane and Rickie Lambert too. Lambert used to play the exact same passes for Jay Rodriguez to run on to Southampton. The Pochettino effect.

  7. Bernard 17th August 2015 at 2:13 am #

    Love your objectivity and positive comments Mark especially on the comments regarding subbing in Lamela. Indeed it’s down to the player. Poch had no control how he would perform once he is on the field

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 17th August 2015 at 6:09 pm #

      Thanks Bernard, completely agree. Once the players step on to the field its up to them to execute the plans and perform.

  8. Chu2ks 17th August 2015 at 9:31 am #

    I so concur with the observation that Kane is playing the ‘Lambert’ role, and doing a fine job.

    In that 4-2-3-1, the players who should be benefiting with goals are the two wide forwards and the box-to-box midfielder. Love him or loathe him, Chadli has done this, and his goal record shows this. Maybe he should be a bit clinical (that divine Eriksen pass deserved so much better), but he scores goals. The problem is the other side, Lamela, Townsend and Dembele are not doing anything for us. With Lamela, I think he may shock people if Poch decides to rest Eriksen and play him as the CAM floating, but we’ll see. It’s Townsend and to a lesser extent, Dembele, that I’m disappointed with. Townsend, I believe, doesn’t watch tapes of himself and critique his game (like we do every single game). Has the potential to play like Robben, but I can’t see it happening, especially at Spurs. Dembele, o Dembele, he has till January, then we should in all honesty get rid. kind of how I believe Mourinho altered Joe Cole, i think Dembele altered his game and can’t change…but I’m hopeful.

    Clinton N’Jie should add some pace on the other side, and I think Pritchard should be tried out too. Levy should shock them all by bidding and buying both Berahino and Austin – yeah, I said it. I saw Dortmund play the other night (Thomas Tuchel, my shout for Spurs manager before people clocked on to him), and that Weigl kid is going to be a heck of a defensive midfielder and not easily displaced, so I think Bender is ripe for a bid.

    All in all, they say ‘Spursy’ game, but we didn’t lose, and I believe in growth. Guys watch this space, slow start but we’ll eventually click and go. COYS

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 17th August 2015 at 6:16 pm #

      Great post Chu2cks. The players around the centre forward should benefit with goals and you are right to say Chadli has done this, as has Eriksen. The problem is indeed the right side and we could see a Berahino type player coming in here or maybe even N’Jie switching to play that side before long. Lamela does need to step his game up and bringing in another player to compete on this side may be the factor to do this. If he doesn’t do it this season then we should get rid of him.

      The performances have been good, even if the results haven’t. Once it does click, I believe we’ll be a strong outfit and difficult to beat.