Son Heung-Min scores a goal during Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth in the Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.

Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth: exposing the four-man midfield

Extra space in the Cherries’ four-man midfield was ruthlessly opened up as it finished Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth at White Hart Lane.

A four-man midfield allows extra firepower up top, but is equally as liable to be ripped apart defensively. Bournemouth wanted to cash in on the counter with two strikers, but ended up being relentlessly opened up in the spaces they left between the lines. With Harry Arter and the less defensively minded Jack Wilshere in central midfield, the Cherries were simply overrun as it finished Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth.

Exposing the four-man midfield

Bournemouth’s problems stemmed from their defensive approach to the game. The Cherries neither committed to a pressing game nor did they drop off and seek to defend deep. Stuck somewhere in-between, Bournemouth sought to defend the ball entering the middle third. As a result, Spurs were allowed to play out easily from the back, but also had space to run in to behind their defence.

Bournemouth’s passive approach meant that their four-man midfield gave up too much space between the lines. Harry Arter and Jack Wilshere simply had too much ground to cover. Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen thus had acres of space to drop in to and instigate attacks.

Tottenham exploit the space between the lines during Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Tottenham exploit the space between the lines.

Time and time again, Spurs had an easy ball to play in to the feet of Harry Kane or one of the trio buzzing off him.

Space between the lines allows Kane to bring others in to play during Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Space between the lines allows Kane to bring others in to play.

Central defenders, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, could simply stroll through the first line of Bournemouth’s defence. The pair then had easy passes in to the feet of Harry Kane to put Bournemouth immediately on the back foot.

Once the ball arrived at Kane’s feet, the trio of advanced midfielders could run off him.

The following two videos highlight just what was going on. Bournemouth’s lapse defensive shape invited Toby Alderweireld forward. He can move up and has an easy pass in to Harry Kane’s feet on the last line of defence. Christian Eriksen is free between the lines and makes a simple run off him. In less than two seconds, Spurs have gone from back to front and have a high percentage shooting opportunity.

Jan Vertonghen was afforded the same luxury. In this clip he can do the same. Vertonghen has acres to stroll in to and pick an easy pass to Harry Kane, who is free between the lines. Kane swiftly moves the ball out to Ben Davies on the left. Davies has Son running in to the box from a space between the Bournemouth lines. Eriksen has an equal amount of room, but he unfortunately fires over the bar.

Spurs used this tactic countless times. Two goals arrived from getting men free between the lines, but equally as impressive were the two scored from corners.

Set piece special

Spurs were opening up Bournemouth from these penetrating passes to players between the lines. However, it was from some lapse marking at a corner that we took the lead.

Surprisingly, Mousa Dembele had already popped up in one of these spaces between the lines to drill a shot that was well saved by Artur Boruc at his near post. Minutes later, Dembele would lose his marker again to open the scoring.

Spurs had already won four corners in the opening fifteen minutes when number five led to the opening goal. We interestingly had played two of the first four short and two long. The corner that opened the scoring was another long delivery in to the box.

Bournemouth were lax in both the build-up and in defending the set piece. Simon Francis had let the ball run out when Harry Arter got the last touch to prod it back towards him. His centre back partner, Steve Cook, was drawn in to trying to play the ball, leaving Mousa Dembele with acres to take a touch and finish, 1-0.

Steve Cook loses track of Mousa Dembele who scores a goal during Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Steve Cook loses track of Mousa Dembele who scores.

The goal, an important one to break the deadlock, was just reward for Dembele’s hard work this season. Many commentators and pundits lambaste him for not shooting enough, but they don’t realise that it’s not his job within the team. Any goal is a bonus on top of the work that Dembele is assigned to carry out breaking through opposition lines.

Spurs score two from between the lines

Dembele’s strike was a richly deserved moment in-between ruthlessly exploiting the space between the Bournemouth lines that their four-man midfield was giving up. Minutes later and we would add a second as Kane and Son worked that space to perfection.

Christian Eriksen had received the ball in-between Bournemouth’s defence and midfield. Jack Wilshere relieved Eriksen of the ball, but was immediately set upon by Eric Dier. The ball pinged up in the air. Both Kane and Son were free between the lines and were straight on the Bournemouth back line.

Son Heung-Min loitering between the lines goes on to score during Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth in the Premier League at White Hart Lane, London.

Son Heung-Min loitering between the lines goes on to score.

Kane’s neat flick put Son in to the clear to race in-behind, hold off Steve Cook and drill the ball home through Artur Boruc’s legs. In the blink of an eye, it was 2-0.

