Son Heung-Min scores the winner as it finished Spurs 4-3 Wycombe in the FA Cup 4th Round tie at White Hart Lane.

Spurs 4-3 Wycombe: exposing the inside channels

Opening up the inside channels led to a dramatic turnaround as our FA Cup tie finished Spurs 4-3 Wycombe at White Hart Lane.

The magic of the FA Cup was alive and well at White Hart Lane. All of the old cup clichés were in effect: “The great leveller,” “throw out the form guide,” “a great day out for the underdog” and “it’s a one off where anything can happen.” It made for a pulsating fourth round cup tie that finished Spurs 4-3 Wycombe with the last kick of the game.

We dug ourselves in to a real hole, as Wycombe’s tactics caused us trouble. We then opened up the inside channels to flip yet another game on its head, as we again came back from two goals down.

Wycombe Wanderers’ 4-3-3

Wycombe lined up in a 4-3-3 formation and their tactics dictated much of the opening exchanges.

In possession of the ball they were incredibly direct. Their aim was to get the ball to their wide forwards within two passes. This saw them play directly to Paul Hayes and Scott Kashket or look to work the ball out to them off striker Adebayo Akinfenwa.

The burly front man is incredibly robust and knocked Kevin Wimmer and Cameron Carter-Vickers around. This unsettled them and led to them backing off or playing for the second ball.

Without the ball, Akinfenwa’s lack of mobility and stamina dictated their defensive scheme. They were perfectly prepared to let our centre backs have possession so Akinfenwa didn’t have to run. Wycombe would then press the first ball in to our midfield.

Wycombe press the first pass in to midfield during Spurs 4-3 Wycombe in the FA Cup 4th Round tie at White Hart Lane.

Wycombe press the first pass in to midfield.

It made life difficult for us to play out as their trio of central midfielders, combined with the wide forwards dropping deep, congested the midfield zone. It often meant that we had success from playing the ball longer, through two lines of their defence, rather than trying to build through the pitch like we normally do.

Wycombe crossing

Wycombe’s aim with the ball was to create crossing situations from getting it directly to their wide forwards. They would then look to cross for Akinfenwa and the wide forward cutting in from the opposite side.

They had a great deal of success at it, starting after just 45 seconds. Wycombe created a turnover through pressing our first pass in to midfield. They then raced forwards and swung in a cross. Akinfenwa pulled off to the back post and nodded the ball back for Hayes to plant his header off the bar when he really should’ve scored.

Not heeding the warning, the chances from their direct play to the wide forwards that led to crosses continued. Sam Wood blasted high from one. Then Paul Hayes got on the end of another to drive a left foot volley just over. Hayes shot turned out to be a sighter for what was to come.

Another long ball up to Akinfenwa led to a shot from that earned a corner. The resulting set play was swung in towards the near post. Cameron Carter-Vickers was marking Akinfenwa, but seeing him being overhauled by the big man, Kevin Wimmer also got sucked in to his vortex. Hayes was suddenly left free and he volleyed Josh Onomah’s partial clearance back in to the top corner from the same spot he had blasted over just minutes before. Wycombe had the shock goal they’d be hoping for.

Carter-Vickers and Wimmer drawn by Akinfenwa leaves Hayes free to score during Spurs 4-3 Wycombe in the FA Cup 4th Round tie at White Hart Lane.

CCV and Wimmer drawn by Akinfenwa leaves Hayes free.

Akinfenwa causes more problems

One up, Wycombe added a second from the penalty spot.

Again they pressed our first pass in to midfield, which created panic as the ball ran loose. It was then predictably worked quickly towards Akinfenwa. The pass should’ve been dealt with, but apprehensive tackles from Eric Dier and Kevin Wimmer saw the ball still fall to the feet of the striker. Sam Wood then burst past him to take possession and draw Cameron Carter-Vickers in to a needless challenge. Carter-Vickers got nothing of the ball and enough of Wood as he shielded it to earn a penalty.

Hayes converted to make it Spurs 0-2 Wycombe and just as at Man City last weekend, we were in another hole of our own making.

