Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Ange Postecoglou's first Tottenham match

July 19, 2023 — Ange Postecoglou applied some interesting ideas in his first game in charge of Tottenham against West Ham. Full-backs invert, with the center-midfielders pushed forward in line with the full-backs, while the wingers provide the width.

Figure 1.1 - Tottenham buildup in their own half.

At first, they do what you’d expect them to: classic 4-3-3, nothing too complicated. James Maddison in the left half-space, Oliver Skipp in the right half-space, with Yves Bissouma as the lone pivot.

Figure 2.1 - Sergio Reguilon and Pedro Porro invert.

Wrong. It’s not simple. Now things get complicated.

This is not a traditional “box midfield” as some other Premier League teams used in the second half of last season. The full-backs invert, but they’re not in line with Bissouma.

It was staggered, which created more triangles and open passing lanes, better angles between defenders.

Maddison and Skipp then move further up the pitch. Dejan Kulusevski and Manor Solomon maintain the width on the wings. The full-backs and center-midfielders stay aligned in the half-space.

The narrow staggered full-backs inside of the wingers is smart. I like it.

Figure 3.1 - Two occupy the half-spaces and two main triangles form. Cristian Romero and Japhet Tanganga remain behind the halfway line.

James Maddison often dropped, but Oliver Skipp stayed further forward. This meant the spacing between that first and second triangle is too large.

When Harry Kane drops and they play the ball forward, there is no central attacking option. Skipp is wide, and Maddison is deep. They played through their right. Without anyone attacking central spaces from the left, when Kane dropped, it meant most attacks ended in a dead end.

I like the distance Cristian Romero and Japhet Tanganga keep between themselves and the two West Ham center-forwards.

  • The large space gives them time on the ball if they were to receive a back pass.
  • If the ball is turned over, they have enough space to cover the wide areas, which would be exposed.
Figure 4.1 - There is a significant gap between Yves Bissouma, Cristian Romero, Japhet Tanganga, and the rest of the attack.

There was a good balance between all-out attack and security in rest defense due to the space created. With time, they’ll be able to perfect the spacing so they aren’t as spread apart as they were.

All ten outfield players should move as one. It felt like it was a game of 3v2 and 7v8.

Figure 5.1 - Triangles created with connections between players.

When they got the spacing balance right, it was beautiful. Tons of triangles and open passing lanes due to the staggering.

It complements the profiles they have. Yves Bissouma was impressive throughout, commanding play and setting the tempo. Dejan Kulusevski outshined James Maddison. Maddison was quiet while Kulusevski was always threatening, cutting in from the wing.

Figure 6.1 - Diamond in the final third.

Once they got into the final third, they overwhelmed West Ham but lacked any kind of clinical edge. Every shot was off the mark or shot directly at Lukasz Fabianski.

I can’t wait to see Son Heung-min playing in this setup.

Figure 10.1 - Post-match data from Opta Analyst.

As you can see from the xG data, they didn’t create many high-quality chances in the first half. I blame this on the poor spacing that I mentioned.

Figure 7.1 - Out of possession man-marking with a flat back four during a goal kick.
Figure 8.1 - Out of possession 4-4-2.

Tottenham held 72% possession. They never planned on playing out of possession for long. The shape was a simple 4-4-2. Like in possession, the back four defenders remained narrow.

Figure 9.1 - Tottenham defending in transition 3v2.

The full-backs were quick to get back, but because of how advanced they are in the half-spaces, it meant they had to cover a lot of ground.

I’m confident that we’ll see other variations of this as other players are introduced. I was just excited to see what Ange had in his locker. I was surprised by the way the full-backs inverted. The first half is what I was focused on because the majority were first-team players.

Looking forward to seeing what they change for their next preseason match against Leicester City.

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