Spurs would continue to work the space that was frequently appearing between the Bournemouth four-man midfield and their back line. Chances followed For Son, Eriksen and Dele, before Kane put the game to bed.

The goal ended up being a simple finish for Harry Kane, but was beautifully built up from the back.

Again, an early ball in to the space between the lines initiated the attack. Kyle Walker was the provider this time as he found Dele Alli free and on the move. As Bournemouth were drawn to Dele, Christian Eriksen skated in to the next pocket of space and played a neat one-two. Dele now had room and could pick his pass in to Kane who had pinned the centre back. Harry had the strength to easily spin him and slot home, 3-0.

Corner counter

Book ending tearing up Bournemouth between the lines were two goals from corners.

Fascinatingly, we’d played several short corners before taking the lead from a regular ball in to the box. However, we returned to the short kick to add a fourth goal, as Vincent Janssen crowned a perfect day.

Janssen richly deserved the jubilant ovation from the crowd as he struck home at the second attempt. The persistent effort on his goal was a microcosm of his dedication to keep ploughing on this season. His strong hold-up play in the build-up to shrug off the attentions of the defender were equally as apt.

In the build-up, Ben Davies’ effort to surge forward and create the chance was just as gratifying. Davies has become a solid contributor during his time in the team. Unfortunate to not be on the score sheet following a stinging drive, his burst forward in to the space down the inside left channel highlighted his attacking progression.

Ben Davies late run catches the defence off guard during Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth in the Premier League at White Hart Lane.

Ben Davies late run catches the defence off guard.

Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth overall

Another awesome performance where our team attacked with great fluidity and purpose.

We ripped up the space that Bournemouth’s four-man midfield concedes between the lines. Chances and goals were created through attacking it from penetrating passes that often started from our defenders.  The Cherries had no answer, putting them on the back foot throughout.

After leading the Premier League in set piece goals last season, we’ve really fallen down the charts this term. Two goals from corners were thus a very welcome sight. The fact they were finished by some unlikely scorers was equally as pleasing.

Final score: Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth.
MOTM: Mousa Dembele.

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23 Responses to Spurs 4-0 Bournemouth: exposing the four-man midfield

  1. Andy B 17th April 2017 at 9:16 pm #

    Another interesting analysis. Spurs are playing well and appear to have learned from the end of last season’s mistakes.

    Even though I was happy with the way Spurs played and the result, I was disappointed with 3 things:

    1.) Kieran Trippier deserved to play in this game after his amazing performance against Watford. He may not possess the pace of Walker, but he is a far better player technically and miles more effective in attack. Walker just can’t cross the ball, the way that Trippier can.

    2.) It is getting more embarrassing each time Sissoko comes on the pitch. He must be the clumsiest player ever to put on a Spurs shirt.

    3.) I am all for booing Jack Wilshere, but cheering when a player is injured shows how mindless Spurs fans can be. They crossed the line, from banter to depravity, in my opinion.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 17th April 2017 at 11:43 pm #

      Yes we are definitely stronger this year from last season’s experience.

      I agree with you about Sissoko. There really is no hope for him and I hope for the sake of both parties he is moved on in the summer.

      I disagree about Trippier. I like that Pochettino is picking systems and players to win matches. I know this doesn’t reward form, but is better for the team as a whole to have a better chance to gain three points, and, points are what matter right now.

      Wilshere involves a different set of rules. He understands the rivalry and has dished out plenty of verbals, so has to take some back. I think Spurs fans understand the seriousness of situations e.g. Fabrice Muamba, and where the line is. This wasn’t serious and was just getting back at someone who has talked plenty over the years.

  2. Toby4eva 17th April 2017 at 11:28 pm #

    Good read Mark – spot on.

    Bournemouth were strangely off their game right from the off. Yes, our lads started positively and took the game by the throat early, but the Cherries really were devoid of an effective plan. It wasn’t a great shop window performance by Eddie Howe, given the high hopes that a lot of pundits and media have for him.

    I can’t see the Woolwich Chairman calling him today somehow…..

    They really did look over-awed turning up at fortress WHL.

    But take nothing away from our performance, as it was a delight to behold.

    So that’s where we needed to get to over a nice run of very winnable games.

    As I said a fortnight back, with 71 points we should be in the CL positions safely.

    Now comes the acid test for this squad.

    Chelsea has given us a sniff at – dare I say it – the double. But realistically we have to win all remaining 8 games to do that.

