Lionel Messi hits the post with a shot from the inside right channel during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona: Messi in the inside right channel

Lionel Messi was outstanding in the inside right channel as our Champions League clash finished Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona at Wembley Stadium.

Spurs received a lesson of what happens when you leave the game’s best player in space. Lionel Messi dominated this Champions League tie from the inside right channel as it finished Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona at Wembley Stadium.

Lionel Messi in the inside right channel

Tottenham made some bold moves in this match. The first was to play a less than match fit Victor Wanyama alongside Harry Winks in central midfield. Second was to press right from the start.

Both choices hurt us inside of two minutes. Victor Wanyama was caught pressing way too high and out of the defensive structure. Sergio Busquets could receive the ball in acres of space, turn and pick his pass.

Victor Wanyama out of position leaves Sergio Busquets free during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Victor Wanyama out of position leaves Sergio Busquets free.

Busquets found Lionel Messi who had set himself up in the inside right channel. Busquet’s pass took Harry Winks out of the game. Messi now had acres of space between the Tottenham lines of defence and midfield.

Lionel Messi in space in the inside right channel during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Lionel Messi in space in the inside right channel.

Messi could lift his head a play a classic Barcelona pass. Picking the space between opposition centre and full back for an overlapping runner to receive.

Jordi Alba was the target as Messi’s perfectly weighted ball found him.

We then compounded our initial mistakes. Hugo Lloris came needless racing out, sliding past Alba, which opened up the whole goal for Philippe Coutinho to lash home. One-nil to Barcelona from over-excited errors by two of Spurs returning players.

Spurs space between the lines

Lionel Messi had time and space to pick his pass due to the space between the lines. The errant positioning of Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks caused this room. Both players were pushing up too high, creating separation with our back four. A huge area for Barcelona to play in was therefore often created.

Wanyama and Winks were often too high, creating space between the lines during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Wanyama and Winks were often too high, creating space between the lines.

A goal up, Barcelona added a second as Messi drifted in to this space once again.

Messi in space between the lines as Wanyama and Winks are too high during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Messi in space between the lines as Wanyama and Winks are too high.

Messi’s flighted pass picked out Luis Suarez’s chest. Philippe Coutinho took the ball down, but sliced his shot straight up in the air. Coutinho then spun and volleyed a pass back to the edge of the box. A blind pass, but he must’ve known there would be a trailer. There was. Ivan Rakitic arrived on cue to masterfully score one of the goals of the season.

More Messi mischief in the inside right channel

Spurs had made some small alterations. Harry Kane was moved to a number ten position to try and gain more control around Sergio Busquets and Arthur. The change pushed Son Heung-Min up top in a number nine position.

What’s more, at half time, Mauricio Pochettino ordered the team to press much higher. As a result, mistakes and sloppy turnovers led to Lionel Messi twice hitting the post from the inside right channel.

60 seconds were on the second half clock when Messi raced free for his first effort. Victor Wanyama made a sloppy bouncing pass in to Son Heung-Min. Poor control by Son allowed Sergio Busquets to whisk the ball away and immediately find Messi in the inside right channel.

Lionel Messi in space in the inside right channel hits the post during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Lionel Messi in space in the inside right channel hits the post.

Messi had acres of space between the lines to control the ball, run at our centre backs, but rung his shot off the post.

Five minutes later, a carbon copy ensued. Davinson Sanchez gave Victor Wanyama a difficult bouncing ball to control this time. Wanyama couldn’t and coughed up possession to Luis Suarez. Messi was in space in the inside right channel once more. Suarez found him and Messi struck the same post.

Tottenham attack the full backs

One thing Mauricio Pochettino would’ve learnt from Barcelona 2-2 Tottenham in preseason was the Catalan team’s vulnerability to quick transitions at the full back zones. Barcelona’s full backs are incredibly attack-minded and the space they leave can be got at after turnovers.

Spurs scored twice by attacking these zones in that preseason match. Harry Kane got us on the score sheet by doing the same here.

Left back Jordi Alba was caught out first. Hugo Lloris recognised that Alba was forward in attack. Lloris immediately threw the ball out to Erik Lamela in the space Alba had left.

