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Tottenham Hotspur 4 - 0 Burnley: Fluid Attack Drives Return to Form for Spurs

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Four steps in the right direction for a side that has been criticized for lacking offensive ideas.

Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Matthew Childs - Pool/Getty Images

After relying on back-to-back walks in the park against AC Wolfsberg in the Europa League to offset the malaise that has set in about the team in the domestic league, Tottenham needed a resounding return to form when they hosted Burnley Sunday morning. The starting lineup had potential for such a display: Harry Kane, Gareth Bale, and Heung-min Son (oh, and Lucas Moura, too) led a flexible and menacing attack, supported by midfield stalwarts Tanguy Ndombele and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Sergio Reguilon and Serge Aurier, ostensibly the best full-back pairing at the club, reunited at left and right back, with Toby Alderweireld partnering Davinson Sanchez at center back. After a stellar performance against AC Wolfsberg in midweek, Dele Alli could be forgiven if he felt hard done by the denial of a starting position, but he got just under half an hour of playing time in the final stage of the match.

The game was all Tottenham from the start—literally. Gareth Bale tapped in with barely more than a minute on the clock, and the early boost to confidence set Tottenham’s attackers loose. Kane and Moura each notched a goal within the first half hour, and Bale added a second to his personal tally shortly after half time. Burnley, typically a defensively solid side, were undone by a Spurs attack that was brimming with creativity. It’s unclear whether training ground adjustments or new tactical instructions were to thank, but Bale, Kane, and Son looked free-spirited and menacing, switching positions and alternating between deeper creative play and more offensive shot-taking in an approach that left Burnley unable to cope. The visitors had scarce shooting opportunities in the game, and never really looked like undoing Tottenham’s defense. For Spurs to join the ranks of Champions League qualifiers, they would need to maintain exceptional form for the end of the season, and while that remains a tall order, today’s performance was certainly up to that standard.

First Half:

1’—Tottenham 1 - 0 Burnley: GARETH BALE SCORES!!!! You couldn’t ask for a better start. No sooner has the game started than does a beautiful attacking move begin with Ndombele carving through the middle of the pitch before swinging the ball wide left to Son, who’s spoiled for choice with his cross as Moura, Kane, and Bale all rush the box. Whether intentionally or not, Moura moves away from goal, creating room for Bale to dart into and tap in a whipped ball from Son to set Spurs flying in the opening minutes.

5’—Tottenham are continuing their energetic attack after the early goal. This time it’s Harry Kane, who runs right up to the edge of the Burnley penalty area and squeezes off a shot that runs just wide.

7’—Jay Rodriguez has an opportunity for the visitors as Sanchez is a tad slow turning to close him down, but he waits too long to shoot and Sanchez returns to deny a shot.

9’—Another promising chance for Tottenham. This time, Alderweireld plays quarterback, launching a long ball from his own half to Heung-min Son on the right side of the pitch. Son feeds Moura, who fires powerfully but directly into Nick Pope’s gloves at close range.

11’—Bale shows a bit of his old pace as he, Son, and Kane scream down the right flank, but the final ball isn’t there and the attack comes to nothing.

14’—Tottenham 2 - 0 Burnley: Gareth Bale assists Harry Kane! The Welshman plays a long ball from deep, similar to Alderweireld’s just a few minutes earlier, and finds Harry Kane on the left wing, who dashes inside and decides to shoot himself. A good decision, as the ball takes a deflection and flies past Nick Pope.

30’—Tottenham 3 - 0 Burnley: Moura adds one to the tally! After 15 minutes of assured attacking by Spurs and tepid defending by Burnley, Lucas Moura is the one to put away the goal that seemed likely. Sergio Reguilon’s cross goes over the heads of Harry Kane and Heung-min Son, and Burnley might have thought that with those two out of the equation, they’d survived the onslaught, but Lucas Moura pops up roguishly and brings the ball down before getting off a snap shot that beats pope.

39’—It’s worth noting how flexible Tottenham’s attack has been: Just now, Gareth Bale and Heung-min Son are both tracking back on the left flank, but at other periods it’s been Kane occupying the left with Bale out right and Son in the center, or Kane and Bale in the center with Son and Moura floating around the wings.

