“Defence is the best form of attack”

Discussion in 'Columns' started by davidmatzdorf, May 7, 2010.

  • by davidmatzdorf, May 7, 2010 at 11:20 PM
  • davidmatzdorf

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    No, it’s not a typo and I know the cliché is supposed to be the other way around. But I think that, if there’s one thing that we can learn tactically from this season, it’s that the key to our attacking football has been our ability to defend.

    There has been all manner of fuss made about Redknapp’s great daring in setting us out to play 4-4-2 with two wingers and no holding midfielder at Man City. He encourages it by repeating in his column that we “only know one way to play”, which is to attack.

    It’s misdirection. Our season has been an unprecedented success because we have learned to defend. We haven’t scored more goals than in most of our previous decent seasons, but we have conceded fewer. In no game have we conceded 4 or more goals. We have won numerous games by a single goal – games in which any previous Spurs team would have found it very difficult, especially mentally, to defend a one goal lead and successfully close out the match.

    The keystone to our attacking strategy has been that the whole team defends. True, we have a bevy of very high quality defensive players, but there are simply no “luxury players” in our side. We have been defending from the front and through midfield all season and it has not made the slightest difference which players have started each match. It’s been coached into them.

    Crouch gets a great deal of criticism when starts, for his attacking play and his perceived effect on our tactics. Quite a few people consider him to be an ideal substitute when we need a goal, but often when he comes on late in a match, he is there as much for his excellent work at defensive set pieces as for his value as an outlet and the chance that he might score a goal. Away against Stoke, as against other direct, physical opposition, he started and he was invaluable, heading away nearly all of Delap’s long throws.

    Defoe holds the ball up remarkably well for a small man. Gudjohnsen and Keane can drop back into midfield. When we beat Chelsea, Pavlyuchenko would get into Mikel’s or Ballack’s face and slow them down whenever they tried to launch a break from our loss of possession.

    All of our wingers are remarkably responsible when we don’t have the ball: Lennon and Bale use their pace to track back, whereas Modric and Bentley tackle and show good positioning. The stereotype winger is off hanging around on the touchline waiting for someone to serve him the ball. Our wide players don’t do that.

    In Palacios, Huddlestone (at last) and Modric we have central midfielders who have learned that no one can play football without knowing how to tackle and close down space. They all do it and, when Hudd and Wilson play, it’s often unclear which is the defensive midfielder, so often do they swap places. Even Kranjcar has been known to tackle occasionally and is reasonably good at closing down space.

    The underlying point is that these players scarcely have to be taught to attack. It’s what they want to do and, when they get a chance to turn themselves loose, we pass and move and score goals. The canny management has been about getting the whole team working together when we don’t have the ball: tackling, tracking back, slowing down the opposition. It’s specifically why we have coped so well on multiple occasions against teams who play an extra man in midfield.

    The whole-team defending is what enables us to adopt a 4-4-2 attacking formation without haemorrhaging goals and that is what I mean when I say that [having an effective] defence is the best form of attack. In more general terms, it’s a major reason why we finished fourth.
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Discussion in 'Columns' started by davidmatzdorf, May 7, 2010.

  1. Locotoro
    very interesting and well written article.

    Furthermore, I still think we have another gear to find in attack and we are learning to get the ball forward very quickly on the ground.

    My questions are how to fit in...Bale at LM, 2 of Palacios, Modric and Hudd in CM and Lennon at RM...without compromising other areas of our play?

    Its obviously at this early stage of Bale's career he's not ready to be a top 4 LB and must be played at LM to continue his attacking performances. For me Modric is only effective with the calming influence that is Hudd, Palacios is better with Hudd too, whereas Modric and Palacios together are chasers and doesnt seem to work. But can you leave either out?? And if you play both then Bale moves back to LB.
  2. davidmatzdorf
    I don't think we have any "how to fit in..." worries at all. If we get through the CL qualifying round, we're going to be up to our arse in football matches all next season and probably up to our arse in injuries as well, because they come thick and fast when you expect people to play a competitive football match twice every week.

    Management will be about multiple starting line-ups, adjusting tactics to changing personnel and trying to keep a continuity of style and on-pitch communication with a big squad. It won't be about "keeping everyone happy".

