By 90Min
August 10, 2019

Spurs have never done things the easy way. 

Ever. 

That’s a well known fact at this stage. 

And Aston Villa, in their first game back in the Premier League, refused to make things any easier either. 

Villa executed a near-perfect gameplan, frustrating the top four chasing - potentially title chasing - Tottenham. A flat five-man midfield, sitting in front of an already deep defence, minimal space between the lines and then, a frontman in Wesley prepared to drop deep when defending and hold the ball up when attacking. 

In fact, Villa's performance peaked eight minutes in. 

The perfect start for the visitors; a woeful one for Spurs. 

A long ball over the top. John McGinn through on goal. Ropey defending from Spurs. 1-0 Villa. 

A tough one to take for Spurs fans who would have struggled to understand what defender Jan Vertonghen was doing in the stands, and not in the starting Xi.

And so began a fairly standard Tottenham at home match day. The next 60 or so minutes repeated what was an all too common thread last season. 

Julian Finney/GettyImages

Even at Wembley, perhaps more so at the new Tottenham Stadium: teams turn up to North London, they sit deep, leave very little space between the lines, and Spurs then exacerbate their own issues by playing slowly in possession. 

Thankfully for Spurs they have a level of fitness that most teams don't and also...Christian Eriksen on the bench.

Spurs' ability to counter attack is one of the strongest tools in their armoury, however, against a newly promoted side, and with 70 percent possession, the chances to do so are few and far between.

The diamond shape that Spurs utilised last year was amended slightly with the introduction of Tanguy Ndombele and the formation changed to a more flat 4-3-1-2. Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko completed the midfield, while Erik Lamela fulfilled the role in behind Harry Kane and Lucas. 

The issue that shape causes is that opposing defenders can sit deep and play man-for-man with the forwards. Therefore if the possession is slow or laboured, the lines of attack become flat, depth is lost, and in the most part, so is the ability to penetrate.

Spurs entered half time, if truth be told, having been quite underwhelming. 


Lots of possession, yet very little cutting edge. Villa on the other hand defended resolutely, with Tyrone Mings particularly impressive.

The second half started, in predictable fashion. Villa with 11 men behind the ball, Spurs driving forward, with only the Spurs central defenders and Lloris in their own half. 


Despite cranking up the pressure, Spurs lacked penetration...until the introduction of Christian Eriksen. 


There are two ways to read the game post Eriksen's introduction.

Marc Atkins/GettyImages

The first would be that Eriksen gives Spurs something extra. 


He changes the tempo, and plays with one touch as opposed to two. He makes blind passes that other players would be unaware of incapable of making; he finds angles that cut through the lines. He moves play forward and he creates a structure where the lines can be broken.

The alternative viewpoint would be that, what Eriksen's inclusion actually represented was a change in formation. Spurs moved to a 4-2-3-1 which allowed for more play between the resolute Villa lines of defence and midfield. In turn, the full backs were allowed to bomb on and Spurs created more two on one situations as well as space around the edge of the box.

Whichever view tickles your fancy, it would be hard to disagree that Spurs weren't a dramatically different side in the final 30 minutes. 


The speed of the play increased, the amount of space practically doubled, and when Tanguy Ndombele finally made the break through for Spurs (on his full Premier League debut) you got the impression it wouldn't be much longer until the home side would find a second.

Marc Atkins/GettyImages

What a bonus for Tottenham that they went on to win 3-1 through goals from their talisman, frontman and top striker Harry Kane. 


A job, eventually done, as opposed to a job thoroughly well done. 


People probably won't remember the game, they'll remember that Spurs took the points and made sure they're off the right start ahead of a tough game with Man City, where they'll hope to start a little faster.

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