Lamela interchanged passes with Lucas Moura. This play dragged Barcelona’s other defenders towards this flank. Space was thus created for Harry Kane outside the other full back, Nelson Samedo.

Kane runs at righht back Samedo before scoring during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Kane runs at righht back Samedo before scoring.

Kane had recognised this and pulled away from Samedo. As the right back tried to recover, Kane faked to shoot, jinked back inside and curled the ball past the despairing dive of Ter Stegen. Spurs back in the game.

Messi inside right channel masterclass

Messi had just hit he post for the second time and the irritation on his face was there for all to see. He responded by finding space between the lines in the inside right channel once more. The pocket was tiny, but it was all he needed.

Messi finds a small space between the lines in the inside right channel during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Messi finds a small space between the lines in the inside right channel.

The position of Victor Wanyama was once more called in to question. Messi had initial space behind Harry Winks. Toby Alderweireld didn’t want to get drawn out and leave the back door open. Wanyama needed to pick up Messi, but instead left his next run untracked.

Victor Wanyama lets Lionel Messi go on to score during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Victor Wanyama lets Lionel Messi go.

Messi spread the play again with a pass through the channel between centre and full back for an overlapping runner. Jordi Alba ran on to it once more. Fantastic fakes followed from both Coutinho and Suarez before Messi arrived to cushion the ball in to the net. A brilliantly worked classic Barcelona goal.

As the move played out Eric Dier waited on the sideline to be introduced for the flagging Victor Wanyama. His arrival was just too late to stop Barcelona creating separation in the score line.

Spurs spirit

Tottenham didn’t lie down and showed tremendous spirit to get back in to the game. Tottenham’s level of pressing had been a fluctuating feature throughout.

Initially going full press, we then backed off and pressed the ball entering the middle third with Harry Kane as a number ten. After half time we went back to a full press again and this almost saw our undoing as Messi twice struck the post. However, it did get us back in to the game at Tottenham 2-3 Barcelona.

Harry Kane closed down and stripped possession away from Clement Lenglet. Erik Lamela then received the ball and fired a shot that deflected off Lenglet and past the helpless Ter Stegen.

Harry Kane presses and strips the ball from Clement Lenglet during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Harry Kane presses and strips the ball from Clement Lenglet.

Spurs had the momentum and almost pulled off one of the club’s most remarkable comebacks. Barcelona’s intensity dropped and the midfield duo of Eric Dier and Harry Winks took control.

The big chance arrived once more through attacking the space behind the Barcelona full backs. Eric Dier and Ben Davies’ one-touch passing found Lucas Moura sneaking beyond right back Nelson Samedo.

Lucas Moura gets behind the full back to get a shot away during Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Lucas Moura gets behind the full back to get a shot away.

Moura jinked back inside, found a window of daylight and unleashed a rasping shot. However, Lenglet stretched out a long leg and deflected Moura’s goal bound shot out for a corner.

Messi ends the game

Lucas Moura’s well-worked chance was Tottenham’s best opportunity to get back on level terms. Lionel Messi then put the game to bed at Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona as he was given the freedom of the inside right channel once more.

Lionel Messi’s effort, combined with Tottenham defensive errors, gifted him the goal. Spurs initially lost the ball and Messi jinked his way out of pressure down the touchline. A battle ensued with Toby Alderweireld that saw both players contesting feverishly for the ball. Alderweireld won the throw, but then the errors started.

Hugo Lloris tried to play out from the back with Barcelona pressing, which was the first mistake. Kieran Trippier was under pressure when he sent a looping, bouncing pass in to Moussa Sissoko. The one player that has a poor touch under pressure is Sissoko. He was easily shrugged off the ball as he tried to control it with his chest.

As this was progressing, Lionel Messi had snuck in to the acres of space in the inside right channel. He had the time and freedom to pick his spot as the ball arrived at his feet, courtesy of another Luis Suarez dummy. Messi made no mistake this time as he slotted the ball home to ice the game at Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Lionel Messi with the freedom of the inside right channel before scoring a goal to make the score Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.

Lionel Messi with the freedom of the inside right channel before scoring.

Messi aptly finished the game with a goal from channel from where he had dictated the whole match.

Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona overall

We got a number of things wrong in this game, but our spirit to keep plugging away kept us in the match until the 90th minute.

