Most definitely a game of two halves saw us emerge with all three Premier League points, with it finishing Spurs 2 Crystal Palace 0 at the Lane.
The Eagles had much the better of the first, as they were able to spring from deep to get in-between the lines and behind our defence. The second saw us quicken the tempo and play with much more width as we repositioned Christian Eriksen. This saw us stretch a side defending very narrowly by separating the full backs from their centre backs.
Palace between the lines and in-behind
The first half will be remembered for Jason Puncheon’s horrendous penalty miss, but it really summed up how Palace were fashioning, but spurning their chances.
The Eagles had very little of the ball overall, but they kept us at bay by remaining extremely narrow and compact when not in possession. They tucked the full backs in and got extra bodies in to central midfield. This countered the inside movement of Christian Eriksen, whilst also hindering Emmanuel Adebayor trying to drop off the front.
As a result Palace were able to stifle and slow down our attack. When the Eagles did win possession, they moved it quickly to a player between the lines or one running in-behind.
I’ve talked about the space between our lines of defence and midfield against Southampton and especially last weekend in the 2-0 defeat to Arsenal. Palace created their first chance in this way after just a few minutes.
They won the ball back as they congested the space in the middle of the park and then moved it quickly to Yannick Bolasie out wide. Jason Puncheon then got free moving between the lines and scuffed an effort just past the post.
As we looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Crystal Palace, the Eagles were also creating chances by getting a runner in-behind.
Our first warning was after 8 minutes. A ball was played in to Christian Eriksen who had drifted inside from the left, but Damien Delaney jumping in front of the Dane to intercept, saw him take the pass.
Delaney then quickly charged forward and fed Marouane Chamakh running in-behind. Vlad Chiriches was caught up field and Michael Dawson was on Cameron Jerome, which left Moussa Dembele attempting to get back and cover Chamakh’s run. The Belgian’s poor challenge fouled the Moroccan to concede a penalty.
Jason Puncheon would blaze the spot kick over, but Palace kept on creating by getting the ball quickly from back to front to spring a runner behind our defence.
Next it was Cameron Jerome who raced on to Chamakh’s flick on. His dangerous shot bounced in front of a diving Hugo Lloris, who could only bat the ball out for Michael Dawson to hook clear.
With Palace defending deep and narrow, our best effort of the half predictably came from outside of a congested box. Palace had seven men defending and blocking the central route to goal, but Nabil Bentaleb’s curling left footed effort struck the inside of the post and rebounding along the line across goal.
The passage of play highlighted what Palace were doing well to stifle us and prompted Tim Sherwood to get in to the lads at the interval. “We had a few words at half-time and the lads came back out and showed a lot of character.”
The message was not only to inject more tempo in to our attack, but also to stretch a narrow Palace side by repositioning Christian Eriksen.
Tottenham stretch the Eagles
Palace were giving us plenty of problems by defending deep and narrow, then springing forward to get in-between the lines or behind our defence. After the interval, we saw a real shift in the way we were playing, as we quickened the tempo, but also played with much more width.
They key was Christian Eriksen. In the first half, the Dane was drifting inside, but running in to a lot of traffic. This was highlighted by him being shrugged off the ball in the move that led to Palace’s penalty.
In the second period, Eriksen played with much more width and only came inside once the ball had been moved up in to the final third.
This switch lead to our passing stretching the narrow Palace defence much more after the interval. The Eagles had been getting their full backs to tuck in, which got additional bodies in to the centre and jammed our passing.
After the break, with Eriksen retaining his width, our passing out to the flanks increased.
The gaps then started to appear as Palace were stretched by not only the ball movement, but also by the increase in tempo.
This started with Bentaleb and Dembele moving the ball quicker from side to side. This not only got play to the wide men earlier, but also to Emmanuel Adebayor who was pulling out to the left flank. As the striker moved out, Eriksen would move in and this resulted in an early chance for the Dane.
Eriksen received a return pass that saw him dribble across the box with several chances to pull the trigger, but when he finally did, his shot was blocked.
Minutes later saw the pair combine as we took the lead. This time Palace were stretched by the quickness of a long ball forward, as Eriksen ran off Adebayor’s flick-on.
It was quite a simple route one goal and Palace did have both their centre backs up against Emmanuel Adebayor. However, the quick ball forward allowing Eriksen to run in-behind caught out their full backs, who had previously been playing extremely narrow.
The goal loosened the Palace formation up, as they had to come out more. However, they also had to cover our wider operating players and along with quicker ball movement, the gaps started to appear.
Tim Sherwood recognized this and introduced Jermain Defoe to take advantage. With Christian Eriksen pulling wide, suddenly there was a lot of space appearing between the lines as the full backs were being dragged wide.
We created several good chances, as Defoe now had space to work in which had previously been congested.
We fashioned some opportunities, including one by Defoe who fired a shot across goal. This was before the same player went on to add a second.
The passage of play started with Moussa Dembele winning the ball back in midfield and moving it to Aaron Lennon who had cut inside. The problem for Palace was that in the first half this would have seen the full backs moving tight to their centre backs with the wide player drifting in. But here, they were slow on their rotation. The result saw both centre backs on Emmanuel Adebayor, leaving Jermain Defoe free.
The striker took the pass and twisted his way past full back Jonathan Parr, who tried in vain to get back at him, to fire home the game-clinching goal.
Spurs 2 Crystal Palace 0 overall
A real game of two halves that hinged on the reposition of Christian Eriksen and increasing the tempo of our ball movement. This stretched Crystal Palace and as the match wore on, caused gaps to appear.
In the end, the full backs, who had been playing tight to their centre backs, became separated from them, allowing us to score twice.
Final Score: Spurs 2 Crystal Palace 0.