Pre-Match Review | Tottenham Hotspur (A)
Tottenham Hotspur vs Sheffield United 09/11/2019
English Premier League
Mauricio Pochettino’s side last won a league game on the 28th of September. Sheffield United’s last league defeat was on the 28th of September. Could the tables turn this weekend?
Last Time Out
Sheffield United 2 (Adams 77, 79) - Tottenham Hotspur (Eriksen 28, 88) - 28/01/2015
Capital One Cup (Semi Final 2nd Leg)
A Jay McEveley handball led to Andros Towsend converting the resulting penalty meaning that Nigel Clough’s side would have to overcome a one goal deficit from the 1st leg to reach the final against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.
It had all the makings of a great evening under the floodlights at Bramall Lane, there was snowfall throughout the day, a 2nd leg of a cup semi-final and with the Blades established as a good cup side having reached the FA Cup Semi-Final in 2014. The potential for an upset.
Mauricio Pochettino was still building his Tottenham side and we hadn’t seen the best of it yet in a footballing sense, that would come in the next 2 seasons. The Argentine coach made 2 changes from the 1st leg, Emmanuel Adebayor and Andros Towsnend came out. Moussa Dembele and Erik Lamela came in.
The formation stayed the same, Harry Kane was pushed forward into a centre forward position, playing as a number 10 in the first leg. Dembele would take up a number 10 role with Eric Dier and Ryan Mason acting as a double pivot, Christian Eriksen would drift inside from the left whilst Erik Lamela would do the same on the right. Creating space for Sheffield United produced Kyle Walker to run into from right back. The rest of the team that evening was Ben Davies at left back, with Jan Vertonghen and Benjamin Stambouli the 2 centre backs and Michel Vorm in goal. 9 of the players in the Tottenham squad that evening still play for them today.
Sheffield United that evening had a back 4 of Ryan Flynn, Basham, McEveley and Bob Harris with Mark Howard in goal. A midfield of Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Jose Baxter, Michael Doyle, Stefan Scougall and Jamie Murphy with Marc McNulty playing up top. However, it would be the substitutes who made the difference that evening.
The Blades had their first chance of the game and almost levelled the tie when Michel Vorm spilled a cross which was pounced on by Jamie Murphy, only for Kyle Walker to make a goal-line clearance. It would be the Blades only real chance of the 1st half as Tottenham turned the screw.
Harry Kane could have scored 4 before we saw the games opener.
The opening goal in this fixture is despite being a Sheffield United fan, one of the best free kicks I’d seen at the Lane since James Beattie’s against Wednesday in 2008.
Lamela, Walker and Eriksen all stood over it, Lamela made a dummy run and Eriksen hit it with his right foot it drifted (at speed somehow) across the goal, hitting the left hand post and Mark Howard could do very little about it.
The Blades upped their endeavours in the 2nd half but still struggled to score.
On 74 minutes Clough took off McNulty and Campbell-Ryce and brought on Michael Higdon and Che Adams.
It would take 3 minutes for Adams to make an impact. Scoring his first professional goal after signing from Ilkeston Town. His second would come 2 minutes later after his shot took a deflection off Dier to put the Blades 2-1 up on the night, level on aggregate and as it stood, the tie would be going to extra-time.
Christian Eriksen had a habit of scoring late for Spurs this season and would score late again after getting on the end of a Kane through-ball to see a repeat of the 2008 League Cup final, the last time Tottenham won a trophy.
Chelsea would have battered us anyway.
Summer at Tottenham
Notable Ins: Tanguy Ndombele (£55.5m, Lyon), Ryan Sessegnon (£25.5m, Fulham), Jack Clarke (£10m + Loaned Back, Leeds United), Giovani Lo Celso (Loan + With an obligation to buy, Real Betis)
Notable Outs: Kieran Trippier (£20m, Atletico Madrid), Vincent Janssen (£6.3m, Monterrey), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (£4.5m, Besiktas), Marcus Edwards (Undisclosed, Vitoria SC), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Loan, Stoke City), Josh Onomah (Free, Fulham), Fernando Llorente (Free, Napoli)
It wasn’t an ideal summer for Pochettino, he would have seen the way Liverpool overhauled their squad after losing the Champions League final in 2018 and saw the results bare fruit in the Champions League final of this year, hoping he could do the same after suffering defeat given the commercial revenues clubs receive these days for just reaching the final.
Players came in, but Pochettino would have wanted more. Players also left, but Pochettino would have wanted more to leave also. Danny Rose, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld were all linked with moves away but were unable to move on.
The latter 3 are all out of contract in the summer and the club now run the risk of selling in January and having to buy in the unforgiving January market, or lose them for nothing in the summer.