    But it’s certainly far more engrossing being four adrift than 10!

    Turning them over in the semi will be a massive statement.

    But it will need total concentration from the first whistle and the right game plan against what will no doubt be a sterner test than Bournemouth.

    Agree with you regarding Moose – but I think he can get forward more against these sort of opponents and dominate more games like he did here.

    But as you say, his role in the semi will be primarily to break up Chelsea attacks and get us going forward.

    The formation that the Gaffer goes with is the main talking point this week and I am really looking forward to your analysis.

    Agree with Andy on all three points, as Trips would have had a lot of fun in this game.

    But does the choice of Walker against Bournemouth mean that Trips will be selected for the semi?

    The less said about Sissoko the better, he just gets more mediocre and displays no semblance of a top flight footballer whatsoever. Onomah surely couldn’t contribute any less effectively from the bench.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 17th April 2017 at 11:58 pm #

      Beating Chelsea could really cause a wobble, especially as they are playing a Southampton team that can cause problems now Gabbiadini is back and then Everton at Goodison, which is a very tough place to go.

      Trippier may well start as his crossing his better and Chelsea are vulnerable on balls in to the box. Especially to teams that can isolate Azpilicueta or Luiz. As said above, Poch is now picking players for systems rather than on form, so it’ll be interesting to see what he does.

  3. ashley collie 18th April 2017 at 12:49 am #

    Superb analysis, and always great screen grabs, you’d make an excellent coach. There’s another aspect to our Poch’s revolution not mentioned so much here, our high press. Bournemouth like to play the ball out, and as such played into our hands. To get skill players like Sonny, Alli, Kane and Eriksen (nearly always our player with the most miles per game) to buy into Poch’s demanded work rate is exceptional. As soon as they got possession, we were on them like a pack of dogs, nipping and biting at their heels. Their manager knows he doesn’t have the caliber of player, like we do, to pass their way out of the high press. But they kept trying and were found out by our team ethic. He also mentioned on US NBC interview that the “angles” we were playing while attacking were almost impossible to defend. With Poch and this team, Mark, we have grabbed lightning in a bottle! COYMFS!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th April 2017 at 4:29 pm #

      Yes I was surprised Bournemouth didn’t try and press us, especially as they did it so well and knocked us out of our stride in the 0-0 game at the Vitality Stadium. I was also surprised that they tried to play through our press – particularly Wilshere and Arter – given that they had the size of Afobe and the speed of King up top to use against it.
      We do make nice angles, especially with our players able to rotate positions. The way in which we stretch teams by overloading the centre, coupled with our full back’s movement to be high up in winger positions, is a joy to watch. We always seem to have a man over and it wears the opposition down both physically and menatally.

  4. Prem 18th April 2017 at 2:42 am #

    Nice one. With Chelsea’s loss the title race is getting even more intriguing. Hope we maintain this good run.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th April 2017 at 4:31 pm #

      We are now firmly in the hunt. Another Chelsea slip up and the door is well and truly open!

  5. Jerry Ward 18th April 2017 at 10:43 am #

    Thank you Mark fascinating as always.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th April 2017 at 4:31 pm #

      You’re welcome Jerry!

  6. Mos 18th April 2017 at 10:46 am #

    Great analysis as always but this weekend was more about Chelsea than Spurs for me as I was confident we would win at the lane.

    On the match – I’m glad for Dembele and especially Janasen, I celebrated the 4th goal most of all. To have one player on 20+ goals and two more on 10+ at the end of a season is a great sign. I don’t mind the Walker/Trippier rotation, from Trippiers perspective its better to have this then only be an outright backup for Walker.

    Back to Chelsea, it was another reminder of how to beat them for their remaining opponents, it’s incredible how ineffective Hazard was when marked and how much of an impact losing players is to them, a few tough tackles or a Chelsea player getting sent off in the FA Cup would be nice :).

    I can certainly see Chelsea dropping 4 points (two draws) anything more would be an unlikely bonus, and with our goal difference, that should be enough but only if we win all of ours. This brings me to my real concern, we have a tougher run-in but at least the worst of the two is at fortress Lane. I think it would be awesome to end the season undefeated at home. And I know I am jumping the gun with looking too many games ahead but beating Arsenal is a must but I worry that Jose might play for a draw – I really want Lamela available for that game.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th April 2017 at 4:41 pm #

      Chelsea really did slip up and this is the first sign of pressure creeping in. Winning the Cup Semi-final will land a big blow, especially as Chelsea only have until Tuesday to recover, whereas we play Wednesday.

