Players' reaction at the final whistle as our Champions League match finished Tottenham 1-2 Juventus at Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham 1-2 Juventus: falling foul of width

Cruising towards the Champions League Quarter-Finals, Max Allegri’s introduction of width turned the tie as it finished Tottenham 1-2 Juventus at Wembley Stadium. 

Tottenham did everything right to get ahead of Juventus in this Champions League tie. Cruising towards the Quarter-Finals Max Allegri countered by introducing width. The match was consequently turned on its head. Two goals from Higuain and Dybala in 179 seconds made the score Tottenham 1-2 Juventus and our Champions League adventure was over.

Press vs Press

The first half was played with each team pressing in order to counteract the other to knock them out of their game plan.

Battling against an away goal deficit, Juventus were incredibly aggressive from their 3-5-2 formation. The Italian team used their two strikers to push up on our centre backs. Blaise Matuidi aided the pair by tracking Eric Dier. Out wide and wing backs Alex Sandro and Douglas Costa were pressuring Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies.

Pressure to stop playing out during Tottenham 1-2 Juventus.

Pressure to stop playing out.

The ploy was to do three things. Firstly, to stop Spurs playing out from the back and setting any kind of rhythm for the game. Secondly, to create turnovers high up the pitch which could lead to quick shooting opportunities. Thirdly, and most importantly, to test Hugo Lloris’ ability to kick. The Juventus pressure was so intense that Lloris often had to clear downfield, where Juventus would aim to win the aerial challenges.

The issue for Juventus was that Spurs maybe didn’t win the initial aerial challenges, but did win the second balls. Tottenham had a numerical advantage in central midfield with Juventus playing so high up. As a result, there were spaces for the advanced midfield trio of Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli to operate.

Tottenham’s press was more calculated. It often centred on Giorgio Chiellini having the ball. Chiellini was operating on the outside of Juventus’ back three and therefore Spurs could press him towards the sideline to hem him in.

The tactic provided rewards as turnovers in the Juventus half were achieved. The best opportunity came from forcing Chiellini to pass out. Seconds later, Harry Kane was rounding Gianluigi Buffon, but after doing the hard part, his shot could only find the side netting.

Son on song

The key player for Spurs throughout the first half was Son Heung-Min. Son was gifted space due to Juventus’ press and the lack of tracking by wingback Douglas Costa. The South Korean was therefore able to run at or beyond outside centre back Andrea Barzagli.

Son had two good opportunities before exposing this space to put us ahead. Davinson Sanchez was able to break Juventus’ press with a long pass up to Eric Dier. He in turn found Harry Kane and suddenly Spurs were between the Juventus lines and running at the back three.

Spurs run at Juve's back three prior to scoring during Tottenham 1-2 Juventus.

Spurs run at Juve’s back three prior to scoring.

Trippier and Son offered routes out wide in the vast spaces left by the pressing wingbacks. However, Eriksen went for Dele Alli’s run through the middle. Dele’s shot was blocked, but Kieran Trippier arrived to fire the ball across the box to Son at the back post.

Son struck the ball against his standing foot, which created a weird looping shot with just the right amount of spin to take it around the stretching Chiellini and away from the sprawling Buffon. Tottenham 1-0 Juventus and Wembley erupted.

Douglas Costa

Whilst Douglas Costa was responsible in part for Son’s freedom and space to attack, he was also Juventus most dangerous player.

Operating as a wingback, Costa was frequently pressing Ben Davies. When Juventus recovered possession he was looking to dart through the channel between Davies and Jan Vertonghen. His movements gave both Davies and Vertonghen a problem of who was going to pick him and if they could stay with him.

Costa was a constant thorn in our left side and his burst through should’ve won Juventus a penalty. Costa attacked the channel between our left-sided centre and full back. Vertonghen went to ground and clearly brought him down. However, no penalty was forthcoming as Costa’s slight delay in reaction was enough to convince the referee that all may not been as it seemed. TV replays showed otherwise.

Juventus rough up the game

Juventus expended an amazing amount of energy in the first half. Pressing so aggressively and then having to make recovery runs had taken a great deal out of them and they were behind.

At the start of the second half, Juventus altered their tactics to try and change the flow and rhythm of the game. They became much more physical and aggressive to stop attacks. Quick yellow cards followed for Chiellini and Medhi Benatia as their centre backs roughed up Dele Alli and Harry Kane.

