On Saturday, you might have noticed that Erik Lamela played almost exclusively on the left, while Christian Eriksen played almost exclusively on the right. This isn't completely unheard of for Tottenham Hotspur, but it is a tad out of the ordinary. They spent most of last season with Eriksen left and Lamela right.
Spurs were fine against Crystal Palace -- they won and created some decent shots -- but it wasn't clear why Mauricio Pochettino switched his wide players, or if the change was a success. We were wondering about it this morning, so we asked the fine people of Twitter dot com what they thought. Here's what y'all came up with.
Theory #1: Get Eriksen on the side of a bad fullback
@cartilagefree Defending on the left side?— Reno Wallabout (@RenoWallabout) August 22, 2016
Papa Souare is definitely bad, so it makes sense that Spurs might want their best passer close to him, to exploit the channel between him and Damien Delaney, or the space behind him if he pushed up too far. I am buying this as possible, though in my opinion, it is the least likely of the theories presented.
Theory #2: Create space for Harry Kane
@cartilagefree I think it's to give Kane space. Hasn't played #10 in a while, so not worth trying to be intricate w/ all 3 close together.— Hotspur One (@hotspur_one) August 22, 2016
This makes perfect sense to me. Because Kane hasn't played behind another striker in a long time and he's not exactly a conventional, silky No. 10 anyway. The center wasn't congested, and that led to Kane doing some nice things.
Theory #3: Get crosses in
@cartilagefree crossing. Eriksen right footed, Lamela left footed and we have two strikers in the box— Mr. W (@mikedoubleu61) August 22, 2016
I'm not terribly into this, but it's tough to argue with the logic or the results. Kane and Vincent Janssen are both big, powerful dudes. With them both on the pitch, Spurs crossed more, so it stands to reason that Poche wanted the attackers to mix up their game and put in a cross every once in a while.
Theory #4: Two or three of the above
None of these things are mutually exclusive. Pochettino could have been taking any one, two, or three of these things into consideration when he made the decision to put Eriksen on the right and Lamela on the left.
A few things that I think are worth noting.
By expected goals, we were fine. Here's Caley to ease your concerns about our attack being bad. Actually, it was good.
Eriksen was out of it. No question, this was one of his weaker games since Pochettino took over. The second-biggest xG chance on the graphic above came off a Dele Alli assist, right after Alli entered the game for Eriksen. At no point did Eriksen look comfortable and up to dictating the way we attacked.
Whatever space was opened for Kane didn't result in him getting the ball a lot. While Kane had six shots, only one was on target. They were mostly hopeful. He also had the fewest touches of any of our attackers and one pass that led to a shot from open play. I think these numbers would improve with experience in the role and better play from the players around him, though. Kane was pretty good.
The fullback combinations were off. One of the coolest things that developed over the course of last season was the chemistry that Kyle Walker built with Lamela, and Rose with Eriksen. That was definitely missing against Palace.
BROAD SWEEPING CONCLUSION
I think creating space for Kane was Poche's primary motivation in switching the wide players. It was a decent plan in theory, even if the execution was a bit off. This game was mostly fine and the idea was mostly fine. Having said that, I'd prefer to not repeat this experiment. Christian Eriksen, The Right Winger is pretty mediocre while Christian Eriksen, The Left Winger and Christian Eriksen, The Number 10 are both extremely awesome. I don't think that swapping Eriksen and Lamela would muddy things up too much, or result in Janssen failing to get the kind of service that he likes. I hope Poche switches them back.