Son in the inside right channel

Wycombe were making it difficult for us through their play both with and without the ball. Where we were having joy was through the darting runs of Son Heung-Min down the inside right channel.

In the first half, much of our good play came down the right. On this flank, 33-year old Paul Hayes and 30-year old Joe Jacobson were no match for the speed and power of the younger Moussa Sissoko and Kieran Trippier. Inside Hayes and Jacobson, the relatively inexperienced 23-year old centre back Aaron Pierre was being exposed by Son Heung-Min’s runs.

The South Korean was looking to run the channel between Jacobson and Pierre, having success. Our play down this flank led to a number of darting runs by Son being found. This led to shots at goal or corners.

Son Heung-Min through the inside right channel shoots at goal during Spurs 4-3 Wycombe in the FA Cup 4th Round.

Son Heung-Min through the inside right channel shoots.

Pochettino’s half time change

At half time, down two goals, Mauricio Pochettino made a change. Son’s ability to run the channels was good. However when we were working crossing situations that saw a number of good balls in from Kieran Trippier, we had no one in the box. Vincent Janssen was thus brought on to get some firepower in the 18-yard area.

Surprisingly, Janssen only got on the end of one such cross. That was a header, which was agonisingly tipped over by Jamal Blackman as he recovered back across his goal in the dying seconds.

What the move to bring on Janssen did do was open up Son to work the inside left channel from his more favoured side of the pitch.

Son in the inside left channel

Operating as a striker Son had worked the inside right channel, but didn’t offer that box presence that we needed on crosses. Switching to his more favoured left side, he looked much more at home. He only needed to work the inside left channel and he did it expertly.

We got back in the game from a corner, one of eleven we earned in the match. The kick was taken by Son Heung-Min, who then worked his way back in to the inside left channel to receive Cameron Carter-Vickers’ flick-on. Son was in acres of space and his driven shot was deflected in at the near post, game on.

Son Heung-Min scores from the inside left channel during Spurs 4-3 Wycombe in the FA Cup 4th Round tie at White Hart Lane.

Son Heung-Min scores from the inside left channel.

Janssen in the inside right channel

Replacing Son as the striker, Vincent Janssen then did what the South Korean was doing in the first half. Janssen targeted the inside right channel to expose Aaron Pierre and Joe Jacobson. Janssen doesn’t have the pace of Son, but he does have more presence and power, which unsettled them.

The build-up saw another of our longer passes break the Wycombe lines. Their pressing of our first ball in to midfield had caused us problems. Kieran Trippier’s pinpoint pass to circumnavigate this put Janssen in to a great position behind them with the Wycombe defence turned.

The inexperienced Aaron Pierre rashly blocked Janssen off as he cut back inside the area. Referee Roger East had no choice but to award a penalty. Some good fortune saw Janssen’s spot kick slip under the outstretched hand of Jamal Blackman, making it Spurs 2-2 Wycombe.

Spurs go to a back three

The match was beginning to swing our way, but the FA Cup predictably always has a twist in the tale. At Spurs 1-2 Wycombe, Mauricio Pochettino had rolled the dice by using all three of his substitutions. Getting back on level terms rewarded him, but then Wycombe’s physical play took its toll.

The Chairboys had played a very physical game all afternoon. Whether this was Akinfenwa knocking our defence about, the 5 yellow cards or the 23 fouls that were called and the umpteen holds and grabs that weren’t. It culminated in Kieran Trippier taking an unnecessary knee to the rib cage as he challenged for a header. Trippier couldn’t continue and having used all our substitutes, we were down to ten.

In response to this, Mauricio Pochettino went to a back three of Eric Dier, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Ben Davies. Moussa Sissoko and Son Heung-Min were installed as the wingbacks and neither seemed too concerned with defensive duties.

It was this complacency that saw Wycombe edge in front once more. Moussa Sissoko lost the ball to Joe Jacobson. One direct pass saw it sent straight to substitute wide forward Myles Weston in the now vacant right back zone.

One direct pass gets Weston in to a crossing position during Spurs 4-3 Wycombe in the FA Cup 4th Round.

One direct pass gets Weston in to a crossing position.

