Plenty has been said about Tottenham Hotspur’s right flank against both Arsenal and Dinamo Zagreb. Particularly during the North London Derby, it was a clear area that needed shoring up. Matt Doherty was left stranded while Gareth Bale provided little if any cover.
But there was another pattern I spotted throughout both matches, and it was Spurs’ inability to build out from the back.
Typically Tottenham are happy to either build with two center backs and a midfielder, or go long towards Harry Kane or Lucas Moura who can reliably challenge for the ball in the air.
Against Arsenal, and to a certain extent, Dinamo Zagreb, Spurs were pressed into submission. A high, effective (to varying degrees) press forced Spurs to look for long passes almost exclusively.
During the derby, Arsenal’s frontline was supported by one or two midfielders to ensure that Davinson Sanchez, Toby Alderweireld, and Hugo Lloris had limited short passing options.
This press forced Lloris to make long passes - 14 of them, of which 9 were accurate - the highest number of long passes he’s had to make & the lowest success rate in Premier League games.
Unfortunately, Spurs fell into a similar pattern of play against Dinamo Zagreb, although the Croatian team didn’t have as high of a press as Arsenal.
In the video below, I take a deeper dive into these issues and how Spurs were able to overcome similar challenges against Aston Villa. Spoiler alert - Gio Lo Celso played a quietly huge role in progressing the play through midfield, and I predict that he will play a major role for Spurs as the season nears its end.