Hull City (H) 29/10/13 – Post Match Tactical & Statistical Analysis

Roberto Soldado Tottenham Hotspur Hull City

Whether it was the fans negativity, Andre Villas-Boas’ tactics or tired legs after another long-haul Europa League trip, Spurs never really got going against Hull City. Before kick-off, statistics suggested a comfortable home win. Or did they?

Tottenham had recorded the second highest average shots per game total in the Premier League prior to the visit of Hull, who had tallied the least in the division, but Spurs had only scored four goals in their opening four league games at White Hart Lane.

The visitors took a leaf out of Sam Allardyce’s big book of “tactics”. Ten men, sometimes eleven, sat behind the ball. 0-0 was the aim, but if they could surprise Tottenham on the counter-attack, so be it. Steve Bruce wouldn’t have complained at two extra points.

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Villas-Boas was determined to win, having never gone three games without victory at White Hart Lane. Spurs completed 468 passes, as opposed to Hull’s 188. Despite appearing to be in control with 66.2% of the overall possession, it was City who created more clear-cut chances in the first half.

The formations below show what Spurs had to deal with. Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend primarily set out to cut inside (which the latter successfully managed a couple of times), but were often forced onto their respective weaker feet because of the congestion in the middle. Ahmed Elmohamady, George Boyd and Yannick Sagbo were able to attack on the break due to the home side’s desperation to score the crucial, crowd-settling first goal.

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Elmohamady was often pushed back into the defensive five…six…(I’ve lost count), giving Hull plenty of defenders to keep Spurs out. Huddlestone and Meyler, both defensively minded on the day, also aimed to further congest the final third.

Lewis Holtby had to come deep for the ball in order to have an effect on the game. The German shares certain attributes with Rafael Van der Vaart, who, like Holtby, used to drop deep to give defenders an option when playing out from the back. Christian Eriksen tends to stay put in his number ten role, whereas Holtby is more pro-active, moving to collect the ball from those behind him and duly distributing it to attacking teammates.

Yet at times it seemed he was trying too hard on Sunday. Criticising someone for being overly incisive may appear harsh when the objective was to break Hull down with clever passing. But Holtby continually tried to play in Soldado too early. A balance between pace and patience is a difficult one to strike.

Holtby did, however, complete the fourth highest number of passes in the game. Right-back Kyle Walker was the most successful in that department. Walker has been a key attacking threat for Spurs in recent weeks. His influence often goes unnoticed; the England international has warranted his new long-term contract with a series of professional, understated performances of late.

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The passing stats of Spurs’ central defenders show how often the home side attempted to play out from the back. Hull’s counter-attacks were broken down more often than not, allowing Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches to get the team moving forward.

But, as has been the case more than once this season at the Lane, Tottenham started attacks far too slowly, allowing the visitors to get organised and prepared for an expected onslaught that never came.

It took a debatably awarded penalty for Spurs to snatch the win. Villas-Boas will be undoubtedly pleased to have finally found a reliable spot-kick taker in Roberto Soldado. However, the overall performance was a worrying one. Teams come to White Hart Lane to defend. Tottenham must find a way around that.


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