Spurs 2 QPR 1
This was a game of two halves and two minutes, as we turned around a one goal deficit at half time to make the final score Spurs 2 QPR 1.
In the absence of Kyle Naughton and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Andre Villas-Boas made a bold decision to move Gareth Bale in to the left back role in our 4-3-3. Ahead of him, the boss went with Clint Dempsey to cut inside from the left, whilst Gylfi Sigurdsson was favoured as the attacking midfielder and Aaron Lennon continued down the right.
QPR went with a 4-4-1-1 formation with Junior Hoilett floating off Bobby Zamora. Alejandro Faurlin and Esteban Granero were at the centre of midfield and also the centre of the action as Faurlin gave us a lot of trouble.
QPR boss the first half
QPR played pretty much as we expected them to with Ji-Sung Park cutting inside from his left wing position, whilst Shaun Wright-Phillips worked wide on the right. The minor change Mark Hughes made to bring Junior Hoilett in for the injured Andrew Johnson caused us problems all game though.
Junior Hoilett floated across the whole pitch dropping in to the channels on both the left and right sides. This allowed him to get in behind our back line on a couple of occasions and get four shots away during the match. His movement was particularly highlighted when Alejandro Faurlin found him with a diagonal ball to the left side of the area, where he forced a good save from Brad Friedel. Then late on, as Jan Vertonghen denied him with a brilliant sliding challenge.
Faurlin, as we’ll look at in a minute, was a constant menace and it was no surprise that after putting in Hoilett, it was his superb pass that created their goal.
After a corner on the right was partially cleared, the ball ended up at the feet of Shaun Wright-Phillips. The winger had stayed wide as QPR like him to do and he picked up the loose ball. After evading a challenge from Jermain Defoe, his effort at a cross was partially blocked by Kyle Walker and came out to Alejandro Faurlin. The Argentinean made a nice dummy to beat Moussa Dembele, before sliding in a ball to Bobby Zamora to chip Brad Friedel who was slow off his line.
There were a couple of points about the goal. Firstly that it was scored from the left back area that should have been occupied by Gareth Bale. Secondly, that Spurs were trying to rush out as a defence, whilst Bale and Walker were playing Zamora onside.
It was no surprise that in the first half, QPR got six of their nine shots away, with three, including the goal, being from Bale’s left back area.
Alejandro Faurlin and Esteban Granero
Alejandro Faurlin and Esteban Granero were the danger men identified in our 5 keys to Spurs vs QPR and they proved to be just that.
So far this season Faurlin has been sitting deeper taking the ball from the back and moving it out to Park and Wright-Phillips, as well as forward to Granero. The Spaniard has then been the danger man to play balls in to the two forward men.
Here the two switched roles, as Granero was responsible for moving the ball wide and Faurlin was playing in more advanced positions and looking to play the through balls.
If we look at the two players on Stats Zone we can see how they were doing it.
Esteban Granero was playing the majority of his passes square and looking to find Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right to attack Gareth Bale. He only plays two long aggressive attacking passing towards the corners of the Spurs’ area and both are unsuccessful.
Alejandro Faurlin on the other hand was looking to slip team-mates in as he did for the goal, highlighted by the yellow line. He also tried a number of other through balls in to the box, but four of the other five were unsuccessful.
AVB rights his wrong
Having made a bold decision to start Gareth Bale at left back, Andre Villas-Boas wasted no time in making a change at half time that would shift the momentum.
One thing I have liked about AVB at Porto and Chelsea is that he isn’t afraid to make a change when needed to tactically correct his side, even early in matches.
Last season in just his third game in charge at the Bridge, he took off Salomon Kalou and replaced him with Florent Malouda after just 30 minutes. AVB made the change to give his side more width to counter West Brom sitting deep and packing the centre of the park.
Here, he took off Gylfi Sigurdsson and brought on Steven Caulker to partner William Gallas at the back. Jan Vertonghen shifted to left back, Gareth Bale to the left forward position and Clint Dempsey to the advanced midfield role to retain the 4-3-3 shape.
It was a move that set Gareth Bale free in his more natural attacking role and also got Clint Dempsey in to more advanced areas. These moves had a massive effect on the Spurs attack, whilst also solidifying the defence which we’ll look at now.