His cross saw Garry Thompson tower over the smaller Ben Davies to expertly head home. It was suddenly Spurs 2-3 Wycombe as the visitors sensed a giant killing.

Goalkeeping errors

Jamal Blackman was having a mixed afternoon. The goalkeeper had made some good saves, but always looked to have an error in him.

In the first half, Blackman had completely fluffed a punched clearance, which fell at the feet of Son Heung-Min. With just a man on the line, Son saw his shot from the angle fizz just wide of the post.

Blackman then spilled a shot, which landed at the feet of Moussa Sissoko. Paul Hayes saved the keeper’s blushes by clearing Sissoko’s prodded shot off the line.

His third error proved fatal. A poor miss hit kick from his hands was headed straight back by Mousa Dembele with interest as it set Dele Alli in for a clear-cut chance. The keeper then compounded his error by showing way too much of his near post. Dele stayed composed to just pass the ball in to the net to make it Spurs 3-3 Wycombe.

Son in the inside left channel

Son Heung-Min had caused problems and gained chances in the first half through the inside right channel. After the interval he had been switched to the left and then proceeded to cause problems and equalise through the inside left channel.

Son Heung-Min worked both inside channels during Spurs 4-3 Wycombe in the FA Cup 4th Round tie at White Hart Lane.

Son Heung-Min worked both inside channels.

The South Korean would then win the tie through this channel as he combined beautifully with Vincent Janssen.

A long, hopeful ball forward was well brought down by Janssen before being worked out to Son through Harry Winks and Ben Davies. Son then played a neat one-two with Janssen as he raced through the inside left channel to finish and send White Hart Lane delirious with joy. From an improbable position, the ten men had suddenly made it Spurs 4-3 Wycombe with the final kick of the match.

Son Heung-Min scores the winner through the inside left channel to make it Spurs 4-3 Wycombe in the FA Cup 4th Round tie at White Hart Lane.

Son Heung-Min scores the winner through the inside left channel.

Spurs 4-3 Wycombe overall

Whatever you think of the FA Cup nowadays, this was a classic that evoked many of the twists and turns that have become synonymous with the competition.

Wycombe’s tactics were effective. Their direct play to get the ball quickly to their wide forwards was efficient. Their resulting crosses caused us problems and created two of their three goals.

The play of Adebayo Akinfenwa unsettled and scared the living daylights out of Kevin Wimmer and Cameron Carter-Vickers. He did the same to Liverpool for AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup two years ago and so the play of the man-mountain shouldn’t have been a surprise.

After the game Mauricio Pochettino defended his wholesale changes by saying that: “If you cannot play in this type of game, we have a problem.”

He is right in that he is hoping to create a plug and play system. The team has a set way of playing and everyone is learning it on the training pitch. When a new player comes in he should know his role and perform in it.

Where this can fall down is creating the chemistry and fluidity from regularly playing together in these roles. Spurs lacked this throughout from too many changes. It could be argued that the players train together so should have created a bond and an understanding. However, how much this eleven has worked together on the training pitch as a unit is unknown. The only bright spots before the substitutes came on were Son Heung-Min and Eric Dier, both starting XI regulars.

The positive from this tie was another exhibition of our fighting spirit. Two goals down for the second successive match saw us keep going to the end as our tenacity paid off once more. The belief that is being created in the squad that we can gain a result whilst there is still time to play is a real intangible factor.

The game was ultimately won through the inside channels. Son scored twice and Janssen earned a penalty from running them.

Final score: Spurs 4-3 Wycombe.
MOTM: Son Heung-Min.

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12 Responses to Spurs 4-3 Wycombe: exposing the inside channels

  1. Daudi 29th January 2017 at 4:29 pm #

    What a scare that was, Wycombe caused us real problems. I was expecting Dier to start in defense with Wimmer just for that experience, but looks like Pochettino was using this game to give Wimmer and CCV some game time and earn some experience, hope they got something out of it.

    Was really confused by Onomahs role. I really want him to come good. he didn’t get to enough goal scoring positions, there were times in the first half when he was on the ball near the box and really wanted him to atlest take a shot at goal, him and Winks, really don’t know why…
    Wasn’t too impressed with Sissoko, passes bouncing off him, and was expecting him to burn some defenders with some pace more often.

