Scout Report: Moyes 4 options to stop Bale

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This week’s preview will take a look at Gareth Bale; Spurs key man and driving force in taking them to third place in the table. Moyes has often shuffled his pack to accommodate significant threats such as David Silva and more recently last week’s switch to three at the back.

Given Spurs will most likely start with just Adebayor up front it’s unlikely – but not impossible – that we will retain this formation as we would have 2 spare centre backs. What other options are available then? Here are four to think about….

New Picture (101)Option 1 – Coleman

Coleman has been used a couple of times in midfield to directly stop Bale. It’s a role he is suited to given his pace and tackling ability.  As the average position board (left) shows, in 09/10 Coleman (23) played in front of Phil Neville (18) with decent results; Bale did virtually nothing and failed to complete a single cross before being moved to the right flank where he was equally quiet.

In 10/11 Coleman was again deployed in midfield but this time moved with Bale from flank to flank. Bale was predominantly on Coleman’s unfavoured left flank (circled below) in front of Baines however as Bale is left footed he will cut inside on Coleman’s better right foot. Again in this game Bale was peripheral.

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In Spurs last game vs Swansea Bale played fairly freely as the below passes received visual shows…

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Whilst in Spurs last home game against Fulham Bale played exclusively on the right flank…..

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The conclusion we can draw here is that he will position himself where the space is. Given Baines occupies a position high up field it’s my guess Bale will start on the right. A potential setup with Coleman in midfield would look like this….

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The only issue is, if Coleman is played in wide midfield, who plays in his right back spot? After the Wigan debacle, Phil Neville is essentially looking after the ponies in a semi retirement abyss whilst Hibbert is also nowhere to be seen, so its unlikely Coleman could be spared from the right back slot unless Heitinga is asked to ‘do a job’. The other issue is that it reduces Coleman’s impact going forward which as we will explain later could be crucial.

Option 2 – Zonal Marking

The image below shows the 65 locations of the pitch Bale has created chances from (bottom) and the 17 positions he has scored from (top); clearly the main area for both is centrally in the final third just outside our 18 yard box where 7 of his goals have come from.

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Defending this zone will be crucial and therefore marking this space will be implicit to us stopping Bale. Thus, the gap between our midfield and defensive duo will need to be minimal and players will need to pick up and close down when the ball comes into Bale. The key benefit of this approach is that we don’t have to compromise the strengths of our own game by moving players around to stop the opposition.

In total 13 of Bale’s 17 goals have come with his left foot so keeping him on his right foot will be key. The issue is that Osman and Gibson’s qualities are more suited to being on the ball than defending off it, however as they showed against City at Goodison recently, they are more than capable of putting in a defensive shift.

Option 3 – Heitinga

The much maligned Dutchman did a similar job against his countryman Rafael van der Vaart away to Spurs a few years ago from midfield.  More recently, Phil Jones of Man Utd did a similar central job here for United, assisting the full backs when Bale came inside and enabling United’s wide midfielders to push up onto Spurs full backs. This would shape up a little like this….

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Potentially we could pick the same team as last week but move Heitinga into midfield and push Osman further forward into the Fellaini spot.  The problem is that – unlike Rodwell vs Silva last season – Heitinga’s pace is dubious and if isolated 1v1 Bale could potentially make him look like a clown without make-up.

Whilst crud in the air and  suspect defending against physicality, Heitinga is a decent man marker and good on the ground at intercepting the ball so this for me could work. He is also two footed so could either play on the left or right of centre mid if Bale starts moving around the pitch.

Option 4 – Root Cause

The other option is to cut the service at the source. In Spurs last 3 games the main supply has come from the full back areas with either Naughton /Walker whilst Hugo Lloris also features heavily in terms of his quick distribution from the back to Bale.

Bale’s goal output is considerably reduced at home where his conversion is more than 50% less compared to on the road . At home he has failed against the league’s bottom feeders who will sit deep and deny space such as Stoke, Wigan, Norwich and QPR but has scored against sides like Arsenal and Lib-ep-ewl who will play higher lines.

What’s likely to happen?

In reality any one of the above situations could happen, but I’d be very surprised if we went ‘gung ho’ against a quality side that have created 422 scoring chances this season – second only to Lib-ep-ewl’s 433.

Caution will be the watchword although I believe we will score, but perhaps look to open up cagey. Spurs have of course dropped 19 points from leading positions in the league this season and with our extra rest (Spurs play tonight) it might be prudent to stay in the game as long as possible should they falter in the final stages just as they did at Goodison earlier this season – a game which also followed a Europa outing.

Defensively Spurs are suspect down their left side, conceding 33% more chances and 150 more crosses than their right side. The right footed Naughton has been deployed at left back whilst Assou Ekotto and Vertonghen have also deputised with Spurs using each of the trio in their last 3 games in the left back spot. We exploited this area in the reverse fixture with both goals coming from crosses from this zone with Coleman crucial in the key last 20 minute spell of the game as the below player importance shows…

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With this lack of consistency I’d be surprised if Mirallas didn’t start on the right wing and looked to expose Spurs high line with Gibson’s long range delivery crucial to getting him in the game. Spurs have an achilles heel aerially too with Caulker particularly suspect with just 45% success from his headers– low for a centre half -, whilst Gallas will always give you opportunities.

