Spurs 2 Brighton 0: going narrow to open up

Erik Lamela and Harry Kane put us in to the Capital One Cup Quarter-Finals, but it was the full backs that were key to winning this game, Spurs 2 Brighton 0.

In a week when the size of the White Hart Kane pitch was called in to question, it was apt that we used the full width of it to beat Brighton.

Mauricio Pochettino selected a very narrow line-up with Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend as inverted wide forwards. However, we got great width from full backs Ben Davies and Kyle Naughton, with both our goals being started from play out on the flanks.

Davies and Naughton

Brighton set up to frustrate as their 4-1-4-1 formation sat back and looked to play on the counter. A couple of moments aside, when they could’ve had a penalty from Naughton’s handball and a flop by Kazenga Lua Lua in the area, they rarely troubled on the break.

They dropped off, looking to condense the space between the lines and pinched their full backs in tight to their centre backs. This meant that we took several efforts from range in the first half, the best of which came from Jan Vertonghen.


Vertonghen shoots, with Lennon central.

The space was naturally in the wide areas. With Lennon and Townsend often coming inside, Ben Davies and Kyle Naughton were able to get forward.

Lennon was playing much more in-field than Townsend. Andros did often dribble inside to shoot as he does, but he did also try and beat his man on the outside. An early pullback to Lennon inside the penalty area highlighted the movements of the two.

Lennon had a couple of good chances from his movement to drift in to central areas. A glaring miss-hit left foot effort from a corner routine was his best chance.


Lennon wide open.

What the movement of Townsend and Lennon did was open up the wide spaces for our full backs to get forward. Yesterday I looked at the unbalancing effect caused by playing Eric Dier on the right. Here, with two natural full backs that can get up and down, we had better balance and supply.

Lennon’s inside movement made it much easier for Ben Davies to get forward and he had plenty of space to do so.


Davies had space to get forward with Lennon’s movement.

The Welshman supplied a far higher quantity of crosses, but Naughton on the other side provided the better quality.

What was interesting was that these crossing situations came after an initial period of pressure. We opened the first half by trying to press them high up in the first 20 minutes. Mousa Dembele and Benjamin Stambouli were excellent at hemming Brighton in to regain and recycle the ball.

After this early wave, we dropped off slightly and tried to lure them up the park. This is when the spaces on the flanks started to appear.

Half time switches

Lennon was getting in to some good positions centrally, but is not a natural goalscorer and lacks the quality to finish.

He came off at half time with a hamstring strain and was replaced by Erik Lamela. The Argentinean played much higher up than Lennon, as we started off the second half by pressing through our front three of Townsend, Soldado and Lamela.

This brought rewards as we won the ball back quickly and created a number of chances from good Kyle Naughton crosses.

First up was a swept effort that glanced off Harry Kane’s head and just evaded a sliding Roberto Soldado at the back post.


Naughton put is a wicked cross.

Later, he guided one across the area that was deflected away from the Spanish striker by centre back Lewis Dunk.

Out to in goals

Our pressure was increasing and the first goal arrived from the ball starting with a full back. This time it was in the left back zone with Ben Davies.

Erik Lamela was drifting inside as Aaron Lennon had done in the first half. However, with a better quality player who can pass, move and finish in the role, this passage of play became both incisive and devastating.

Brighton had started to tire slightly and Roberto Soldado was able to drift off his marker and get between the lines.


Davies finds Soldado between the lines.

Davies found him with an incisive vertical pass that Soldado flicked first time in to the path of Lamela. The Argentinean played a first time give and go with the Spaniard, who cushioned a perfectly weighted ball back in to his path for him to finish.

The quick player and ball movement to open Brighton up was key, but moving it from outside to the middle was also their undoing.

The ‘narrowness’ of our team has been much criticised this season, but with inverted wide forwards that run off the striker when he comes short, this is what our team is set up to do.

The goal knocked Brighton and they started to look tired. They were then forced to come out as the game became stretched and more chances followed.

Soldado pinged an effort off the bar as we swept forward quickly on the counter attack.


Soldado got free twice in the inside right channel on the counter attack.

Moments later, Mousa Dembele fed Soldado in through the inside right channel once more, but this time he saw his shot across goal saved.

Our second then arrived and again it was created from the ball being wide on the left, as it was moved it from outside to in.

