Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Two spaces Tottenham can attack Manchester United

Tottenham’s left-winger needs to look for the run into the left half-space behind Manchester United’s right center-back, and I’d expect at least one high-quality chance for Tottenham at the top of the box.

Figure 1.1 - Illustration of the two types of chances Tottenham should look for against Manchester United.

This is based on their last meeting in August when Tottenham created several shots and a goal from that run behind Raphael Varane when he and Diogo Dalot jumped to challenge Son Hueng-Min and Destiny Udogie.

Figure 2.1 - Son Heung-Min passes to Pape Sarr as Manchester United jump out.
Figure 2.2 - Pape Sarr shot on target.

Giovani Lo Celso will be out injured and Dejan Kulusevski has been filling in for him in that #10 position behind Richarlison. A role that I suggested Kulusevski should play. This is the same role James Maddison played at the start of the season.

He will often drift left into the left half-space but unlike Maddison, who likes to drift further wide to open himself up to cross, Kulusevski likes making that same run that Pape Sarr made into the space. This would mean Destiny Udogie would have to drift out wide instead.

We might also see Kulusevski take up the position wide to play the same type of pass that Son made, if Bryan Gil is playing on the left-wing instead of Brennan Johnson. Gil is more of a touchline winger who holds width, and cross. He won’t be as eager to cut inside and pass like Brennan Johnson would.

Figure 3.1 - Son Heung-min passes to Ben Davies as Manchester United jump leaving space.
Figure 3.2 - Ben Davies scores.

And then, Manchester United have a tendency to leave space free at the top of the box as they get pinned forward by Tottenham’s first line.

Figure 3.3 - Manchester United getting attracted to the ball and dropping deep towards the goal, leaving space on the far side, behind the first line..
Figure 3.4 - Manchester United following the ball into the penalty area, and then leaving space at the top of the box, for Pedro Porro to get a shot off.

I would be shocked if Pedro Porro, Destiny Udogie, Oliver Skipp, Dejan Kulusevski, or even Rodrigo Bentancur do not get a similar chance on goal at the top of the box.

Match: Manchester United vs Tottenham, 14 January 2024

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