    Remember that we had virtually no fit defenders in August and virtually no fit midfielders in March. We could add an extra player in each area of the pitch without selling anyone and everyone would still get a game.
  3. dcarney75
    The first concrete opinion I formed about us this campaign was about 20 minutes into the Liverpool game at WHL, when I thought to myself how much better we look when we haven't got the ball, harassing, keeping shape, regaining possession quickly and without a great deal of fuss. And we've pretty much done that all season.
  4. jenko
    Anyone who's looked at spurs this season has seen the best example of how 'squads' are needed to do well in the premiership. Unlike any other team in the premiership, including ManU and Chelsea, we do not depend on any one or two players. We have replacements for everyone (Gomes is the exception now because Cudicini is injured but that will be fixed in the summer) who will slip right in and play to the same philosophy that Harry asks for. We do defend together as you say, and it explains why Pav & Bentley had a bad start with Harry. But we also attack together and its the togetherness in everything that has really bonded the team. Add to that Harry's 'simple', fun style of management where players are allowed enjoy themselves and this team is like a family who now seem happy to work hard and defend for each other on the pitch. I've never seen a team so absolutely overjoyed to win as I did Wednesday night. It really has brought tears of joy to my eyes.

    As a result, we are the most robust squad in the league in my opinion. Our 1st eleven might not yet be up to the speed of the top 3 but once we've played like this for an extended period of time the talent will start to shine through more and more. We're only a bit of fine tuning away from championship contenders now (and the right age too). The winning mentality is starting to infest itself into the squad and it will only get better as Harry brings in a few fresh faces.
  5. JimmyG2
    I don't like to disagree with you David. actually I do because its usually quite instructive but clearly on this occasion I can't.

    What we need to address is the gap between home and away form and our inferior goal difference to the THREE clubs above us at the moment.

    We have conceded 25 goals away from home,the same as we have scored, but onle 12 at home against 40 scored. We need to close this gap which might involve a change of tactics away from home as we do in bringing on Gudjohnsen say when we are closing a game out.

    This could be signing a more effective striker who has the power to play on their own up front and who is excused defensive duties. This would enable us to buttress the midfield a little more.

    None of our present strikers has this ability and playing 442 away seems to leave us more vulnerable when the home side has the attacking advantage.

    The away performance of both Man.Utd and Chelsea are much closer statistically to their home performances and are the main reason for the substantial gap between us. We match Man.U at home defensively (12 goals conceded) but not away.

    How to make progress without losing what we have gained over the last couple of seasons under Harry is the dilemma.
  6. BringBack_leGin
    I think there's a lot to be said for our match against the Barcelona second string at Wembley last summer, where Redknapp was left amazed at their off the ball work ethic. Even after last years Champions League masterclass, Redknapp was one of those who commented on their pressing off the ball. If it's good enough for the Worlds most talented individuals, worlds best player Messi included, then it's good enough for us, and it's shown this season with the way everybody from number 1 to 11 on the pitch has fought for every blade of grass each match.
  7. spurski
    This all started Pre-season when we played Barca's Kids and Pretty much still got passed and harassed of the park. I think we learned so much that day, and ill bet money harry made them watch that game and used it as a blueprint on how to play going forward.
  8. spurski
    I didnt Copy Honest! lol
  9. UbeAstard
    Modric used to be half hearted about tackles but he has got better. I was shocked on Wednesday to see him head the ball TWICE. Even last week at Bolton I was screaming at him for ducking out of headers. On Wednesday I realized he will head the ball if no-one is challenging.
  10. Henry Percy
    It's funny you should mention it, but I do recall Harry stating exactly that they were trying to emulate Barcas work ethic off the ball after the Liverpool game.
  11. Jody
    I think it all started with that game against Barca at Wembley. The way they pressed the ball really impressed Harry and he's tried to instill that into our squad.
  12. davidmatzdorf
    Obviously I agree with everyone about the influence of the Barca game. Harry mentioned it at the time.

    Judging by his comments in today's Guardian about only wanting to buy "one special player" this Summer (which will also prompt a lot of agreement, I think), I have to think that this special player will be the missing hold-up striker who can play alone up front, thus giving us the option of playing 4-5-1 when we need to. That should help with the away defensive record and the tactical flexibility.

    I almost inserted a paragraph commenting on the change in Bentley's defensive game after Harry reinstated him to the team, but thought better of it. It's true. I distinctly recall him during the Ramos phase and early on after Redknapp arrived, failing to track back, missing tackles and standing out on the wing looking disconsolate and uninvolved. It's impossible to tell how much of that was lack of confidence and personal disruption in his life and how much was thinking it wasn't his job and he didn't have to bother. Whichever, the coaches soon got that out of his system. And similar thoughts apply to Pavlyuchenko.
  13. walworthyid
    This aspect of the game is something we have for so long neglected and pretty much ignored at spurs! We seemed to presume that we, the mighty spurs, had no need for defending because our aim was to be so good that we didn't need to sully our hands with such mundane tasks. Defending was for girls!