Either way, it should be an interesting fixture. A win or draw keeps us in the hunt for a decent finish whilst a defeat wouldn’t end the season but would make things a lot tougher.


Tactical Deconstruction: Everton 2-1 Spurs

‘Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in’ …..was the line which sprung to mind as a resolute Everton came from behind to take something from a game for the eighth time this season amidst 88 seconds of mayhem….
Teams and Tactics
Moyes made 2 changes from last week with Mirallas and Coleman coming in on the right side for Naismith and the injured Hibbert in a 4-2-3-1. Spurs went 4-4-2 with Dempsey pitched in on the left flank for Bale with Adebayor and Defoe as the strike duo in an attacking line-up.
Passing / Territory Data
Possession wise, Spurs shaded it with 50.8% to 49.2% but we had more territory with  52.9% final third possession to  Spurs 47.1% with 35 v 18 penalty box touches in the Blues favour. This was translated into more chances with us having 20 shots to spurs 12. Of the shots we had, 65% came from inside Spurs 18 yard zone compared to Spurs  33% in our box.
First halfThe first half was all about us attacking down the right flank and with Spurs counter attacks predominantly down the left this area of the pitch witnessed most of the crucial action. Recently sides have targeted Spurs defensively frail left side and with Dempsey not holding his position when Spurs were not in possession we were easily able to engineer 2v1’s down this flank with Coleman and Mirallas giving Vertonghen a good going over. The Belgian picked up a booking for his troubles and with Mirallas direct running and Coleman – who seems to save his best displays for Spurs – always showing for an overlap a red looked likely.
Spurs also played a high line with an unconvincing offside trap which meant the ‘out-ball’ into the wide gulleys from Gibson was always on. The Irishman was the best player on the pitch; making the most passes (52) and best accuracy but what was most crucial was his quick long passes from central to wide areas which kept pressure on spurs full backs. He completed 12/14 long balls with an overall pass completion of 96.3% in Spurs half – the highest of any player on the pitch – and 92.3% completion in the final third.
Second half
In the second half without the ‘out ball’ to Mirallas we went longer to Fellaini – a move which paid limited dividends. The Belgian endured a subdued afternoon; he was dispossessed the most (6) and made more unforced errors (5) of anyone on the pitch. Spurs are a capable outfit and played well in the second half especially on the counter and after Dempsey had given them the lead could have been out of sight with Sigurdsson’s shot hitting the bar. The North London outfit do concede lots of goals late on in games (10 goals to the tune of 14pts in the last 15mins of matches) and given our fitness and with the extra days rest you thought we would get a chance if we kept applying pressure especially given that Spurs had by now dropped quite deep and were basically defending their 18 yard line.The two goals came when Fellaini had moved into a deeper midfield role with Velios up top. Firstly, amidst chaos in the Spurs area, Caulker unnecessarily hacked a clearance his keeper Lloris had covered, enabling Naismith to play in Coleman who showed great composure to pick out a nice cross for Pienaar to head home. With Spurs rocking, Coleman took a quick throw to Gibson whose delivery was aerobically flicked on by sub Velios for Jelavic to instinctively dart between the static Gallas and Caulker to tap home.
Final wordThis was a crucial win given that a Spurs victory would have seen us 6 points off the pace in the ‘race’ for fourth spot. We dominated the first period and should have gone in at the break in front and you wondered if it was going to be another tale of L4 woe. After the break Spurs had decent moments towards the end and will feel unfortunate to lose the game in the way they did but I’d say we were worthy winners.

Scout Report – Moyes Tactical Blueprint for Spurs

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Sunday’s visit of Spurs concludes a three game mini series against tricky opposition with a win for the Blues potentially sending us as high as third in the table. It won’t be easy though against a Spurs team in very good form and starting to gel under their new boss. After the recent spell of draws the game now appears to carry a ‘must win’ classification if we have serious ambitions for 4th spot given that a defeat could leave us six points adrift….

The AVB Project

Former manager Arry Redknapp’s approach to the game has been documented on here before in all its simplicity. Ex-forward Rafael Van Der Vaart once commented ‘we have a tactics board but Harry doesn’t use it’ with the wobbly headed crook’s pre match resembling a Mike Bassett style ‘Go and express yourselves’ approach.  After failing to remedy the same mistakes he made 12 months previously, Bagpuss was given his P45 and sent to La Manga.

In replacing him, Spurs followed the FA’s long standing model of England Managerial recruitment by appointing the polar opposite in the shape of ’thinking man’ Andre Villas-Boas or ‘AVB’ if your a bad meff. the Portugeuse joined Porto via his dad as a 3 year old, wrote his first tactical report for Bobby Robson aged 17 and was a key reason for Mourinho’s Porto and Chelsea success stories. The UK media have derided his methods seemingly because they are different and he does mad stuff like take notes on a pad. His deployment of ideas in the prem so far has had mixed results, but I’d sooner have someone like him than a Redknapp figure any day of the week. Also, anyone who invokes ridicule from the moronic inferno of Talksport / Soccer Saturday is surely doing something right.

