Tottenham Counterattack and Overlap to Perfection v Arsenal

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by Visionhaus)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06: Son Heung-Min of Tottenham Hotspur (Photo by Visionhaus) /

Much is made about the tactics of Tottenham Hotspur under José Mourinho; however, it is the little things that make a difference as Heung-Min Son showed Sunday.

Tottenham Hotspur scored two counter attacking goals on Sunday to top Arsenal 2-0. Within those two opportunities, Spurs used the simple football play of the overlap to perfection to stifle the Gunner defense and score two goals. HotspurHQ looks a bit deeper at those plays to better appreciate the attention to detail in the Tottenham attack.

Creating Offense from Defense

Both Tottenham goals started from a defensive position and saw Spurs quickly transition from defense into attack, in sufficient numbers to create goal scoring opportunities. Both goals were set up by similar defense plays, where Tottenham were the more alert team and cut out one of the many crosses from Arsenal on the day.

You could hear Hugo screaming after every clearance for the team to quickly push out and drive Arsenal back into there own half, this push helped make the first goal happen. Toby Alderweireld had successfully headed the ball out of the box for Tottenham and as Hugo emplored his teammates to push out Steven Bergwijn was first to the ball heading it toward Kane. On the second goal, it was Serge Aurier alertly cutting in front of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to start the play and then getting it up quickly to Giovani Lo Celso to start the attack.

Both plays started with focused, alert, team defending and then were finished with aggressive smart football designed to put the defense on the back foot. On both goals two things happened once the ball got into the middle of the pitch, first Son Heung-Min got the ball on the left and second, someone overlapped behind him.

Tottenham Overlapping to Success

The overlap is a basic footballing play where one player runs around and beyond the other with the ball. The idea is simply really, if there are defenders they must go with the runner or stay with the ball. Either way, the defense is having to react, and the offense can respond to that reaction to their own advantage.

Son Stuns on Spurs Goal One

On the first goal, Sergio Reguilón went busting hump making a 50+ yard sprint to get into the play from a defensive position and run around Son on the left. As Reguilón looped around Rob Holding ran with the Spaniard as Hector Bellerin continued to backpedal. Seeing the defense not stop the ball and go with the runner, Son cut in, Bellerin hit the turf, and the ball hit the net.

Credit goes to both Reguilón and Son on the play. Sergio had to really work to get into position and make that happen, making a run where he ultimately never got the ball. Son had to make the right decision, seeing the defense respond taking full advantage of the space provided.

A coach could not have drawn the play up any better, particularly the worldie shot from Son. You could almost feel the pride from Mourinho in his celebration with Joao Sacramento as Spurs jumped to the 1-0 lead.

Tottenham Strike Twice

On the second goal there was not nearly as much space as on the first. Son did not receive the ball from Lo Celso until he was in the final third near the penalty box, as opposed to running on from midfield like on the first goal. Lo Celso made the right choice going to his left, as he has both Son and Kane on that side, with Son the further left of the two.

As Lo Celso passed it and Son began to receive the ball, Harry Kane had not a moments hesitation in his run around Son’s back. Just as with the first goal, Rob Holding had a choice to make again. Here was Son the more dangerous player with the ball in the box on his shooting foot. As Kane sprinted around the South Korean, Holding really had no choice but to stay with Son and the ball.

Just as Lo Celso had made the right decision so did Son, laying a soft pass into the path of Kane as he came screaming off his shoulder. At this point there was no defender between the ball and the goal, just Leno, who stood no chance as Kane blasted the ball past the helpless keeper.

Tottenham Takeaway

While you cannot necessarily fault Holding for staying with Son and the ball instead of dropping off on Kane, Tottenham had now beaten the left back twice with the same move. This was really a no-win situation for Holding, as no matter what his decision it was probably going to be wrong.

Instead of faulting Holding, like Harry Kane crediting Arsenal, we just need to give credit to Tottenham for taking a basic footballing play and running it to perfection at just the right time twice. Further credit Son for continuing to expand his game and give himself more options in the process. While pundits may focus on the overarching tactics of “defensive football”, those watching closely can see offensive football run to perfection, ask Rob Holding.