Son Heung-Min scores a goal during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale in the FA Cup.

Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale: attacking the outside centre backs

The outside centre backs were constantly under attack as our FA Cup 5th round replay ended Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale at Wembley Stadium.

Mauricio Pochettino learned plenty from our initial encounter with Rochdale to use in this replay. The primary lesson gained was to attack the outside centre back to create shooting and cut back opportunities. Our team was ruthless, maximising these to the full. As a result, we ran out easy winners as it ended Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale at Wembley Stadium.

Rochdale over press

The game started with Rochdale over pressing. Keith Hill wanted his team to try and steal an early goal to put the cat amongst the pigeons, but it created problems for themselves.

Rochdale tried to hem Tottenham in, pressing each of the back four along with Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko in defensive midfield.

Pressure of centre backs and Sissoko and Winks during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Pressure of centre backs and Sissoko and Winks.

However, they were often overcommitted. As soon as Tottenham could break this pressure, suddenly Erik Lamela, Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura were free between the lines to run straight at their defence.

Son, Moura and Lamela free to run at the defence during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Son, Moura and Lamela free to run at the defence.

Each of these players can move at speed with the ball and had free runs at the Rochdale back line before the first big moment of the match.

Attacking the outside centre backs

Tottenham were straight in to their game plan to attack the outside centre back of Rochdale’s three. Spurs had the ball in the back of the net on five minutes, only for it to be ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee system (VAR).

The attack was built by breaking the Rochdale press and then Son burst past outside centre back Ryan Delaney to cut back towards Fernando Llorente.

Son dribbles past outside centre back Ryan Delaney during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Son dribbles past outside centre back Ryan Delaney.

Erik Lamela arrived to sweep home, but Llorente was somehow adjudicated to have fouled Jimmy McNulty. Both players tussled for the ball and if this is considered a foul, football will become a completely non contact sport.

Tottenham should’ve been a goal up, but it did show the route to the net. Fifteen minutes later and we would use it once more, as attacking the outside centre back of the three on the other side saw Son opening the scoring.

Juan Foyth and Kieran Trippier broke Rochdale’s attempt to press. Erik Lamela was thus released in to the huge ocean of space from their over-commitment.

Lamela set Son in to attack right-sided centre back Harrison McGahey. The South Korean danced past him and curled a sumptuous shot in to the corner of the net. 1-0 and the goal Tottenham’s play deserved.

Son attacks outside centre back Harrison McGahey to score a goal during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Son attacks outside centre back Harrison McGahey to score.

Moments later and VAR was called for again as we went at the outside centre backs once more. A long pass from Eric Dier released Kieran Trippier in to the open space behind left-sided centre back Ryan Delaney. Wing back Matt Done was caught wrong side and in his efforts to help, hauled Trippier to the ground. Contact started way outside the box, but ended up in the penalty area. VAR ordered a spot kick.

Son despatched the penalty neatly in to the corner. However, pausing in his run up saw the spot kick chalked off for illegal feinting.

Rochdale quick direct play

Rochdale’s heavy commitment to press meant they overstretched themselves. However, it did cause us problems. If Rocdale regained possession of the ball, they immediately looked to get it in-behind our defence as quickly as possible.

Rochdale levelled the scores doing just this. An under pressure Michel Vorm squared to Eric Dier. Immediately set upon, Dier kicked clear, but the ball instantly came back as Rochdale won the aerial challenge. Two quick forward passes and Stephen Humphrys had peeled off the back of Juan Foyth, controlled the ball and slid it home past the onrushing Vorm.

Stephen Humphrys jets past Juan Foyth to equalise during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Stephen Humphrys jets past Juan Foyth to equalise.

Rochdale almost repeated the trick as they nearly went in ahead at the interval. An under pressure Michel Vorm saw his clearance deflected up in the air by Ian Henderson. Seconds later and Andrew Cannon rung a shot back off Vorm’s right-hand post.

Tottenham attack the left centre back

VAR had broken the rhythm of the first half, but Spurs were sure to not let it set the tone of the second. Pochettino may have blasted the team, as after the break, there was a real commitment to attack the outside centre backs. Five goals ensued, the first three from going at the channel containing left centre back Ryan Delaney.

The go-ahead goal was quick in coming. Breaking the Rochdale press with a long pass over it saw Lucas Moura in the space between the lines. Moura quickly dribbled expertly through this zone to be directly running at the back line. He released Fernando Llorente in to the channel behind outside centre back Delaney to make it 2-1.

Moura releases Llorente beyond outside CB Delaney to score during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Moura releases Llorente beyond outside CB Delaney to score.

Our third goal swiftly followed. Lucas Moura was key again as he moved in-behind Delaney this time to receive Son’s pass.