In terms of change, despite what the self facilitating media node would have you believe, the squad bestowed Villas Boas wasn’t great with a general imbalance in key positions with 38 centre backs, stock piles of goalkeepers but just 1 forward and no deep lying playmaker.  In terms of transfers, Sigurdsson favoured Spurs cash to Liverpool and Brenny’s ‘ideology’ whilst a move for former toffee target Moutinho collapsed at the eleventh hour. Affordable quality was brought in through the excellent Dembele / Vertonghen with Dempsey also recruited.

On the ball….

Villa Boas has changed the playing style with Spurs playing more on the counter and less focused on possession with their share of the ball down on last seasons total from 56% to 48%.  Last season’s game was a good example of how Spurs would have plenty of the ball but struggle against sides who sit deep with Spurs having 65% of the ball but creating little as we edged out a classic Moyes 1-0. As is the case with sides who play on the break, they score freely away from home were sides will come at them more, shown by the fact that only Man Utd have scored more goals on their travels with Spurs scoring the most goals from open play (11) on the road.

At Chelsea, Villas-Boas  looked to play out from the back with a high defensive line and high pressure up field and there are similarities with this method at Spurs. Aaron Lennon appears to be the player who has most benefitted from playing further up the pitch with 2 goals and 3 assists and he will be the key man to watch from long diagonals given Baines natural offensive position and our high defensive line. Indeed, this was exactly how Spurs took the lead against us last season in the away fixture.  Gareth Bale is injured for this one but I’d doubt his absence will have as much an impact as it might against other sides. The Welshman is someone we have usually ‘done a number’ on tactically with Coleman invariably deployed as a defensive wide-man, last season tracking him from one flank to the other as Bale fruitlessly went in search of the ball. As a result of our approach, Bale has not registered a goal or assist in any of the league games against us.

Off the ball….

At the back, Spurs have only conceded 79 shots on their travels which is the second fewest in the division after Man City. Spurs left side has been viewed as a weakness by opponents with Bale not quite as studious with his defensive tracking as he was a few years ago and often this has left Vetonghen with 1 v 2 situations on the flank.  With Dawson injured, Gallas looks likely to start and the Frenchman always has the look of someone who could do something really daft particularly when defending from set plays. Moyes has a way of eeking out liabilities and praying on their weaknesses and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had something cooked up for Gallas. Whilst Kyle Naughton did well in last week’s win at Fulham I could see Fellaini looking to play on his height deficit at the back post from crossing opportunities on the right, most probably from Hibbert.

Team News

Villas-Boas will tweak dependent on the opposition as he has shown this season, usually deploying a 4-2-3-1 but notably sending out a 4-4-2 and then changing to a 3 man defence in the derby defeat at the Emirates. Personnel wise, I’d expect Hugo Lloris to continue in goal with Naughton and Vertonghen in the full back slots with Gallas and Caulker will most likely be deployed in the centre back berths. In midfield, Dembele and the impressive Sandro will hold with Lennon (right) Sigurdsson (centre) and Dempsey (left) as the attacking midfield trio behind the ruthless Defoe. Adebayor is available after suspension and started the Europa league game up top with Defoe in a 4-4-2 but I’d expect him to return for the bench for this one.  This was roughly how they lined up last weekend as the player importance demonstrates…

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For us, Kevin Mirallas is hoping to be fit to start which could mean that we are close to full strength with the exception of our skipper. Naismith has done well of late but will be the most likely to drop out should the Belgian be fit to start this one. Victor Anichebe also has an outside chance of being involved.

Last season the sides setup like this in the Goodison clash….

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Everton are best prices with 11/10 with Coral whilst Spurs are best offered at. 86/29 with Pinnacle. The draw can be backed at with 33/13 also with Pinnacle.

Spurs had a less than taxing Europa League fixture tonight whilst we have had a full week to rest and prepare which would give us a slight advantage. Spurs form post European games has been decent though with just one defeat after Thursday night games, that coming at the Etihad last month.

Both games between the clubs last season ended in home wins to nil. In the last four at Goodison there have been on average 2 goals per game with an average of 2.3 goals per game during Moyes tenure. Spurs haven’t won at L4 in 5 seasons. Moyes came up against Villas-Boas 3 times last season with one win, one draw and one defeat with an average of 3 goals per game. The cert again will be in the both teams to score market, with our last 11 games delivering on this one (4/6 at willie hills).

Whereas we have drawn more games than any side in the league Spurs have either been very good or crud on their travels, winning 3, losing 4 and drawing 0. In terms of goal timing, the most likely time we score at home is between 21-40 mins with 68% of our goals coming in the first half of matches. You can get 9/2 with Willie Hills on our first goal to be scored between 31 mins and half time. A repeat of last season with Jelavic score anytime / efc win is offered at 10/3 with betfred. Score wise the likely outcome is 1-1 (13-2 willie hills) but I’m going for 2-1 Everton (8/1betfred)