Christian Eriksen and Alexis Sanchez played similar roles but the Dane had the upper hand as it finished Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd at Wembley Stadium.
A purring performance saw Spurs race past the Red Devils. Christian Eriksen was the star of the show as he orchestrated the Tottenham attack. Drifting from his starting position on the left, he outworked his opposite number playing a similar role, Alexis Sanchez. The score finished an easy Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd to put three vital Premier League points on the board.
Spurs streak ahead
Tottenham stole a huge march on Man Utd straight from the kick off. Suspecting Jose Mourinho may play a negative low block and counter game, Mauricio Pochettino wanted an early goal to unsettle them. He got it within eleven seconds.
The play very much resembled an NFL punting team. Tottenham stacked the right with three players looking to gun down the field to overload and unsettle the kick recipient.
As the ball went back to Jan Vertonghen to send a booming kick downfield, Harry Kane and Dele Alli raced forwards. However, Christian Eriksen started off more slowly. He sauntered past Alexis Sanchez, but as soon as Kane rose to contest the header, he was off, sensing a loose ball.
Eriksen then charged past Ashley Young and wound up unmarked in the penalty area. Dele’s shot fortunately rebounded off Chris Smalling, perfectly in to Eriksen’s path. He despatched it with consummate ease, feathering the ball in to the corner of the net past a helpless David de Gea.
Eriksen wheeled away in celebration at the third fastest goal in Premier League history. More importantly, Pochettino had the early strike that he desired to unsettle any Man Utd defensive game plan.
Christian Eriksen vs Alexis Sanchez
While they weren’t direct covers on the goal, the energetic start made by Christian Eriksen set the tone for his duel with Alexis Sanchez. Both players were operating in similar roles for their respective teams. From the same flank, each man was tasked with drifting in-field to start and dictate play.
Eriksen had done so from the off with his goal. However, Alexis Sanchez would respond, as he became Man Utd’s creator in chief. The Red Devils were constantly looking for him to initiate attacks off the dribble. Sanchez was either looking to run in-behind our defensive line that was pushing up playing offside or cutting inside to set up others.
Sanchez had a good deal of success doing this. Man Utd responded well to going behind and Sanchez was at the centre of it. However it was the defensive side of his game where the difference was seen. Whereas Christian Eriksen was making the hard runs to get back out from the centre to defend his flank, Sanchez wasn’t.
It manifested itself as we doubled our advantage. Christian Eriksen and Alexis Sanchez duelled in the middle of the pitch. Eriksen gained the advantage as his neat touch and one-two with Dele Alli put him in to green space.
Sanchez was caught inside and suddenly there was space on the flank for Kieran Trippier to exploit.
Without hesitation, Eriksen whipped the ball out to the right back. Harry Kane was arriving in the centre intending to meet Trippier’s low cross. However, Phil Jones interjected and in attempting to clear with his wrong foot, sent the ball rifling in to the top corner of David de Gea’s net. Suddenly it was Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd and our grip on the game was tightening.
Paul Pogba’s spacing issues
The second goal not only highlighted Sanchez getting caught playing too far in-field, but also Paul Pogba’s spacing issues. Pogba’s movement had a direct knock-on effect on Chris Smalling. The centre back was dragged out from the back line on our second goal. Consequently he was wrong side and trying to drag back Harry Kane as the ball arrived.
Match of the Day did a good piece on highlighting Pogba’s spacing issues and how high he was playing ahead of Nemanja Matic. As a result, Spurs could work in the spaces Pogba was leaving and overrun Matic.
However, this isn’t a one off for Pogba, its been happening for weeks. Man Utd’s last eight Premier League matches has seen them play only Burnley, Leicester and Everton in the top half of the table. They have been able to mask Pogba’s defensive positioning against lower class opposition, but in this game Tottenham punished it all match.
Mourinho makes moves
At half time Jose Mourinho moved Alexis Sanchez away from the flank. Mourinho had seen that he was unable to recover his defensive position out on the wing and the success we were having. Interestingly, Pochettino adopted similar tactics to attack Sanchez’s defensive recovery during Spurs 2-0 Arsenal at the Lane last season.
