Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Aston Villa's method to block Tottenham's third man

Konsa moves in at an angle where his hips facing the left foot of Son. He needs to block off the pass to Maddison and Johnson with the full width of his legs. Do that and Tottenham can’t progress past Aston Villa. They can’t pass inside, and the pass to Udogie is covered. Son is trapped.

Figure 1.1 - Tottenham's passing patterns.

Tottenham’s build-up, transitions, and final third play are built around the third man. There are no simple one-twos. They need that third man run and pass to function moving forward. Aston Villa were smart and had a plan to perfectly position their bodies to block off that pass.

Figure 2.1 - Destiny Udogie passes to Brennan Johnson. John McGinn shadow covers James Maddison.
Figure 2.2 - Leon Bailey hip-checks Destiny Udogie to stop his run. Matty Cash curves his run to attempt to block off the pass inside. Brennan Johnson passes and moves to Son Heung-Min.

What Aston Villa figured is that you allow the pass outside but do everything in your power to block off that pass inside.

The fail-safe is a one-two between Johnson and Udogie, but even that is cut off by Bailey hip-checking Udogie. Maddison is blocked off by the shadow cover of McGinn. Cash attempts to block off Son.

The goal is to not allow Tottenham to progress from outside to in.

Figure 2.3 - Ezri Konsa curves his run to block off the pass inside. Brennan Johnson continues.
Figure 2.4 - Ezri Konsa completely blocks off the pass inside. John McGinn cover shadows James Maddison.

All of that movement to stop the pass to Son and Maddison is great, and the block to not allow the one-two between Johnson, but this is the one thing Aston Villa were doing the entire first half. This specific movement from Ezri Konsa is the key to blocking off progression forward.

It will take a moment of individual brilliance from Son to get by him.

The entire first half was stop and start for Tottenham because of the organization behind this challenge wide, but more specifically this move by whoever was defending wide to block the pass inside. They couldn’t get the ball to the third man.

Once Aston Villa became tired in the second half, they eased off, and allowed Tottenham to connect that pass. That’s when the floodgates opened and goals started flowing for Tottenham.

Match: Aston Villa 0-4 Tottenham, 10 March 2024

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