Visual Analysis On How Tottenham Beat AC Milan
How did we beat AC Milan? Being a modest, shy, retiring type I don’t want to answer that question with read yesterdays match preview How To Beat AC Milan because that would make me sound like a know-it-all and I hate those people, mainly because they always disagree with me, and they’re always wrong.
So instead I’ll let some images from the game do the talking. On Tuesday morning I thought we’d lose by a couple of goals. I didn’t believe Redknapp’s pre-match talk about attacking especially if Modric wasn’t fit to start. However, as kick off approached my nervousness abated and my sense of impending doom changed to quiet optimism. So much so I even went as far as tweeting my unusual positive stance on the outcome.
It doesn’t happen often as those of you that read this corner of the internet will testify but as in my match preview I genuinely believed if we set up correctly and played well we could get something from the game. The main tactic we had to employ was keeping it tight centrally but playing with width when we had the ball. Not an easy thing to do as could be seen with 10-15 minutes to go and players starting to wilt, most just playing on adrenaline, especially after Crouch’s winning goal went in.
You can see how narrow Milan played by the images below and likewise how perfectly Redknapp set the team up to counter that. Look at the extra space we had on the flanks while they crowded the middle of the pitch, playing right into our hands with Palacios and Sandro sitting and waiting. Both their jobs were executed to perfection, closing down, tackling, intercepting and then playing the simple ball sideways to the wings. It was this play that meant we dominated the first half.
It also shows how often we played the ball to Ekotto, concentrating our possession down the left hand side with Pienaar and van der Vaart. The game was crying out for the ball to be given to Lennon early so he had grass to run into which is exactly what happened for the goal. Better late than never. With regards to Milan we did an excellent job of keeping the ball away from their forwards by closing down the midfield and making them pass the ball backwards to the defence. As you can see from the position of Antonini and Abate, Milan get all their width from their full backs which is exactly why Redknapp gave Pienaar the nod instead of Niko. It was harsh on Kranjcar and while he did fine when he came on it was clear to see his defensive abilities aren’t a patch on the South Africans.
The above images show perfectly how the team closed Milan down and pushed them backwards. By staying tight we didn’t offer the Milan defenders many options which resulted in a lot of sideways passing along the back four. This meant we could get back into two banks of four with vdV & Crouch slotting into midfield at times to offer support. Again, the tight marking and closing down of the opposition is shown with their backwards passing. A lot of it from the flanks as the partnerships of Lennon/Corluka and Pienaar/Ekotto worked well together to make sure they gave away nothing.
It was this tireless work that led to Milan getting impatient and at times impetuous. I don’t watch a lot of Italian football mainly because of the time and space allowed to each team makes it’s a boring style of football to watch.
You could see from their reactions that they weren’t used to being closed down and as tightly marked as they were on Tuesday night and we went about it intelligently. I had a bet on Spurs winning, 11+ corners and 45+ card index. Unfortunately for me there were only 3 yellow cards and none of them were spurs players. This with Palacios and Sandro in our team, both of whom played superbly. I read a tweet wondering if Wilson had travelled to the San Siro by Delorean because it was the Sgt Wilson of 2 years ago, not the one we’ve been used to of late. They were both careful and jostled for the ball for the majority of the time when they were in and around their own area but once they got too far to shoot from a free kick they let the Milan players know they were there. Again a sign we were pushing Milan back at every opportunity.
This season we’ve all bemoaned the fact we need a quality striker and while in the premier league that’s definitely true, in the Champions League we’ve already got one in Peter Crouch. Whether it’s how defenders try to play against him or he just improves for games like Tuesday’s I’m not sure but he was superb. He won everything in the air, held it up well and linked play with the midfield as well as anyone could wish for. By the end of the game he looked like he was dead on his feet but still managed to keep up with Lennon so he had the simple task of slotting home the winner. As you can see from the images below we restricted Milan to long range shots and when they did manage to shoot in the box they were either blocked by defenders putting their bodies in the way or saved by the excellent Gomes. One save in particular was one of the best saves I’ve ever seen. We on the other hand at least managed to test the keeper. They may not have been spectacular saves like Gomas had to pull off but they were on target all the same and one of the two off target shots was a sublime chip by vdV that had the keeper beat but just went wide.
Overall everything went spectacularly well. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better performance from a Spurs side. It’s a shame some of the gloss has been taken off the victory by events surrounding Gattuso who showed himself to be exactly what he is, in the words of Graeme Souness, “a dog of a player”, which is why I’m not going to highlight his actions too much. The referee had a very good game in my opinion but missed his antics as well as the two footed leg breaker by Flamini. They’re only human though and I’ll settle for him getting those wrong but getting Ibrahimovic’s last minute disallowed goal right.
If you read this blog, the site forum or follow me on twitter you may have noticed in the past I can be critical of Redknapp’s tactics or lack of but I’m always happy to give credit where it’s due. For someone who not so long ago said he didn’t believe tactics made much of a difference at the highest level he’s certainly proved himself wrong. He got everything spot on. The Modric injury was actually a blessing in disguise because the partnership of Palacios and Sandro was perfect for how we needed to play in the San Siro. When it comes to the home game it’ll be slightly different but we still need to box clever. The inclusion of Pienaar was a great move too. I’d suggested it might be the better option because of his defensive abilities but didn’t believe he’d do it and wouldn’t have had a problem had Niko started. Everything went to plan and he must get credit for that as well as the players.
It’s only half time and we can’t get carried away. Enjoy it of course but realise if we don’t go through now the victory will soon be forgotten. Well, maybe not forgotten but tainted. This team, squad and management are learning all the time. Top four and champions league? Bring it on.
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