As showed in preseason and here, Barcelona are fallible to teams who attack the space that their full backs leave. A lesson for the return at the Nou Camp should we still be in contention and need points in the last Champions League group game.

Individual errors and poor decisions made for a huge part of gifting Barcelona three of their four goals. However, Lionel Messi put on a masterclass as he found space and dictated the match from the inside right channel.

Final score: Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.
MOTM: Lionel Messi.



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19 Responses to Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona: Messi in the inside right channel

  1. YouShubes 4th October 2018 at 3:24 pm #

    LLoris may need a breathalyser…some of his decisions were quite poor… think the Jan injury forced our hand…cannot understand why play a back 3/5 vs Hull and then a back 4 versus Barca…

    I think Sonny did not have the game he was hoping for but given the sheer amount of football he has been playing can we be surprised he is not firing on all cylinders

    As much as we he did pained me, it was a pleasure to see the wee genius at work

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th October 2018 at 3:53 pm #

      I don’t know if Hugo’s in the right frame of mind at the minute. With Cardiff coming up, who like to take a lot of long throws and get every set piece in the box, i’d keep faith with Gazzaniga who does better at coming to punch and clear in the crowd.

      Son looked ok in the match. I wouldn’t have taken him off for Sissoko though. Would’ve rather left him on tired than bring Sissoko on. Son does need a rest after coming back early in preseason to get him in shape for the Asian Games. That was understandable as the gold medal thing was an essential objective and benefits us long term. However, now he could do with a week or two off, maybe in the upcoming international break by withdrawing with an “injury.”

  2. Andy B 4th October 2018 at 6:01 pm #

    Well written analysis.

    I enjoyed watching Messi. What an amazing player he is.

    Winks starting playing well in the second half, which was encouraging. Alderweireld showed his class, but Sanchez was a bit out of his depth.

    Lamela keeps scoring. Son is knackered. Moura has done little since Man Utd and maybe best used as an impact sub.

    When Sissoko gets the ball, the choices are to laugh, cry, worry, get angry, be embarrassed. As we cannot stop him from playing, I prefer the first choice.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th October 2018 at 11:52 pm #

      Winks really had a game of two performances that centred around playing with Wanyama and Dier. Wanyama is not match fit and was a bit over eager. Dier was quite calm and composed, allowing Winks to go and play his array of passes. The second partnership worked so much better.

      Your comments about Sissoko are bang on. Whenever I see him ready to come on, i just think “why?!”

  3. Antony 4th October 2018 at 7:30 pm #

    Squad depth is a real issue.

    We do not have the quality in depth once one or two get injured.

    Is it too much to dream that Joe Lewis who professes love for his club sanction the buying of two or three key players we so obviously need?

    • Carrigbawn 4th October 2018 at 8:51 pm #

      Would Chelsea be able to replace Hazard if he was injured; would Liverpool be able to replace Van Dijk? The answer is no. Would key players be prepared to sit on the bench if the likes of Vertonghan, Eriksen & Dele were not injured?

      Would Barcelona be able to replace Messi & Suarez from players on the their bench? The answer is no.

      • Andy B 4th October 2018 at 10:08 pm #

        Carrigbawn – Your points do not correspond to our squad. We do not have attacking players of the quality of Hazard, Messi and Suarez.

        Dele Alli is nowhere near the level of those three players.

        We have no cover for Kane or Eriksen.

        We have players like Sissoko, Llorente and N’Koudou who are not good enough for our squad. Do you really think that these players demonstrate quality in depth?

        Do you really think our squad is good enough to win the premier league, or champions league?

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th October 2018 at 11:57 pm #

          This is our current problem. We can’t attract the quality of players that we need for the squad as they know they will be warming the bench and will therefore go elsewhere to play more consistent minutes.

          • Andy B 6th October 2018 at 11:27 am #

            If they are quality players, then they would get into the team and they would compete with the players that we have already.

            The problem is that Spurs have bought too many average or poor players, like N’Koudou that have no chance of getting into the team.

            For example, if we brought in a quality replacement for Dembele (who is injured too often), then of course that player will get into the team.

            Spurs playing in four competitions, means there are plenty of opportunities for the squad to be rotated.

            Even in the striker position, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t have more than one quality striker at the club.

