Mauricio Pochettino shifted Christian Eriksen to a deeper role in a 4-2-2-2 formation to earn the points as it finished Tottenham 1-0 Brighton.
Tottenham took their time to break down a resolute Brighton side. Mauricio Pochettino continually made changes and adjustments to his initial setup. However, it was moving Christian Eriksen deeper in a 4-2-2-2 formation that won the game. Eriksen scored the only goal as our Premier League clash ended Tottenham 1-0 Brighton.
Tottenham width against narrow Brighton shape
Mauricio Pochettino started the game trying to stretch Brighton’s narrow defensive 4-3-3 structure. Lucas Moura started wide on the right and Son Heung-Min out on the left as the pair flanked Fernando Llorente.
Brighton had employed a line of three holding midfielders in a catennaccio fashion. Yves Bissouma, Dale Stephens and Pascal Gross attempted to protect their back four by keeping compact. Behind them, Brighton’s full backs often tucked tight in to their centre backs. The Brighton wide forwards were therefore left to track the ball out to Tottenham’s players on the flanks. Jurgen Locadia and Alireza Jahanbakhsh did this usually when the ball went to their side of the pitch. This often left a long switch of play on to the other side, something Tottenham didn’t utilise enough.
The problem for Spurs in this initial setup was twofold. Firstly, with Son and Moura so wide, there was very little support in the box for Fernando Llorente. Tottenham just couldn’t get players around him. Llorente was therefore left against central defenders Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk who quite easily handled him.
The second issue was once more caused by the positions of Son and Lucas Moura. They prevented full backs Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose from being able to get forward. As Son and Moura were already out wide in high positions, Rose and Trippier just moved forward in to traffic and often had to back off to create some space.
Mauricio makes mid-half changes
Upon seeing these issues, Mauricio Pochettino made two changes. Lucas Moura and Son switched wings. Lucas retained his width, but Son Heung-Min played much narrower to support Llorente. What’s more, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen changed positions. Dele became the number ten; Eriksen went in to the number eight role.
The changes got more players – Son and Dele – around Fernando Llorente. This pulled Brighton in, creating more space for Lucas Moura and the full backs in wider areas.
A great chance followed as Eriksen from his deeper role found Lucas Moura in space. Moura fizzed the ball across goal, but it was cleared away by the recovering Lewis Dunk before Dele Alli could tap it home.
The full backs also found space. Kieran Trippier then fashioned a neat opportunity for Dele Alli that was cleared off the line by Shane Duffy.
Spurs surround the striker
Pochettino’s first-half changes had got players up in support of Fernando Llorente. At half-time, he made more tweaks to surround the striker with help. Lucas Moura and Son were pulled in much narrower to Llorente. Dele pushed on to offer his support.
The changes equally left Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier with the freedom and space to push higher and higher. Something they couldn’t do initially.
Pochettino goes to a 4-2-2-2 formation
As the half wore on, surrounding the striker became Mauricio Pochettino’s objective. He had initially brought Son and Lucas in narrow and pushed Dele up. Pochettino then introduced Vincent Janssen to a standing ovation as he went to a 4-2-2-2 formation.
Janssen and Llorente played as twin strikers. Son and Danny Rose worked as the attacking midfielders in the pair behind them. Son went from out to in as he drifted from the touchline to help the strikers. Rose held his width before retreating narrow defensively. Behind this pair, Pochettino installed Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli in the two defensive midfield slots. From this position Christian Eriksen could dominate and eventually win the game.
Christian Eriksen has two goes at one goal
Brighton had been resolute defensively with their three central midfielders protecting a narrow back four. Mauricio Pochettino had initially tried to stretch these seven out with width, but increasingly moved more players in to central zone to occupy and overrun them.
The tactical tweaks by Pochettino occupied more of Brighton’s central seven and this released Christian Eriksen to run the game. Eriksen was afforded space to push forward from a deeper role in defensive midfield and dictate the play.
Brighton’s central midfield trio were now pulled apart as Spurs moved more players in and around the strike pairing. Space was therefore created for Eriksen to move forward and pass or shoot. Eriksen had taken a number of long shots in the match, all of which had flown off target.
On 82 minutes he had a sighter for what would be the move amied at creating a winner. A cluster of Tottenham attackers occupied Brighton’s central midfield trio and narrow back four. As a result, Eriksen was left one versus one with the spare Brighton central midfielder. His left-footed drive skidded off the surface and was parried out by goalkeeper Mat Ryan.
Six minutes later and from virtually the exact same spot in a carbon copy move, Eriksen would score the winner. Once more Brighton’s narrow back four were occupied, as were two of the three holding midfielders. Beram Kayal and striker Glenn Murray were left in the vicinity, but that didn’t stop Eriksen taking the remaining defensive midfielder on once again.
Eriksen’s driven shot flew through the crowd and straight in to the corner of the net. Pinpoint accuracy resulting in relief and jubilation in the same moment. The goal was a strike deserving of winning any game. Tottenham 1-0 Brighton and the lead that Pochettino had been pushing for all evening.
The goal was a knockout blow. Brighton was crushed after holding out and having kept Spurs at arms length for so long. Spurs and the crowd lifted by never giving up in search of a vital goal in the race for a top four spot.
There was no time for Chris Hughton’s team to recover. The match ended Tottenham 1-0 Brighton with an air of relief around the stadium.
Tottenham 1-0 Brighton overall
Mauricio Pochettino had started the match by trying to spread Brighton out with width. He finished by overwhelming their narrow defensive setup by surrounding his striker with bodies. Space was created for Eriksen’s long shot that fizzed through the crowd, leaving Mat Ryan with a late sight of it.
A vital win in the race for the Premier League’s top four given the points that have been dropped this weekend.
Also a new formation added to the Tottenham armoury as Pochettino continues to flirt with two striker systems. The fleet of foot Son and Moura have caused opponents issues in recent matches. However, here it was the strength and power of Janssen and Llorente that pushed Brighton back. Space was created for Eriksen, who needed a sighter before the same move saw him ping one in the bottom corner.
Final score: Tottenham 1-0 Brighton.
MOTM: Danny Rose.