Three wins in six days sees us on a roll for the busy Christmas period with it finishing Spurs 2 Burnley 1 in our Premier League encounter at White Hart Lane.
A wide-open end-to-end first half was followed by a much more tighter and tense affair in the second.
Erik Lamela’s wickedly curling effort turned out to be the match winner, but there were a number of themes and factors flowing through the game. These all emanated from Sean Dyche’s shape and system.
Burnley getting men forward
Burnley have been a very tight and compact team this season in the Premier League, especially away from home. They get quickly in to their shape and are very difficult to play through. When back in possession, they then look to get out on the counter attack.
With us struggling at home to teams that sit off and congest the centre of the pitch, it was a surprise to see Sean Dyche’s side revert away from type and look to go for it.
Whether they felt that we were there for the taking or that turning the match in to a fast and furious shootout was the way to go was unclear. Burnley had only scored four goals on their travels in the Premier League prior to the match, so it didn’t seem the most sensible of tactics to try and ignite a goal fest.
What Burnley’s shape and system did was affect the game in two ways.
Firstly, the openness of the first half was caused by trying to get men forward. This really centred on working to isolate Danny Ings in space against Federico Fazio.
Secondly, the impact this had on their defensive shape, which ultimate cost them against Erik Lamela, as they didn’t heed the warning signs.
Ings vs Fazio
Danny Ings has proved a revelation for the Clarets and it’s no coincidence their form has improved since he has returned to the line-up. Most of the half, and indeed the match, was spent trying to get him 1v1 on Federico Fazio and using his speed to isolate and take-on the bigger defender in open spaces.
Burnley were often looking to ping the ball quickly forward for him in order to maximise his chances of doing this. Fazio was winning anything in the air, but Ings was causing problems on the balls that came in to his feet or were played down the side channels or in-behind.
The Burnley man won any foot races and he frequently caused us problems with his runs. His best chance arrived at the start of the second half, as he ran Fazio and drilled a shot at Hugo Lloris’ near post, which was palmed away for a corner.
At the death, he was looking to take the ball and run Fazio down the inside right channel once more when the Argentinean fouled him. Hugo Lloris made an excellent diving save as he threw himself across his goal in order to push the dipping free kick away.
Burnley defensive shape
Burnley were trying to get men forward, but they were also working extremely hard to try and retreat in to a decent defensive shape. This was blown open, as was the match, with Harry Kane’s goal.
Prior to the strike, the game had been frenetic, but there hadn’t been any clear-cut chances for us. The passage of play saw Harry Kane take and finish his own quick free kick, but Burnley were caught massively out of shape, which previously they had been quite good at regaining.
As Kane took the dead ball, both Burnley centre backs were split. Jason Shackell had to go and close down Nacer Chadli as full back Kieran Trippier was still recovering his position. Fellow centre back Michael Keane was appealing the decision of handball against him and was trying to get back in to some sort of shape. This all left a huge corridor for Harry Kane to run in to and nod home Chadli’s cross.
The goal sparked even more frenetic up and down play as both teams looked to go on the attack. Burnley got back in to the game just six minutes later through their intent of attacking Fazio and our old weakness.
Although the Clarets had been trying to match up Danny Ings on Federico Fazio, they got back on level terms as Ashley Barnes beat the Argentinean.
The move started with a half-clearance from Kyle Walker that was miss-controlled by Erik Lamela. The loose ball was then swiftly picked up and moved to George Boyd. The Burnley man was in that age-old problem zone for us, as he had the ball behind our midfield and was moving at our exposed back four.
He played the ball quickly in to Ashley Barnes who was being marked by Federico Fazio. A quick turn and move inside created the separation he needed to get away from the slower defender to whip a curling effort in to the top corner of our net.
Exposing Burnley’s defensive shape
With Burnley’s attacking intent also came a change of defensive shape. We’d looked in the keys to Spurs vs Burnley at how the Clarets pinch their full backs in tight to their centre backs, leaving the midfielder on each side to defend in wide areas. Just as George Boyd does here with full back Ben Mee helping out in the box.
Throughout the first half, the full back was being pulled out to defend on the flank with the wide player now moving inside him. This flip flop of roles created all sorts of problems for them, especially on their left where Erik Lamela was exposing the previously protected Ben Mee.
Lamela was a constant thorn in the Clarets’ side. After our opener, he dribbled past Mee and squared a sumptuous ball through the six-yard box that Harry Kane should have doubled his tally with.
The problem for Burnley was changing away from their system of having their full backs pinching in closer to their centre backs left Mee out wide and exposed. George Boyd, who was the player who had been defending the opposition’s wide-man, was now caught inside and would’ve been a better choice to match his speed up on Lamela.
Not heeding the warnings, Lamela had a trial run for his match-winner minutes before executing it. He cut inside with Boyd unable to recover and Mee caught out defending the flank and no match for his pace.
On this occasion a wall of Burnley defenders faced Lamela as he took the ball too close in to the centre.
On his next attempt, there would be a very different result. Lamela once more got the ball out wide with Mee facing him and George Boyd playing inside his full back.
Lamela cut inside before Boyd could engage him or the central defenders could get out as they had done on his previous shot. He then unleashed a viscious curler towards the corner.
It was a rasping effort and a befitting way to get his Premier League tally off the mark.
Second half slowdown
With the game at such a frenetic pace, it was only natural that both manages would make changes to get some organisation back in to their sides and this slowed the tempo.
For Spurs this was in part way forced. Ryan Mason had been moving the ball quickly through midfield, but going off injured, he was replaced by Benjamin Stambouli. This saw the defensive presence in front of our back four increase, which slowed Burnley down, but also decreased the pace with which we moved the ball forward.
For Burnley, Sean Dyche went back to a much more counter attacking approach. This centred on trying to drop off and then attempting to isolate Danny Ings in space to outrun Federico Fazio.
Spurs 2 Burnley 1 overall
Mauricio Pochettino felt “we deserved more of a gap in the score line” and this could’ve been true. Had Nacer Chadli not strayed offside when he had the ball in the back of the net; Harry Kane not whiffed on Lamela’s cutback across the six yard box or got to Eriksen’s short cross, then the margin of victory could’ve been greater.
As it was, the game was much more tense and we were left hanging on at the end as Burnley carried a continued threat to score.
Overall, the flow of the game was affected by Burnley’s shape and tactics. Not continuing to tuck his full backs in to his centre backs ended up costing Sean Dyche. This allowed Erik Lamela to play a big part in the game and get him started on the road to proving the growing number of doubters wrong.
Final score: Spurs 2 Burnley 1.