Harry Kane had been having an industrious game playing as a second striker from the number ten position. He put in a tremendous amount of work and prior to this his best effort had been a pulled shot past the far post from outside the box.

Here he picked up the ball on the left flank, which pulled the Brighton defence out towards him. Andros Townsend had drifted across from his position on the right and was wide open.


Kane cuts the ball past the crowd to find Townsend.

Townsend dribbled towards the by-line and cut the ball back for Roberto Soldado. It ricocheted off the Spaniard and the goalkeeper to be loose in the six-yard box. Kane had continued his run from the left flank and slid in to fire home.

It was just reward for the run he put in to get all the way across from starting the passage of play on the left wing.

Two goals, both created from using the full width of the White Hart Lane pitch.

Spurs 2 Brighton 0 overall

This wasn’t the most tactical of games, but it didn’t need to be. We were ‘narrow’ with our inverted wide forwards, but our full backs supplied good width here.

With the size of our pitch being called in to question and how we struggle to break down teams that sit back on it, it was apt that we opened up a deep lying team here.

Both goals were created from using the full width of the pitch as we moved the ball from out to in.

A cup run can always help boost moral among the players and fans. With only a few games required to reach the final, and with only Chelsea remaining as strong contenders, we should take this competition seriously as a chance to win some silverware.

Final score: Spurs 2 Brighton 0.

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12 Responses to Spurs 2 Brighton 0: going narrow to open up

  1. anotherwisemonkey 30th October 2014 at 2:09 pm #

    Good point about Kane’s run for his goal. Soldado was man of the match for me- a class above in approach play. Overall, I found the match depressing, though…

    • Mike Sz 30th October 2014 at 3:06 pm #

      Maybe I’m a “glass half full” kind of person, but I didn’t find the match depressing. What did you find depressing about it?

      But I have to agree that Soldado gets a strong shout for MOTM. I’m not sure I could put it any better than “a class above in approach play”…even though I might go further to say that Soldado is perhaps the best passer on Spurs…or at least the most consistently good (Eriksen is another obvious one here, but less consistent…although Eriksen has played much more, so…).

      Meanwhile, I appreciate Mark’s mention of width through the fullbacks (and not just the wings). An obvious point, perhaps, but worth pointing out. It also speaks to how much Naughton’s return could mean…and, of course, Walker’s return, too. As a side point, re: Davies — I think he’s finding his feet. I’d be hesitant, because of the need for consistency…but it would almost be good to get him on in select EPL games…against teams where, well, we don’t quite need the blistering pace of Rose. I think Davies’ crosses are a tad better than Rose’s as well. But Rose is obviously playing much better these days, so…

      Someone somewhere (maybe on this site) had mentioned finding ways to get Lamela further up…? There’s a case to be made there. But then, as we saw yesterday, he can also be dangerous making runs toward goal coming in from the point of attack (the 1-2 with Soldado was exquisite).

      I like the shout-out to the…how to put it…quietly industrious?…Dembele and Stambouli. They didn’t really put a wrong foot in and, as Mark says, “regained and recycled” the ball well.

      Finally, I do like the energy of Kane and Soldado up front. What adjustments would need to be made, though? In a 4-2-3-1, the odd man out positionally would be Eriksen (?), with Kane playing behind Soldado…but I still think Eriksen needs to start always…at least for now. In that case, I assume it would Chadli…with Eriksen (or maybe Kane?) playing out left. But of course, we went with a 4-4-2 yesterday, with Kane and Soldado up top. Still, though, with a CDM pairing of Capoue/Stambouli and ?, you’re left with what to do with Eriksen, Lamela, and Chadli. One is also wary here of nodding toward the Sherwood spell, though…and it just doesn’t seem that Poch would embrace the 4-4-2, which perhaps he would be right in not doing so.

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th October 2014 at 4:36 pm #

        Great post Mike. I’m not sure what there is to be depressed about either, it was a good response from the team after Newcastle. Soldado was very good here, it would’ve been great if he could’ve added a goal to compliment his link play.

        Getting Kane and Soldado in the same team is difficult without dropping Eriksen or as you say moving him to the left. I liked the structure we had after Lamela came on, but would need to reserve this for playing against weaker teams at home.