            We did in the past:

            Jimmy Greaves / Bobby Smith

            Jimmy Greaves / Alan Gilzean

            Martin Chivers / Alan Gilzean

            Steve Archibald / Garth Crooks

            Gary Lineker / Teddy Sheringham

            Jurgen Klinsmann / Teddy Sheringham

            Teddy Sheringham / Robbie Keane / Frederic Kanoute

            Robbie Keane / Frederic Kanoute / Jermaine Defoe / Mido

            Robbie Keane / Dimitar Berbatov/ Jermaine Defoe / Mido

            Robbie Keane / Dimitar Berbatov/ Jermaine Defoe / Roman Pavlyuchenko

            • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th October 2018 at 1:40 pm #

              A great list of strikers from the eras when we predominantly played with two up top. Today’s team only sees a single front man and therefore most quality players don’t want to become Kane’s backup. That’s what one of our targets said over the summer and also an ex-pro who was on the PL debate show last week. He said the spurs setup is so appealing, but there’s no way he’d have accepted an offer as he knew he’d be sat on the bench most weeks. The other ex-pros on the panel all agreed with him, therein lying our problem.

              • Andy B 6th October 2018 at 2:40 pm #

                Pochettino has tried to play with two strikers, but Llorente isn’t good enough, so it hasn’t worked out.

                If Spurs had the option of playing with two quality strikers, then Pochettino would have that flexibility to change the system when it suits.

                We definitely need cover for Kane and just because some ex pros say that they wouldn’t have joined the club, it doesn’t mean that no-one else would. I really don’t buy into that negative way of thinking.

                Pundits often talk nonsense and it best to ignore a lot of what they say. Ex footballers are not always the brightest.

  4. Carrigbawn 4th October 2018 at 9:00 pm #

    You can’t give a player such as Messi, arguably the world’s best, that much space and expect to win. Give him too much space to weave his magic and he will destroy you and Spurs gave him the freedom of Wembley! A combination of injuries to key players, poor player discipline and poor tactics from Pochettino plus a sudden rush of blood to the head by Lloris (an example of goalkeeping suicide) led to the first and crucial Barcelona goal.

  5. Brian 5th October 2018 at 12:27 am #

    Hi Mark

    Once again me old mate,an excellent summary of the game.
    As pointed out,individual errors cost us dearly.And conceding that early goal,put us on the back foot,from the begging,and giving a team like Barcelona,that sought of early start,
    was paramount to suicide.Still the team did show some fight,come the 2nd half.

    Regards Brian

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th October 2018 at 11:59 pm #

      Hi Brian, yes we kind of shot ourselves in the foot giving away that early goal. I was really looking forward to seeing how Barca would deal with the intense pressure that we were seeking to cause. 1 minute and 30 odd seconds to play through it and score would appear that they could cope pretty well!

  6. Chas 5th October 2018 at 6:18 am #

    It’s all very well complaining we didn’t buy players to back up our main men but first Spurs have to make room. That means selling those players already mentioned as not good enough.
    Good luck getting any offers that Levy would consider reasonable!
    Unfortunately, he’s thinking pounds not pennies.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th October 2018 at 12:01 am #

      Very good point, Chas. Unless the player coming in counts as home grown, we need to shift some of the foreign quota in order to bring in any other non home grown players.

      • YouShubes 6th October 2018 at 7:18 am #

        For me I would look to move on Vorm and bring in Butland that would free up a home grown spot…if we don’t move on both the Mousas’ in Jan (one is now knackered thoroughbred, the other just devoid of confidence (total panic buy))

        Uncle Joe has to loosen the reins a bit otherwise we end up like Villa, Newcastle a club that could have been… The January market has to be where we bring players in Jan 1st not 31st

  7. MurphyN 5th October 2018 at 9:38 am #

    This inside right channel looks a very weak spot while Jan is out. Without a left-sided centre-back the space inside Rose/Davies is vulnerable.
    I’m sure Warnock (and others) will be targeting it.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th October 2018 at 12:04 am #

      I’m sure they will be targetting it. Fortunately, they don’t have a player like Messi! I would move Ben Davies to left centre back in the meantime as Dier (vs Huddersfield), Davinson and Alderweireld haven’t looked comfortable as the left centre back of a back two or three!

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