Tottenham's Bus Stop
Tottenham Hotspurs are in first place in the Premier League table 10 games in
They collected four points in the last two weeks with a 2-0 win against Man City and a 0-0 draw against Chelsea this morning.
They follow a strategy. Football sometimes, more than ever, strategy plays an important part and they were amazing. - Jose Mourinho after his team's win against Man City last week.
Jose Mourinho is known for his 'park the bus" tactic. Many players have shared that it is annoying to play against a team that just sits back and defends. Some players have even shared their dislike of playing this style, but it has brought Mourinho much success throughout his coaching career, and Tottenham is the current team reaping the benefits from it.
Taking a more in-depth look into the Spurs' tactics, it is clear that possession is not a central part of the plan. In the last two weeks, the Spurs have averaged only 37% of the possession, despite coming away with four combined points in both matches (1). Tottenham starts the game with a 4-2-3-1, but that quickly adapts. When defending, which is where the Spurs seem to be most comfortable, they drop their two defensive mids into the backline creating a back six, as seen in the photo above. This doesn't allow teams to play through balls through the backline and allows the outside fullbacks to stay near the touchline to discourage crosses and over-lapping runs. On the season, Tottenham allows xG per 90 of 1.17, and if they have the lead, this drops to 0.86 (2).
With this formation, it makes sense that Tottenham would not give up many goals, but what has put them in first place in the EPL is their ability to score goals on the counter. Harry Kane is the man to credit for most of Tottenham's goals. Harry Kane is the loan sticker up top. This season he has scored seven goals in 10 EPL games to start the season. He is recognized as a goal scorer, but he has incredible pass distribution as well. This season he has been dropping to the number 10 role interchanging with Ndombele. Kane will pick the ball up in midfield with options to play a sprinting Son or Davies down the sideline or look to combine. Thanks to Kane's incredible form, Tottenham has an xG per 90 of 1.55 (2). For comparison, if you remember from the last article, Man City has an xG per 90 of 1.2 this season.
This strategy is not an easy task to ask from a team. Although this may not be an exciting way to play soccer, it requires extreme defensive discipline and great awareness of when to attack forward. Harry Kane has been world-class this season and deserves a ton of credit for Tottenham's success. He is often recognized as a goal scorer, but he has incredible pass distribution, as well. The backline and the midfielders dictate the game while defending, understanding when to break on the attack. Højbjerg is in control of that role. Lastly, the outside wings need to have the pace to break on the counter; the Spurs have that with Son and Davies.
The team has bought into Mourinho's tactics and fits the strategy. It will be interesting to see if the Hotspurs can continue to stay on pace and fight for a title come the end of the season.
Notes: 1.Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City - Football Match Line-Ups - November 21, 2020. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.espn.com/soccer/lineups?gameId=578577 2.Tottenham xG stats for the 2020/2021 season. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://understat.com/team/Tottenham/2020