Spurs failed to capitalise on their advantage in wide areas to just edge past a spirited opponent as it ended Tottenham 1-0 Cardiff at Wembley Stadium.
Tottenham did just enough to earn three vital Premier League points at Wembley Stadium. A gritty and determined Cardiff team made it difficult, but Spurs failed to press home their advantage in the wide areas to make the score line more comfortable. The match ended Tottenham 1-0 Cardiff as an Eric Dier set piece goal separated the teams.
Battle on the flank
Cardiff’s setup dictated much of the flow of the match. The Bluebirds played an extremely narrow and compact 4-1-4-1 formation. Neil Warnock’s team used their wide midfielders, Josh Murphy and Junior Hoilett, to track the Tottenham full backs. As a result, Warnock could pinch his back four in narrow and take away the centre of the pitch.
The formation for large parts of the match achieved its aims. Murphy and Hoilett were able to track Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose. The Cardiff defence was therefore able to remain compact. What’s more Harry Kane was nullified in the central traffic as Mauricio Pochettino was playing him as a number ten behind Lucas Moura.
Spurs wide area advantage
The Cardiff wide midfielders did well in large parts to stifle the game through their defensive actions. However, Cardiff also had their own objectives and these broke their own defensive structure.
The Bluebirds were looking to press on occasions to stop Spurs playing out from the back. These were based on triggers such as a Spurs centre back facing his own goal or split wide of the penalty area without Eric Dier or Harry Winks dropping in.
Neil Warnock had obviously seen the struggles we’ve had against opponents like Inter Milan and wanted to affect this part of the game as well. The flip side was that in sending Hoilett and Murphy to help Callum Paterson press was that they were out of position should Spurs break through it. Consequently, our best opportunities were created from wide areas.
Good chances came and went as a result of these Cardiff breakdowns. Lucas Moura headed Kieran Trippier’s cross wide when free in front of goal. Moura also saw his shot cleared off the line after Danny Rose broke free into space down the left.
Son Heung-Min was also involved in getting in behind in these vacant areas against Cardiff’s narrow back four. Son’s pull back was flashed past the post by Lucas Moura in the first half. In the second, Son was in again to pull the ball back, but Harry Kane scuffed his shot on the swivel past the post.
Cardiff’s issue wasn’t limited to Murphy and Hoilett being caught forward and the back four thus left narrow. Hoilett and Murphy often were caught marking inside and blowing their own assignments. Trippier’s space to cross here was a prime example.
Spurs set piece scores
Linked to the wide area battle between Cardiff’s wide midfielders and our full backs was a number of set pieces. Spurs had two corners early on before taking the lead from a third inside of ten minutes.
The corner was won after excellent work by Harry Winks to move the ball out early to Danny Rose in space before Josh Murphy could recover to mark him.
Prior to this set piece being won, Tottenham had a spate of corners. Spurs ran a number of interesting moves that contributed to the goal. Danny Rose took the first Tottenham corner of the game that seemed to be run for Eric Dier, but he massively over hit the delivery. The second saw Kieran Trippier under hit one where we’d tried to screen and free up Toby Alderweireld.
The third corner made the goal and was run for Davinson Sanchez this time. The routine saw Trippier go short to Lucas Moura before receiving the ball back. Whilst this was happening there was a back door move to free up Davinson Sanchez in space in the middle. The ploy worked perfectly and Sanchez won the header as Spurs cleared out a neat pocket for him.
However, Sanchez’s header was blocked. Fortunately it fell to Eric Dier who shrugged off his marker before slamming the ball in to the net. Tottenham 1-0 Cardiff and Dier’s first Premier League goal since April 2017.
The goal seemed as if it would open the floodgates. However, it didn’t and Cardiff remained gritty and determined to fight back.
Cardiff vertical passing
Cardiff had a tight defensive structure, but it broke down when they either asked Hoilett and Murphy to press or help attack on the break. This left space behind them, but equally gave Cardiff and attacking threat. Where the pair had success was through vertical passes, which allowed them to run on to the second balls.
