Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Tottenham repeat this left-half space play against Manchester United

Tottenham repeated this simple pattern that I shared before the match: Second man drags the second defender out, left-winger dribbles inside, and play the pass into the space in front or behind Manchester United’s right center-back. Goal.

You can read the full match preview for the Tottenham v Manchester United match here which has examples from their past match as long as a plan for this match.

Giovani Lo Celso has filled in for James Maddison as the #10, but he was out injured. Dejan Kulusevski would then fill in for Lo Celso, but he was out due to illness. Oliver Skipp filled in for Kulusevski, but Skipp is not a #10, so the dynamic was different. They had to play much slower.

Figure 1.1 - Space open to run towards.
Figure 2.1 - Space for Richarlison to run towards to receive a pass.
Figure 3.1 - Space for Udogie to run towards and then two options to cross across goal.

Because Tottenham built up slower than they normally would. they couldn’t time this run into the space. Timo Werner is new to the system, his passes were inconsistent, and Oliver Skipp’s touch wasn’t always on point.

They elected to pass the ball back to circulate possession rather than play that killer pass into the space.

Figure 4.1 - Destiny Udogie runs into the space and Timo Werner passes him the ball.
Figure 4.2 - Destiny Udogie attempts to cut-back the ball across goal, but it is blocked.

When it was on and they got their timing right, they created that golden chance to cut the ball across goal.

Create the space, attack the space, pass from the man cutting in, and then two extra things happen on the far-side. Everyone is man-to-man so it’s easy to lose your marker. The center-forward, Richarlison, runs near post. The right-winger, Brennan Johnson, makes the far-post run.

Then Udogie has the option to shoot, cut-back to Richarlison, or fizz the ball across goal to Johnson for the tap-in.

Same thing happens for Tottenham’s goal in the second half.

Figure 5.1 - Timo Werner drives inside as Oliver Skipp makes the run to drag a defender wide. Rodrigo Bentancur begins his run into the left half-space.
Figure 5.2 - Timo Werner passes the ball to Rodrigo Bentancur.
Figure 5.3 - Rodrigo Bentancur takes his first touch one-v-one with Jonny Evans.
Figure 5.4 - Timo Werner continues running forward to the top of the box as Rodrigo Bentancur takes the shot.
Figure 5.5 - Rodrigo Bentancur's shot.
Figure 5.6 - Goal.
Figure 6.1 - Illustration of the two types of chances Tottenham should look for against Manchester United.
  • Two United defenders drawn out by two Tottenham players wide left.
  • Left-winger carries inside to the top of the box.
  • Run into the left-half space behind or in front of the right center-back.
  • Pass is played to the man running into the box.
  • Near post run by the center-forward.
  • Far post run by the right-winger.
  • Left-winger continues their run to the top of the box, to wait to take a shot if a rebound or clearance falls to them.

A repeatable pattern that Manchester United need to address because it is too easy to exploit.

Match: Manchester United 2-2 Tottenham, 14 January 2024

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