Son Heung-Min celebrates the first goal the new White Hart Lane during Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.

Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace: stretching a narrow defence

Stretching the centre backs in a narrow Eagles defence was the difference at the opening of our new stadium as it ended Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.

A celebratory evening at the opening of the new White Hart Lane saw a decent tactical battle in-between the fanfare. Spurs needed quick transitions following turnovers, but stretched a narrow Eagles team out to make them pay. Two goals were forthcoming as it ended Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.

Compact Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace weren’t the easiest of opposition for the opening of the new stadium. The Eagles are a well-coached team that have good defensive shape and structure. Their discipline was on display here for much of the match as they were difficult to break down.

The Eagles lined up in a 4-3-3 system and used their trio of central midfielders and back four to create a narrow block. Spurs were forced to the wide areas as a result.

The Eagles narrow defensive shape gave initial space out wide during Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.

The Eagles narrow defensive shape gave initial space out wide.

The benefit for Spurs was that we had good creators in wide areas. Kieran Trippier was frequently on the ball and fashioned the first half’s closest chances. A perfect cross saw Dele Alli head in to the ground and too close to Palace keeper Vicente Guaita. A neat Trippier cut back when breaking in to the vacant outside space saw Christian Eriksen’s low shot on the swivel palmed away. Son Heung-Min was almost first to the loose ball on the rebound.

On the other side of the pitch, Mauricio Pochettino must have anticipated Palace’s narrow setup. The Spurs manager teamed Ben Davies with Danny Rose in a full back double up. Rose was frequently a threat to burst forward. Ben Davies equally got in to advanced positions and had a good shout for a penalty as he burst in to the box.

Tottenham transitions

Tottenham were in control of much of the flow of the game, but had seen only fleeting moments where the attacking play from wide had opened a narrow Palace up. That changed in the second half as quick breaks from turnovers led to chances and goals.

Combined with the transitions was Mauricio Pochettino’s switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-1-1 formation. This got Son Heung-Min higher up the pitch to play off Harry Kane and he was the new stadium’s opening Premier League goal scorer.

The goal came from some excellent defensive work by Christian Eriksen. The Dane has been sub par recently, but his ball recovery and transition work in this match was excellent.

Eriksen disposed Luka Milivojevic and instantly played the ball out wide to Son. The South Korean had snuck in to the space behind the attacking Patrick van Aanholt.

Son in the space left by van Aanholt consequently stretches the centre backs ahead of his goal in Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.

Son in the space left by van Aanholt consequently stretches the centre backs.

As Son signalled for the pass, Eriksen delivered. Getting the ball early to Son in the space where van Aanholt should’ve been meant that James Tomkins was dragged out from his position in the centre.

Son could now isolate Tomkins and take him on with a jinking the dribble before unleashing a left footed shot. Son’s strike flicked off the desperate Milivojevic as he slid in to try and recover. The diverted shot flew in to the corner of the net, wrong footing Guaita in the process. 1-0 to Tottenham. Lift off at our new home.

Spurs second transition

Taking the lead from swiftly punishing a turnover in midfield, Spurs soon added a second from doing the same.

Martin Kelly was caught trying to dribble out of defence and get the ball to Andros Townsend. Ben Davies pounced in midfield to get to the pass as it reached Townsend. Son Heung-Min then swooped in from his new more advanced position to release Harry Kane in to the space vacated by centre back Martin Kelly’s initial run.

Son releases Kane in to the wide space as Eriksen sets off to score during Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.

Son releases Kane in to the wide space as Eriksen sets off to score.

In this moment, both Crystal Palace full backs were caught forward. As a result, Kane could steal in from the left side and attack an exposed centre back pairing. As he went in to the box, Kelly fouled Kane, but Christian Eriksen arrived to score and make it Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.

Eriksen’s burst forward to catch up with the play was exceptional. His initial burst of speed took him past and beyond Patrick van Aanholt. As the left back tried to recover, Eriksen then gave him the slip to spin and fire the second goal.

It was a fitting reward for Eriksen’s hard work and graft throughout the match.

Crystal Palace attack our right back

At a score now of Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace the game was effectively safe. However, the Eagles sought to set up a nervy finish and almost had it through their use of attacking the space around right back Kieran Trippier.

Wilfried Zaha had looked Palace’s most dangerous player on the break and he tried his luck against both Davies and Trippier. Zaha did cut a very frustrated figure as the match wore on. However, it was against our right back that he had the most success.