      On paper we have the harder games. Recently, we have played before Chelsea have done to apply some pressure, but they play before us next week so we will have to play knowing their result, which could see us play tensely knowing slips ups cannot be tolerated. If Chelsea gets past their game with Everton still with at least a 4 point lead, then the race is over.

      The two matches I am most worried about in the run in are against what i consider to be the two form teams right now: Palace away and Leicester away. I think these are the two biggest potential banana skins for us.

      • Erik Zen 19th April 2017 at 1:34 pm #

        Great analysis Mark as always!

        Surprised you didn’t list Arsenal as one of our banana skins: they are due their late late season revival and will be chronically up for preventing us potentially claiming the title. Plus Wenger has just shown astonishing flexibility (for him) by going with three at the back. It would just be too too typical…

        But if we draw them in the FA Cup final as well, I think we will win one of those games. Seems like winning the Cup is much more likely.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th April 2017 at 5:48 pm #

          Haha i don’t consider Arsenal at home a banana skin. They will be up for de-railing our title ambitions, but at home I don’t see them tripping us up. If we play Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, then that could be more of an issue, especially with our Wembley form.

          • Mos 20th April 2017 at 3:13 pm #

            Arsene playing 3 at the back recently was quite surprising and interesting, but if they try to play that against us then I am sure we would destroy them. I think it would make for an awesome final and a great way for us to mark the end of an era (especially if its Arsene’s last game)

            • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st April 2017 at 2:51 pm #

              Good point Mos. I think we’d destroy them too as they looked very pensive and unsure of how the formation worked against Boro. Wenger hinted afterwards that they played that way as they didn’t have Mustafi, so I guess we’ll see if he continues to play that way going forward when he returns.

  7. Dr JAB 18th April 2017 at 5:14 pm #

    Hi Mark

    Many thanks for your excellent report as well as all the others over the season.

    Stick or twist! The Chelsea match presents an interesting prospect after the ManU win. Do we play our normal high press attacking game – which is similar to Chelsea’s or do we look to emulate ManU and try to mark Hazard & Co out of the game. Herrera did it well but he is more nimble than our defensive unit. We could end up with Moose or Wanyama out of the game with excessive fouling if we follow this route.

    The second tactical thought is about the formation. A back 3 could end up with Son not getting on the team sheet due to Dele & Erikson being the 2 behind Kane. It has been noted that the Chelsea rearguard is not the fastest. Son’s pace could disrupt them. To do this they would have to pick the same team as against Bournmouth with Wanyama on the bench!!

    Lastly, you give Davies some credit in your report. Last season I banged on about Rose as the weak link but he has played so well that I cannot wait for his return. If you look at a meta-analysis of the rating of the players across a spectrum of websites Davies is frequently the lowest ranking player. And the weakest link. Just think back to the ‘Pool game where Mane skinned him and he was targeted. In an earlier article you reviewed Vertonghen and his ability and skill to get forward. Although too late now I wondered if he could have been the wingback with Davies playing on the left side of a back 3 as he is too cautious – sideways & backwards – and lacking true attacking skills or pace. Your thoughts!?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 18th April 2017 at 6:53 pm #

      Hi Dr JAB, nice to read your thoughtful comments once more.

      I wouldn’t emulate Man Utd’s appraoch. They are a passive team and so it works for them as they can essentially leave one player out of the game. Also, they got lucky as Hazard played in to their hands by being so central the whole time. Given time to study the tape of the game, i think Chelsea will have a plan going forward for this situation. For example: play Hazard high as a winger to remove the man marker from the centre. For us, deploying a man marker destroys our pressing game as we close as a unit. One man concentrating on man marking duties blows the cohesion of the press out of the water. I think it would do more harm than good.

      I think Son could well be a casualty in this game as I believe we need to play 3-4-2-1. Speed does hurt Chelsea’s back line, but having two strikers ie Kane being joined by Dele’s forward bursts in to the box, hurts Chelsea more. Chelsea have conceded goals against teams that have played with two up top recently – Bournemouth (King and Afobe) and Palace (Benteke and Zaha) being examples. While not playing with two out and out strikers, Kane being joined in the box by Dele’s late runs hurts them. Chelsea’s back three are vulnerable aerially, highlighted by Dele’s two headers from arriving late in the box to outjump the shorter Azpilicueta in the match at White Hart Lane. Thus I would go with the 3-4-2-1 with Dele and Eriksen behind Kane. Son would be in reserve to offer the ability to change it should we need a goal. I also would keep the option up my sleeve of bringing Janssen on to partner Kane for a classic twin striker 3-5-2 approach should we be chasing the game with Trippier on to deliver service.

