Tottenham Hotspur continue to make strides and display improvement
After looking at a team that might never again connect a pass in the final third just a fortnight ago versus Sheffield United, Spurs have begun taking shape under Jose Mourinho. Tottenham Hotspur demonstrated they can play in more than one way and seem to have rediscovered something that has been missing most of the season at the right time as Tottenham scored three goals for the first time since February in 1-3 win over Newcastle United.
Same Spurs Different Structure
For the first time since I can remember, Spurs ran the same line-up out on the field. Mauricio Pochettino was known for not using a set line-up and up this point, Jose Mourinho had followed suit. Following only two days off since the win in the North London Derby, Mourinho decided to use the same team but just put it together slightly differently.
Whereas in the win over Arsenal – like several other matches since the restart – Tottenham Hotspur played with two strikers, today that was not the case. Instead of the more traditional 4-4-2 Spurs ran out in the Derby victory, Jose took the same 11 and re-configured the team into a 4-2-3-1, which is the shape we Spurs fans have come very accustomed to over the last several years.
This is a good sign as part of having a plan B as a team is being able to play in different formations. One of the biggest complaints often levied against Pochettino was his lack of a plan B when full-blown bully did not do the trick. On this day, Spurs showed they can change their shape and formation and still be just as, if not more effective in attack.
Tottenham’s Wonderful Wings
Tottenham Hotspur is still not quite getting great wing play, but compared to a few weeks ago, things have really turned around for Spurs’ top two outside attackers Heung-Min Son and Lucas Moura.
While neither is going to be mistaken for Sergio Ramos anytime soon, both have demonstrated both a willingness and an ability to be complete footballers at the wing position.
While not the incredible 10 from the weekend, Lucas Moura attempted another 4 tackles today – none more important than his tackle and stealing of the ball in the 27th minute which led to Son’s opening goal for Spurs.
First Moura had laid a nice pass out to Serge Aurier who has now cutting backdoor on his defender. Unfortunately, Aurier’s cross was cut out, but on the play, Newcastle tried to carry the ball out from the back following Aurier’s cross.
It was as Newcastle tried to carry the ball out from the back that Lucas struck defensively stepping in and tackling the ball away. Lucas then played the ball forward to Kane who one-touched the ball into Giovani Lo Celso in the middle of the pitch. Lo Celso’s touch wasn’t great as he opened up his body with an eye toward goal. Then he poked it over to Son, who took a couple of touches to position DeAndre Yedlin and blast through Yedlin’s legs into the near post for 1-0 Spurs.
Beyond that goal and a nice long difference effort on target Son really impressed me with his defense today. It was not so much the defensive actions Son took, rather the positions he put himself in to aid the defensive effort. I routinely saw Son – especially in the 1st halfback just a few yards outside his 18 defending. And while some people may talk about that positioning and talk about Spurs parking the bus. Nothing could be further from the truth as Tottenham are learning to defend as a team and attack in return.
Return of Harry Kane
After much talk of the demise of Harry Kane and how he won’t be able to score goals under Jose Mourinho, Kane suddenly has three goals in two games, and things seem somewhat right with the world again. As Kane continues to adapt to the all-around game Mourinho is seeking from him dividends are starting to return. Kane is being asked to do more in terms of attacking the ball in the air and dropping in to pick up the ball and move his team forward, both things the England captain is quite capable of.
Additionally, Kane is learning a new way to defend from the front. He is no longer running as crazy as he can after the ball as Spurs look to establish a defensive philosophy based on sound defensive positioning. This part of Kane’s game was evident today as Spurs continue to learn how to defend pretty much from the group up. If Kane – like Son and Moura – can keep doing his part defensively the goals will come, just like they have in the last two games.
From here Spurs have a couple of days off before facing Leicester City at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in the last home match of the season. Tottenham needed to make a statement against Newcastle and did so, if they want to maintain any outside shot at Europe next season, the same thing will have to happen against Leicester City on Sunday.