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