Spurs 2 Aston Villa 0
Spurs were sluggish out of the gate after our Europa excursions, but returned our “best home performance” after the interval, as we triumphed Spurs 2 Aston Villa 0.
Andre Villas-Boas made one change from the side that drew with Panathinaikos, as William Gallas returned to the back four.
Paul Lambert retained his same eleven from last weekend’s draw with West Brom, as Darren Bent found himself on the substitutes bench once again.
Spurs 2 Aston Villa 0 formations
Spurs retained our familiar 4-3-3 system that has become Andre Villas-Boas’ trademark. Sandro sat at the base of a midfield triangle with Moussa Dembele operating just in front and Clint Dempsey in an advance position behind Jermain Defoe. Up front, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon played wide and high up, pressing the Villa fullbacks when in possession and switching flanks on several occasions.
Aston Villa went with their 4-2-3-1 with Karim El Ahmadi and Fabian Delph trying to break up attacks in front of their back four. Up front, Gabriel Agbonlahor played out to the left and Brett Holman was in an advanced role trying to support Agbonlahor and Christian Benteke.
Aston Villa approach
Aston Villa had a pretty simple game plan that they hoped would work. Without the ball in the first half they tried to press us up the pitch and create turnovers.
In our 5 keys to Spurs vs Aston Villa, we noted how the Villains were one of the top teams in the Premier League at intercepting the ball with 15 per match this season. Here they generated 16, of which 8 were in the Spurs half of the field.
When in possession they looked to attack down their left side through long balls to Christian Benteke and using the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor. Brett Holman would then move over from his advanced midfield role to try and create overloads in that area with Agbonlahor and Benteke.
After favouring the right flank to attack this season, Aston Villa went 53% down the left this time. The reason for this was to get long balls to Christian Benteke matched up on Kyle Walker rather than fellow full back Jan Vertonghen, a much better player in the air.
After having trouble with Romelu Lukaku when West Brom visited the Lane, Benteke was quite successful winning 11 of his 17 aerial duels.
Villa’s best chance fell to the Belgian when a sloppy throw out from Hugo Lloris allowed Marc Albrighton to cross to him unmarked. Benteke could only put his header wide though in what was a big moment at 0-0.
With Karim El Ahmadi and Fabian Delph playing defensive roles in front of the back four, Spurs moved the ball from side to side to get it quickly in to wide positions.
If Aston Villa were focussed on attacking the left, Spurs really kept the Villains’ defence honest. We attacked down the left side 38% of the time, 36% to the right and just 28% up the middle according to Whoscored.com.
Sandro and Moussa Dembele creating quick switches in play when they had possession of the ball achieved this width. Surprisingly, Sandro rather than Dembele was the architect, playing 12 long balls in the match to the Belgian’s 9, but the intent from both was clear.
The ball was moved quickly right to Aaron Lennon for him to dribble. The ball went left to Gareth Bale so that he could cross.
As a result, Spurs attempted a massive 38 crosses in the match, 20 of which were from the boot of Bale, but only 3 were successful.
The first goal came from a corner in to the box that was taken down by Defoe and deflected in off Steven Caulker. The second was created by a quick shift in play as Bale, Dembele and Dempsey moved the ball across the field for Aaron Lennon to fire in across Brad Guzan.
Both goals epitomised what Spurs were trying to do all afternoon in moving the ball quickly from side to side and crossing.
1st half sluggish vs 2nd half slick
After the Lazio Europa League match we started off a bit sluggish against QPR and the same could have been said here. Combined with Villa’s approach to the game, pressing us up the pitch, we made a slow start once more.
After the break, we picked up the tempo and dominated the game except for Christian Benteke’s glaring missed header.
We outlined in our 5 keys to Spurs vs Aston Villa how effective they were at forcing teams to shoot from outside the box and this was evident. Spurs had 22 shots in the match, of which 5 were in the first half and 17 in the second. Of those 22 strikes at goal, only 7 were in the box (31%), which is well below our season average of 50%.
This illustrated two things, firstly, how much more we dominated the game after the interval. Secondly, how much Aston Villa forced us to shoot from outside.
When dropping points in draws to Norwich and West Brom, the Canaries forced us to take 80% of shots outside the box and the Baggies 64%.
After only getting one shot in the penalty area in the first half, we managed six after the break and two found the back of the net.
Not only did we generate more shots in the box second half, but we were also able to get the ball to Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale in behind the full backs.
In the first half we only attempted 45 passes in the final third, making 33 of them (73%). After the interval, we completed over twice as many, with 93 of 107 (87%) passes being successful, as we got the ball to both Lennon and Bale in behind the full backs.
This helped us create 15 of our 20 goal scoring chances in the second half, as our passing and movement wore Aston Villa down.
The second goal was a great example of this, as the ball switched flanks through a series of passes. Aaron Lennon, who had been doubled throughout the first period, found himself one-on-one in space and fired across Guzan to score.
Spurs 2 Aston Villa 1 conclusions
After a slow start, forced partly by Aston Villa’s approach to the game and also by shaking off our long trip to Athens, we played well in the second half.
Our quick switches to move the ball across the field to get it to Bale and Lennon in crossing positions or shooting locations unbalanced the Aston Villa defence.
Moussa Dembele and Sandro were responsible for this, with both of them demonstrating their passing ability to go short or long. The Belgian had a passing success rate of 92%, whilst the Brazilian completed 90%, both excellent considering they attempted 21 long balls between them.
Andre Villas-Boas was happy with the performance, saying the players were immense after their exertions against Panathinaikos.
“We were tremendous, bearing in mind the effort we put in in Greece. To perform at this level and intensity is very gratifying for everyone and the players have been immense in their dedication and ambition. This is an important win.”
The victory keeps us in the top five and still two points ahead of Arsenal going in to the international break and a massive fixture with Chelsea.
Final Score: Spurs 2 Aston Villa 0
Have other teams deliberately started attaching Walker now? In particular with long/high balls. He’s conceded at least one goal (Newcastle) through bad headed clearances, and he (IMO) seems to go for balls he can’t really clear and ends up the wrong side of opponents. Or alternatively is badly positioned so the ball drops and is controlled by the opponent.
It might be hard to show, due to our changing left-back, but I think I’m seeing a pattern.
I think some of your stats above show this, but it may be worth a fuller investigation.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
I’m not sure if teams are deliberately targeting him. Aston Villa have had a tendency to play balls up to Benteke recently and doing this aerially against Gallas and Walker to the right side of our back four is easier than Caulker and Vertonghen to the left.
Both QPR and Man Utd didn’t target Walker especially as both preferred to attack down Vertonghen’s side – Man Utd went 40% of attacks down this side, QPR 38%. Both teams used a wide midfielder on the right (SWP and Nani) and a narrow midfielder cutting to the centre from the left (Park and Kagawa), so maybe it is more Walker having trouble without a direct opponent to mark on some occasions with them having moved infield – Walker was on his heels when Kagawa snuck in to put a header straight at Friedel in the second half.
His misplaced header was the result of Newcastle’s goal, but i think he’s been more caught out of position rather than anything else – the Reading goal he was caught out by LeFondre’s clever cross and Robson-Kanu snuck in, but had probably switched off as it was 3-0. Against QPR he was playing Zamora onside after deflecting the ball to SWP and not getting out quickly enough. Against West Brom he failed to track Morrison who moved past him in to the box to put McAuley’s pass in to the net.
I think the pattern may be more one of concentration.