Hull City 1 Tottenham 2: Three lessons learned
Three lessons learned as Tottenham edge past Hull City
A dubious red card changes the game
Tottenham lacked invention and authority until Gaston Ramirez was sent off for a highly debatable red card. Mauricio Pochettino immediately changed things bringing on Aaron Lennon and it paid dividends as his pace gave Spurs a different dimension going forward. We also saw some promise from the strike partnership of Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado. They seemed buoyed by the sending off and between them had quite a few chances to win the game. The movement was good as they both looked to exploit vacant spaces, but they also interchanged as one of them would drop deep, while the other would try and occupy the centre-halves. Kane got his goal purely based on instinct as he followed in Christian Eriksen’s superb free-kick. The midfielders also began to overload the centre of the pitch and Eriksen’s winner came as Hull began to tire. Curtis Davies was slightly slow to react and that was all the Dane needed as he struck a dipping shot past the despairing dive of Allan McGregor. It will worry Pochettino that Spurs looked so lacklustre before the red card. They also needed the same boost to beat Aston Villa a few weeks back so despite the win, they have plenty to work on.
When will Spurs sort out their defensive issues?
You keep thinking that it will improve and that Spurs are learning from their mistakes. But we saw more examples against Hull that something is fundamentally wrong in the way they go about defending. A high line has been in place at Tottenham for quite a few years now but what you need when you play that is pace. If the ball is played in behind the defenders have to be able to recover. There are fewer question marks over Jan Vertonghen, but Federico Fazio seems ill-suited to this role and he has been woefully exposed in Premier League games this season. To be fair to Pochettino, many of his defensive changes were enforced due to injuries and in the circumstances the full-backs played as well as they could. Both Eric Dier and particularly Ben Davies have seen limited first team football this season. Davies showed elements of the form that earned him a move from Swansea but he still seemed to be curtailed when going forward. Dier was also quite restricted and his dreadful first half meant that he was substituted purely for tactical reasons. The intention by Pochettino may have been to keep the defence tight as a unit but when the midfield was attempting to pressurise, it would have made more sense to have the full-backs further up the pitch to compliment this. There also seemed to be a lack of intensity in getting out to the ball and Davies should have done better as Jake Livermore was given quite a lot of time to measure his shot for the opening goal. Spurs have been fortunate that the last line of defence is Hugo Lloris and he was outstanding form once again making numerous saves to keep them in contention.
A reinvigorated Hull team despite the defeat
Hull City have been in very poor form of late. The last game they won was against Crystal Palace back on the 5th October but the performances have also been disappointing. However, today they showed encouraging signs even after Ramirez was sent off. They were feisty in the tackle, pressurised high up the pitch, and looked threatening when they attacked. The game plan by Steve Bruce suggested that he wanted his players to be positive. He picked more flamboyant players such as Hatem Ben Arfa and Gaston Ramirez. The midfielders and full-backs were invited to attack whenever it was possible. The first goal by Livermore was a reflection of this. Livermore, a naturally reserved midfield player, took advantage of a poor defensive header to open the scoring but his position dictated that he could do that. The Tigers nearly scored again shortly after and it was down to more positive intent. Nikica Jelavic attacked down the left hand side and set up Robbie Brady. Lloris made an outstanding save from the resulting effort but Hull’s dominance in the early periods of the game was all down to how they approached it. Ramirez getting sent off changed the outcome of the game but at least Bruce can take some satisfaction in the performance.