      I like Davies on the left of a back three and i think this is his future at the expense of Kevin Wimmer. Davies offers cover for Vertonghen at centre back and also for Rose at left back, creating a place for another player in our squad. I don’t like Vertonghen at wingback. He just doesn’t have the speed or ability to play here. He is ok going forward, but defensively his feet are not quick enough to deal with tricky wingers. I’m not sure why Belgium used him as a full back for so long as he suffers the same problems when deployed here.

  8. Toby4eva 19th April 2017 at 7:54 am #

    I’m loving this site more everyday!

    Some great contributions that keep lifting Mark’s responses to an even higher analytical level.

    You’ve just convinced me that 3421/3412/352 is the way to go in the semi.

    And with the two-pronged attack – with Dele bombing into the box – it has to be Trips on the right feeding him with his devilish crosses.


    Bench – Vorm (is he ok?)/Walker/Wimmer/CCV/Onomah/Sonny/Vinny

    I refuse to include he whose name I can no longer type.

    That bench would look a lot better if Rose (obviously Davies sitting), Winks and Lamela were available.

    (eg – Vorm/Walker/Wimmer/Davies/Winks/Lamela/Sonny/Vinny)

    Makes you realise that with more – and more prolonged – injuries this season to these three plus Toby, Verts and Kane – that we have done pretty bloody well!

    All of a sudden it looks a stronger squad than we thought a few months ago. Trips, Davies, Winks and Sonny have all lifted their games significantly.

    Getting knocked out of Europe early has certainly helped to get us to where we are now domestically.

    And we should take some comfort from Monaco and Leicester’s progress in the CL this term – that we can get to that level in that competition soon.

    We are still conceding goals at a miserly sub-0.7 per game and I note that only four European teams are unbeaten at home this season.

    We are in rarefied and Nice company!

    Hopefully we can transfer our WHL form to Wembley – as of Saturday!


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 19th April 2017 at 5:44 pm #

      Our Wembley form is the elephant in the room in all of this. We match up well with Chelsea and have all the tools to beat them. However, Wembley continues to be a place of peril for us and could scupper everything!

  9. Matt 20th April 2017 at 9:54 pm #

    Agree 3421 but I’d have tripper for this one. Your point about ariel weakness a good one and the service Trippier provides could capitalise. Agree re Davies in a back 3 as cover, though personally I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. Defence looks solid and that is after all part of the job.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 21st April 2017 at 2:53 pm #

      I think a case can be made for both Walker for his speed and Trippier for his delivery. They both bring different skills which are both highly necessary to beat Chelsea.
      Davies does look solid in defence and i really like the way he has grown with every passing match. A consistent run in the side has really brought him on in leaps and bounds.

  10. Toby4eva 21st April 2017 at 3:59 am #

    Agree Matt

    I think Davies is a very good footballer, who – as Mark opined re Dier – is a very important squad player as he can cover two positions.

    Winks appeals to me as another – he can cover now for Dembele – and potentially for Eriksen within a couple of years. He has shown the geometrical (your words?) and peripheral awareness that only special players have. Can he step up on the same trajectory ladder as Harry and Dele?

    The common denominator here is that they are all home-grown, which is in effect a double bonus for building a great PL squad.

    I’m more bullish about the depth of the squad than 6 or so weeks ago.

    We probably will only look to buy a maximum of three (hopefully proven PL or immediate future Messi’s) players in the summer window, with he who cannot be named to be the obvious one to move on.

    And Wimmer may also go due to his apparent non-suitability to playing in a back three.

    Lamela is a conundrum and the jury is out on N’Koudou, who I wouldn’t be surprised to see retained. I see a rough diamond there – whether the coaches can get him gleaming in the sun is the question.

    Keane may be out of our reach – so Mark’s suggestion of Macguire could be the smart play at the back.

    I can’t confess to watching a lot of Hull games, but clearly he is highly rated.

    So two attacking players look to be the next puzzle pieces.

    Plenty of names already being bandied about of course.

    But let’s enjoy this weekend first.

    I’m hoping Terry starts.

    Dele will run at him all day.

    COYS!!!!! ]