What started out with another shocking defensive error turned in to a rout, as it finished Spurs 5 Sunderland 1 in our Premier League clash at White Hart Lane.
There was a lot going on in this game, but the keys were our use of the wide areas to establish a lead. This then pulled Sunderland out and opened up space between the lines, which was exposed by us hitting early passes to Emmanuel Adebayor. There was also a rather interesting selection in our central midfield.
Had this game been closer then much of the focus would have been on yet another horrible error in defence. These have been par for the course recently and they are happening far too often.
There was so much going wrong in this passage of play that fingers could be pointed everywhere. A centre back was taking a throw in, which was bad enough. He then threw it to the keeper who in turn returned it to him under pressure. The third mistake was to pass it square across the defence whilst being closed down and when Sunderland had numbers in our half behind our midfield line.
The only surprise was that it was Lee Cattermole was the one to put the ball in to our net. The defensive midfielder hasn’t scored a Premier League goal for Sunderland since arriving in 2009, but was given licence to get forward by coach Gus Poyet here.
Spurs central midfield
Cattermole’s advanced positioning was an unsuspected and interesting part of the game, but Tim Sherwood’s selection in central midfield was also intriguing.
Interim Tim usually goes with box-to-box midfielders in here with his penchant for players that ‘can do a bit of both’ attacking and defending.
As looked at in a previous post, we’ve seen him play Nacer Chadli as a central winger, but with two box-to-box midfield players behind him. Here though, with Paulinho alongside and Harry Kane in front, his role was different.
With Sunderland naming their now usual three at the back, the space was naturally going to be in wide areas behind the wingbacks.
When the team sheets came out, it seemed as if Chadli would once again fill this role to exploit this space in wide areas. It sees him drift from flank to flank from a central starting position, so that he is harder to track and can create overloads on each wing to carve out crossing opportunities.
However, with Paulinho alongside him, both he and the Brazilian pressed up looking to win the ball back quickly. Paulinho is very good at this, but Chadli’s graft in the defensive phase was a pleasant surprise.
When possession was regained, both he and Paulinho either surged forward with the ball at their feet or moved it out quickly to Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen.
Paulinho got through an immense amount of work in not only getting back, but also to join the attack. Chadli was often the deepest of the pair, which was surprising, but he did drift out wide as he has done in his central winger role. However, this time he didn’t attempt a single cross as he facilitated for others, especially on our second and third goals.
These two played extremely well and the only flaw was that they left a great deal of space between themselves and the defence. This space appearing between the lines has been one of the consistent tactical errors of Tim Sherwood with his preference for box-to-box midfielders.
Here it didn’t matter though as Sunderland rarely had the ball or the guile to exploit it. Adam Johnson seemed an excellent candidate, but wasn’t a major threat. Lee Cattermole was in this space for their goal as you can see from the first image, but that was about it.
Spurs attack out wide
As looked at in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Sunderland before the game, the Black Cats new system is rife for attacking behind the wingbacks. This has been especially true from the area on Phil Bardsley’s side.
After going behind, our first two goals arrived from this zone as we got back in the game and then went ahead. Curiously we didn’t get behind Bardsley, but took advantage of him not being tight enough to Christian Eriksen.
The Dane delivered a wicked cross under no pressure for Adebayor to equalise.
After the interval he created for Harry Kane, as again Bardsley wasn’t tight enough. The full back was covering Eriksen, but he was partially drawn by the run of Nacer Chadli down the line. This was enough time for Eriksen to deliver another vicious cross as Kane got in-between the centre backs.
Christian Eriksen’s role was again one where he drifted in from the left, but here he was much more decisive with his movement to stay wide. Whether this was under the instruction of the management team or if it was just his reading of the game was hard to tell. The Dane was staying on the left often and when he did come inside, rather than drift in to the centre, he moved out to the right flank.
This meant that he was able to cross from both full back zones. This is where theoretically the space should be behind the wingbacks, whilst also getting him away from the congestion of three centre backs and two holding players in the centre.
Eriksen created the first two goals with crosses, but he scored the third from Tim’s other tactic, moving the ball straight to Emmanuel Adebayor.
Hit and work off Adebayor
Whilst Eriksen drifting from the left has been one of Tim Sherwood’s main tactics, another has been to hit Emmanuel Adebayor early and work off him. Our third and fourth goals arrived this way.
As Sunderland cleared, Kyle Naughton headed the ball quickly forward to the Togolese striker who had come short to get away from the defence. Spurs now had three players between the lines after this quick turnover.
Adebayor found Chadli, who squared for the even more open Christian Eriksen. The Dane then rifled a shot with the help of a deflection in to the corner of the net.
The fourth came from another ball forward searching for Adebayor, as Danny Rose sent a long pass towards for the striker.
This was partially cleared, but was scooped up by Harry Kane. He skipped past a challenge and saw his shot parried by Vito Mannone, but Adebayor was first to the loose ball for a simple tap in.
After looking at Sunderland’s dangerous set pieces in the tactics preview, we added a fifth in stoppage time with one of our own. The Black Cats get bodies in the six-yard box to gain ball and rebound control and that is what we did to score off a rare set piece.
When the ball came in, we had five bodies in the six-yard box, well spread with two at the near post, one in the middle and two at the far.
Adebayor and then Kaboul did an excellent job of controlling the cross and the subsequent knock down in order to keep play inside the Sunderland box. Gylfi Sigurdsson then got an easy chance to smash the ball home.
Spurs 5 Sunderland 1 overall
Tim Sherwood commented that this was a ‘fantastic performance’ and we were very good here. Sunderland were also equally as bad though, so it was difficult to gauge just how impressive a performance this was.
Christian Eriksen was once again exceptional and involved in pretty much everything good that we did. Harry Kane also did well on his first Premier League start. He grew in to this game and could’ve had more than the goal that his performance merited if he had been more clinical inside the box.
Paulinho’s energy and work rate were immense and Nacer Chadli was strangely decent in a more central role.
Despite his error on their goal, Vlad Chiriches’ surging runs out of defence with the ball were a sign of what he was brought in to do. He does have that element of defensive risk to his play, but he also provides a surprise attacking thrust from the back that can catch opponents off guard.
After the bad start though, we got back in to the game through attacking in the wide areas, especially down the left to get at Phil Bardsley. We then went further ahead as Sunderland were drawn out and we were able to hit Emmanuel Adebayor early in our build up play.
Final score: Spurs 5 Sunderland 1.