    Well, it has certainly been very interesting that in 3 matches against top, top opposition in Chelsea, the scum and man city, we have seen teams simply run out of ideas after coming up against the brick wall that is spurs, I know it sounds weird! Their best attacks smashing against the iron men that are Bentley, Modric, Bale, Crouch, Huddlestone and Defoe! Men who's very names strike fear into opposition players in the way that Pearce, Jones and Harford did in years gone by!

    No, as has already been pointed out, it was that game at Wembley that got 'arry thinking! We have been doing it all season, we don't just turn up and expect to play anymore, we go out there and press all over the park. Hudds, Modric and Bentley in particular are worthy of mention in dispatches, they get stuck in. Bentley has cast aside his playboy image and even if he is having a poor game with the ball will track back, make tackles and generally make a nuisance of himself. Hudds and Modric have formed a formidable pairing in the middle, keeping it as well as winning it back, and doing it so effectively that they have kept the once indepensible Palacios out of the team.

    Our backline are all stellar performers and despite the numerous concerns about Corluka, mostly because he just doesn't look like a solid fullback, he very rarely gives anything away and despite a chronic lack of pace, he is rarely beaten by pace. Gomes is simply world class, and probably deserves as much credit as anybody for us getting 4th place. I reckon he has earned us 10 points this season. Dawson is a hero, a player you would happily share your fox-hole with knowing he just won't let you down. Bassong has been a revelation and BAE although a bit erratic at times is again very solid, although I wish he wouldn't tuck in quite so much and allow crosses into the box.

    Ledley, well, enough ink has been spilt this week about his superhuman exploits of the past 3 games, but he is unrivalled as the best in the prem. I would also like to say, that had he not torn his thigh muscle, that he would have played more than 30 games this season. I know he won't ever be "cured" as such, but there are signs that the management of his injury is improving and that he may feature even more for us next season.

    It seems that we have finally learned that to win games you must reduce the number of goals you concede and if we continue with this philosophy and get in some top quality, we may even do the unthinkable and put in a realistic challenge for the title!
  14. southlondonyiddo
    Another massive factor is we've got a great goalkeeper that commands his area, comes off his line and deals with lots of danger whilst also making great saves that many other keepers are not capable of making

    This gives the rest of our defence even more confidence knowing they have a top class keeper behind them

    + you can tell that Gomes just loves clean sheets which is very important
  15. minesadouble
    Good article that supports your recent comment after the win at City. It woz our defence wot won it.

    I believe we have the four key defensive attributes necessary: (i) we have a commanding and and top goalkeeper (ii) we have technically good defenders and a happy squad mentality (iii) we have a strong spine, especially when King plays (iv) we defend from the front, pressing space.

    Our defensive weaknesses are only relative (i) we haven't played to the above strengths for as long as United, Chelsea and some top European sides (ii) we probably need a top reserve keeper (iii) King can't play every game and Woodgate may not make it, although the Dawson - Bassong partnership is solid (iv) our spine is not quite PL or CL winner level yet.

    I don't want much this Summer, but I think we'll go for more than one new player (aside from Sandro): (i) a world class striker who can play in a 4-5-1 when necessary (ii) a top midfielder of the multi-purpose type like Fabregas, ideally with CL experience already (iii) a veteran defender, probably Italian, with CL experience and a winning mentality (iv) a decent keeper who's prepared to sit on the bench but to keep Gomes honest. If we can get a few of our youth and reserve players coming through too, that would be great.
  16. tevezito
    Some of you seem to be suggesting the Barca game showed Harry the way to play football? I think he deserves more credit than that. I think what happened is that it allowed him to convince the players (with a few stragglers coming on board down the line) of the way they should play football, in a way that Ramos never could persuade the players of his diet and fitness regime.

    What's so exciting about next season is that, bar injury, all of our key players (and there's about 20 of them) can only get better and as a team we can still get better. Those who are unlikely to improve next season are those that will leave, which is why Jenas is probably off and Keane too but I wouldn't be surprised to see Bentley stay. Not sure where Hutton and O'Hara fit in to this way of thinking?
  17. Locotoro
    I honestly dont think those senior players who were not a part of our success this second half of the season will be allowed near the squad to disrupt things.

    Hutton, Keane, O'Hara, Gio and Adel will all go
  18. UbeAstard

    Dont see how you can reason like that. Why would they disrupt if HR is saying Keane may have a part to play?

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