Allegri introduces width

Seeing his side still behind and Spurs undeterred by the rough stuff, Max Allegri gambled by introducing width and going to an almost 4-2-4 formation.

Kwadwo Asamoah and Stephan Lichtsteiner entered the action and subsequently altered the game. Juventus used them to stretch our back four out with a front four and then hit the holes that subsequently appeared.

The tactic took affect within three minutes and we didn’t know how to respond to it.

Stephan Lichtsteiner broke free down the right to cross for the first. Juventus had three players arriving in the box as Sami Khedira’s header fell neatly for the wide-open Gonzalo Higuain.

Flooding the box for Lichsteiner's cross during Tottenham 1-2 Juventus.

Flooding the box for Lichsteiner’s cross.

Paulo Dybala then added a second as Juventus stretched us across the pitch once again. As a result of being drawn out across the field, Giorgio Chiellini could pass the ball straight through the space in to Gonzalo Higuain’s feet.

Chiellini easily passes through two levels to Higuain during Tottenham 1-2 Juventus.

Chiellini easily passes through two levels to Higuain.

Higuain turned Davinson Sanchez all too easily. Paulo Dybala then ran off Kieran Trippier in to the space that had appeared by Sanchez’s movement out from the back line before Trippier could close it off. Ben Davies, who was concerned with Douglas Costa out wide, then played everyone onside due to his deeper positioning. As poor a goal our usually resolute back line will concede this season as Dybala made it Tottenham 1-2 Juventus.

Juventus narrows up

Having played with such width to stretch us out across the pitch and expose the gaps, Juventus then went in to their shell. The Italian team closed up and narrowed off the pitch.

Son Heung-Min faces a narrow and compact wall during Tottenham 1-2 Juventus.

Son Heung-Min faces a narrow and compact wall.

Spaces for Spurs once more became out wide. Son Heung-Min was restored as the key player in exposing them. Christian Eriksen found him with a sumptuous ball that allowed him to punch a cross through the six-yard box towards the arriving Harry Kane. However, Giorgio Chiellini slid back to deny Kane with a perfectly timed interception.

Son Heung-Min is free out wide and found by Eriksen during Tottenham 1-2 Juventus.

Son Heung-Min is free out wide and found by Eriksen.

Son then had greater pastures to work in as Kane headed the next cross against the post. He could’ve taken the ball on his left and would’ve been in. However, using his right foot allowed Juventus to recover.

Son in oceans of space out wide before Kane hits the post during Tottenham 1-2 Juventus.

Son in oceans of space out wide before Kane hits the post.

The Italians still couldn’t stop Kane planting his header against the post. The ball then bounced agonisingly along the goal line. However, in going for the ball with his left foot, Erik Lamela’s readjustment and resulting foot stutter, meant that he was just a split second too late to the loose ball. Andrea Barzagli punted clear and our hopes went with it.

Tottenham 1-2 Juventus overall

There were so many good things in this game to be admired about how Tottenham handled Juventus’ tactics. However, a lack of clinical finishing, combined with a touch of inexperience, put paid to progression to the Quarter-Finals.

Tottenham were on top, but failed to respond quickly enough to Juventus’ change in tactics. A three-minute lag in reacting to the width that had been introduced saw them level. Three more minutes and Juventus were ahead. Margins are fine and punishment is swift at the very top level.

Spurs were not only slow to respond to the tactical shift. Mauricio Pochettino was equally unhurried to make substitutions. When they did come they served the correct purpose to unhinge a tight and compact Juventus defence. However, the changes had limited time to make an impact when the clock was the most important commodity.

Final score: Tottenham 1-2 Juventus.
MOTM: Son Heung-Min.

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13 Responses to Tottenham 1-2 Juventus: falling foul of width

  1. graham 8th March 2018 at 4:19 pm #

    It keeps happening . Spurs manage to lose big games that they should win . The semi v Chelsea last season being a similar game . Spurs are a good side but will we make the next step up and win things . It is hard to win trophies when Man City , Man Utd and Chelsea have so much money . Even an average Arsenal team last season managed a FA Cup .

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 8th March 2018 at 4:37 pm #

      It is harder to win things given how much other teams are pumping money in to their squads. An FA Cup win would be great and we have to take it seriously now as there aren’t other games getting in the way. It would be a real stepping stone on the road to being a big match hardened team. That being said, we have improved this season in the Champions League and this experience will no doubt be learnt from.

