Spurs welcomed Borussia Dortmund to the New Wembley in their opening Champions League game of the season. Spurs were still winless at their new ‘home’ stadium and were desperate to see an overturn of fortunes. Dortmund meanwhile had made a flying start to the Bundesliga season and met their first real challenge of the season under their new coach Peter Bosz.
Crashing out of the Champions League in the Group Stages last season, the onus was on Pochettino and his men to make a good start to the campaign in front of the home crowd. With holders Real Madrid in the group, one may expect that the winner of these two would be the one to move to the next stage and it was important for both the teams to come out of the game with a good result.
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Tottenham Hotspur (5-3-2) | Manager: Mauricio Pochettino
1.Lloris – 24.Aurier, 4.Alderweireld, 6.Sanchez, 5.Vertonghen, 33.Davies – 15.Dier, 17.Dembele, 23.Eriksen – 10.Kane, 7.Son
Borussia Dortmund (4-3-3) | Manager: Peter Bosz
38.Burki – 26.Piszczek, 25.Sokratis, 36.Toprak, 15.Toljan – 19.Dahoud, 8.Sahin, 23.Kagawa – 9.Yarmolenko, 17.Aubameyang, 22.Pulisic.
Spurs started with a back three/five as Pochettino fielded Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen and Davies. Lloris started in between the sticks as Dier, Dembele and Eriksen played in the central midfield. Both Son and Kane started the game together up top. Spurs were set up in a 5-3-2 which eventually would be transformed to a back three in attack.
Peter Bosz sent out his side in a 4-3-3 structure with Burki starting in goal. Piszczek, Sokratis, Toprak and Toljan formed the defensive line as Dahoud, Sahin and Kagawa were the midfield trio. Kagawa played as the main attacking midfielder while Dahoud played as the box-to-box midfielder shuttling between the two halves. Sahin was given a more defensive role. The attacking trio constituted of Yarmolenko, Aubameyang and Pulisic.
Spurs’ polyvalency in midfield
Right from the beginning of the game it was visible how Spurs defended deep. With the wing backs staying very deep to support the central defenders. Often the width was not provided by the wide players rather central occupancy and overloads in the wings were visible. In the defensive phase, what stood out was the ability of the Spurs’ midfielders to shift between positions relative to the movement of the ball.
Spurs often shuttled in between the 5-4-1, 5-3-2 and 5-4-1 diamond. In the 5-4-1 flat, Spurs adopted banks of four and five which is very defensive. Here, Son would occupy the left flank while Dier/Dembele would be joined by Eriksen in the right. In the below image we can see the ideal formation adopted by Spurs.
Image courtesy: @11tegen11
However Spurs also adopted the 5-3-2 when Dortmund were in the first line of build up. The movements of Son were pretty vital for the side as his positions decided the numbers in midfield for his side when Kane would often be lone striker up front.
The 5-4-1 diamond was much effective as it gave them numerical superiority in the center. The 4v3 overload in the centre meant that Spurs did not allow in the centre which pushed the german team wide.
In the above image we can see how Erisken move in between the two strikers during the press. Often Kane would move to the right while Son would move to the left. And in the space vacated by the two strikers, Eriksen would often slot into. In the defensive movements, Eriksen would go to space between the double pivot in certain instances.
One of key points of the game will go down to how Spurs defended even though they had led the score line. It should be stated that Spurs were cautious in their approach and tried to restrict the space for opponents. However Dortmund were able to produce chances through quick link up play in the flanks and get behind the defence.
As seen from the above image, we can identify the 5-2-3 block utilised by Spurs when Dortmund have the ball. With Eriksen in the middle, Son would shift between attack and midfield in order to maintain balance.
From the above image we can witness how the 2-3 block in the front have shifted depending on the situation on the ball. The forwards marked the defenders making sure that the passing options were reduced while the double pivot at the back marked the two who advanced forward. Here the wide Dortmund players are the full backs while the one in the centre of the field is the lone defensive midfielder.
Spurs thrive on the counter
While Spurs started the game concentrating on their defense, their idea of play was to attack Dortmund especially on the counter down the flanks. They created overloads in the flanks thereby creating opportunities to him them on the break. In the video below, we could witness how they attacked swiftly in the left wing for Son’s opener.
Also in the image below, we can see the starting position for this attack and how Spurs have attacked through the lane by creating positional superiority.
While Spurs finally blew off the Wembley blues by winning their first match of the season in their interim home, what is more important was the result as they came away with three important points. In the group which contains the holders Real Madrid, one would expect the winner of the other two, in this case Spurs and Dortmund, would pass on to the next stage.
Though this is thought of to be a great start for the London club, they still have to improve more should they proceed further in the competition as their defense was exposed by Dortmund in most occasions. While this win will prove to be very important in the end of the group stage, Mauricio Pochettino and his men can now make good strides based on this victory.