Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Tottenham take too many touches

When Tottenham are denied the ability to counter, they enter into a strange pattern of three-to-five-touch passing mixed in with one-touch passing, which allows the opposition defense to organize behind the ball. They take too many touches.

Figure 1.1 - James Maddison's first touch.
Figure 1.2 - James Maddison's second touch.
Figure 1.3 - James Maddison passes to Rodrigo Bentancur.

Rodrigo Bentancur and Timo Werner were both calling for the ball on James Maddison’s first touch. By waiting for that third touch to pass, Newcastle can quickly move to anticipate the subsequent passes.

Figure 1.4 - Rodrigo Bentancur one-touch pass to Yves Bissouma, and Bissouma's one-touch pass to Destiny Udogie.

The one-touch passing is then mixed in to speed things along.

Figure 1.5 - Destiny Udogie's first touch.
Figure 1.6 - Destiny Udogie's second touch.
Figure 1.7 - Destiny Udogie's third touch.
Figure 1.8 - Destiny Udogie passes to Timo Werner.
Figure 1.9 - Timo Werner's first touch.
Figure 1.10 - Timo Werner's second touch.
Figure 1.11 - Timo Werner attempts a pass to Destiny Udogie but it is blocked.

But both Destiny Udogie and Timo Werner take too many touches and the space is closed down. There’s no room for Bentancur or Udogie to receive the ball. Bissouma is open but Werner doesn’t look backwards.

Figure 1.12 - James Maddison one-touch pass to Rodrigo Bentancur.
Figure 1.13 - Rodrigo Bentancur's one-touch pass to Hueng-min Son that's wide of the mark.

And now after that failed sequence, back to one-touch passing. There needs to be a middle ground. Four touches is too many. It should be one or two touch, quick.

Figure 2.1 - Cristian Romero's first touch.
Figure 2.2 - Cristian Romero's second touch.
Figure 2.3 - Cristian Romero's third touch.
Figure 2.4 - Cristian Romero's fourth touch.
Figure 2.5 - Cristian Romero passes to Pedro Porro.
Figure 2.6 - Pedro Porro's first touch.

Look at the space available wide when Cristian Romero takes his first touch, compared to the space available when Pedro Porro takes his first touch.

By taking all those touches, you allow Newcastle to easily regroup, get in position, and then they can cut off that third man once Pedro Porro receives the ball.

Figure 3.1 - Pedro Porro's first touch.
Figure 3.2 - Pedro Porro's second touch.
Figure 3.3 - Pedro Porro's third touch.
Figure 3.4 - Pedro Porro's fourth touch.
Figure 3.5 - Pedro Porro passes back to Cristian Romero.

There are players open on opposite parts of the pitch, passes back open, but they all take too long to get the ball out of their feet.

I discussed previously that Tottenham have trouble scoring when they have a lot of possession. One reason was a lack of movement. The other reason was this, too many touches.

They use both an offside trap and a counter trap. They want you to take the bait on the counter to allow them to quickly enter the box, just like how they use an offside trap to bait you to beat their high line. They don’t want that battle in-between.

If you want to stop Tottenham; be patient, allow them to have the ball, take all the touches they want, they telegraph passes, and then remain patient on the counter when you intercept their pass.

Match: Newcastle 4-0 Tottenham, 13 April 2024

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