Spurs tried 3-4-2-1 again but life isn’t Rosey without Danny
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on February 25, 2017
Tottenham’s recent drop in form has seen them exit the Europa League and drop away from Premier League leaders Chelsea, as well as falling behind Man City. Many have been quick to name a variety of reasons – some have looked at Pochettino’s squad rotation between three competitions, while others have questioned Spurs’ approach to their away games against the teams around them in the table. They like to use their full-backs as auxiliary wingers to provide the width in the final third, but this makes them highly vulnerable to the counter-attack – evident when Mane scored two quick-fire goals in Liverpool’s 2-0 win. The problem definitely looks to be in the full-back area, but it’s the missing ingredient of Danny Rose, the man who makes Pottechino’s team ‘tick’. Without him Spurs have not looked anywhere near as good as they were with him.
Before Rose was forced off against Sunderland and replaced by Ben Davies, he was influential during Tottenham’s 8 game unbeaten run, winning 7. Since being sidelined, Spurs have won 2, drawn 1 (2 if you count the game against Sunderland), and lost 2. The club’s & fullback’s upturn in form coincided with the change in formation from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-2-1 which had allowed Rose & Walker to exploit the space down the wings in the final third. This freed up the attacking midfielders to stay central, dominating the space behind the striker and this, coupled with the width provided ensured Harry Kane enjoyed plenty of service up top.
The graphic below illustrates Tottenham’s 3-4-2-1 formation against both Chelsea & Gent – the only difference in the team is the left wing-back position, with Davies replacing Rose. The images show the average touch positions for each player from the Spurs team as well as their link up play on the day.
Left side lacks width in the final third
Focusing more on the Gent game, it’s evident that with Davies in the team, he isn’t confident enough or fast enough to push on up into the final third with the same conviction as Walker or Rose. This negatively impacts Dembele as he is having to support Davies, drawing him away from the central areas. The attackers are further away from each other to accommodate for the lack of width down the left – it pulls them away from each other, making it less likely for them to work closely as a three where they’ve had so much success this year. With Rose in the team, the opposition are stretched across the pitch as they’re wary of the overlapping pace on both flanks, but with Davies on the left teams are comfortable, and confident that he will rarely beat the defence with pace.
Player’s focus their game towards the right
The nervy feeling a fan gets when a player they aren’t confident in gets the ball is also true for players, and it was true for the game against Gent as players used Walker’s pace to exploit the defence time and time again. The image shows a lot more space around Davies compared to Walker suggesting that players like Dembele, Wanyama, Eriksen and Kane are far more confident and happier playing with Walker and his overlaps. This does however become predictable quite easily and teams that have kept Walker quite, have usually made Spurs struggle or at least work hard for their win.
Defence lacks confidence
When Dier, Alderweireld and Vertongen see Rose and Walker on either side they’re usually confident that the opposition will find it hard to get the getter of the two. With Davies, teams look to exploit that side during a counter-attack as he is easily beaten for pace in a one-on-one, clearly evident against Mane for his first goal (below).
One thing’s for sure, Rose would have been a far better match for pace.
Obviously this is just one writer’s view on the current Tottenham squad and there are other factors affecting tactics and form, but Danny Rose is a key element for Pochettino and the success of the squad, and currently he’s sorely missed. His return to the first team can’t come quick enough for Spurs fans because on his day, he’s arguably the best left-back in the league…and only the best is good enough for Spurs to challenge for the title.