Three vital Premier League points earned in a thrilling encounter that finishes Spurs 3-2 Swansea at White Hart Lane.
“It was important to come back in a winning way” smiled Hugo Lloris after the game. A match in which his sprawling last minute save preserved a vital victory and kept us in touch in the race for a Champions League place.
The game had looked home and hosed as Andros Townsend swept in a third goal, but a Swansea fight back made it a nervous last few minutes. However, the key areas of the game were played out in each team’s right back zone.
The Swans played with an extremely interesting set up.
Without the ball, they moved in to a 4-3-3 formation, content to engage as play entered the middle third. Gylfi Sigurdsson pushed on as a false nine, splitting the other two forwards. Jack Cork, Ki and Jonjo Shelvey formed a second bank of three behind.
When we moved possession through this front three, Sigurdsson would then drop and track Ryan Mason as the formation went to a 4-3-1-2.
It was this 4-3-1-2 formation that they would then try and attack out of, but in the defensive phase it was extremely narrow and designed to congest the centre. The space was thus naturally out on the flanks, with all three of our goals coming from the left.
Spurs attack the right back
There were just seven minutes on the clock when we took the lead. We’d looked in the keys to Spurs vs Swansea at how they are vulnerable in the full back zones and that was the case on our opener.
With Swansea set up so narrow, Christian Eriksen moved the ball out of central midfield to Danny Rose who was in space on the left wing.
These long switches of the ball were a feature of our play all evening. It was being moved quickly out from the centre, but also from long balls played from side to side. This had the effect of shifting and pulling Swansea’s three central midfielders, a task they never quite got to grips with.
As Rose received the ball, Kyle Naughton was caught in-field and was extremely slow and cautious to go out and engage. Naughton doesn’t have the same pace as Rose and maybe he’d been lit up by him a few times in training and so was nervous to get too tight. Whatever the reason was, Naughton gave far too much room for Rose to whip in an excellent cross.
With three players getting up in to the box in support, the ball in was perfect for Nacer Chadli. The Belgian cushioned it back across goal, out of the reach of a diving Fabianski and in to the far corner.
Swansea between the lines
With us 1-0 up and looking rampant, the unfortunate incident with Bafetimbi Gomis collapsing at the restart paused the game. The speed with which the medical crews were on was outstanding and fortunately Gomis was fine, tweeting so after the match.
There was naturally a lull in the game afterwards and Swansea came back in to the match by doing two things.
The first was looking to spring Wayne Routledge to run in-behind our defence. The former Spurs winger was deployed as a wide forward with Shelvey and Sigurdsson looking to release him beyond our high defensive line.
The second was by getting players between the lines to play short, through passes. We’d looked at this in the keys to Spurs vs Swansea and our approach to stopping it was an interesting one. In the defensive phase, Mauricio Pochettino likes us to press out of a 4-4-2 set up with Eriksen and Kane closing down the opposition’s centre backs. Behind them he has two banks of four, but here the midfield quartet were forming almost a horseshoe shape to suck and hem Swansea in.
Mason and Bentaleb would sit slightly deeper to take away space between themselves and the back four. Chadli and Townsend would be higher, moving in from the sides to force the ball carrier down the middle.
The Swans were often lured in to the trap, but their equaliser arrived after Gylfi Sigurdsson had got himself free between the lines. This drew Nabil Bentaleb in to pulling him from behind, conceding a free kick.
As we know, Sigurdsson is a specialist at these situations and his curling effort pinged off the inside of the post with Hugo Lloris beaten. The rebound was partially cleared by Kyle Walker, with Ki retrieving out on the sideline. Walker moved out to pick up his coverage, but then as Ki passed the ball inside and darted in-behind again, Walker for some reason let him go.
Jack Cork saw this and chipped the ball back over the top for the South Korean. Jan Vertonghen had the chance to intercept, but got the flight of the ball wrong and ended up getting himself in a tangle. This left Ki to gather in the pass and slide the ball through Hugo Lloris’ legs in to the far corner. The scores were level and both right backs had been exposed.
Back to the right
The game reached the interval all level, but within six minutes of the restart, we were back in front through attacking down the Swansea right once more.
There were two keys to this goal. The first was again moving the ball quickly out of the centre to the left to get at Swansea right back Kyle Naughton. The second was Gylfi Sigurdsson not tracking Ryan Mason as he’d been detailed to do.
As Mason pinged the ball out to Danny Rose, Sigurdsson shadowed him as he’d been instructed.
As Rose moved up the line and the ball went to Christian Eriksen on the run past Kyle Naughton, Sigurdsson was left standing and watching as Mason charged forward.
The ball arrived at Mason’s feet via a tackle that saw it ricochet off Eriksen’s dancing toes and the youngster made no mistake to smash home his first Premier League goal.
Having notched twice through attacking down the Swansea right, we soon added a third with Naughton being exposed again. This time the right back was up-field from a corner, but the aggressive positioning Gary Monk has his full backs adopt was taken advantage of by the speed of Andros Townsend.
The initial corner was partially cleared and so to were two further balls back in to the box. As it looped out, Nabil Bentaleb headed on and referee Michael Oliver played an excellent advantage as Wayne Routledge clattered in to the Algerian. This allowed Townsend to scoop up the ball with Naughton committed forward and tear up the field at breakneck speed.
As he got in to the box, Townsend was looking to square the ball, but with Swansea bodies in the way, options were limited. He faked to cross, which saw Naughton fly past him as he struggled to stop his momentum. Then he cut back on his right foot and rifled a shot in to the far corner of Fabianski’s net, 3-1.
Montero vs Walker
The game looked done and dusted and Mauricio Pochettino rung the changes, even giving Ben Davies a nice cameo against his former club. However, Gary Monk hadn’t given up on the game and sent on Jefferson Montero, as he sought to use the winger’s pace.
Montero is one the quickest around and he gave Kyle Walker some real problems as he tried to isolate himself 1v1 against our right back. He was an instant influence on the game and provided Swansea’s second to get the score back to 3-2. Walker had been pulled away from the rest of the back four and wasn’t aided by his team mates. Mousa Dembele was slow to offer help and Ryan Mason unable to get back on the cover quickly enough.
Montero jinked and blazed his way towards the by-line, before swinging over a deep cross that was expertly volleyed home by Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Swansea were back in the match and made the remaining five minutes extremely uncomfortable. Montero was at the heart of it as he forced a corner that invited pressure. He then got himself matched up 1v1 against Walker again, with his quick feet allowing him to put in another cross. Federico Fernandez headed down and towards the corner of the net, but Hugo Lloris sprung like a cat to push the ball around the post, and Swansea’s hopes went with it.
Spurs 3-2 Swansea overall
On a night where we honoured the passing of a legend in Dave Mackay, the Scot would have been proud of the resilience and fighting spirit that the side showed. It was one of his many traits and to come back from the cup final disappointment without a lull or dip in performance would’ve impressed the great man. Mauricio Pochettino gave the same eleven who started the game on Sunday the chance here, and once again, they did not let us down.
Final score: Spurs 3-2 Swansea.