47’—Burnley have a free kick at a distance and Jay Rodriguez scuffs a shot in the ensuing scramble. Except for a few intermittent half-chances for Rodriguez, Burnley have scarcely troubled Lloris.

HALF TIME.

Second Half:

48’—Burnley look determined to limit the damage, sitting deep and concentrating on shutting down the rampaging Spurs offense rather than putting together an attack of their own.

55’—Tottenham 4 - 0 Burnley: Bale with a goal from his own archives! Heung-min Son plays Bale into space down the right with a swinging ball from the left side of pitch, and Bale cuts inside to get the ball on his left foot, then curls it beautifully just inside the far post. Bale has had acres of space on the right all day, and Son did well to exploit it.

65’—Dele Alli comes on to replace Lucas Moura, who’s worked hard today. Everybody will be rooting for Dele to make another positive impression after his great display in midweek.

68’—Matej Vydra gets an inch on Davinson Sanchez and shoots at Lloris, who’s got it under control. Another half-chance for Burnley, who haven’t really put much together in the way of coordinated attacks so far.

69’—Gareth Bale won’t complete his hat-trick as Erik Lamela replaces him. This may well be a bit of fitness management for Bale, who’s looked speedy today.

70’—Harry Kane takes a curling, wobbling shot from the edge of Burnley’s box and Nick Pope deserves credit for an impressive save to deny the Spurs striker, who looked sure that he had scored.

72’—Chris Wood makes his return for Burnley, replacing Matej Vydra.

72’—Another chance for Spurs as Dele sends Son running in space at the Burnley defense, who frantically track back. Son cuts inside and forces another great save from Nick Pope with a curling effort that’s the inverse image of Bale’s goal from the opposite flank.

80’—Matt Doherty replaces Serge Aurier for Spurs, and Dale Stephens replaces Jack Cork for Burnley.

82’—Son is the only Spurs attacker without a goal today, and this time Kane plays him in on goal for a chance to join the ranks of goalscorers, but the South Korean gets well under his shot and it’s headed for the rafters.

86’—Jay Rodriguez heads off the bar after a Burnley attack that takes advantage of Spurs shifting down a gear in the last ten minutes of the match and giving their opponents more time on the ball. There was a foul in the build-up, though, so it’s a free kick to Tottenham.

87’—Rodriguez is replaced by Burnley youngster Lewis Richardson for the substitute’s first-ever Premier League minutes.

91’—Son sees a chance to shoot, but generously lays off to an onrushing Harry Kane, who you would have thought was certain to score. He scuffs the shot and crumples to the pitch in embarrassment.

92’—Hojbjerg gets his studs caught in the pitch and looks in a bit of pain, though he’s up and limping not long after. Spurs will be hoping that it’s no lasting problem.

FULL TIME.

Takeaways:

  • More of this, please! Today’s display was exactly the kind of creative attacking performance that Spurs fans knew the team was capable of. Hopefully the approach sticks, as Tottenham looked far better today than they have in some time.
  • It’s worth recalling that Burnley are a good defensive side, and Nick Pope an exceptional keeper. They may be lower in the table, but a 4-0 rout is a confidence boost no matter who the opponent is.
  • Dare I say it? Bale looked good today, even showing some flashes of the pace that many assumed was a mere memory for him at this point. His finishes were clinical; his assist for Kane was comfortable; and he looks like he’s finally hit his stride.
  • The attack was vastly improved by a more fluid set of roles. Kane rotated between the left and center of the pitch, and Son and Bale ranged across its full width over the course of the game. Spurs have good enough attacking players that turning them loose sometimes works, but a clear attacking plan like the side had today will remain essential to the club in weeks to come.
  • Jose may have realized (later than everybody else) that the best defense is a good offense. Tottenham’s defenders looked untroubled today, though Sanchez was nearly caught out a couple of times, and they have an incessant attacking effort to thank for it. Burnley never had time to mount a threat of their own, which meant that Tottenham’s defense barely had a chance to make a mistake—which they never did.