Erik Lamela celebrates a goal during Wolves 2-3 Tottenham.

Wolves 2-3 Tottenham: opening the inside channels and full back failings

Racing in to a three goal lead saw us open the inside channels, but failure in the full back zones meant our match end Wolves 2-3 Tottenham at Molineux.

Spurs sauntered in to a three-goal lead with some devastating football. Opening up the inside channels around Wolves’ three centre backs was key to the early advantage. However, Wolves responded through attacking our full back zones and almost completed the comeback. The match ended Wolves 2-3 Tottenham as a resilient team hung on to take all three Premier League points.

Opening up the inside channels

Tottenham had to overcome two initial obstacles. Firstly, the exceptionally early loss of Mousa Dembele. Second Wolves initially spirited game plan to defend from the middle third and press when the ball had returned to Hugo Lloris to test his kicking.

A formation switch overcame the first hurdle. Initially playing a 4-3-2-1 formation, Mauricio Pochettino sent on Son Heung-Min and reverted to a 4-2-3-1 setup.

After adjusting to the new formation, Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks started to gain control at the base of midfield. The pair’s influence allowed Kieran Trippier to establish himself further forward. Trippier could take up some excellent attacking positions and it helped us score two before half time. The shift of Erik Lamela in to a number ten position was equally effective on all three goals, as he had another impressive outing.

The combination play of Lamela and Trippier allowed Spurs to open up the channels around Wolves three centre backs and score twice in two minutes.

Spurs scoring in the inside channels

Overcoming the initial hurdles, Tottenham took control of the match. The space down the side of the three Wolves centre backs was the target. Willy Boly was accountable on all three goals as Tottenham took advantage of his impetuosity and positioning.

Harry Kane had a quiet opening to the game, but the formation switch and establishment of control saw him come alive. Kane darted away from Boly and fired a dangerous shot across goal that was well saved by Rui Patricio’s fingertips.

The ploy to attack Boly had been established and seven minutes later Tottenham took the lead.

The passage of play saw Spurs control possession from back to front and work both sides of the field. The combination of Lamela and Trippier dragged Wolves’ defence around and opened up the inside right channel.

Lamela’s run had drawn Willy Boly out of the centre and towards the touchline. Space through the inside right channel was now open where Boly had been.

Willy Boly is drawn out of the centre by Erik Lamela's run during Wolves 2-3 Tottenham.

Willy Boly is drawn out of the centre by Erik Lamela’s run.

Trippier’s position drew wingback Jonny Castro Otto out of the middle to continue hold the inside channel open. As Boly retreated and overcompensated, Otto was left with Lamela on the inside and Trippier outside him.

Lamela darts through the inside right channel to score a goal during Wolves 2-3 Totenham.

Lamela darts through the inside right channel to score.

Lamela then exchanged passes with Son and darted for the space that was still open in the inside right channel. He tore through it and finished with aplomb through goalkeeper Rui Patricio’s legs. 1-0 to Tottenham from a gloriously worked move.

Having opened Wolves up from stretching them, their defence narrowed up. However, this didn’t stop the combination of Lamela and Trippier devastating Wolves again.

Concerned by the positions and influence Lamela was taking up; Boly got attracted to him once again. As a result, Otto was narrow and left Trippier in acres of space out wide.

Boly drawn out by Lamela and a narrow Otto creates space for Trippier during Wolves 2-3 Tottenham.

Boly drawn out by Lamela and a narrow Otto creates space for Trippier.

Trippier could take a touch and deliver a telling cross. Whilst this was going on, Spurs had flooded the lanes inbetween the three centre backs. Erik Lamela, Harry Kane and Lucas Moura ran the channels between Wolves’ central defenders.

Spurs' trio work the channels between the three cenre backs during Wolves 2-3 Tottenham.

Spurs’ trio work the channels between the three cenre backs.

Boly was attracted to Lamela’s positioning and as a result, his fellow centre backs were drawn towards the near post to compensate. Lucas Moura was thus left free at the back post to head home to put us two goals to the good.

Long ball Tottenham

Having attacked the inside channels after Erik Lamela had exposed Willy Boly’s positioning, Spurs added a third from a long ball. Wolves were pushing hard by this point, but a Hugo Lloris long kick downfield went straight over their aggressive positioning.

Harry Kane won the initial header against Willy Boly. Erik Lamela then grabbed the ball and drove straight at Conor Coady. Boly then made the mistake of getting attracted towards Lamela. This created a double team, but left Spurs with men over.

Boly and Coady try to stop Erik Lamela during Wolves 2-3 Tottenham.

Boly and Coady try to stop Erik Lamela.