    So it seems we aren’t buying this window, not even concrete rumours (last time I checked) not that am worried, but Janseen really needs to score from open play, for that confidence boost, but I’d want us to get another striker.

    After that scare, I rather that from now on Pochettino, mixes it up a bit, like half of the team the second team, and the other half comprise the first team, let’s go all out for the cups, White Hart Lane should be demolished in style, lets win at least one cup.
    I’ve also noticed in previous games that we aren’t pressing like last season when we ran other teams off the pitch, instead we wait for certain moments, in certain areas of the pitch. And we are also comfortable to let teams have the ball more often, in which nowadays they rarely have a sniff of goal. Conserving energy levels a for the title run in?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th January 2017 at 6:55 pm #

      Good points, Daudi. I was concerned when I saw it was going to be CCV and Wimmer after remembering what Akinfenwa did to Liverpool’s centre backs. I presumed they may have been working as a second unit in training so maybe Poch brought them both in as they are used to functioning together. It didn’t really work for either of them. Wimmer has had a couple of shockers now after looking decent last season.

      It looked like Onomah was trying to play as a support striker from the number ten role. It didn’t suit him tho. I honestly think he needs a loan to another premier league club to see if he can cut it at this level.

      Sissoko continues to be average. He stops on the ball too much which slows us down and too often tries to execute a dribble from a standing start. He needs to be on the move more so that he can use his pace and power. Defenders can size him up as he gives them too much time to get themselves set. In spite of this he does pop up in timely places e.g. For his shot cleared off the line and to tee up Janssen’s header, so he does have good spatial awareness.

      We aren’t as tenacious in our pressing and it may be to conserve energy. It may also be to draw potential bus parking teams out so that we have space to attack in to.

      A cup win would be great for moral and build a base for success in other competitions. Not sure why we don’t take this one seriously, it’s only a few games to reach Wembley.

  2. Daudi 29th January 2017 at 5:01 pm #

    Yah, and that shirt pulling, think it was a tactic, was really annoying…

  3. Chas 30th January 2017 at 12:11 am #

    The ineptness of our fringe players was only exceeded by that of the referee. Simply awful and I can only assume it was due to a long prior career in rugby.
    Not that my opinion’s worth a toss, but N’Koudou (can’t cross), Onomah (can’t do anything), Wimmer (can’t stop errors), CCV (can’t adjust to the speed of 1st grade) and Sissoko (dreadful first touch) simply aren’t up to standard – and Son is never going to be a striker.
    Hopefully Poch will use Janssen next time. The bloke needs time on the pitch and, when Kane needs a rest, I, for one, will cheer any time he’s selected.
    (I would add, Mark, I thought Trippier should have been added to your bright spots comment. He was on his own on the left in the first half).

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th January 2017 at 9:46 am #

      The referee was awful. It did seem at times as if he was trying to level the playing field by turning a blind eye to a lot of things going on.

      It wasn’t a good game for a number of our fringe guys. I’d have thought that with chances like this being rare they’d seize the opportunity, but so many disappointed. This is worrying given that they may not get many more chances.

      I was disappointed Janssen didn’t start too. Given how Poch has talked about his confidence, it must have taken a bit of a knock to only start on the bench. He’d taken Janssen out of the firing line after he’d been playing a lot earlier in the season. This game would’ve been a chance to see if he has improved and settled in more after some time out of the spotlight.

      Trippier did do well, especially going forward. I was a bit concerned with how Hayes was running off him and getting free for crosses from the other side. Definitely a more than capable back up for Walker though.

  4. Andy B 30th January 2017 at 9:54 am #

    What is becoming crystal clear, is that Spurs most intelligent footballers, by a mile, are Toby Alderweireld and Harry Winks.

    Harry Winks was by far our best player in this game. He was pure class and we have a real gem of a footballer on our hands.

    On a negative note: watching Sissoko, Onomah and N’Koudou was embarassing.