        • Mike Sz 30th October 2014 at 6:11 pm #

          So, embarrassingly, I don’t recall the structure after Lamela came on. Lamela always seems to be coming from/through the middle of the park! Was it Kane behind Soldado, Lamela right, and Townsend left (with Soldado up front, of course)? (Chadli eventually subbed in left side…)

          But yes, to retain Eriksen (with Lamela), it would really need to be Kane or Soldado. Of course, that entire conversation takes place against the grain of Pochettino’s preference of starting Adebayor.

          • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 31st October 2014 at 10:57 am #

            Yes i’m sure Adebayor will start against Villa and i’m not sure why? The structure was Kane behind Soldado as part of a midfield triangle with Stambouli and Dembele. Lamela played from the left, with Townsend from the right as part of a front three with Soldado. THe 4-3-3 had much better shape and balance to it, also got Soldado in the game more.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th October 2014 at 4:37 pm #

      Plenty of points for optimism for me, why so depressing?

      • anotherwisemonkey 9th November 2014 at 6:07 pm #

        Today (against Stoke) you saw why I felt so depressed. This coach, like the last one, plays a system which our players are not equipped to succeed in. We can’t play a high line with these players. It’s the same as with AVB. Simple through balls or chips over the top open us up. Teams are targeting us with pace and getting in behind. It’s why we keep getting players sent off.

        The coach should adapt the system to suit the attributes of the players available. Soldado and Paulinho are not bad players. Our last three coaches have played systems that don’t play to the strengths of the squad. I think this will get worse before it gets better because, like AVB, Pochettino is showing tactical inflexibility, sticking to his “philosophy” at the expense of the evidence before his eyes.

        The only time we didn’t play a high line was against Arsenal and that was a good result. Against Southampton we got a win but Mane was through and should have scored. That was our only clean sheet in 9 matches. Still think I was wrong to feel depressed?

  2. anotherwisemonkey 31st October 2014 at 12:02 am #

    I tried to leave a response to this question 3 times but each time the comment either would not submit or did not make it past the moderator. Simplest way to see the answer is to click on my username which will take you to my own blog, where you can read my thoughts.

    I should also mention I’m unable to turn off email notifications when I click the link on the emails I get from this site. I hope these issues can be ironed out, because I really enjoy the analysis and would like to comment, but won’t continue to do so if it’s such a hassle.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 31st October 2014 at 11:08 am #

      Hi Anotherwisemonkey. Your comments went in to spam as you posted a URL link in them. My spam filter sifts these out as I get hundreds of link droppers and auto spammers dropping their links for goodness knows what.

      Re the email notifications, i’ve tested these and the unsubscribe link in the email works which thanks you for your comment. Alternatively, just select ‘no’ in the “notify me about replies to my comment” if you don’t wish to receive an email about replying.

      Re your write up, i thought it was a postive performance, but if you compare it to the team of Bale, Van der Vaart and Modric then you’re going to be disappointed for a while to come. We did struggle to break down deep sitting teams even with those guys, but i think people just remember the good times as it from a previous era and we block out the bad stuff like how that team faltered down the stretch in successive seasons after we were going so well.

  3. Andy 31st October 2014 at 9:01 pm #

    I’ve been banging on regarding Soldado starting for some time now. He needs to start games on a regular basis as I think he is the forward who contributes most to the team. His previous goals record would suggest that given time (& the right service) he could be a potent attacking force. I would also like to see Lamela start just behind Soldado – there appears to be a good understanding between them. Unfortunately I don’t believe it will happen as Poch doesn’t seem to favour this.
    I keep changing my mind about Kane (the luxury of being a fan!). At the moment he’s doing well but doesn’t read the game as well as he might and sometimes gets into some very poor positions – interesting to see an analysis Mark!
    What does Adebayor have to do (or not do!) to be dropped?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st November 2014 at 4:35 pm #

      Good comment Andy. I’m not sure why Adebayor keeps getting game time. The only reason i’m down to is that his contract is up at the end of the season and so Pochettino has been told to play him so we can get something for him in January before he can leave on a free in the summer.

      I think Kane reads the game pretty well for a youngster – his movement on the second goal highlighted this. At his age i’m not expecting him to be a world beater, but i have been impressed with him so far this season. He’s still quite raw as a talent, but i’d expect him to be, but has definitely improved since last season. Will put something together on this.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th November 2014 at 3:39 pm #

      Hi Andy, a piece on Harry Kane for you here:


      Am interested in your views?