In trying to stop Lamela, Harry Kane was left one against one with Ryan Bennett. Kane made a small move to back away from goal, losing Bennett in the process. Although his initial shot was saved, Kane was first to the rebound to fire it in to the net and give us a three-goal advantage.

Spurs had got at the space down the sides of three centre backs once more; with Boly and the inside right channel once again the target.

Wolves attack the full backs

Wolves use of their wingbacks and wide forwards have been a refreshing tactic in this season’s Premier League. They once more deployed them to great effect in order to attack the space beyond our full backs.

Wolves had the ball in the back of the net doing just this. Initially getting the ball in-behind our left back, Ben Davies, saw them drag Toby Alderweireld out of the centre. Raul Jimenez had the ball in the back of the net but Matt Doherty was incorrectly flagged offside. A narrow escape.

Our full backs didn’t heed the warning. Early in the second half and Hugo Lloris was called upon three times to deny excellent chances caused by Wolves attacking the spaces that our full backs left.

Helder Costa tore past Ben Davies and then Harry Winks to tee up Raul Jimenez. In a great shooting position, Jimenez fortunately fired his shot straight at Hugo Lloris.

Davies was the target once again as Helder Costa then took it upon himself to try his luck. However, Hugo denied him with a strong left-footed clearance at the base of his near post.

Kieran Trippier then came under examination. Trippier’s positioning was much higher than Davies and Wolves created good chances from attacking the green grass behind him. Ivan Cavaleiro raced in-behind in a move that saw Ruben Neves’ shot brilliantly saved low down by Hugo Loris at his right-hand post.

Trippier then made a huge error, which saw Wolves come back in to the game. The excellent Morgan Gibbs-White sent a pass in-behind Trippier for Leo Bonatini to chase.

Trippier recovered excellently to get to the ball first. However, in turning back inside rather than out, Trippier got himself into trouble. He tried to escape by flicking the ball through Bonatini’s legs. The trick failed and suddenly Wolves were in possession in a dangerous position.

As the ball went in to Raul Jimenez, Juan Foyth made an unnecessary challenge as the Wolves man had his back to goal and was going away from it. The tackle was needless and clumsy. Jimenez hit the turf and referee Mike Dean had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

Ruben Neves converted the spot kick and Wolves were back in the game.

Wolves pressing and pressure increased. Ten minutes later and they were back at Wolves 2-3 Tottenham courtesy of another penalty.

Kieran Trippier was culpable once again. The right back’s positioning was too high, especially when compared to Ben Davies.

Otto runs in-behind Kieran Trippier to win a penalty during Wolves 2-3 Tottenham.

Otto runs in-behind Kieran Trippier to win a penalty.

Jonny Castro Otto raced after the pass, which dragged Juan Foyth out in to a position and a foot race he wasn’t suited for. Recognising the mismatch, Otto made a nice double move to slow down and then go at Foyth with a change of pace. Foyth couldn’t stay with him and brought him to the ground as he attempted to lever him away from the ball with his strength.

Mike Dean once more pointed to the spot and Wolves had another penalty. Raul Jimenez coolly converted, sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way again. The match was now finally balanced at Wolves 2-3 Tottenham.

Tottenham hang on

Seeing the disarray at the back, Mauricio Pochettino sent on Davinson Sanchez. Juan Foyth was initially moved in to defensive midfield to retain the back four and get him out of the firing line. However, Sanchez almost conceding a third penalty by grappling with the Wolves striker saw Foyth slot in to a back three.

Spurs disjointedness continued and wasn’t helped by the change. The plans for Sanchez and Foyth had quickly altered and Tottenham were all over the place as a result.

Unlike previous Tottenham teams that would have conceded the equaliser, this current team is made of stronger stuff. We were able to hang on to keep the final score at Wolves 2-3 Tottenham and take another valuable away win.

Wolves 2-3 Tottenham overall

There was a lot to like about this Tottenham performance. The ability of the team to adjust to the early loss of Mousa Dembele and then take control of the match was impressive. The combination play between Erik Lamela and Kieran Trippier to drag around and tear the left side of the Wolves defence apart was equally excellent.

However, the defensive issues of our full backs were once more thrust in to the limelight. Kieran Trippier’s continued aggressive attacking play was reckless with Juan Foyth alongside him. Taking chances with the ball and his positioning is permissible when we are seeking to establish an advantage. However, three goals up against a dangerous Wolves team needed him to rein it in and recognise the situation.

Juan Foyth had a Premier League debut to remember. Excellent in the frst 66 minutes, Foyth made a number of key tackles and blocks, whilst also being highly impressive on the ball. However, his evening fell apart and will be remembered for the two penalties he conceded. Learning points for Foyth, but equally for Trippier who left him exposed when he should’ve known better.

