What I Want to See from Tottenham Hotspur Against Wolves

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates with teammates Tanguy NDombele and Pierre-Emile Hoejbjerg. (Photo by Glyn Kirk - Pool/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates with teammates Tanguy NDombele and Pierre-Emile Hoejbjerg. (Photo by Glyn Kirk - Pool/Getty Images) /

As Tottenham go to play Wolverhampton on Sunday, there are a few things Spurs XI need to do if they are going to leave Molineux with all three points.

To secure three points and get back on track in the Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur need to get back to basics and do the little things to beat Wolverhampton at the Molineux. It Tottenham can limit their fouls, funnel Wolves inside, and stretch the Wanders defensively, Spurs can leave with all three points.

No Stupid Fouls

Well, we can continue to ask that Tottenham focus more while defending set pieces or maybe they should just stop giving them away altogether. Wolves have struggled to score this season, scoring only 14 goals in 14 games, and not once having more than 2 goals. The Wanders have only scored 7 of those 14 goals in open play.

However, 29% or 4 of the 14 goals have come from set pieces. If you include a penalty kick, 5 of the 14 or 36% of all their goals have come from dead ball situations. The last thing Tottenham need to do is put Wolves in a good position to score and committing dumb, stupid fouls is one surefire way to do that.

Many would rightfully point out the bad foul from Serge Aurier to end the half against Leicester as a perfect example. Clearly, the penalty turned the outcome of the game with an avoidable mistake. However, I believe the momentum was turned when at just 5 minutes into the game, Pierre Højbjerg committed a bad foul on James Maddison and suddenly, here is Tottenham defending against a set piece in their own box again.

Spurs had the ball until that point, suddenly there is the opponent plotting a scoring opportunity and Spurs are distracted complaining to the refs. Likewise, committing silly, bad fouls, early and often against Wolves is a recipe for disaster, they are simply too good in set piece situations to give a lot of opportunities too. While no team can avoid fouling altogether, Spurs need to avoid the bad fouls and stop committing stupid fouls when offensive people are not even facing the goal.

Funnel the Traffic

We know that Wolves want to attack down the flanks. While the right flank is the primary option seeing almost half of all Wolverhampton attacks, the left flank is used over 30% of the time too. Wolves like to push the ball down the flanks and then gets service into and around the box. Tottenham need to make sure that service does not happen and work to funnel the bodies into the middle of the pitch.

The idea of pushing the team into the middle is two-fold. First, by looking to force the wide players more centrally, there will be less room and spacing, debilitating the Wolves attack. Second the idea would be to drive the ball to Tottenham’s strength which is right up the gut of the defense with Pierre Højbjerg as opposed to leaving defenders in open space on the edges.

Good things were happening earlier in the season as people were forced into Højbjerg and he was able to do what he does best, recover possession. Pierre is most effective both defensively and offensively when he is recovering possession in the middle of the pitch, not playing fullback. If Spurs can force the Wolves wings to play narrower than they want, it can really dent Wolves attack.

Tottenham and The Running Man

The final thing I want to see from Spurs is about movement and spacing on offense. Tottenham are most effective when they have a third man running. Whether it is a midfielder going in over the top after Kane comes in to collect the ball. Or it is a wing or fullback flying up the flank as the midfielder drops the ball back to a center half for the long ball.

The point is when the ball moves in and out, the defense often moves with it. Then when you get the third man running off the ball, you can find space and opportunity on the pitch. Gareth Bale struggled to do this at Stoke and neither Lo Celso or Tanguy Ndombele did it consistently at Leicester.  Making matters worse was the lack of movement.

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For the shots he missed at Liverpool, Steven Bergwijn was becoming a third target man to play movement football off. If Kane, Son, and Bergwijn can all provide outlets to hold the ball, pass it, and create the space for the third man, Spurs should have a good day. That movement both on and off the ball is what gets the defense to adjust and it is those adjustments that Spurs can take advantage of. Or at least we hope so, as Tottenham need all three points.