      • Simon 11th March 2018 at 12:21 pm #

        Well said

  2. Ilikespurs 8th March 2018 at 9:39 pm #

    Hey Mark, good to have you back. What an agonizing game-we’re so close, yet so far. Experience really showed in this one, both with the Managers and the players. Allegri makes key substitutions that change the game, and Poch is so slow to react with his subs that it sometimes makes me want to scream. As a matter of fact, I DO scream, at the TV…”Bring Lucas on! Bring Llorente on”! I wish I had a dime for every twitter comment that I read that starts with “I love Poch, but…” and then a long lament about getting his subs on quicker. I’m still amazed that he only used 2 subs, and Lucas never got off the bench. In that game, he should have come on the minute they scored the 2nd goal. And our guys were spent, both physically and emotionally after Juve scored their first. Their whole team came to life, and we were shell shocked. We needed fresh legs and fresh attitudes in there ASAP. And with all of their yellow cards, Lucas running at them would have been the perfect antidote to get one of their players sent off. I know it’s another step in the long, slow learning process and project we’re on, and in time we’ll be more formidable, but now it just hurts. Hopefully this experience, along with our experience in the FA Cup semi last year, will help us finally win a trophy this year. For now, I’m really worried about Sundays game at Bouremoth and a letdown after such a brutal blow. I think lots of changes will be in order, and Lucas definitely gets a start, as does Wanyama, Rose, Aurier, and maybe even Winks. Still so much to play for….Thanks….

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 9th March 2018 at 10:27 am #

      Hi Ilikespurs, spot on, Poch’s timing of subs has become so well known and it’s really the one thing he needs to improve on as a manager. He’s improved remarkably on things like being flexible with formations and systems. Not having a plan B used to be his other stumbling block, so this needs to be his next area of focus.

      Granted it is difficult to make a decision in the heat of the game where you have to decide instantly whether to trust your team or to change it. However, the instant Allegri changed it really threw our team out and it needed a response. Even if he made changes after the first goal conceded it still would’ve been better than the nothing which happened. It is frustrating but I’m sure we’ll get through it and go to the next level.

  3. brian 9th March 2018 at 2:01 am #

    Hi Mark
    Once again, avery concise anylsis of the game,well done Mark.As other have pointed out,
    our general lack of finishing when on top,let us down.As I have said on previous occaisions,
    that not taking our chances would cost us at some stage,and so it proved too be..
    For all that in general we played a pretty good game.Unfortunately when it seems to come to the very big games,our lack of finishingn deserts us,and we finish up looking like also runs.
    Its happened on a number of occaisions now.And must be very worrying for ponchi.

    Kind regards brian

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 9th March 2018 at 10:31 am #

      Hi Brian, yes the goals from other sources are drying up. Dele has gone on a real barren streak when he was firing last season. We also need more goals from other sources eg Lamela and Eriksen as at the minute if Kane or Son don’t score then I can’t see where else a goal is coming from.

  4. Grum 9th March 2018 at 12:32 pm #

    I think these comments regarding Poch are a bit unfair – as reported Mark, the change had an effect within 3 minutes. This was just serendipitous for Juve – I’m sure they wern’t expecting it to work so quickly. I’m also sure Poch would have adjusted the team to cope once he saw what the change brought but the goal happened too quickly.

    I was there and what was disappointing was that the team didn’t react well to the first goal. Their heads seemed to drop for a minute and a minute later we conceded the second.

    We also missed a number of opportunities in the first half that could have put the game away – games like this are decided on small margins and this time it went against us, that’s football.

    Spurs should be proud of what they achieved – after all no one gave us chance of progressing from our group, never mind winning it. And to come from 2 goals down in Turin showed the character that Poch has built. The team will learn from this.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 9th March 2018 at 2:03 pm #

      Yes it did happen very quickly after Juventus’ change, but prior to the first goal you could see the overload happening as they flooded men forward. Ok, Poch doesn’t react and maybe shouts some instructions thinking we can ride this wave out and regain control. No problem with that. But then, as soon as the first goal goes in, we need to change either personnel or our formation as it’s clear that we have to adapt to stop it getting out of hand. Maybe go to a back three by dropping Dier in and get Wanyama in to midfield. Maybe put Rose on to counter Lichtsteiner. Moves could’ve been made and should’ve been. Doing nothing just exasperated the problem and as soon as Juve has the lead and equaled our away goals they say back and we regained control, but by then it was too late. I’m sure that given this lesson Poch will learn from it. It’s not like subs and the timing of them isn’t a talking point most weeks. He’s pretty much excellent at everything else, so it’s difficult to understand why this continues to elude him?!

