The story of Tottenham’s season so far has been finding good results despite poor performances. Recent games against PSV and Man City have been a full reversal of that trend with the club’s two most promising displays of football so far this year returning a single point.
Whether Spurs fans choose to view that as positive or negative probably comes down to individual mindsets but at the very least there’s a case for optimism to be found in Dembele once again appearing fit, as Spurs near the middle period of the season.
That fitness though has to be managed in order to be maintained and with the games stacking up at a frankly obscene rate – four games in nine days – that may well be difficult.
Up next are Wolves which at the moment appears slightly less as a club in it’s own right and more a competitive manifestation of the Jorge Mendes project. Make no mistake though, they are certainly playing football. Currently sitting 10th in the table, Wolves are threatening to push on from there as they take up sixth place on Twelve’s xG table.
Wolves, with their Portuguese manager and squad full of Portuguese players all under the same Portuguese agent unsurprisingly play a very Portuguese style of play with a couple of trendy, modern twists.
They utilise a very Iberian deep-middle-block with the aim to muddle-up the midfield zone but they operate their pressing in this area at a hectic pace with the focus of turning the ball over in that midfield area before either Ruben Neves or once-famously-Tottenham-linked Joao Moutinho play a delicate pass over the top for an onrushing attacker.
When they don’t create the counter-attack situation they’d like and are instead forced to build the play out from the back they will focus their possession through their wing-backs. The intention is to stretch the opposition out before again finding one of the central midfielders who will attempt a penetrative pass.
This is an entertaining and effective game plan but Watford recently underlined the two key components to destabilise the team from Wolverhampton.
- Rough up the midfield
Moutinho and Neves have rightfully picked up a lot of praise for their performances this season but within that Nuno is pushing them to their athletic limit. Neither of these are what you might traditionally recognise as defensive ball-winners yet they operate as a midfield pairing who open themselves up for a bit of a battle.
If there is one thing that Tottenham are good at it’s raising what the referee considers an acceptable level of physical play in a game. The Wolves midfield isn’t lightweight by any means but neither are they Dembele, Dier, Wanyama or skinny but vicious Erik Lamela.
2. Push the wing-backs
Getting the wing-backs up the pitch is vital for Wolves in and out of possession. In possession they open up the space inside. If they are closed down quickly then they will only open up sideways passes to their own defence. Out of possession the ball-near-sided wing-back joins the midfield.
If Tottenham utilise their more natural, touchline hugging, wide players (Lucas and Son) in this game and force Wolves into a flat back five then they will open up space in central areas.