Sanchez was moved in to the middle with Jesse Lingard switching to his left-sided position. However, it just moved the problem infield. A central Sanchez, combined with Pogba wandering away from Nemanja Matic, saw the spaces between the lines became even more glaring.
Jose Mourinho eventually lost patience with Paul Pogba and hooked him on sixty-three minutes. Marouane Fellaini was introduced, but he fared even worse. Fellaini continued to push up and make the Red Devils look like a 4-1-4-1 set up defensively. Combined with Sanchez, Tottenham had huge windows to pass through. It was like Man Utd were traffic cones in a Tottenham training exercise.
The positioning of Fellaini and Sanchez continued to allow us to play in the pockets around Matic. As a result, Man Utd’s centre backs we exasperated, as can be seen by Phil Jones in the image above. Jones doesn’t want to leave Harry Kane but is desperate for someone to cover Son Heung-Min.
Fellaini lasted just eight minutes until he too was substituted. Ander Herrera was brought on to see if he could fare any better and keep the score at Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd.
Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd overall
Following criticism of being slow and laboured recently, we were at it from the get go. It was no coincidence that our speed and tempo of play corresponded with the return of Christian Eriksen.
The early goal really knocked Man Utd on the back foot. Any chance of the match being turned in to a defensive struggle to break down a low block was essentially killed.
Mauricio Pochettino’s tactics to attack Alexis Sanchez’s defensive recovery were spot on. Pochettino did the same at White Hart Lane last season and we triumphed over Arsenal by a 2-0 score line. Combined with the gift of Paul Pogba’s errant defensive positioning, our trio of advanced midfielders had a field day between the lines.
Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd flattered the visitors. The score really should’ve been more.
Final score: Tottenham 2-0 Man Utd.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.
Mark from Virginia says
This game was such a pleasant surprise after a frustrating couple of weeks! Great analysis again. I couldn’t get over how poor MU played – it was like they didn’t care, especially in the second half. Pogba was horrendous – I recall him throwing up his hands and pouting when he couldn’t win the ball due to the quick passing – he just gave up the effort. I had the feeling that the MU players were relying on their reputation rather than winning the battles.
What a joy!!! I was dreading the next couple weeks and couldn’t fathom how we were going to get any success, but this gives me hope. Reminiscent of the Real Madrid game. Everything was working. And as you said – Eriksen was outstanding. It’s almost as if the couple weeks off was what he needed.
I look forward to reading your next post game write up.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi Mark, it was a tremendous performance. Eriksen’s time off may well have done him good. He does tend to be overplayed and burn out a little in seasons past, but he was sensational here.
Pogba was really outwitted and made to look ordinary. Dembele and Dier were excellent against him. The advanced midfield trio then worked the spaces that he left and that was key to our control of the game.
Liverpool will be a much sterner test, on a ground where we haven’t done well, but this will be a massive confidence boost
Couldn’t agree more, moura looks decent, he plays like a raw talented Brazilian and it’s different to all players at spurs, he may be the top player we have always been accused of needing. Next three games are essential, the top 3 can drop points of each other but we must win against the smaller teams who are gonna be fighting now the seasons coming to a close. Hope we make top 4 and give juventas a thrashing. COYS!
Once again a spot on anylsis.if you keep on going this,you will have to buy a bigger hat.
Tottenhamwere outstanding,But just to bring some realiaty to things.United were poor,
Or was it that we made them look so poor.Many a truth will be on view against Liverpool this week-end.While Liverpool are great going forward,defensively they are pretty ordainary.
Just hoping we can explyoit this to our advantage.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Hi Brian, yes Liverpool can be got at defensively. I’d really like to see us use similar tactics to those against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. A 3-5-2 and play over their press for Kane and Llorente to hold the ball up and bring others in to play. Poch won’t play that way, but feel this would be our way to success at Anfield as we’ve really struggled to play through their press since Klopp took over.
Andy B says
Another excellent write up.
As well as Eriksen, I thought Vertonghen was unbelievable. That run he made out of defence, to set up the attack, was a joy to watch.
Vertonghen has easily been our most consistent player all season. Game after game, he has put in truly impressive performances.
I was also impressed with Trippier and Davies, who both did plenty of outstanding things during the game.