    When you look at the players that Pochettino has sold (Aaron Lennon, Sigurdsson, Chadli) it makes you wonder what is going on. I was never a great fan of Sigurdsson and Chadli, because of their inconsistency. Saying that Sigurdsson was always played out of position on the left.

    As back up players to Eriksen, Lamela, Son and Alli, I would be much happier with Lennon, Sigurdsson and Chadli, than Sissoko, Onomah and N’Koudou.

    For the sake of their careers and for the possibility of the Spurs squad to compete in different competitions, Sissoko, Onomah and N’Koudou need to be sold to lower teams, which are the right fit for their level. We need to bring in better cover for the attacking midfielders and for Kane.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th January 2017 at 10:40 am #

      Very good point. I’d take Sigurdsson, Lennon and Chadli at this point in time too! I do still have hope for N’Koudou, but at the minute, like Lennon, he is all speed but no end product.

  5. Chris 30th January 2017 at 6:06 pm #

    I wasnt able to watch the game, so thanks for such a comprehensive overview. If you read the media reports, it seemed like all individual efforts were deemed a disaster, and we should sell our bench.

    I like Onomah because he seems like an intelligent player at such a young age, but I think his development would be better off playing a more defined role attacking from the outside, rather than playing in a more fluid central position up top. It takes a lot of experience to handle the responsibility required for link up play that results in goals. Players usually grow into that creative role as experience comes into play. Poch obviously sees something on the training ground, and more experience seems required to make it translate.

    I think that when we go to the foreign market to pickup players, then we need to make sure they are developed products, and can jump straight onto the first team. Sissoko, Nkoudou, Njie are not finished products, haven’t meet their valuation, and I don’t believe their even close to the quality our first team. Son, Toby, Jan, Eriksen all made our first team better from the start, while the others seem raw. In our pressing style, a lack of consistency and awareness on the ball will result in goals against, because the team as a whole gets caught out of position. Buy a promising young 16 year old that can play in our academy for 3 or 4 years. No need to spend big money on raw players, and expect them to slot right in.

    I personally love our academy prospects, and it troubles me when their criticized via blanket condemnation from the media for a bad performance. Thanks again for helping me sort out the performance from an objective point. Sounds like some were played out of position, and we lacked a mix of quality/experience until some changes were made in the second half. All was not lost, and hopefully things were learned in the process.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th January 2017 at 6:27 pm #

      Some good points, Chris. The mix of quality and experience was off and that is something that needs to be in better balance in the future.

      Onomah looks a little lost to me as he is used in different positions and hasn’t really settled. He definitely looks better when played wider, but i’d like to see him go on loan to another Premier League or maybe even Championship club to see if he can get some more playing time to see of he can cut it at this level. The same with Carter-Vickers, who hasn’t convinced me that he is ready yet either. Both of them are 19 so this may be a case of too much too soon.

  6. Toby4eva 31st January 2017 at 7:38 am #

    Thanks again Mark – I watched the replay last night and concur with your major points.

    Poch was in Rock and Hard Place Town here.

    If ever we got the soft draw to showcase the bench – this was it.

    Otherwise he would have been called a Redknapp clone for sticking with his A Team (he did get flak at Simpson for that).

    CCV had ability and playing against the big brute would have been a sobering experience for the teenager.

    He will come on from that – he went will against Athletico in Melbourne, albeit with less intensity in the game but considerably more quality.

    Winks went well but I haven’t yet bought into the hype. He looks good on the ball but he has a long way to go to step into Dembeles boots. I fervently hope he can!

    That anyone can!

    Lucky to get out of that and avoid a replay.

    Dele and Sonny to the rescue – again.

    Poch will run out a different looking XI at Craven Cottage.

    Let’s go north and get the three and pray for a draw at Anfield.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 31st January 2017 at 3:46 pm #

      Yes it’ll be interesting to see if Poch goes the same way against Fulham or if he includes more of the big hitters. The game will be sandwiched between the Europa League matches with Gent, which we know Poch takes seriously, so I’ll be curious to see if he rings the changes or not.

  7. Toby4eva 31st January 2017 at 7:41 am #

    Typos galore there!

    Sompton for Simpson and CCV “has” ability…