Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli ruthlessly opened up the space between the lines as it finished Spurs 4-0 WBA in our Premier League clash.
A one-sided affair saw us breeze past the Baggies at a canter. Tony Pulis set his side up to defend against what we were trying to do. However, they were outsmarted by the movement of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. It ended Spurs 4-0 WBA with the best two players on the park having a hand in all four goals.
WBA set up centrally
It’s an old Tony Pulis tactic, but one that he has had great success with against Mauricio Pochettino. Pulis sets up two tight defensive lines to restrict space in the centre to a minimum. He has his back four playing tight and compact all in the middle. In front of them he sets up a midfield trio to condense the space even further. This then leaves his two wide midfielders to play down the outside against the other team’s wide players. He is content to give up the wide areas to not get beaten in the centre. Crosses they can deal with, it’s the through balls that they do not want to concede.
Tony Pulis set up that way once again and it looked to have the desired effect as we were pushed in to the wide areas. The problem for Pulis was that our wingbacks were giving his wide midfielders fits.
Danny Rose blew by Nacer Chadli to create the game’s first chance. Unfortunately, Harry Kane guided the cross just wide. On the other side, Kyle Walker was taking on Matt Philips and also created a first time shot for Kane.
Eriksen between the lines
With West Brom stacked centrally, it looked as if the breakthrough was going to come from our good play out wide. We were quickly switching the play and it was isolating our faster full backs 1v1 against their wide midfielders.
Mauricio Pochettino has been searching for a formation this season that allows his two favourite things. Firstly, that the full backs can get forward and be highly attacking entities. Secondly, to overload the middle of the pitch by getting at least five players in here at all times.
The 4-2-3-1 shape of last season did this, but became predictable and sometimes too narrow. The 3-4-2-1 allows him to play the full backs much higher to retain the width he craves, whilst still keeping the five central players. Wanyama, Dembele, Dele, Eriksen and Kane can overload the centre knowing they have support already in advanced positions from the wingbacks out wide.
Having the wingbacks high up stretches the opposition horizontally. It was the spaces created from this that Christian Eriksen exploited to get us in to a two-goal lead.
The opener came after good work by Eriksen to force a throw in. He then drifted inside and used a communication breakdown to get free. Darren Fletcher was concerned about Danny Rose. His switch with Matt Phillips allowed Eriksen to find space between the lines.
This drew Gareth McAuley out from the back line, affording Harry Kane space. Eriksen found Kane with a deft through ball to rifle home, 1-0.
The two things that Tony Pulis was guarding against had been foiled. The central midfield trio set up to guard the back four had been stretched out and punctured. This then had allowed a through ball.
Soon after and we added a second as we swept through the pitch, again getting the ball out wide and back in to the man between the lines.
It started with an excellent gather and an equally good throw out by Hugo Lloris. Our goalkeeper’s distribution is often criticised, but here it was top notch.
Lloris’ throw out went straight to Danny Rose and he bounded forward. Christian Eriksen was once more lurking between the lines and took over. West Brom’s central block had this time been penetrated by the swiftness of our counter attack.
Once more, passing the ball wide stretched West Brom out to allow the spaces in the centre that Pochettino craves. Eriksen passed to Kyle Walker who combined with Rose to find the Dane between the lines once more, this time on the edge of the penalty area. Eriksen’s shot took two deflections before finding the back of the net, 2-0.
It was a great team goal that showcased Eriksen’s deft movements to get free in the spaces between the lines created by our wingbacks.
We almost added a third as once more Eriksen popped up to put a sumptuous pass on to Dele Alli’s toes. Alli’s out-to-in run has been one of his trademarks and he just mistimed it and was given offside.
Up to that point Dele Alli had been rather quiet, but the passage of play seemed to spark him in to life. Alli then started to exploit the spaces between the lines that were being caused by us stretching the Baggies across the pitch.
Dele Alli between the lines
If Christian Eriksen ran the first half then Dele Alli was the star of the second. These twin number ten positions in Pochettino’s 3-4-2-1 suits him and Eriksen perfectly. The opposition often doesn’t have enough bodies to mark two players moving in opposite ways from here and it affords space. Dele Alli showcased that on goals three and four.
