Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
Artwork by @chapulana.

This article originally featured on our dedicated Wolves analysis site, wolvesanalysis.com

Sigh. Much like the game against Brighton before it, we knocked on the proverbial defensive door countless times but couldn’t quite find a way through. Spurs, as Brighton did, capitalised on poor communication in our defence and beat us. It seems to me like I’m repeating myself on a weekly basis at the moment, you know how it works. We had numerous opportunities in front of goal but ultimately didn’t make them count. For the THIRD week running, our right side has been exposed as our weak link, however, people seem to ignore this from a Wolves perspective due to Doherty being good going forward. Nobody is saying that he isn’t good in attack. What we are saying, is that he isn’t strong enough in defence and at present, it is costing us dearly.

Before we dissect the Spurs goals (ours were both penalties so there’s not much to look at), let’s have a look at how both sides lined up at Molineux.

We were as expected, with Cavaleiro coming in for Traore being the only change. A surprise debut was handed to Juan Foyth in the Spurs defence as Pochettino rotated his squad with the PSV game in mind. Apart from Foyth and maybe Sissoko starting, they were at pretty much full strength. Saying that, Pochettino’s game plan changed significantly when Dembele went down injured in the first ten minutes, which meant that Son had to come on. Son was very, very effective.

More Shape

Against Brighton, there were instances when Traore and Costa ended up on top of each other on the left-hand side and with Traore’s tendency to sit quite deep, it really unbalances the formation. Cavaleiro, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite. See the average positions of both teams, below.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
Credit: WhoScored.

FIVE of Tottenham’s players are touching the centre-circle in one-way or another and that was where the game was won and lost. We’ve got Neves (#8) and Moutinho (#28) around the same area and unsurprisingly, a 2 vs 5 situation doesn’t tend to work out too favourably. Yes, there were other mitigating factors involved in Spurs’ two goals in the first-half, nonetheless, they both started from the North London club having more bodies in that precise area. Putting that to one side for the minute, as I mentioned, it’s good to see Cavaleiro (#7) as far over to the left as he is.

Could We Be Doing More?

As happened against Watford, two goals in quick succession knocked the stuffing out of us. It all began with Son finding space between our defensive and midfield lines. From there, it was a catalogue of errors.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
Son finds the space.

Despite all of this, even with Son on the ball where he is, there are enough defenders behind the ball to prevent anything from going majorly wrong. The South Korean then plays the ball out to the right-hand side.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
As opposed to putting the ball into the danger zone, Trippier plays the ball to Lamela.

Note where Son is, just behind the referee. Lamela (circled) has already spotted the gap between Jonny and Boly, so he collects the ball off Trippier and it all begins to unfold from there.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
Lamela doesn’t need asking twice and puts Spurs into the lead.

Boly’s body shape is wrong at this stage. He should have clocked where the ball was going and been proactive rather than reactive. The difference between the two was Spurs taking the lead. Jonny is not without blame either; he presumes that Lamela will be tracked by either Boly or Cavaleiro and initially goes to cover Trippier. Before he realises what’s happening, it’s too late. All it would have taken would have been a shout from Rui, Coady, hell, anyone, to Boly and he could’ve readjusted his body shape and done a better job at stopping the Argentinian in his tracks.

Communication Lets Us Down For Their Second, As Well

Their second goal was very similar to their first. Son finds space on the edge of the area, plays it to Trippier on the right and bang. I can explain…

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
That man again, Son, finds room on the edge.

It was clear for all to see that Pochettino’s shape had penetrated Nuno’s, 2 vs 5 is simply an unwinnable battle, especially when you’re up against the quality that Spurs have got.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
Almost like Groundhog Day, Trippier has the ball on the right after a ball from Son.

At least this time, the defence are talking to one another. The quick-switch from Son means that Jonny needs to get across to Trippier as quick as he can. Is there maybe a question mark of Boly’s positioning as well? He’s a couple of yards ahead of Coady and Bennett seemingly doing nothing other than ball-watching.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
Slow reactions cost us. Again.

If you recall last week, Doherty was slow to react to Murray being in space which resulted in Brighton getting the only goal of the game. This week, it seems to me that Doherty wasn’t quick enough again. Yes, you could argue that Bennett should’ve stuck on Moura, but then that leaves a man free in the middle, due to Boly not being in the right place when the cross was initially delivered. Take your pick, Doherty, Bennett or Boly, one of them needs to be held accountable. Of course, let’s not take anything away from a sensational delivery from Trippier, it’s just that yet again, it was preventable.

