HomeZ OLD CATEGORIESCardiffCardiff City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1 | Tactical Analysis

Cardiff City 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1 | Tactical Analysis

Cardiff City vs Tottenham was a splendid encounter, full of excellent passing, individual skill and heroic defending. Were it not for an audacious back-heel winner in the 92nd minute from Brazilian international Paulinho, Cardiff would have most likely left the game with a valuable and hard-earned point against one of the league’s better sides. General play, however, was completely dominated by the away side. Spurs retained 63.7% of the possession and fired a whopping 29 shots at goal compared to Cardiff City’s 6 and the score could have very well been a lot higher, were it not for Cardiff’s keeper Marshall in inspired form, making 11 saves – some of which were sensational.

Tottenham in possession:


Tottenham were intent to quicken the pace of their ball movement within the probing phase of play. It seems AVB has put extra emphasis on eradicating the sometimes ponderous nature of the Spurs’ attack when in the final third. This quick ball movement, mixed with very direct dribbling was able to create enough gaps and passing lanes in the deep defensive block of Cardiff, usually containing 8-9 players. During the probing phase of play, early on in the first half, Tottenham looked to dribble directly at a Cardiff City player, on average, every 6 or so passes. Two of Spurs’ dribble specialists Andros Townsend and Mousa Dembele actually attempted more dribbles combined (10) than the entire Cardiff City team (9), with the later boasting a 100% dribble accuracy.

soldado chance

Here is an example of 1 of the quality chances Spurs managed to carve out through their direct dribbling and quick short passes. After a long Townsend dribble, Walker found himself in a great position to find Soldado. The passing lanes have opened up, meaning Walker could find either Soldado for a first time strike (which he eventually did) or Townsend coming into the box on the run. Tottenham may have found themselves a very effective offensive wrinkle here, provided Roberto Soldado begins putting away his chances (failed to convert any of his 4 shots, missing 1 big chance in the process.)

Throughout the game, Spurs’ double pivot of Paulinho and Dembele seemed to be taking huge risks in terms of their positioning. On a few occasions, both players joined in the possession play high up the pitch with little coverage for the back 4 if possession were to be lost. 

defensive block arrogance

AVB clearly has a lot of confidence in his defensive system to expand at the correct time, aiming to close that gap in between the defence and the midfield, whilst also managing to execute the high-line offside trap effectively. As a result, Cardiff ended up with as many offside violations (6) as shots on goal. Paulinho alone managed 6 strikes at goal (as many as the entire Cardiff team) one of which was the winning goal. Time will tell if this excessive final third overload becomes a permanent feature of this Tottenham team; supreme confidence bordering on arrogance, a feature of the very best teams?

Tottenham- Defensive block

Tottenham so far have kept 4 clean sheets in their first 5 league games and have in fact only conceded 1 goals so far in all competitions. This impressive defensive record is down mainly to the improved effectiveness of the offside trap and the pressing game of the midfielders and attackers.


Dembele and Paulinho are given license to utilise their own footballing intangibles in regards to their pressing instructions. When the time was right, neither player was hesitant leaving their position, in an attempt to use their ball-winning ability to pressure the Cardiff City back line. Cardiff were forced into a ground duel every 1.48 minutes against Tottenham, 0.50 minutes more frequently than against their last opponents from last season’s top 5, Manchester City (1.98). Whilst it doesn’t tell the whole story, it does illustrate the point of Tottenham’s players flying out to meet Cardiff players, as early on in the defensive transition as possible; they also felt confident winning the ball back with a solid high-line defensive block.


My point about Tottenham’s play bordering on arrogance was  illustrated by the nature of Paulinho’s goal. It seemed Spurs remained confident that they would get their goal in the end, without having to rely on a 30-yard screamer from a certain Welshman. AVB should be pleased that his side managed to win the game without a single goal attempt coming after a counter-attack. He already knows that’s Tottenham’s biggest weapon, but scoring against low–block defensive teams in the final third is its weakness. Full of confidence, are Spurs ready to defeat Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in the London derby next week?

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