Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Tottenham lack off-the-ball movement

Before Dejan Kulusevski came on in the 70th minute, no one was making simple dummy runs like this. Tottenham were static, ball watching. They need more movement in the final third against a low block, to help create the pockets to play through.

Figure 1.1 - Dejan Kulusevski begins a run inside.
Figure 1.1 - Tottenham static inside the box.

Without runs, counter-movement away, in different directions, play becomes slow and predictable. It’s easy for West Ham to defend because they don’t have to move. They simply shift back and forth. None of the defenders jump. There’s no separation.

It doesn’t even need to be a run to an area where you can receive, it needs to be a run that forces a defender to move with them. Defender moves, another forward moves, then the space is there. It confuses the defense, it manipulates their shape, and then you attack the areas they vacate.

Figure 1.2 - Pedro Porro moves back once Dejan Kulusevski makes his run, and Cristian Romero passes the ball to Pedro Porro.
Figure 1.3 - Pedro Porro receives and has space to carry into the box.

One simple movement and Tottenham are in. Kulusevski moved, Soucek jumps to Kulusevski, Pedro Porro moves back into the pocket, receives, and turns into space.

The good news for Tottenham is that West Ham was their toughest remaining opponent this season, unless one of the remaining teams tries to replicate this. They have struggled when they don’t have room, when they have more possession, when the opponent sits back, because they don’t try to make the opponent move off-the-ball.

Match: West Ham 1-1 Tottenham, 2 April 2024

Players: Dejan Kulusevski

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