However, the overall ability of this Tottenham team to dig in and see the match out was impressive. Mauricio Pochettino, as we all were, was breathing a huge sigh of relief at the final whistle. Previous Tottenham teams would’ve folded under the immense pressure, but this unit is made of something much, much stronger.

Final score: Wolves 2-3 Tottenham.
MOTM: Erik Lamela.

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25 Responses to Wolves 2-3 Tottenham: opening the inside channels and full back failings

  1. Matt 4th November 2018 at 2:57 pm #

    With our DMs decimated and our full backs out of form defensively; you to think we should be playing 5 at the back at the moment? Good to see us go long over the press occasionally now, Kane will always compete and with the quality we have up front it will always create chances. Mix it up a bit.

    • Matt 4th November 2018 at 2:58 pm #

      ……BTW; as ever Mark thanks for precise and insightful analysis…

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th November 2018 at 3:41 pm #

      I was quite surprised Poch was prepared to go with Winks and Sissoko as defensive midfielders after Dembele got injured, but it worked.

      I would go with three centre backs and wing backs. I’d use Davies in the left of the three and KWP as a wingback until Rose returns.

      I don’t understand why we don’t go over the press more often. Kane is very good at winning the first ball. Having speed like Son, Moura and Lamela around him makes us dangerous as Kane can also pick a pass. It maybe not be the purists approach, but it is effective. What’s more, it keeps the defence honest. If they know it’s going straight over their press they might be more hesitant or less keen to push up, creating room to play through the pitch.

      • Chas 4th November 2018 at 11:38 pm #

        I totally agree with your 3 centre backs, Mark, but you’re saying Davies is a better option than Foyth?
        Have to disagree on this – I don’t think they are even in the same class.
        Granted Foyth gave away two pens and became jittery and rattled but to be expected at his age and with Trippier forgetting what his main job is. Apart from that, he had played 150 consecutive minutes of pretty much flawless football.
        I doubt anyone has EVER said that about Davies.!

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th November 2018 at 11:27 am #

          Foyth is going to be good, but he is not a week-in-week-out reliable option yet, and he shouldn’t be expected to be. He needs to have his minutes gradually managed as another episode like at Wolves so soon afterwards could seriously damage his confidence. His distraught after giving away the second penalty was plain to see and it really knocked him. I should think Poch didn’t bring him off so as to not completely destroy him. In the long run he will be better for this, but we are in a difficult situation with Vertonghen and Rose out and Toby not 100% comfortable playing on the left. I’d go with a back three of Toby-Sanchez-Davies with Trippier and KWP as wing backs. Davies has played on the left of a three for Wales and has slotted in as left centre back for us on occassions. It’s only a stop gap until Jan returns, but his experience and natural left-sidedness solves the current problems we have which have meant switching numerous players around to make up for one player’s absence (Vertonghen), which has meant many square pegs in round holes when it doesn’t need to be like that.

          • Chas 5th November 2018 at 10:07 pm #

            Agreed, managing Foyth makes every bit of good sense. But in my view, to keep his mind positive, it is important that he is in the side next weekend. Being ineligible for the ECL, he has a week to clear his head. He’s young. He’ll mend quickly if he’s shown faith. I suspect Poch will go with that, especially as he’s also said he’s looking beyond the penalties to the Winks/Trippier brain fades.
            And as for Davies playing LCB, the old adage “playing a man out of position weakens two positions” comes to mind.
            Mind you, the way Davies is playing, left back is an improvement by whoever goes in there.
            Mark, there just hasn’t been one game this season where he has been up to standard and he hasn’t had Vertonghen to save face these past weeks which shows him up even worse.
            You’re OK with him. I’m absolutely not.
            We’ll have to agree to disagree!

            • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th November 2018 at 1:09 pm #

              Davies has done well when he’s played as a left centre back for us and equally looked one of Wales’ best defenders when they were playing the system under Chris Coleman. I think you are correct to say that playing a man out of position weakens two positions, but that player is Toby Alderweireld. He was shaky again as left-sided centre back against Wolves and he is not comfortable there. What’s more, he is unable to spray his usual array of passes around from that side. Toby really needs to return to the right as it makes us much better and the defence stronger. Bring Sanchez in to the middle for his strength, pace and power and that anchors the defence and doesn’t force Sanchez to play on his unnatural left side either. A back three of Toby-Sanchez-Davies solves a lot of problems for me, definitely more than it creates.