Moura moves beyond Delaney to square for Llorente to score during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Moura moves beyond Delaney to square for Llorente to score.

Moura squared for Fernando Llorente to prod home. The striker had got himself in to a nice position goal side of the middle man in the back three, Jimmy McNulty.

Lucas Moura played a key part in both of these goals, showing the value to our squad of a quick dribbling player through midfield. During the January transfer window, Spurs had considered a move for Bordeaux’s Malcom before bringing Moura in. To bolster our crop of this type of player, Tottenham could make another bid for Malcom and have a much better chance of securing his services this summer. The odds that Malcom will be lining up for Spurs next season are 3/1, according to My Top Sportsbooks.

Rochdale switch to 4-3-3

With the score at Tottenham 3-1 Rochdale and Stephen Humphrys going down injured, Keith Hill rolled the dice. Steve Davies was introduced and Rochdale went to a 4-3-3 system.

Rochdale moved to a 4-3-3 formation during Tottenham 6-1 defeat.

Rochdale moved to a 4-3-3 formation.

However, moving from three centre backs to two just opened up the space around them for Tottenham to further exploit.

Within seconds of the switch, Fernando Llorente completed his hat trick. Spurs went over the initial Rochdale press and raced through the space created in midfield. Son Heung-Min was then free to attack the now left-sided centre back of the pairing, Ryan Delaney. Son’s perfectly weighted chip gave Llorente the easiest of headers to notch his third and make the score Tottenham 4-1 Rochdale.

Son gets beyond outside centre back Delaney to cross for Llorente to score during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Son gets beyond outside centre back Delaney to cross for Llorente.

Tottenham attack the right centre back

Left sided centre back Ryan Delaney had been tirelessly attacked by Spurs all evening, but the now playing right-side of the centre back pairing Jimmy McNulty wasn’t sparred. Tottenham added two more from attacking the space behind him.

Lucas Moura shimmied and danced through midfield to thread a pinpoint pass in to Erik Lamela running off McNulty to create the fifth. Lamela’s neat pass laid the goal on a plate for the arriving Son Heung-Min.

Lamela runs off McNulty to tee-up Son's second goal during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Lamela runs off McNulty to tee-up Son’s second goal.

Kyle Walker-Peters then made it Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale as McNulty got drawn out towards Dele Alli. Space was created behind and Walker-Peters filled it to score his first senior Tottenham goal.

Walker-Peters gets behind McNulty to score his first senior goal during Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.

Walker-Peters gets behind McNulty to score his first senior goal.

Walker-Peters strike was the last kick of the game as it ended Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale and progress through to the FA Cup Quarter-Finals.

Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale overall

Spurs ended up running out comfortable winners, but were tested by Rochdale’s play, the conditions and annoyingly by VAR.

Momentum was often killed in the first half by all the stoppages to check so many things. Goals couldn’t be celebrated until they had been thoroughly scrutinised; sucking a lot of enjoyment out of what was an entertaining FA Cup tie. Spurs were therefore hindered from getting a stranglehold on the game and should’ve been several ahead by the interval.

The route to all six goals came from attacking the spaces around the outside centre backs when Rochdale played with a three. A switch to two centre backs opened up these areas further and more goals ensued. Bring on Swansea.

Final Score: Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale.
MOTM: Son Heung-Min.

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14 Responses to Tottenham 6-1 Rochdale: attacking the outside centre backs

  1. Andy B 1st March 2018 at 3:56 pm #

    Thanks for the interesting write up.

    It was great to see Llorente get his goals. It is a surprise that it has taken so long for him, considering he played so well for Swansea. I think that it has been a combination of factors – no preseason, lack of game time, and the lack of aerial service (good crossing from the wings).

    He didn’t score against a premier league defence, but it was in adverse weather conditions, which made it difficult.

    Let’s hope Llorente kicks off from it, now. It would be good to give him some game time, very soon, to keep the flow going, even if it is just for the last 20 minutes of a game. That is the mistake that AVB made with Soldado – when he scored, he rarely played the following game. The situation is a bit similar, in that Soldado also thrives on crosses, which he didn’t get at Spurs.

    The other positive thing from the game that I enjoyed, was the direct running of Moura, Lamela and Son. What a great combination of attacking players.

    It was pleasing that the players kept attacking and didn’t get put off by the VAR farce. That says alot about their strong mentality.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st March 2018 at 6:34 pm #

      Llorente seems to have suffered from a lack of consistent game time and it was good to see him get a few goals. Even at his age, he is still a quality striker and with Moura, Lamela and Son he got plenty of service. He will be back on the bench for Huddersfield though so hopefully we’ll be a few up and he can get on for 15-20 minutes to give Kane a rest before Juventus.

