Tottenham Hotspur scored three goals for the second time under Tim Sherwood when Stoke City visited White Hart Lane. The game was very one-sided. Stoke City were unorganised, and missing four key players. Asmir Begović and Robert Huth were injured, while Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson were suspended. The rotated Stoke team lacked organisation, and failed to deal with Tottenham's movement in the final third.

The formations

football formations
 Tottenham Hotspur started in a 4-4-2 formation. Ezekiel Fryers made his first Premier League start. Paulinho started with Moussa Dembélé in central defence, while Christian Eriksen started on the left wing. Adebayor and Soldado started together for the third time. This was another attack-minded line up from Tim Sherwood.

 Stoke City started in a 4-4-1-1 formation. Stephen Ireland played behind Peter Crouch. Oussama Assaidi started on the left wing. Wilson Palacios took Glenn Whelan's place in central midfield. Geoff Cameron moved into central defence, Andy Wilkinson started at right-back as a result of Wilson's suspension.

Stoke City

 Stoke City defended in a zonal system. However Crouch and Ireland didn't have preset zones to defend.
Crouch stayed ahead of the ball. Stephen Ireland played in a free role without a zone. He followed the ball around, trying to stay between the ball and the Spurs midfielders. He didn't do it with conviction, and Tottenham were able to surpass him with horizontal balls. Dembélé did an excellent job of asking for the ball, and playing it on from side to side, switching the fulcrum of the attack. Palacios didn't follow him most of the time, but stayed back keeping the two lines of four. Basically Stoke City defended with only eight outfield players.

Tottenham Hotspur

 Tottenham's attacking philosophy involved keeping the ball in little triangles in the build-up, then playing it wide, and attacking the cross coming in with at least two players.

Positional play: the most effective way to do this is by forming little triangles. If Stoke have less than two defenders in a triangle, it becomes easy. If they have three, two of them will try to close down the player in possession, making him pass it on while the two defenders are running at him (they are in an unstable position). There is always the safe option of passing it back to Naughton. Defenders will make mistakes, like Ireland, who is on the wrong side of Dembélé, not between him and the ball. 
Adebayor and Soldado drop deep. Soldado is loosely followed by Cameron. Adebayor plays the ball wide, as Stoke City's defence have huge holes in it allowing the attackers to get on the end of a cross. Paulinho makes the run into the hole, Adebayor makes the run after playing the ball wide. This chance ended with Lennon playing a low cut-back pass to Adebayor inside the box.

 This game was a good opportunity to look at the movement of individual players in Tim Sherwood's system, as Tottenham had 69% possession.

 Eriksen: Sherwood seems to be keen on using inverted wingers on the left. Sigurdsson started on the left wing against Southampton and West Bromwich Albion, now he put Eriksen there. He often cut inside with or without the ball, overloading the midfield. This could have had two effects: either his marker does not react, in which case Tottenham will play three against two in central midfield, or his marker does react, in which case the Tottenham players can make runs into the space on the left. Wilkinson tracked Eriksen's runs for the most part, allowing Fryers to push up. It is telling that all crosses coming from the left were played by Fryers with the exception of one.

 Paulinho: He was playing in central midfield, but in a more advanced position than Dembélé. Paulinho drifted sideways to form passing triangles with Lennon and Naughton. When ahead, he played in the hole between the lines, pulling a central defender out of position. This happened in the 16th minute, when Paulinho pulled Cameron out of his position. The American was slow to drop with him, and didn't put him under pressure when he received the ball, Paulinho played a magnificent back heel pass over the Stoke City defence. This instance was significant as Stoke City's first goal conceded happened in similar fashion. Cameron didn't drop with Soldado that time, who crossed to Adebayor.

 Eriksen and Paulinho had one attacking method in common. Passing the ball vertically using a striker as a wall passing option, then making a supporting run in the direction of the striker. This was Tottenham's way of playing the ball forward, and exposing Stoke City's defence vertically.

Paulinho passes the ball to Eriksen, makes the run forward to receive the ball on the run, into space. 

 Dembélé: The Belgian played in a deeper role than he did under AVB. He played as a distributor of the ball, keeping it going from side to side. He had plenty of space as Stoke were sitting back, and Ireland was rarely marking him. Dembélé excels at finding space with going past one man, and playing the ball on. His 97% pass accuracy speaks for itself.

Moussa Dembélé's passes. He switched the focus of the attack from side to side.
(Image taken from Squawka.com)

 Lennon: The pacey winger had a lot of success against Erik Pieters. Lennon was the one who received the ball from  the centre, took on the full-back, putting in a cross to the box. He sometimes dropped into central midfield, in which case Naughton overlapped him. Otherwise Naughton stayed behind him. He didn't need to overlap Lennon on the wing as Stoke City continued to leave him one-on-one with Pieters. Neither Palacios nor N'Zonzi dropped to help him out, and Assaidi didn't defend against Lennon either.

 Adebayor: The striker dropped into central midfield, or towards the wings when Eriksen came to the middle.

 Soldado: The Spaniard played in a similar free role around the Stoke defence the Stoke defence. The positive of the two-striker system is that when one of them drops out of the box to join the build-up phase, the other can be in the box, allowing the player that will put in the assist to act quickly, play the ball decisively, and not give time to the defending team to react to the change in the position of the ball.

 Tottenham's two-striker system effected their defensive stability on the wings in a positive way. If a striker drifted wide, he was able to double up on the full-back with the winger. This allowed the Tottenham full-back to stay back, and play as the anchor against possible counter-attacks.

Adebayor (yellow) drifts to the right, creating a two vs. one situation with Lennon.
 Eriksen (white) comes to the middle, to create an overload.
He is followed by Wilkinson, Fryers can run into space on the left.
The Stoke midfielders don't pressure the players in the hole, the Stoke back four are outnumbered.

 As impressive as Tottenham were, Stoke could have exposed them with a bit better planning. Stoke's best chances came through Assaidi, who picked up the ball, and just ran at the Tottenham defence. The Tottenham defenders were positioned around the halfway line, so Stoke could have had a lot of space to run into. At the same time Tottenham didn't press the Stoke City players with as much aggression as possible once they have lost the ball. This allowed Stoke to play long balls behind Tottenham, into the general direction of Crouch. With quicker attackers, and more planned build-up they could have had something to take from this game.


 Stoke City were poor and unorganised in this game. Tottenham had an easy job, as they were the ones who dictated the flow and tempo of the game. Dembélé did an excellent job of distributing the ball, while the movement of the players ahead of him was very good. On the other hand Tottenham pushed high in possession. This could be exposed by quicker, more organised sides.

 Tottenham's speed of transition and defending was not tested in this game, but their attacking was impressive. We are going to have to wait for their games against Manchester United and Arsenal to find out how they would do in the other two areas.

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