Having drawn the first game of the new season, it was important for Mauricio Pochettino’s team to get the 3 points. And it was a late goal from new signing Victor Wanyama that ensured all 3 points for the hosts.
Spurs lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Vorm in goal in the absence of injured Hugo Lloris. Alderweireld and Vertonghen started as CBs with Rose and Walker as fullbacks. Wanyama and Dier were employed as a double pivot. The front 4 comprised of Eriksen,Kane,Lamela and new signing Janssen.
Build up and chance creation
With Kane playing as a withdrawn striker behind Jansen, Spurs tried to open up the 10 space behind Crystal Palace’s midfield. They tried to do this by deploying both Wanyama and Dier in deep positions in the early stages of their build up. This would invite the press from Crystal Palace’s midfield which will open up acres of space behind their midfield for players like Kane and Eriksen to exploit. Eriksen in particular is a master at evading cover shadows and offering passing angles to Spurs’ playmaking CBs and deep midfielders. For a large portion of the game, the build up focussed mainly on getting the ball into the 10 space. This was done mainly by the deep midfielders in Wanyama and Dier. If they were marked, Alderweireld was the one who mainly took the initiative of getting the ball past Crystal Palace’s midfield line.
Another notable aspect of Spurs build up was the high position taken up by RB Walker compared to LB Rose in the early stages of build up. This was done because Eriksen had been told to drift towards the centre which would open up space on the right flank. To stabilise the structure,Dier was instructed to occupy the right halfspace in a deeper position in the early stages of build up.
Spurs had more than enough chances to score.. Kane in particular benefitted from his role as a withdrawn striker as he got space to turn and get shots towards goal. However,he lacked the finishing touch to make those chances count. He either shot wide or his efforts were saved by Henessey.
If the centre was congested,Spurs mainly used Walker as an outlet to relieve pressure or create chances.. Walker was intelligent in timing his runs but lacked the final delivery to create good scoring chances. Rose on the other hand, who would stay deep in early build up, attempted to get past the defensive line with diagonal runs from the flank. He had a good shooting chance as he got on the end of a good pass(just before the end of the first half) from Janssen after one such run but failed to capitalise as he was dispossessed.
At times, Dier tried to pick out early runs of Kane with lofted balls above the Palace defense. Kane headed wide from a delightful Dier lob in the second half.
Eriksen also looked far from his best as he misplaced some crucial passes in the final third. The talented Dane got on the end of many passes behind the Palace midfield but failed to exert his usual influence. It was the final ball which was lacking from him.He was substituted late in the second half by Alli who almost made an instant impact with a through ball that sent Janssen one on one with the keeper. Janssen unfortunately shot wide.
The Poch press
Continuing the good work from last season,Spurs were impressive in their counterpressing which led to relentless waves of attack. Pochettino firmly believes in a high pressing game. This was bolstered by new signing Vincent Janssen from Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. Janssen was impressive in pressing Crystal Palace’s back line. He was helped by the high line employed by Spurs which restricted the space for Palace to play between the lines. As a result,Palace could not build up play through the thirds and more often than not had to play a long hopeful ball for their wingers Zaha and Townsend to run into. This did not work for Palace as it led to gifting away of possession to Spurs who could then initiate another attack.
However as the game went on,the pressing intensity dwindled a little which led to some chances on the break for Palace. Because of the reduced intensity,spaces opened up in Spurs structure due to a lack of vertical compactness which gave away some chances to Crystal Palace. Cabaye missed a glorious chance to put them ahead after some good work by former Spurs man Townsend on the wing.
However relentless waves of Spurs attacking ultimately paid dividends as Wanyama finally headed home to score on his home debut to ensure all 3 points for the hosts.
Pochettino will be pleased with Spurs performance especially with the build up. However his team need to be clinical in their finishing to launch a serious challenge to the title. Kane in particular looked rusty in his finishing. Eriksen also needs to find his form because almost all the Spurs attacking plays in the final third run through him. It’s still early days though and Spurs can only improve as the season progresses.