      VAR really diminished the authority of the referee. The fact that he stood with his finger in his ear for most of the match did great harm to the officiating in my view. Refs should be able to call on VAR if they need clarification on a decision, but it shouldn’t interfere with every match event. Let the players play and the officals officiate!

      • Andy B 1st March 2018 at 7:55 pm #

        I agree. The last thing football wants is referees to become like puppets on a string. They are there to make decisions. If their authority and decision making is undermined and they become too dependent on a machine, then their role in the game would be significantly diminished.

        Robots are already replacing workers in society. Try calling the tax office and you will get through to a telephone robot. The only way to reach a human is to confuse the hell out of the telephone robots, by speaking very quickly and saying words in a random order. Eventually they give up and you get through to a real person.

        The reason I am saying this is how far will technology go. I mean, will players eventually wear ear pieces and be told where to run and who to pass to, by a machine that that has far more information than a human manager. How is that different to a referee being told what to do, by a machine?

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd March 2018 at 10:26 am #

          I think it’s about technology being used for the good of the game. Goal line technology has been a brilliant invention. Unfortunately, whilst video refs work in other sports, it’s not quite right in its current format for a fluid game like football. I’d like to see the ref being able to check a decision if he is unsure, but it has to be him that calls for it and not the other way around. The atmosphere while waiting to check every goal was ridiculous. Everyone, the players included, were stood around waiting to see if they could celebrate, which is utter nonsense!

  2. Lennon 1st March 2018 at 6:12 pm #

    Agreed! Moura, Lamela and Son looks a great combination.

    Oh, old timer Llorente showing young turks how to put away a 1v1 with the keeper. Im looking at you Son and umm…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st March 2018 at 6:38 pm #

      The chip apart, Llorente’s finishes were pretty easy to be fair. He is a quality player though and throughout his career he has shown that. Hopefully this gets him going.

  3. Chas 1st March 2018 at 8:27 pm #

    The only downer of the game for me (apart from the obvious weather and VAR problems) us the strange and worrying lack of form by Winks – and against modest opposition.
    Even cutting him some slack for the conditions, his passing was woeful and he looked well short of the composed youngster who made the England squad last season.
    On another point, I’ve read reports regarding another bad performance by Sissoko. I’m no great fan, but I thought he played OK. Nothing brilliant, but quite acceptable.
    It seems the “haters” just “hate”, regardless.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd March 2018 at 10:31 am #

      Winks has been a bit of a concern, especially after he was do good earlier in the season. He is still not first choice for me so hoping this is a dip while he works his way back.

      Sissoko was alright to be fair. He had that one moment of miss control where a better touch would’ve seen him break free. However it just became a meme on twitter to easily slate him. Unfortunately for him, one moment is all it needs to hammer him as clumsy and not fit to wear the shirt.

  4. Matt 1st March 2018 at 9:06 pm #

    Insightful as ever. I’m excited by Moura, the speed and close control is eye catching but it’s his passing and final ball that is exciting. A signing we really needed.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd March 2018 at 10:33 am #

      Moura has been impressive, albeit against lower league opposition. However, I do love the way he can change direction, avoid tacklers or shift away in an instant. Definitely a game changer when he gets acclimatised to everything.

  5. Erik Zen 2nd March 2018 at 9:00 am #

    Hi Mark, interested to know if you are usually at the games or if you watch on TV? I’m always surprised by your insight, for example spotting the formation change of Rochdale. As well as this blog do you actually work in the field (excuse the pun)?

    This was a rambunctious cup tie. I always love seeing Foyth – although he has one or two mistakes in him owing to his age, he is so silky smooth on the ball. He was a great factor in breaking their press as he just effortlessly plays past people.

    How on earth did we snap up Moura for 20m? The guy looks astonishingly good and has adapted seamlessly to our game. It was third time lucky signing a pacy midfielder from La Ligue, after N’Jie and Nkoudou. Maybe the key was choosing a Brazilian.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd March 2018 at 10:38 am #

      Hi Erik Zen, I get both to games and watch on TV, but I don’t work in the field, yet. Just this blog.

      I’m always purring when I see Foyth on the ball. He needs work on his defensive positioning, but at this age he’s well ahead of the curve and hopefully learning fast. Dare I say it, but if Toby does go, has Poch earmarked Foyth as his replacement?

      Very excited about Moura. A skill set we don’t have and finally at the level we need. Buzzing to see what he can do!

  6. Matt 2nd March 2018 at 1:47 pm #

    Regards Foyth he looks great on the ball. Don’t want to be a dinosaur but he looks small for a CB. 6’ max I imagine. I worry he’ll struggle in the air and against physical opposition. Hope I’m wrong.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd March 2018 at 12:30 am #

      Looks gangly to me and needs to beef up a bit, but he’s 1.87m (6’3”) according to various internet sources, so decent size for a centre back.

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