Zaha had a running spat with Trippier, but his neat dribble saw him jink in to the box. Aided by a half-hearted Trippier challenge to avoid conceding a penalty, Zaha got a good shot away that was thwarted by an outstretched leg of Hugo Lloris.

Christian Benteke equally had a good chance as James McArthur drifted away from Trippier to deliver a devilish cross on the spin. His ball to the back post just evaded a diving Benteke, which could’ve set up a nervy finish.

Moura Tottenham transitions

As it was, Tottenham could’ve been further in front. Once again it was from racing forward following Crystal Palace turnovers to expose the spaces out wide that were being left.

Christian Eriksen won the ball back from Andros Townsend and delivered an inch perfect pass in to hit Lucas Moura in stride. Moura had come on to attack a narrow Crystal Palace on the wing of Pochettino’s 4-4-1-1 setup. As he sublimely took down Eriksen’s pass in the space that Patrick van Aanholt had left, it seemed as if Moura would add a third. However, Vicente Guaita athletically stretched out an arm to deny the Brazilian.

The score remained at Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace to complete a night of celebration at our new stadium.

Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace overall

Mauricio Pochettino has tinkered with formations to put us in to strong positions in recent matches, but we’ve not converted chances to win those games.

Here we were more clinical when it mattered. Specifically from converting chances off of turnovers when a narrow and compact Crystal Palace team were out of their shape. The chances followed through stretching the Eagles’ centre backs as their full backs were out of position and they had to cover the space. Goals from Son and Eriksen ensued.

The new stadium and increased atmosphere definitely breathed new life in to some previously tired looking players. Christian Eriksen was the pick of the bunch. His work to break up play and then fizz the ball around was exceptional. If he can lift his play from his recent levels then we have a chance to make top four and do something in the Champions League.

Final score: Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.

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6 Responses to Tottenham 2-0 Crystal Palace: stretching a narrow defence

  1. YouShubes 4th April 2019 at 3:47 pm #

    This could be his slumpbuster for our great Dane..I did find it odd that the davies foul which happened in front of the ref was not called. Maybe he did not want to give penalty as that could be the first goal etc etc… but his job was to ref the GAME not the occasion…

    Found it odd Rose took a few corners as some of his earlier crosses from open play were poor but surprisingly he did put some good whip on them

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th April 2019 at 9:49 pm #

      Eriksen definitely seemed more up for this game. We’re a different team when he’s buzzing. That left-footed pass to hit Moura in stride was exquisite!

      I thought the Davies foul was a touch soft for a penalty to be honest. He was up in the penalty area though, which showed how aggressive he and Trippier were playing and that the space was there as it was Zaha who had to go all the way back with him.

      Rose has taken plenty of corners before. Lamela apart, the rest of our corner takers have been pretty average, so why not let Rose have a go?!

  2. MurphyN 5th April 2019 at 12:20 am #

    Great to have you back Mark, hope you will have time to cover the run-in.
    4-4-1-1 against City? Covers the field well and Son has space to break into.. or do you want the high press with Dele & Eriksen further up too to try to push them back?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th April 2019 at 8:36 pm #

      Hi MurphyN, I wouldn’t want to high press City. Think this is where we’ve gone wrong against them over the past few seasons, much more like us to play a counter attack game. A 4-4-1-1 could work. Probably prefer a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-1-2 if Poch wants to get a support striker up alongside Kane. Difficult game and a tricky call as I think City’s style is well suited to play against us.

  3. David 6th April 2019 at 8:41 am #

    Back with a bang eh Mark?

    Loved the win, palace didn’t really threaten us, and managed to keep their dangerman (Zaha) quiet…
    Like last weeks post, I still don’t like seeing Dele playing deep, can’t turn on the ball, maybe its just me. Could see the difference when Winks came in, can turn on the ball and play a quick pass forward or go on a run through the mid. Glad he’s back, timely for the City game. Glad that Eriksen shook off that last game waywardness, was looking good and buzzing in this game.

    For the City game, like you, I’d go for the 4231, Winks and Sissoko in mid, Son, Dele and Eriksen supporting Kane, but press them round the mid pitch rather than on their side of the pitch.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th April 2019 at 9:35 pm #

      Hi David. Dele is very hit and miss when playing deeper. He can do the job but he is much more effective further forward. Winks’ return should allow him to do that. Dier coming back would also allow Poch to play him further forward. I think it is just a case of needing him o do a job in there at the minute as we are so stretched in that position.

      Hopefully we can pull off a shock against City!

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