Tottenham 1-1 Blackpool: Defoe strike cancels out Adam penalty

May 8, 2011

The starting line-ups

Late drama saw both sides pick up a point at White Hart Lane.

Harry Redknapp left out Aaron Lennon, using Rafael van der Vaart on the right, and two strikers. Danny Rose made a rare start at left-back.

Ian Holloway played his usual 4-3-3 formation. Sergei Kornilenko started as part of a front three, probably as he’d done well against Spurs earlier in the season.

This was an open game with plenty of goalscoring chances. A draw was probably an accurate reflection of the balance of play, though neither goal seemed to owe much to tactics.

Spurs shape

Redknapp’s decision to play with two strikers meant that both Jermain Defoe and Roman Pavlyuchenko took it in turns to become involved in build-up play, and both dropped deep and wide. Spurs were actually quite fluid when they had the ball, despite a boxey 4-4-2 theoretical starting shape, as move forwards showed good movement. However, the knock-on effect was that Spurs didn’t have someone in the box playing on the shoulder of the last defender, and some decent crosses went to waste.

Many of these promising opportunities in wide positions were down the left, where Gareth Bale stayed wide (unlike Rafael van der Vaart on the other flank, who came inside) and Danny Rose supported him keenly. They have to take some responsibility for the crossing situations not being turned into goals, however. A couple of Bale crosses were flashed across the area between goalkeeper and defence – and looked excellent individually – but Bale is sometimes guilty of doing everything too quickly – he storms past a full-back and thumps a cross into the box.

That’s great in itself, but often gives the strikers no time to catch up with play (considering that they can’t always sprint straight into the box, they often have to change direction to escape their marker), and this possibly explains why Bale has, amazingly, just one assist all season in the Premier League.

by Guardian Chalkboards

Rose was also disappointing with his crosses, but overall he had a very good game. He and Younes Kaboul took it in turns to go forward, and Blackpool tracked the runs of the Spurs full-backs poorly. They were slow to get back into position, and with Holloway giving them license to switch around at will, there was sometimes a delayed reaction to a full-back run – as if the players weren’t permanently programmed to get back. There’s also an argument that the Blackpool midfielders are not mobile enough to cope with no support from the wide players, so it is a two-pronged problem.

Modric and Adam

The best player in the first half was Luka Modric, who played his classic short, neat passes to create chances through the centre of the pitch. He also spread play to the full-backs with some longer passes, but generally kept things short.

His attitude was in stark contrast to Charlie Adam’s, who still looks to hit ambitious passes first and foremost. Despite Holloway’s warning this week – “What he has got to do is concentrate on playing simply, quickly, nicely and neatly and forget all his World Cup Willie shots from the halfway line because that is not really going to help anybody when you’re not on form. That’s not the way to get back in the game” – Adam was still guilty of conceding possession too cheaply.

by Guardian Chalkboards

In fairness, we didn’t see quite so many of his long diagonal balls, but when looking at his passing chalkboard, it’s notable that all his red arrows are when he’s playing forward passes. Sometimes, it’s better to play a short pass and allow your side to move up the pitch, before playing the killer pass in a more dangerous position.

Second half

Redknapp changed things at half time, bringing on Lennon for Pavlyuchenko, putting van der Vaart behind Defoe, and going 4-4-1-1. Spurs looked good in the twenty minutes after half time, but Bale’s injury meant Crouch came on, van der Vaart went to the left, and Spurs were back to 4-4-2 – not a disaster, but not what Redknapp wanted.

In the period where Defoe and van der Vaart were the main threat, Blackpool did well to keep a high line (though not suicidally high, as against Arsenal). The danger when you play against a forward duo of ‘a quick player upfront’ and ‘a creative player in behind’ – Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney, for example, is that the striker forces the defence to play deep, and increases the space for the No 10 to work in. Blackpool didn’t fall into this trap, however, and van der Vaart wasn’t a big threat.

Defoe had a decent game and his goal was well-deserved. His sharpness in the box seems to have vanished in the past year, but his game has improved tactically. His movement outside the box is better, his link-up play is promising, and he’s also reliable without the ball, in terms of his defensive job. A few of his shots were blocked in this game when he should have offloaded the ball, but his goal was excellent.

Jason Puncheon’s introduction at half time was a good move from Holloway – he was more mobile and direct than Kornilenko, and made Blackpool a greater goal threat.


A game more about small individual notes of interest, rather than an overriding tactical narrative that decided the game. Both were more concerned with playing their own game than nullifying the opposition, and both sides could have had the three points.

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