Tottenham Focus - Spurs inverted wide play pays dividends
In a match that may have seen the young Dane Christian Eriksen taking his first steps to becoming a White Hart Lane favourite, Tottenham convincingly disposed of Norwich City 2-0 on Saturday.
In truth Norwich were poor but Spurs arguably never allowed them to play. Tottenham dominated the match, with 69% possession and over 20 shots to the Canaries’ five; also all starting outfield players recorded a passing accuracy of 86% or higher.
Spurs lined up in what is becoming their customary 4-2-3-1 but under the tactics coach André Villas-Boas employs this is close to becoming a 2-4-3-1, where perhaps the most notable aspect is the preference for two inverted wingers. The Portuguese is no stranger to the inverted winger, having used this at Porto, Chelsea and at the end of last season with Gareth Bale. However, is this season showing a progression to an inverted winger on both flanks? The left footed Andros Townsend is starting on the right; on the left Nacer Chadli and so effectively against Norwich, Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The line between winger and wide playmaker is blurring at Spurs as it is at other clubs. Townsend and Aaron Lennon are arguably the only out-and-out wingers whereas Chadli, Sigurdsson and Erik Lamela are playmakers who can operate out wide. The benefits over the conventional winger are several. Firstly, the curled-in cross is harder to defend against whilst the cut inside on to the stronger foot puts the opposing full-back at a disadvantage - having to move onto his weaker foot to close down the attacker.
Similarly with Eriksen - or Lewis Holtby - in the No 10 position, the Spurs wide players are more effective at linking up with the central attacking midfielder and with Roberto Soldado. The checking inside allows more interplay and interchange of positions to break through the opposition lines, also changing the angle of attack, creating different passing angles - either across or diagonally into the box, but also giving the wide player the opportunity to shoot with his stronger foot either across the keeper or to the nearside - for example Sigurdsson’s goal across the keeper and the shot for his hat-trick parried away by from his right by John Ruddy from his right.
Townsend has the added advantage of a good right foot allowing him to attack the full-back on either side. Simply put there are more options for Spurs all round, though Townsend perhaps has to better gauge when to shoot or pass.
What also makes this effective is the high line that Spurs play. Both Kyle Walker and Danny Rose almost play the traditional winger, creating numerous overlaps for their wide players. Their average position was inside the Norwich half on Saturday, effectively leaving a back two.
Whilst Norwich were perhaps poor enough for this to work, against better sides Spurs may need Sandro or Étienne Capoue as more genuine holding midfielders than the two more box-to-box central midfielders used against the Canaries. However in Eriksen Spurs may have the key to unlocking the potential of their inverted wide play.
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