However, the club appears to have cleared some of the deadwood. Vincent Janssen has left the club for Monterrey after doing jack for the club. Kieran Trippier hugely fell out of favour after a poor 18/19 campaign and a fresh start was probably needed. I’m sure Spurs fans would have him back over playing Serge Aurier at this moment in time.
Tanguy Ndombele has shown flashes of brilliance in his early stages at the club so far. The other 2 incomings to the first team squad, Giovani Lo Celso and Ryan Sessegnon have both had injury problems and have only started getting significant minutes recently.
Chairman Daniel Levy is known to be a tough negotiator and you wonder if his hardball technique is holding Spurs back at times, but you do have to admire the shithousery done on the Lo Celso deal, with half the fee being covered in an initial loan fee, to reduce the sell-on fee going to Paris Saint-Germain.
Tottenham’s Recent Form
As mentioned in the introduction, Tottenham Hotspur haven’t won a league game since the 28th of September, the only wins in that period have been in the Champions League beating Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade) 5-0 and 4-0 home and away respectively.
In all fairness they should have probably beaten Everton on Sunday afternoon, given the circumstances following the injury to Andre Gomes and the psychological effect that visibly had on the Tottenham players, it’s not really something that could be legislated for.
In this run of games without a league win, they have only played one of these fixtures at home. Which was a draw against Watford which they arguably could have lost when the Hornet’s weren’t given a penalty which looked like a penalty.
They took the lead early against Liverpool at Anfield and were unlucky not to get something out of the game.
Tottenham’s problems seem to run a lot deeper than a bad run of form. It appears to be a team that has reached the end of its cycle and needs refreshing one way or another.
This isn’t a criticism on Pochettino, who has proven himself to be one of the best managers in the league over the past 5 years but the squad appears to have stagnated and an overhaul of the squad is required.
“It is fantastic. I think everyone has seen how he has been working. It is going to be very difficult. They work so hard, what impressed me the most is their belief and togetherness. They have the spirit like a rugby team that fight for each other. That is fantastic to see in a football team. That is why they have done so well, they have a good squad, good organisation, a great manager and coaching staff. They fight for each other, they have good players, that is the key of Sheffield United, they are doing so well, they have lots of points and are in a good position in the table.” - On Sheffield United and the job Chris Wilder has done
“The problem in the competition in the high level, you don’t have time to miss people. It is like now with [Erik] Lamela, or [Jan] Vertonghen, how you sit in the chair and cry because you miss someone. You miss the person, the professional, but the competition does not allow you to cry. You have to move on quick. It is a bit cruel, but you have to move on and try to win the next game. If you ask me like an MP, not as a coach, you miss the person when they are not involved, or close to you. Everyone provides different energy, but you cannot be affected. It is so important.” - On Injuries
“We're delighted with the position we're in but I've been in the game long enough to realise we're only a couple of points above the relegation zone.
It's been a decent start but I'm not going to get carried away and that changing room won't.” - On Current Form
“Scratch beneath the surface, what you’ve got is one of the world’s top managers [Mauricio Pochettino] coaching and managing some of the best players in the country.
I have a lot of admiration for how they work their players. They have an identity in how they play and within a collective group, they’ve got world-class individuals.
One result will get them going, they can’t fail with the talent they have got.” - On Tottenham Hotspur
Opposition Style of Play
Mauricio Pochettino’s sides play a high-pressing and high tempo style of football. Players have to be tactically astute and maintain high levels of fitness.
In the book on Pochettino’s Tottenham ‘Brave New World’ by Guillem Balague one of the main takeaways from Pochettino’s philosophy is to be brave, whether that be in playing out from the back, unsettling the opposition through pressing or having faith in his philosophy’s convictions.
In some aspects it is similar to that of his mentor, Marcelo Bielsa. Who he signed for Newell’s Old Boys as a child, by merely looking at his knees.
Pochettino’s sides have always been tactically flexible, the make up of the squad means that they can play a number of formations and are not averse to changing them in the middle of a game, changing to another formation and then changing back.
This season already Tottenham have played 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-3-1-2, 4-4-2 and 3-4-1-2, or variations of.
Against Red Star on Wednesday evening, a lot of their attacks were coming down the right-hand side with Argentine full back Juan Foyth linking up with his countryman Lo Celso. Harry Kane would then drift into the right channel to overload that flank.
Something for United to keep an eye out for if it were to happen again, just in case O’Connell and Stevens surge forwards as they are dangerous on the counter.
We’re on an incredible run at the moment and I have a feeling Tottenham may begin to turn a corner, we’ll give them a game but unfortunately I think we’ll lose 2-1.
Over 2.5 Goals, Over 10.5 Corners and Over 35 Booking Points at 6/1 (SkyBet); Both Teams to Score at 8/11 (SkyBet)
I’d go with the same team that beat Burnley, which looks to be our best 11 on paper at the moment.