Gareth Bale breaks free
If we take a look at the two halves of Gareth Bale, we can see what a difference the move makes.
In the first 45 minutes with Gareth Bale playing as a left back, we can see that he receives the ball regularly in his own half, rarely gaining possession over the half way line. He also stays out on the left, unable to cut in to the centre of the field, as he has been doing as the left forward in AVB’s 4-3-3.
In the second half, moved back to his normal role, Bale is able to receive long and quick passes from the back in more advanced areas on the left. He is also now able to drive the inside channels, as he did when hitting the bar prior to Defoe scoring, as well as switch wings with Aaron Lennon.
After not taking a shot in the first half, Bale gets four away in the second, hitting the target with three of them.
Clint Dempsey comes central
The switch in personnel also has a positive effect on Clint Dempsey, moving him from a left sided position cutting in from the flank, to a more central area.
In the first half, the American receives the ball out on the left flank only just across the halfway line. His role is then to move inside in AVB’s 4-3-3, as the left back overlaps him to provide service in to the middle, which Dempsey should be on the end of. That should have been Gareth Bale overlapping, but he was unable to get forward with QPR attacking 38% of the time down his flank, trying to expose him as our weak link at left back.
The shift in the second half sees him moved to the advance midfielder role in support of Jermain Defoe. The move sees him now pick up the ball in more central areas, as well as in the box, as he gains possession three times in open play and gets on the end of two corners in the penalty area.
Just like Gareth Bale, Clint Dempsey doesn’t get a shot away in the first half. After the intermission, he gets six strikes away of which two are on target.
Jan Vertonghen solidifies the defence
Whilst Gareth Bale and Clint Dempsey were put in to more natural attacking positions, the move of Jan Vertonghen to left back solidified the defence.
The Belgian has played here before for Ajax and his country, but his performance was nothing short of superb. He successfully made three out of three attempted ground challenges, including a sensational tackle to deny Junior Hoilett a goal-scoring opportunity in the box. He also intercepted two further passes and made eleven successful clearances to put on a man-of-the match display.
His forward run with the ball, before sliding it to Gareth Bale in Jermain Defoe’s go-ahead-goal also epitomised the work rate he put in, tremendous.
Spurs shots in the box
Shifting these three players around had a positive effect on the side and also on the shot count.
In the first half we had five shots at goal, only two of which were in the penalty area and both were blocked.
In the second half, we took 15 shots, of which 10 were in the box and six were on target.
In our 5 keys to Spurs vs QPR, we saw how Man City and Chelsea had created a lot of opportunities down the inside right channel and Spurs also had joy in this area.
The two goals both came in this zone area, but from different sources.
The first was created by the head of Steven Caulker, who was a beast in the opposition box after coming on at half time. In total, Spurs won 10 corners and successfully completed 8 of them. Caulker won five of these and it was his header back across goal that was turned in to his own net by Alejandro Faurlin.
The second came after Moussa Dembele created a turnover on the edge of the area by tackling Esteban Granero and set Vertonghen free. He slid the ball in to Gareth Bale, whose shot was deflected up on to the bar. Jermain Defoe followed up to put the ball home and turn the match around in two minutes.
Spurs 2 QPR 1 conclusions
After losing to Man City but only giving up 7 shots on target and drawing with Chelsea and giving up four accurate efforts, QPR were always going to be tough. The game proved to be that way, with Rangers enjoying 57% possession, the first time this season that Spurs have conceded the ball to the opponent.
With QPR dominating, Andre Villas-Boas was quick to rectify his decision to start Gareth Bale at left back and his changes had a major effect on the game.
The shift of Jan Vertonghen and bringing on of Steven Caulker gave the defence a much better look about it, whilst also utilising the Belgian’s attacking flair.
It also allowed Gareth Bale to revert to his more natural position, whilst letting Deuce loose in the middle of the park in support of Jermain Defoe.
Andre Villas-Boas didn’t take the plaudits for the switch or the performance, saying the players deserve all the credit.
“The main difference was the players, their belief and desire and all credit to them for coming up strong mentally in the second half.”
A great move by Andre Villas-Boas and one that other managers, who may not want to admit to getting their selection wrong, may have stuck with for 70 minutes before changing it.
Final Score: Spurs 2 QPR 1