      • ashley collie 6th November 2018 at 4:35 am #

        Mark, great analysis as always, mate. I do like your idea about our goalies passing over the press. And have thought so, when I saw Pickford doing it so well for England (vs Spain) and involving Harry with that pass out. So, why can’t Spurs do that? I think Gazza might actually be a better distributor of the ball than Hugo, so it’d be great to see that being practiced more. Nice option to add in! Cheers!

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th November 2018 at 1:14 pm #

          We did it in trouncing Liverpool 4-1 last season and also played it away to Real Madrid so I’m sure Poch is aware of doing that. Maybe it goes against his ideals and football philosophy? With more teams playing 4-3-3 high press – Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Barca, Spain – to name just a few, I don’t see why it’s not a valid method to counter them. Sure possession is low, but chance quality – as England showed – is often very high.

  2. Iain 4th November 2018 at 8:47 pm #

    Great analysis and a good day away win, albeit with our now overly regular late wobbles – and this is the team who used to score so many late goals not cheers them! (Hope Jan will be back soon!!)
    Just wanted to comment on Son – I as says for the wet spam game but hear he played well. He looked out of sorts to me for a few games and didn’t appear happy at all yesterday. – didn’t seem to celebrate our goals or look his normal happy self. Hope its just not starting,and being subbed, but he isa key player to us so hope it’s nothing.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th November 2018 at 11:34 am #

      Son is a key player and when in-form an absolutely vital source of goals. He is a real team player so I’m sure he’ll be fine. I can understand his disappointment at being subbed on and then off, but i’m sure Poch will have explained to him that he wanted to limit his minutes with PSV in mind so soon after. Son has had a big workload with World Cup, Asian games and very little time off to keep him in shape so that he could have the maximum chance to win the gold medal that excludes him from military service. He did need a rest as he was very flat after the Asian games, so I can imagine he was on a rest/minutes restriction schedule.

      He was great against West Ham, but playing so long there and with Wolves and PSV also in quick succession then i’d imagine Poch would’ve wanted to rest him completely or for most of the game against Wolves. Match events dictated otherwise, but i’m sure Son will understand. Poch’s comments about the squad this week are a timely reminder about his philosophy and why we’ve seen so much of players like Sissoko in recent matches.

  3. SonShine 4th November 2018 at 9:08 pm #

    That was a nervy win, but valuable three points. Lamela and Moura are really doing wonders right now. That’s a very positive thing considering we played without Alli and Eriksen. Spurs looked like they have goalscoring threat other than Kane, who I do feel won’t be scoring a lot of goals this season. The responsibility of scoring goals have been unexpectedly balanced so far. Definitely we are starting to not relying heavily on Kane to deliver the goods. The league is far from finished yet so it’s very likely that Kane will prove me wrong. I was also impressed with how Son acted like a no 10 when he assisted Lamela and the pass to Trippier that led to Moura’s goal. Any thoughts?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th November 2018 at 11:40 am #

      Son and Moura were drifting off the line a lot – Moura’s goal showed that too as he was switched to be the right-side advanced midfielder at that point. Lamela was playing as the number ten, but Moura and Son were frequently drifting in and out of here. Maybe the plan was to upset Wolves wingbacks who couldn’t then track them as they went infield, but as you say Son was involved in key moments building up to both goals, which eventually got us in to the spaces down the sides of the centre backs. It will be fascinating to see what happens against Crystal Palace as the Eagles play very narrow in the defensive phase to force opponents out to the flanks. We will need wide players in that game for sure.

  4. DY 5th November 2018 at 3:26 am #

    But I thought Winks still lack of the physical strength and defensive effectiveness required to play as a double pivot in midfield.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 5th November 2018 at 11:46 am #

      Winks really needs a more physical player like a Dier or Dembele alongside him. Here he had that in Sissoko and it did work for large parts of the match. A definite short term rather than long term solution though. Winks did give the ball away to Wolves, which then saw Trippier make errors on both Wolves goals, which wasn’t great.

  5. Grum 5th November 2018 at 3:19 pm #

    I think that Sanchez was originally earmarked for the central position in a back three with Toby and Jan alongside. If I recall, we did try that formation when he first joined but switched to a back four, a) because if the Toby situation at the time and b) because it limited our attacking options.

    Davis is not a wing back (not really sure what he is as it seems any attacker or opposing fullback can get past him easily) and again, if memory serves, we struggled to create chances with a back 3 formation.

    Our midfield and defensive solidity, that saw us with a fantastic defensive record is a distant memory. Dembele even when fit is not the player he was, neither is Wanyama and Dier needs a more mobile ball playing DM alongside him. This area and the full back situation should have seen us active in the transfer window. We’ve done well result wise without, with a couple of exceptions, playing well. But I fear the number of upcoming fixtures may start to show the lack of depth in our squad in those areas.

