Tactics Journal

by Kyle Boas

Analyzing football tactics

Tottenham cross too much

20.37% of Tottenham’s passes into the penalty area in the past 60 days have come from crosses. Working the ball on the ground rather than through the air would likely be more effective.

Figure 1.1 - Out-swinging crossing opportunity for Pedro Porro with a run to the near post.

Tottenham usually look to take their crosses quick. They time their runs to the far and near post to arrive when the ball is played here.

The problem is that when the crosser is this far away from the box, the only option is the run to the near post, and that header is difficult to direct. The far post run would require the crosser to loop the ball over the goalkeeper, across the defenders in the six-yard box, which will not likely be completed.

Then you’re hoping for a deflection. It is not a super high probability cross because of how difficult it is to hit it accurately with pace. If they time it perfectly they could get a flick.

Figure 1.2 - Pedro Porro forced backwards to Brennan Johnson, and Johnson can only attempt a higher out-swinging cross off his back foot first-time.

Teams could allow that cross to the near post but it’s probably a better idea to force this pass back.

Block off the initial cross, allow the players in the box to finish their runs, and then force the ball back. Then if Brennan Johnson wants to cross he has to hit it first-time with his standing foot planted, so it is always going to be a high looping cross with little power.

Hard to get any power on the header.

Figure 2.1 - In-swinging cross from Dejan Kulusevski on the right and out-swinging cross option from Pedro Porro.

These in-swinging crosses are almost always aimed towards the back post. Really awkward to defend but equally hard to accurately place the cross. When the ball is being moved slowly this is probably Tottenham’s most dangerous crossing type. All they need is a soft tap into the top left-hand corner from an attacker and it’s a goal.

Again, forcing the pass back is better. Very rarely do these out-swinging cross from the position Pedro Porro is standing in Figure 2.1 work. Of note, Pedro Porro in particular has only completed 3 of 25 crosses in the past four matches.

Figure 3.1 - Premier League teams ranked by percentage of crosses into the penalty area to passes into the penalty area in the past 60 days. Data via Stathead FBref

There is no right or wrong way of attacking the penalty area but I wouldn’t associate Tottenham with players that are at skilled at heading the ball. The only players that are proficient headers of the ball are Richarlison, who is injured, and Cristian Romero, a defender who only gets on the end of crosses during free-kicks or corners.

I feel they are limiting their effectiveness of their attack and wasting chances by relying on higher looping crosses, rather than working the ball into the box on the ground. Why cross if you can’t head the ball?

Figure 4.1 - Quick early out-swinging cross across the box to the opposite side winger.

When there’s space, they will look to cross early. This is their bread and butter, what they are good at.

In transition, as the opposition defense consolidate towards the center of the box, these passes from side-to-side across the ground are deadly. The defense should always look to mark the man on the far-side, that is almost always the target.

Figure 5.1 - Square pass to Rodrigo Bentancur at the top of the box.

When space is limited I would like to see them work the ball to the byline, from the wing, or into the box, if they can, for a cut-back or square pass like the one in Figure 5.1. This is harder to defend because you have to stop various passes, the most difficult to defend being the top of the box and the far-post.

Play for a tap-in or take advantage of their finishing ability at the top of the box rather than force Dejan Kulusevski, Heung-Min Son, or Brennan Johnson to contest headers.

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