Josh Murphy’s speed was a particular problem and it twice allowed him to get beyond our back line. Callum Paterson was proving an effective hold up player, but it was his aerial flick-ons that afforded Murphy two great chances.
Toby Alderweireld cleared Murphy’s first chance off the line before Junior Hoilett could arrive from the other flank and slam the ball in to the empty net. Hugo Lloris darted out and smothered the second as Murphy ran on to a flick on once again.
Ralls red card
The big talking point was the red card for Joe Ralls. Junior Hoilett had been working hard on the wing to allow the rest of his team to pinch in narrow. However, with Cardiff attacking and Hoilett forward, Ralls was left exposed by a quick transition. Kieran Trippier stripped Hoilett of the ball and suddenly Lucas Moura was scampering past Ralls.
Ralls callously scythed Moura down, nowhere near the ball and thoroughly deserving of a red card. Neil Warnock complained, but if this type of cynical challenge is not going to get the punishment it deserves then it is going to become an unacceptable part of the game.
Cardiff, to be fair, responded well after going down to ten men. They continued to try and get Hoilett and Murphy out on the break in support of the central striker. The trio caused issues, which even saw Toby Alderweireld have to take a yellow card for stopping Murphy breaking free.
Cardiff also had the game’s best chance in this period. Sean Morrison latching on to Victor Camarasa’s free kick. His header forced a sprawling save from Hugo Lloris, who pushed the ball on to the post. Toby Alderweireld swooped in to clear from under his cross bar once again.
Cardiff continued to press for an equaliser and finished the match with a back three and sent Sol Bamba up front. This prompted a move from Mauricio Pochettino to bring on Victor Wanyama. Pochettino wanted to have our centre backs screened by two aerially strong players in Dier and Wanyama. The move saw us ease through to full time and a final score of Tottenham 1-0 Cardiff in a game that was closer than it should’ve been.
Tottenham 1-0 Cardiff overall
Cardiff set up well against us. Their use of sporadic pressing, along with their wide midfielders tracking our full backs to allow their back four to play narrow, was effective. However, we did have chances when the Cardiff wide midfielders were caught out of position and should have made more of them.
Once more we saw a decision around Lucas Moura backfire. The move to play Harry Kane deeper and Lucas Moura ahead of the striker created chances for Moura, but starved them from Kane. The 4-4-2 diamond and now this setup seems to be a continuing Pochettino trend that he wants to get Moura on the ball in high central areas. However, so far it is having a negative effect on our most efficient and effective goal getter.
In spite of injuries, fatigue and formations, we have equalled our best start to a Premier League season with 18 points after 8 matches. If we do settle down and play the type of football we have become renowned for, then the rest of the Premier League should watch out!
Final score: Tottenham 1-0 Cardiff.
MOTM: Toby Alderweireld.
Erik Zen says
Pretty dismal to watch… Though of course three points with all our injuries is incredible. Can’t believe this is our equalled best start considering how awful we have looked at times.
In this match as against Hudd we poured forward again and again, charging three or four strong to the edge of their box, only for everyone to suddenly have a collective brain spasm. Moura obviously has loads of great qualities but why on earth he is playing furthest forward instead of the greatest goalscorer of a generation is utterly beyond me.
Anyway hopefully they all miss the internationals and we get a few of our first 11 back before we have to face City, Chelsea and everyone else, includng the tragically resurgent Arse.
Thanks for the great analysis as always!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
This game certainly won’t live long in the memory. Moura wastes quite a few chances and its expensive for us in that area of the pitch when we have a proven goalscorer. I can see why Poch maybe wants to do this, but he has to back Kane to do what he does best rather than seek to multi task him. Use Moura wide and have him execute dribbles, beat his marker, which draws in additional defenders and then have him look to lay off and play others in. Dele and Kane’s goal numbers will increase as a result. He is just too wasteful to have in a clinical area of the pitch.