    Let’s hope we can continue to get results until January and that we can actually buy some players in the window.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th November 2018 at 1:00 pm #

      Yes i think Sanchez was bought with that intention in mind to play central in a back three. That allowed Toby to play on the right of the three and spray passes around. Of course, injuries and the Toby contract situation changed that. Also, i think more teams are going 4-3-3 now that Poch is concerned to use the 3 centre back system against wide forwards that can run the outside centre backs wide.

      When healthy our midfield is solid, but without Wanyama, now Dier and Dembele struggling we do need reinforcements here. The links with Barrios, Rice and Ndombele are promising, but we need to ship out players before bringing them in as the like of Sissoko and Llorente are clogging up international player spots. Rice would be the exception as he’d be under the home grown rule, so the links make sense. Levy doesn’t usually spend in January but this year his hand may well be forced to in order to secure Champions League football for the new stadium.

  6. Tony M 5th November 2018 at 9:40 pm #

    Have noticed that when you see a defence line that is normally well organised looking dis-jointed and dis- organised thats a sign that the problem lies elsewhere. In DM. Playing 4-2-3-1 when none of your best DMs are available can be a recipe for trouble.

    After going 0-3 up i think Spurs should have reverted back to 4-3-2-1 (considering Wolves had nothing to loose now and could commit more players in attack). Also considering that we had a PL debutant in Foyth, a 3-man DM would provide more protection and prevent too many 1 vs 1 for CBs.

    Hope Foyth’s 2nd half nightmare will make him a better CB- I think Toby also debuted for Spurs in the PL by conceding a penalty but he perfomed almost faultlessly thereafter (had one of lowest foul counts of all PL CBs that year).

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th November 2018 at 1:03 pm #

      Defensive midfield is a problem right now due to health and injuries. It’s no real surprise that we’ve seen the links with Barrios, Rice and Ndombele surface and Levy will have to change his attitude towards not paying inflated prices in the January window. It may well be the difference between Champions League football or not.

  7. Erik Zen 6th November 2018 at 7:32 am #

    Ah the age-old trauma of being a Spurs fan. 0-3 up and you can’t shake the feeling we’re going to lose 4-3. Miraculous we didn’t at least draw that.

    What a comedy of errors our defence is nowadays! I’ll join the anti-Trips-as-right-back chorus. Seems the walking tattoo is likely to assist at least one goal in each match – and concede at least one. When he concedes more than he assists though it’s pretty tragic, especially when Foyth is thrown under the bus on his debut.

    Wolves were wonderful to watch. Hope they sort themselves out enough to stay up.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th November 2018 at 1:31 pm #

      The full back positions really need to be addressed in January and definitely next summer. Hopefully Fulham will go down, which will put Sessegnon on the market. The right back slot is a little more difficult to solve. Speed, defensive ability and crossing are not an easy package to find at an un-inflated price. Thomas Meunier would be ideal, but out of our league. Difficult one to solve.

      • YouShubes 7th November 2018 at 9:05 am #

        hence why PSG were “happy” to let Aurier go…big clubs like to have players who are already the full package…we have to fill the gap with coaching

        the Rice link is something I am happy about, West Ham are in the position to resist the bid and will even take the hit at a tribunal just to spite us…shame Skipp is probably too young to assume the mantle

        Jan is such a difficult player to replace….we have looked unbalanced and square peggish for most of the season

  8. Toby4eva 6th November 2018 at 9:35 am #

    Tony M possibly on the money.

    When Dier/Vic played as the deep DM and seamlessly flitted to a back three when required, things looked solid.

    Why has it unravelled?

    It’s not a train wreck – but for an Argentinian, the gaffer knows a thing of two about defence.

    But the stats are going the wrong way.


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th November 2018 at 1:36 pm #

      As you say, no Dier or Wanyama. Winks really needs a proper DM alongside him so he can play his usual hub passing game. When he gives it away, he often needs that player to retrieve the ball for him. Behind that we have a defence that has Toby played out of position and it’s affecting his play as well as others. It’s by no means a disaster, but a bit of a perfect storm waiting to happen whilst Dier, Wanyama and Vertonghen are out of the line-up.

  9. Toby4eva 7th November 2018 at 8:04 am #

    Nailed it boss.

    The defence looked more comfortable at Wembley last night against a team that were keen to play in their own half for most of the game.

    Gee that winning goal was straight out of the Keystone Cops.

    And their keeper tries to head butt the post for good measure!