  5. Lennon 9th March 2018 at 2:16 pm #

    A few thoughts Mark, starting with a little quizze: Which of these teams can play to a deliberate 0-0 draw game if this was the deliberate tactic ? Spurs, Chelsea, Leicester or Juventus …..Now guess which of these teams have lifted a major trophy recently……….

    YES Spurs are now adept at formation changes-thats great.. but its not enough- they now need to master FINER tactical DETAILS than just formation changes. One of which is the need to evolve from creating a large volume of medium quality chances to creating smaller volume of high quality chances (ref- Leicester’s tons of 1-0 wins, Chelsea also-AND Juventus). Medium quality chances may explain what we are calling a “lack of clinical finishing” by Kane and co.

    Our young team now needs to learn to identify when a low/medium quality chance is likely then they hold their lines, then they re-start their attack. A by product of this practice is that it leads to greater defensive solidity (which improves chances of holding onto slim leads for 90 minutes-ref Leicester, Chelsea and Juventus in past 3 years). Basically they need to learn to maintain what Antonio Conte and others call “balance”- if there is no balance in a move from back to front-refrain from over-committing resources.

    I have observed in Liverpool’s last 4 games that they have learned to pick their moment (i.e. commit to high quality chances only: ref also Juventus’ 2 goals from 2 chances in 90 minutes)-Klopp is no longer subjected to embarassing come-backs by opponents. Granted Liverpool are now recently “slightly less exciting to watch” but they look like they will hang onto 3rd or 2nd in the league at this rate.

    The other area under “finer details” is taking set-pieces seriously (a German article i came across concluded that Chelsea won the league because they gained 12 more points from set-pieces than Spurs- Willian took free kicks from the right sided positions, David Louis- central ones and Alonso left sided ones-do Spurs have such a system and a set-piece routine finisher like Diego Costa ?).

    Leceister won the league because they preserved more narrow leads than Spurs (normally just the 1 Vardy goal in 90 minutes………….WITHOUT CONCEDING) -that requires good balance/equilibrium through out the 90). I think Poch teams display occasional unstable equilibrium especially in big games.

    Spurs are almost there but they now need to give much more prominent time during practice sessions to attend to such FINER DETAILS then they will gain escape velocity and go into delicious orbit.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 9th March 2018 at 4:30 pm #

      Great comment, Lennon. I was having a similar discussion in the pub the other night that we are volume scorers rather than chance quality scorers. Interesting that somebody else has noticed this too and i guess you are in the camp that we need to generate better quality chances at a lower rate than what we are currently doing?

      Great stats on set pieces. We led the Premier League in goals from set pieces a couple of seasons ago. Alderweireld and Dier were weighing in with a number of headed goals, but that has since dried up and Kane seems to be the only one contributing. Eriksen hasn’t scored directly from a free kick for ages now as well. We do seem to vary set pieces between Eriksen, Davies and Lamela (when he’s on the field). However, Eriksen does take the lion’s share so maybe we need to involve the others and get the likes of Trippier involved more.

  6. Erik Zen 12th March 2018 at 6:20 am #

    Superb analysis of a heartbreaking game.

    Hopefully you’ll have time for a report on the Bournemouth game where I think we actually answered many of those criticisms.

    Goals from other quarters, clever subs (albeit forced)… think it could be the best time for HK to rest and come back peak.

    Winning the CL is bastard hard. We can post mortem all we want but we were naive — we are just not there yet. Great lesson learned for next year and hopefully the Cup!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th March 2018 at 4:37 pm #

      Lots of learning points involved from this game and this season’s competition as well. Given how we have improved massively since last season’s failed group stage exit, we’ve gotto expect that Poch and the team will be much better for this experience. Now all we need is to qualify again and there’s a massive game coming up with Chelsea that could swing things in our favour!

      THe report on the Bournemouth game is now up on the site! We definitely came back with a vengence and a strategic masterstroke of a sub by Poch as well!