Erik makes a good point. I think on current form Moura has to be in the starting 11 but this formation somewhat neuters Kane. I’d have him as one of the wide AMs, he’s well ahead of either Lamela or Son currently in my view. He’d still be a goal threat.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
I think wide midfielder is Moura’s best role. If Poch wants to get him further forward on the pitch then I’d use him as a wide forward in a 4-3-3 which is what Poch was doing in preseason. It seems strange that Poch has gone away from that 4-3-3 set up now after using it in all four preseason matches!
For me, the Moura-Kane issue isn’t as much of a problem as the cumbersome, predictable and erratic playing out from the back by Lloris, Sanchez (who seems incapable of doing anything except passing sideways or backwards) and Toby.
On another day our attack could have scored a couple more – some very lucky blocks and saves by Cardiff.
But their pressing whilst we are playing out from the back caused us silly, unnecessary problems yet again – and that will not have gone unnoticed by Pepe.
Man City will NOT be as forgiving.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Lloris and his distribution has been an issue since day one. He is not comfortable with it, least of all when he has to use his right foot. I can’t believe it isn’t worked upon in training so we have to accept he will not get better than this level technically. However, he can improve on the mental aspect and knowing when to play out and when to just send it long. You are correct that Pep will know this and will be all over it!
I’ve banged the drum for going after Freddie Woodman as a transition from Lloris that we can bring through over the next few seasons. He’s still only 21, but has excellent distribution and is also a really solid all round keeper and shot stopper. He is on the radar of quite a few teams now after his golden glove award at the U20 world cup, but is highly gettable if we did something in January given his current situation at Newcastle and his deal expires in 2020. I think transition planning now that Hugo will be 32 years old in December is something we really need to consider and make some moves to solve.
Mark from Virginia says
I enjoyed your guest appearance on the Extra Inch and hope they have you back.
Regarding recent form (or lack of) I can’t help but think the team is suffering greatly without Eriksen which may be the reason for the non sensible formations. We have been discussing the Eriksen dilemma on this blog for a couple years now and there still isn’t a solution. Of all the things that should have been addressed I think this is the biggest.
The team looks lost and disoriented when Eriksen is absent – I’v thought for a long time that he is their most important player. He or his type of player is crucial for keeping the pace of the game at the correct tempo. There’s no question in my mind that this is missing without him.
Also, the attackers need to stop waisting their chances – this wastefulness is putting tremendous pressure on the defense.
Thanks for your thoughtful game analysis!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi Mark, thanks for listening and glad you enjoyed the podcast appearance. Agree with you totally about Eriksen. As you say it is something we have talked about often on here and still we don’t have a solution. Prospects are thin on the ground. I’ve been keeping an eye on Max Meyer – who we were strongly linked with – and he now seems to have broken in to a regular spot in the Palace team. It’ll be interesting to see if he does well and then commands a big fee at the end of the season, which would be very Spursy seeing as he was available on a free! Grealish was another option, but just how much Villa will want now is anybody’s guess. I think the Grealish saga will rear its head once again in January!
Gee we beat the cellar dwellers at home by the odd Eric Dier goal and this site still gets me tied up in knots of excitement!
The macrame classes remain on hold.
Regarding the Eriksen conundrum – watching Ross Barkley looking like he was playing for the wrong team in Spain for at least a few seconds the other night suggested that we missed a fast bus to somewhere important on a concession fare….
THFC transfer strategy seemingly always hamstrung?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
I think we did miss out here, however, how much Barkley wanted to come, if at all, will never be known. I think Levy’s words the other day were telling. The fact that we have to sell before we can buy could hamstring us in the next window too. Although, the comments around Poch not just wanting to bring in just anyone, but specific targets, is encouraging as that is how we are in this bloated squad conundrum to start with.
Come to think of it, the way that a certain Mr Kane played in Sevilla, I think we have greater things to worry about.
What an absolutely outstanding footballer he is.
The England front three is cemented for a long time to come I’d suggest.
Surely we won’t have to wait another 1000 days for a Sterling performance…