Sunday, August 25, 2013

Spurs win but 4-3-3 shape leaves Soldado isolated

For the second consecutive weekend Tottenham have emerged 1-0 winners thanks to a Roberto Soldado penalty. The penalty decision looked fortuitous- Andros Townsend appeared to dive rather than being clipped by Swansea's Jonjo Shelvey. However, Shelvey was fortunate not to have conceded a penalty earlier when he clipped Townsend near the edge of the penalty area. Replays showed Townsend was in the box when he'd been fouled but referee Neil Swarbrick gave a free kick just outside the area. Overall Spurs were much the better side and just about deserved the three points.

One concern for Andre Villas Boas however will be his side's inability to get the ball to their record signing Soldado. The Spanish striker received only 13 passes in the entire match, none of which were inside the box. His only shot attempt on the afternoon was the penalty he tucked home.

Soldado is excellent at holding onto the ball and bringing his midfielders into the game, however he is not the type of striker that is going to receive the ball 25 yards from goal, turn and run at center backs to create goals. Rather he's a lethal finisher in the box. Of his 24 goals last season for Valencia all were scored inside the penalty box. Seventeen were one touch goals and and five were penalties. In other words, 89% of his goals that were scored in the run of play were one touch goals in the box (you can see all his goals from last season in the video below). A potent penalty box striker obviously needs to be receiving the ball around the goal which is why the 0 passes received in the penalty area will be a concern for Villas Boas.

A big reason Soldado didn't get touches in the penalty area today is that Villas Boas played a 4-3-3 as opposed to the 4-2-3-1 he used in the opener at Crystal Palace when Soldado received 32 passes, 6 of which were in the box and had 4 shots. You can see a comparison of the passes Soldado received today's Swansea game versus last weekend's Crystal Palace game below.

The 4-2-3-1 meant Soldado had Gylfi Sigurdsson playing just off of him in the attacking midfield role. The presence of the central attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 does two things for the striker- he provides a link between the deeper lying midfielders and the striker so that the striker isn't isolated alone up top and he also gives the central defenders an extra man to worry about so they can't simply double team the striker.

Spurs 4-2-3-1 shape versus Crystal Palace

A 4-3-3 formation lacks that center attacking midfielder and instead uses one holding midfielder that sits deep just in front of the back four and two box-to-box shuttlers in front of him on either side. Today, Capoue played the holding midfield role with Paulinho and Dembele as the shuttlers. There was no attacking midfielder in the hole playing just off Soldado so Swansea's center backs were able concentrate solely on Soldado without worrying about being dragged out of position by the runs of an attacking midfielder. Spurs midfield three was physically much stronger and more powerful than Swansea's so they bossed the game in the center of midfield. However the absence of a #10 meant they struggled to find someone to link play with Soldado further up the pitch and he cut an isolated figure up top. Instead they looked to get the ball wide to the right and advance forward with Townsed and the overlapping Kyle Walker. Townsend was by far Spurs most dangerous player but Villas Boas would almost certainly prefer more chances falling to his £26 million pound #9 than from Townsend cutting in from the right. 

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