Tim Sherwood’s Spurs side went up against a resurgent Palace team drilled by the no nonsense Tony Pulis. Spurs were sluggish out the blocks, put under immense pressure by Crystal Palace and even managed to win an early penalty in the 7th minutes which was then skied over in spectacular fashion by Jason Puncheon. Tottenham went onto dominate the game in the second half and saw off a comfortable 2-0 win in the second half with Christian Eriksen and the soon to be departing Jermain Defoe getting on the score sheet .Spurs dominated as the possession stats show (68.4%-31.6%) and were again fluid and less ponderous on the ball than they have been in recent times. Sherwood’s influence seems to be coming across, in a both positive and negative fashion however.
Sherwood has Tottenham playing in what seems to be a 4-4-2/4-3-3 hybrid system. From the little we have seen of it thus far, it looks as if Sherwood has pinpointed 3 players and 2 areas of the pitch in particular in which he wishes to exploit the most. That’s Eriksen and the inside left channel (false 11 anyone?), Adebayor’s free role and rather surprisingly Nabil Bentaleb in the deep-lying midfield areas. It’s from these areas which the origins of Spurs attacking play usually begin and against Palace was no different. Tottenham attempted 211 final third passes to Palace’s 127 and where in the past under AVB Spurs would have faced a monumental struggle in breaking down the low block defence, Sherwood’s boys created double the amount of clear cut chances (4)as the opposition (2). The quality of chances were also very encouraging and look conducive of a system as opposed to spectacular individual efforts which will not arrive week in, week out.
(Bentaleb passes vs Crystal Palace)
What caught my eye throughout the game, especially the second half was the performance of teenage midfield maestro Nabil Bentaleb. Deployed in the Regista role, Bentaleb is a modern day Anchor man in the mould of Sergio Busquets and recently acquired Real Madrid youngster Asier Illarramendi. Whilst it can fly under the radar exactly his role in the team, he is a very useful player. He set the tempo of Tottenham’s passing game brilliantly, playing 107 passes at a 93% completion rate, more than any other player in the Premier League this season. His passing was short, quick, snappy and he played quite a few ‘silver arrows’ (short vertical/diagonal passes between opposition midfield and defensive lines)quickening the pace of attacks, allowing Tottenham’s attacking players to turn and drive at the Crystal Palace defence instantly. A player of this nature is a perfect base to a Tika-Taka or a generally possession orientated midfield, if that is the direction Sherwood would like to go in long term.
(The black arrows represent the direct ball from the opposition)
Spurs’ defence simply put, is not very good at the moment. They seem to be caught in a weird transition from AVB’s defensive system and a less complex counter-attacking system from the looks of it. Crystal Palace like many teams this season found it ridiculously easy to play 1 direct ball into either channel with a willing runner like Jerome or Chamakh chasing it down. Chiriches and Dawson are often too far expanded from each other and neither covers the other effectively. The majority of the time it seemed as if Chiriches’ side has been targeted, as it is common knowledge that Dawson does not have the pace or mobility to fulfill his covering duties in this high-line defensive block. Also, one wonders how Sherwood can persist with this high-line with next to no pressure on the ball. Spurs do not press anymore and are being badly exposed. In fact, Crystal Palace created 7 total chances in open play and were it not for some woeful finishing could have scored a couple of goals. With all due respect to Palace, if they can create chances so easily against this Tottenham team, what would a top quality side have done to them on Saturday?
Whilst the rest football world are still learning about this Spurs’ team under Sherwood, these are a few of the key points I have pinpointed to look out for in the future. All in all its another valuable 3 points for them with some key influential players nearing a return from injury. However, the defence is looking an absolute shambles and too much pressure is being piled on Lloris to sweep up every single ball while he is going through a rough patch himself. As far as Palace are concerned, Pulis will be happy with the effort put in by his lads who should have scored some goals in the first half. However, they look in good stead to continue their relegation dog fight.