West Brom came out of their shell after the interval and it created both more of a contest, but also their undoing. Having a front three that was closing down our three centre backs made it more difficult for us to play out and slowed us down. However, when we did get through it, the pitch became much more spacious to play in and West Brom were stretched.
This was precisely what happened for our third to put the game away. The Baggies press was neatly navigated. Dele Alli dropped in to the space between the West Brom lines and released a pass in-behind for Kyle Walker to chase after.
Gareth McAuley was first to the ball. A tired first touch saw Kyle Walker nick it off him and fire in a pinpoint cross for Harry Kane, 3-0.
Spurs 4-0 WBA
Alli’s play to come short between the lines was thoughtful on our third goal. His intelligence to sit down in the space between the lines and then flick an audacious pass over the top for Kane was brilliant on our fourth.
Kane, who was on the end of everything, gave the pass the finish it merited to make it Spurs 4-0 WBA and complete the rout.
Spurs 4-0 WBA overall
So often Tony Pulis has frustrated us and left with a 1-1 draw by blocking off the centre of the pitch and playing narrow. Here the wingbacks in our 3-4-2-1 stretched West Brom out. It created spaces between the lines for Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli to ruthlessly exploit.
Final score: Spurs 4-0 WBA
MOTM: Dele and Eriksen.
Eriksen and Alli are both excellent in exploiting space (Elon Musk take note!). Allowing them to be more central and freer in where they took up positions is made possible by Wanyama and his reading of the game.
My one fear is that this formation is very personnel driven quick FBS, ball playing CBs…how we cope with the loss of Jan will be quite telling as at some points it felt more 127 than 3421!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
We did swamp them at some points. I do like that this formation gets both Wanyama and Dier on the field and in positions where they can positively effect the game. When they were together in the pivot it hindered us, but in this set up Wanyama just needs to focus on recovering the ball. Dier can still move up the pitch with cover behind and use his much better distribution.
I tottally agre with your anylisi of the game .I thought that Alli and Eriksen,found the spaces.
Especially in the first half.I am sincerely hoping that they can do the same against a probably fired up man City
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
It’ll be interesting to watch what Guardiola does as he values possession above all else. We may well see him play with narrow full backs to try and counter it.
I can’t believe I’ve only just found your site!
Your analysis is very insightful and delivered in readily digestible form.
The screenshots are very instructional.
Please try to indulge us weekly!
Really looking forward to the Citeh game – it will be pivotal to our PL final position.
We really have a great chance to consign them to the Mancunian dustbin with their pals.
I don’t think we will be buying anyone this window – but agree with your thoughts regarding another playmaker, with Coric looking a good fit.
Pleased also that we have had a soft FA Cup draw this time – after getting Leicester first up last year as well as the Gooners and Scouse in the other Cup in the last two seasons!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi Toby4eva, welcome to the site and glad you enjoy the articles. We do have a favourable FA Cup draw and i’m hoping Pochettino takes the competition seriously as it is only a few games to the final. Really looking forward to the Man City game. A win here, after beating Chelsea, will be a real statement to the rest of the league of just how good we are!
Missed your stuff Mark, don’t be a stranger now
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
“Eriksen lofts the ball for Alli to score, but he is offside.”
Speaking of instructional screenshots, is Dele offside?
What a sublime goal that would have been – sumptuous finish with a languid poke of the outside of the right foot.
Remind me again – who is this Pogba bloke?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Lol. He only cost £5 mill, he’s better than Ozil… and Pogba!
Would have been an awesome goal, but have to concede he was just off.
I definitely think this formation suits our personnel. I agree, having both Dier and Wanyama on the field is a bonus, Dier much better in a 3. Wanyamas athleticism and power Are impressive and I think make the formation work so well because his ability means the full backs are freed up so much more. He’s a better footballer than he gets credit for too. A very astute purchase.
Could not agree more Matt.
Dier was a revelation at DM last year but Poch finally got his main man. Toby rates Victor very highly too.
He is a demon – a very good footballer whose reading of the play and lateral movement is particularly impressive. This allows him to get into position very quickly to intercept opposition passes and dispossess the man with the ball.
Toby and Victor for a tick over £20 million.
Incredible in the insane prevailing market conditions.
I’d hate to be a Southampton supporter…..
But I suppose we’ve already been there!