Tottenham continues to refine their play offensively, learning to change styles as personnel is modified, which is one mark of a good team. Another is when they can find different ways to defend, which Spurs did with a small change on Saturday.
Observation 4: Bentancur and Hojbjerg were attached on a string Saturday
There are not a lot of surprises with the approach Fulham wants to take. They aim to get the ball to Aleksandar Mitrovic in the box and let the big Serbian find the net. This ended up working once, and Fulham scored; however, it did not happen more because of Spurs’ midfield.
In previous games, either midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur or Pierre Hojbjerg would take turns running up from the midfield to pressure the ball with the attacking line. Against Fulham, this rarely happened, and when it did, whichever player had gone to press was quickly called back into line by the other.
The Tottenham tactic was simple enough, Hojbjerg and Bentancur were going to stay as close to perpendicular to one another as possible in the middle when Fulham had the ball. In doing so, Spurs essentially closed the middle of the pitch for passing, forcing the Cottagers to work the ball wide and then cross it in.
Tottenham had the wide advantage on both sides, with Emerson Royal and Ryan Sessegnon being better defenders than attackers. Besides, the wing-backs, Lenglet and Romero, were in support on each flank, often between the ball and Mitrovic.
By closing down the middle and forcing Fulham to try and attack where Tottenham had the advantage, Spurs effectively neutralized Fulham’s ability to get the ball to Mitrovic.
Given the Serbian’s success in his limited looks, limiting those opportunities was the right approach for Spurs. Expect a similar tactic next weekend against Manchester City as Tottenham will look to deny the ball to Erling Haaland in the middle of the box.
Observation 5: Tottenham was in better shape than Fulham
If we look back to the pre-season, we can likely remember seeing Tottenham players falling to the ground in Korea as they were put through conditioning. There were reports of players throwing up and seeing Son on the ground, the epitome of fitness; it was a grueling session.
Well, that grueling session, along with those that followed, is already starting to pay off. Although both teams had played midweek, it looked at times as if only Fulham had. From the kickoff until the final whistle, Tottenham seemed to have a step on Fulham in most instances.
In the second half, as the Cottagers began to slow and fatigue was setting in, Spurs were picking it up a notch and looking for that third goal. Although Tottenham did concede, it has nothing to do with fitness, which was something Spurs had in abundance.
That fitness will be called into play over the next two weeks, so seeing that Spurs are in better shape than at least one team is a good sign with the matches on the horizon. However, for this past weekend, the team was up to the challenge.