The Benefit Of Having Doherty

Trying to find the right blend of attacking and defending as a wing-back isn’t easy. When it’s consistently evident that you’re left wanting in your defensive duties, though, maybe something has to change. That’s all to do with Tottenham’s third goal, where it’s not really Doherty’s fault, but he could’ve made a difference. Anyway, let’s look at the positive side of his game.

With Spurs 2-0 up, we looked beaten for the first five or so minutes that followed their second. After that, we clicked into life. It was only the cruel, incorrect flag of the linesman which prevented us from halving the deficit before Mike Dean sounded his whistle for the interval. It’s never offside, not in a million years. Take a look.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
How on earth is that offside?

There are TWO Spurs players playing him onside, yet the position of the linesman renders this fact useless.  It’s such a shame because it was such a well-crafted move. In hindsight, we had more than enough chances at the beginning of the second half to get back into the game. Hugo Lloris had other ideas, mind. Neves’ shot was perhaps the pick of the bunch as Lloris did well to get down to the bottom corner to keep it out.

Route One Catches Us Out

Fifteen or so minutes into the second period, Spurs were awarded a free-kick after Jimenez was (rightly this time) adjudged to be offside. Lloris played the free-kick short to Alderweireld, however, the ball didn’t leave the area, so Dean ordered a retake. With both of our wing-backs pressed high up the pitch to counter Spurs’ usual short free-kick routine, Lloris decided to aim for Kane. That left us in this situation.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
It was just a matter of time from this point.

Moura (#27) has got his arms out wide, knowing that nobody has really clocked that he is there. Bennett is totally unaware, as is everybody else.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
If Kane didn’t score, Moura would’ve done.

With only an hour of the game played, I see no reason why Doherty couldn’t have made the ground up as Jonny managed it. Doherty’s failure to get back doesn’t directly influence their goal, but he would have perhaps made a difference if he was back. Even if it was a case of conceding a penalty. Once more, a well-worked, rapid Spurs move and probably the least preventable of all their goals, nevertheless, there’s no harm in looking at how to improve.

Out Of Darkness Cometh Gibbs-White?

As a direct reaction to Spurs scoring their third, Nuno threw on Gibbs-White and Bonatini for Moutinho and Cavaleiro respectively. Quite why you’d bring on a striker who hasn’t scored a league goal since last Christmas (Bonatini) when you’re 3-0 down, I’m not so sure, although Traore was the only viable alternative and he wouldn’t have had much joy against a team who are 3-0 up.

The other substitution, Gibbs-White, was a breath of fresh air. Immediately, you could see he wanted to be on the ball and when he did pick it up, he was fearless. The introduction of Gibbs-White also slightly altered our shape as Neves was acting alone in front of the back three, but with the momentum that we had following the first penalty, we were in the ascendancy.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
Gibbs-White’s impact was there for all to see.

Just as Son was doing in the first half for Spurs, GIbbs-White was finding space and then picking the pass when on the ball.

Wolves Tottenham Premier League Tactical Analysis
It’s such a shame that Costa couldn’t finish this, as it was a wonderful ball from Gibbs-White.

Everything is of the highest-quality here. The weight of the pass, the timing of the run. All that ruins it is Costa’s finish. If it was Cavaleiro, you’d like to think he would’ve put it away, similar to the way he scored against Reading last season. Rolled it around the keeper and put it into the empty net. I guess we’ll never know.

Shortly afterwards, Jimenez made it 2-3 and with 11 minutes left, anything was possible. Gibbs-White took it upon himself to take the corners following the withdrawal of Moutinho and he actually whipped them in, unlike Moutinho, who struggled to beat the first man a lot of the time, again. It just wasn’t meant to be. 

Conclusion

On the balance of play, we should’ve and perhaps could’ve won. The biggest difference between us and Spurs was the quality of the finishing and I’m growing tired of saying that. It’s no shock that we’ve been linked with the likes of Divock Origi in the past week as it’s an area we need to look at. That’s not meant to be detrimental to Jimenez, who has been fantastic, it’s just that we need someone who isn’t Bonatini to come off the bench and make a difference. Only the small matter of Arsenal next.

Until the next time.