Christian Eriksen was the star at one end, Hugo Lloris the other, as our Premier League clash finished Spurs 3 Fulham 1 at the Lane.
The key to the game was Fulham trying their best to get numbers round the ball in the centre of the pitch, but we took advantage to score three times from wide areas.
Fulham congest the centre
Fulham have been shipping goals this season from teams attacking them straight down the middle. This is something Felix Magath has tried to address since taking over.
We looked in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Fulham at the various systems he’s employed to do this so far. These have varied from a 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 formations. Here he went with a very defensive 4-3-3, which often looked like a 4-5-1 as Alex Kacaniklic and Ashkan Dejagah were tucked in and playing extremely deep.
In the middle, Scott Parker and William Kvist formed a trio with Steve Sidwell to try and stifle the centre. These three were very close together in the defensive phase, as they attempted to hunt in a pack.
The problem for Spurs is that there was space, as you can see above from where Christian Eriksen is, but we just didn’t move or switch the ball quickly enough.
Fulham were using this central trio, often with the wide player pinching in, to create turnovers and then move the ball rapidly forward to Hugo Rodallega.
The Cottagers were sitting back deep and then pinging the ball forward for the Colombian. We got an early warning in the second minute, as our centre backs got caught high and he raced in behind.
Fortunately, Rodallega choked on his volleyed effort, when he could have taken it further in towards goal on his chest.
This was really the pattern for much of the first half, as Fulham created several good chances. For us, our best opportunities, which included the opening goal, came when we got the ball wide.
Spurs get the ball wide
With Fulham congesting the centre, this meant we needed to move it wide.
Our first real chance came from doing just this.
Paulinho, who had a very good game defensively, first of all closed down Steve Sidwell to force him to pass backwards. Then he pressured and nicked the ball off Brede Hangeland. Now out by the left corner flag, the Brazilian tried to find Harry Kane, but the ball deflected to Christian Eriksen.
The Dane’s cross was flicked up in the air and Aaron Lennon scuffed a volley that was pushed on to the post.
Soon after we took the lead. Although it came from a set piece out on the right, the build up play saw the ball moved out to a wide-open Aaron Lennon, who was fouled.
As Nacer Chadli had the ball, Sidwell, Kvist and Parker were taking away everything through the middle, leaving Lennon who was visibly calling for the ball out wide.
The Belgian moved it out to him and Ashkan Dejagah got caught rotating late and duly got caught blocking Lennon’s run off.
The resulting free kick gave Christian Eriksen a chance to whip in a dangerous cross and Paulinho, who was completely unmarked, just had to get something on it.
Fulham between the lines
The Cottagers, who had been dangerous up until going behind, responded instantly.
They were able to expose two of our major weaknesses since Tim Sherwood has taken over. Firstly, getting people between the lines, as we have no holding midfielder. Secondly, defensive mistakes.
Steve Sidwell rode the challenge of Paulinho as Fulham looked to get forward quickly. After turning, suddenly he was in to the space between the lines along with Alex Kacaniklic.
Sidwell looked to play the ball to Kacaniklic, but instead saw it passed back to him by Zeki Fryers’ errant foot.
The midfielder then took the rebound and flicked it past Hugo Lloris. The goal was again another defensive error, but was also testament to the determination of Sidwell’s run.
Back to the flanks
Whether Tim Sherwood instructed us to play with more width in the second half was unsure, but after the interval 1-1 turned in to 3-1 with two more goals from wide.
Harry Kane scored the second, but his movement after the interval may have been indicative of some half time instructions.
The centre forward was playing very narrow in the opening 45.
In the second half, his play was to move much more out towards the flanks to link up, then get in the middle to get on the end of crosses.
This was how the second goal arrived. In the build up, Fulham were once more extremely narrow, trying to take advantage of their 3v2 in the centre as Paulinho ran in to two of them here. Again the switch to a wide-open Eriksen away from the Fulham trio was on, but not used.
The ball then went back to Kyle Naughton who moved in field, sucking the narrow defence with him. This once again left Aaron Lennon open out wide – just off picture below, whilst every Fulham player is visible centrally. Also note Harry Kane’s position between the lines.
Playing to stop his right foot once again, Ashkan Dejagah got caught as Lennon moved back inside on to his left. The diminutive winger then had acres of space from which to deliver his cross in to a congested penalty area.
Harry Kane, who had been drifting outside the box in the build-up arrived just on cue to flick a header in to the corner of the net.
2-1 became 3-1, as once again we scored from another cross from a wide area. This time it was on the left, as Danny Rose was fouled as he jetted in to space.
The passage of play began once more with Fulham trying to suffocate the centre as the ball went to Emmanuel Adebayor. A quick shift of feet saw the Togolese striker avoid three players and move it out to Danny Rose in plenty of green space out on the flank.
Johnny Heitinga was the player this time late to rotate out, as Rose looked to race in-behind and was fouled by the Dutch defender.
Eriksen once more sent in a wicked free kick that saw some nice movement by Younes Kaboul to get open and knee the ball home from a yard out.
Whilst we had scored three from getting the ball out wide, Fulham’s best chances in the second half also came from the flanks.
At 2-1 down, John Arne Riise was sprung in-behind in our right back zone to cross for Hugo Rodallega. The Colombian saw his bullet header excellently tipped over by Hugo Lloris.
Then, at 3-1, the Cottagers were awarded a penalty. Christian Eriksen blatantly handballed just inside the area, but only after a cross from our left side.
The passage of play started with a sloppy pass from Emmanuel Adebayor, which allowed Steve Sidwell to get beyond our midfield and move the ball out wide.
Giorgios Karagounis then floated in a cross from our left that found Hugo Rodallega, The Colombian tried to nick it past Christian Eriksen, but the Dane used his arm to control the ball, conceding a penalty.
With Steve Sidwell’s two other penalties this season going to the keeper’s right, Hugo Lloris went this way and saved the blasted spot kick with a strong hand.
Spurs 3 Fulham 1 overall
It was hard to know what to make of this performance. On one hand it was a comfortable score line, but the game itself was anything but. Fulham were a constant threat throughout, but just failed to find a cutting edge, the story of their season.
Tim Sherwood’s comments about Sandro being “not good enough” after the game were the focal point. Although the defensive midfielder wasn’t need here as we won 3-1, it would have been interesting to see if Steve Sidwell would have just cruised through in the same manner for his goal. The Fulham man had acres of space between the lines, an area that the Brazilian would have been patrolling.
With Fulham attempting to have a numerical advantage in the centre, the space was naturally out wide and we made them pay on three occasions. If we had really gone after the flanks, moving and switching the play quicker, it could have potentially been more.
However, the 3-1 score line was comfortable enough, even if the performance was less than convincing.
Final score: Spurs 3 Fulham 1.