And Dembele made Pogba look like a headless chicken. He totally outwitted and outplayed him.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Vertonghen was excellent again, he has really developed in to a brilliant defender since Poch has taken over. I thought both he and Davinson Sanchez were superb.
Great Dembele observation. I think he is starting to gain his form of seasons past back now that he is getting a run in the team. He wasn’t asked to be as expansive as he was in previous matches eg Southampton, and it suits him. Dembele could be a growing factor as this season reaches the business end.
Such a lot to enjoy. For me I was pleased to see Alli getting back to something approaching his best. He was far from our best performer, but his movement and ability to find space and make runs beyond Kane seems to help make us gel up front.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
He was definitely up for it. Playing with a lot more energy and attitude. Made quite a few good runs eg for the first goal and what was a blatant penalty. His trip and take down of Sanchez showed his nasty side was back too.
Great win against a very strong Utd side who were made to look very ordinary. Agree with all the comments about our players and with how much harder the bin-dippers will be. Sala and mane against Davies gives me the shivers! Maybe switch aurier across to left wingback like we did in a game earlier this year I think I recall.
And I’d love to hear your views on Moura and where he may fit in – and how it will impact lamella’s comeback?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
It’ll be interesting to see how Poch approaches guarding Mane and Salah. Maybe we’ll see Danny Rose make a return? Maybe Aurier will switch sides? Back three or four? Poch has options. I would go back three with Aurier and Davies narrow to try and force Mane and Salah out wide.
Getting Lucas Moura is a solid punt for me. We all know we need speed and someone that can beat a player off the dribble. Moura has this in abundance, but has issues of consistency and an end product. It’s tough to come in during January and hit the ground running, so I’m looking at him for next season. If he does anything now then it’s a bonus.
Having chased a few of these types of player eg Zaha I think this is decent business given that someone like Zaha is going to be £40 million plus, maybe even £50 million, in today’s crazy inflated market. Moura offers the sane skill set but at a better cost value. Plus if Poch can coach him up, as he’s done with Heung-Min Son, then his ceiling is potentially higher than a Zaha. He has great potential, but it’s not really been harnessed. He came to Europe with a big rep and quite the fanfare, but he’s not kicked on. I think the premier league is better suited for him due to the speed the game is played at, once he gets used to the physical side.
I think he’ll fit in on either side of the 4-2-3-1 and potentially off the striker in 3-4-2-1. He will also allow Poch to play more counter attack tactics against the big teams – as we’ve seen him use it vs Madrid, Dortmund, Liverpool.
I see him as a rotation option for Son to start with. Lamela is at risk in all of this. If Moura plays well then Lamela could slide down the pecking order. He still doesn’t look 100% after his hip injury and could find his opportunities limited if Moura plays well.
I love this site.
Nailed on sycophant!
Your analysis is astoundingly good Mark.
Absolutely massive game tonight – hardest of the cruel run of four.
If we win this we can be back in CL next year.
But Woolwich clicked dangerously with the ex-Dortmund lads last night….
For some more uplift, have a look at Chelsea’s home run!
ashley collie says
Hey, Mark, excellent analysis. Here’s something to bring up, a sign of developing team play and Poch strategy. Simpler analyses suggest we miss those faster FBs to “bomb” down the wing. But Harry’s great goal was assisted by Ben, our FB doing something — overloading on their FB. If their defense is pulled way back, it’s tough to bomb pas them. So Sonny stayed out wider on the flank, and their defender had to cover him. So Ben moved more into an inside left channel and crossed from there not from the flank, and it resulted in a great goal. This overloading is a developing strategy. As is, quickly switching the flanks, where someone like Trippier can be found more open. Once again, nothing to do with bombing down the wing, but using strategy to find or create space. Excellent work by our team. COYMFS!
Erik Zen says
Agree with Toby4eva, this site is the best there is, come back soon Mark and give us what we crave!
It’s been an astonishing run of games, the result against Juve eclipsed even smashing United and slaughtering Arsenal 1-0…
Moura looked great in his cameo, looking forward to seeing him run out against Rochdale this afternoon.
It’s turning into a great season after all!