Observations from Tottenham Hotspur EPL Win over Burnley

Burnley's Czech striker Matej Vydra (R) has this shot blocked by Tottenham Hotspur's Colombian defender Davinson Sanchez (L) during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on February 28, 2021. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Burnley's Czech striker Matej Vydra (R) has this shot blocked by Tottenham Hotspur's Colombian defender Davinson Sanchez (L) during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on February 28, 2021. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /
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The big guns were out to play for Tottenham Hotspur in their 4-0 win over Burnley. Harry Kane scored, Heung-Min Son had two assists, and Gareth Bale did them both with two goals and an assist in Spurs runaway win over the Clarets. So we know the stars were back in form and Tottenham Hotspur got a much needed defensive shutout, so what else did we see in Spurs 4-0 demolishing of Burnley.

Tottenham Tactics

Much was being made a couple weeks ago about the lack of a discernable attacking approach for Tottenham Hotspur. With the return to health of a few players as well as the return of some form, suddenly Spurs are sparking again on offense. There is once again confidence on and off the all as the team is making runs for the ball and each other.

One major returning aspect the last couple weeks has been longer balls by Tottenham. Some of these long balls have been forward or diagonal and many have also been across field. Spurs had been plodding with the ball along the backline moving it from side-to-side making the team too easy to defend.

The re-introduction of the diagonals as well as long balls both vertically and horizontally have helped to stretch the field. The result of the stretched field as been more space for Tottenham to operate and more opportunities for Spurs to score. Besides more long balls and cross field passes what did we see?

Tottenham Taking it Left

Tottenham scored four goals on the day and three of them came from the left, with two originating from nearly the same place. On the first goal, Heung-Min Son had picked up some space on the left and was able to whip a cross in towards the near post. Of course Bale timed the run to perfection and Spurs were in the lead before Burnley had even blinked.

As Tottenham were knocking the ball all around the park it was not too much longer before Gareth Bale played a little Harry Kane and Harry Kane played a little Heung-Min Son. Kane has been impacting matches in new ways this season by dropping deep and then turning upfield for balls to his wingers running past him.

On this particular occasion, he was the beneficiary of his winger dropping deep. Bale, came back and picked up the ball in the defensive half and then hit the long ball over the top to Kane. Of course Harry Kane still had to take that awesome touch and then get a bit of fortune on the deflected shot, but it was all up the left channel.

Finally, on Tottenham’s third goal, it was this time Sergio Reguilón providing the service. Only about 5-8 feet deeper than Son was for the opener, this was a an out-swinging cross from the left-footed Reguilón. Whereas Son’s cross was a low ball toward the near post. This was a lofted curler toward the middle of the box. As Moura collected and scored Spurs third, it was clear the game plan to attack down the left had worked to perfection.

Three goals, three different players and all three started on the left.

Tottenham were aggressive on the ball and smart off it

Two of the issues Spurs have had this season during their slump were being a bit too passive offensively and committing dumb fouls. On Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, neither of those negative traits were present for Spurs.

Tottenham were aggressive from the off leading to that much needed first goal less than 90 seconds into the match. This aggressiveness continued well into the second half even after the game was clearly decided. Tottenham had only six take-ons in the first half and finished the game with 17.

That aggressiveness continued all the way until the end of the match, even after substitutes came on the pitch. Clearly everyone wanted to both score and play hard to earn more time on the pitch for the next game. Son and Kane both hustling on a play started by Hugo Lloris to try and get a fifth at 90+2 shows just how aggressive this team was on the day.

What was even more impressive than the aggressiveness offensively is how it did not turn into silly fouls defensively. While Tottenham did commitment a lot more fouls in the second half – five – they only had six for the entire game.

For a team that averages nearly 12 fouls per match (13.5 at home according to footystats.com) and has given away enough penalties to make Bruno Fernandes jealous this was a great effort from Tottenham. The discipline to be smart once Burnley had the ball and not panic into giving away stupid free kicks helped on a day that Tottenham needed to win.

What also helped was that aggressiveness offensively where Tottenham had over 58% of the possession. Burnley is known to sit back and let the opponents dominate possession. However, after Spurs early goal  Burnley had to come out of their shell and they paid the price for doing so. It was nice to see an aggressively smart football game from Tottenham.

Sanchez and Alderweireld Spurs Best Combo

Tottenham have struggled to find consistency in the center-back combination this season. Part of that has been the constant rotation by José Mourinho from not knowing who his best group it. Part of that has been the up and down performance of the players where few have really solidified their spot. One thing seems to be certain at this point Spurs best center-back combination is Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld.

When it comes to having an aggressively smart defensive pairing that is what you get from Sanchez and Alderweireld. Sanchez is the player most likely to be getting on the ball. Whether it is running with the flashing forward or rising up to win the ball in the air, Sanchez is sort of designated as the Tottenham defender to go for the ball.

This is not to say Toby does not try to win the ball, rather, Alderweireld provides that support and outlet for Sanchez as the Columbian uses his athleticism to attack the ball for Spurs. While the Belgian is still best on the right side, the truth is he is also still Spurs best back on the left too. Paired with Sanchez you have the calm intensity needed to drive the defense.

That said, having Sergio Reguilón and Serge Aurier on either side of the two center-halves helps as well. Both Aurier and Reguilón provide more on both ends than their replacements. We will continue to see different combinations in the back at Tottenham look to manage the schedule and match-up with the opposition so we will not get Alderweireld and Sanchez every match, but when the game is a must win, that is the pair to expect.

Next. Player Ratings from Win over Burnley. dark