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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.