Tottenham Hotspur is in incredible attacking form with scoring 25 goals in all competition out of which 12 goals came in the Premier League. Jose Mourinho’s tactics of high pressing or quick counter-attacking football have gained success in scoring so many goals. Their recent thumping win over Manchester United by demolishing them 6-1 shows the caliber of Spurs’ attack and how quickly they can punish the opponent’s defence with their pressing and counter-attacking. They are the side with the highest average of 7.8 shots on target per match in the Premier League so far. They are also leading the stats of big chances created in the Premier League so far. Spurs have 13 big chances created followed by Aston Villa who has 10.
The understanding, link-up, bonding, and quality of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are the key to the fast-moving forward spurs side. Kane has contributed to 15 spurs goals this season in all competition with scoring 8 and assisting in 7. Son has contributed to 8 Spurs goals this season in all competition with scoring 7 and assisting 1. Both have combined to score 7 goals in all competition and 6 goals in the Premier League this season. Son scored 4 goals against Southampton, all were assisted by Kane. The tactical analysis will highlight how Kane and Son’s understanding with each other has been so effective in creating chances for Spurs. The analysis of making those runs in space beyond the defenders whenever their partner has the ball and the player on the ball is much aware of such runs from their partner.
Attacking shape of Spurs
It is important to understand the attacking structure of Jose Mourinho’s side and how it is effective in utilising the potential of Kane and Son. Spurs have focused on attacking quickly whenever they have possession of the ball. They defended deep or were involved in high pressing but the idea was always to counter-attack on winning the ball from the opposition. Spurs midfielders were always looking to release quick long balls or through balls towards the late run of Kane or Son in order to beat the opposition high line.
When either Harry Winks or Pierre-Emile Højbjerg would drop as a pivot in Spurs buildup, they attacked in a 3-4-3 shape with fullbacks going higher up the pitch to attack from the flanks and wingers make inward runs into the box in order to receive long balls. Son is lethal while making such runs as he is fast in beating the offside trap and is free due to Kane’s ability to move the opponent’s defenders away with him. When Winks or Højbjerg doesn’t drop as a pivot, Spurs attack in 2-4-1-3 shape with the same attacking approach.
Here, Hojberg playing in a pivot role drops in between the two center backs, to form 3 at the back during the Spurs attack giving assurance to the full-backs to go higher up the pitch and have an extra man if there is any counter-attacking from the opposition. The full-backs cover the flank area during such an attack and the wingers make an inward run to support the striker, Kane. Son has been lethal in playing the position of supporting striker to Kane and quick in switching roles between left-winger and supporting striker and also a forward at times. This also gives the Spurs midfielder the option to put long balls beyond the opposition’s defence to find Son in open space.
In the game against Southampton, there is no one dropping in the pivot role and they have more men in advanced positions. Spurs are comfortable in keeping two center backs against any counter-attack of Southampton. In this 2-4-1-3 shape to the fullbacks get higher up the pitch looking to exploit with crosses with someone like Kane in the box. The wingers here to try to make inward runs beyond the opposition’s defence and beat them with pace to create chances during the quick attack. Spurs don’t waste much time in keeping ball possession and there transition is quick from defence to get into the attacking third.
A quick movement of one and awareness of the other
The understanding between Kane and Son makes them aware of each other off the ball movement. If for instance, Kane has the ball then Son is assured that the ball will come to him and has the license to make that run beyond the opponent’s defence and vice versa. Also, Kane is aware of the direction of Son’s run and how much weight he has to put on the pass in order for Son to collect it and go for the goal. Similarly, it works when Son has the ball and Kane is making the run. Such understanding between the two has been effective in the Spurs attack so far this season and looks to strengthen as the season progress. The upcoming opponents need to have a tactic against such an understanding between the two most deadly attackers of Spurs.
In the first Premier League game of the season against Everton, Son is looking for Kane in the box. His ball is perfect in open space and in front of Kane. Kane is just short of scoring from a point-blank range. Son is aware of Kane’s presence in the box and the ability to get there. But unfortunately, they were a little short of a perfect combined goal. They beat the defenders with this effort but Kane was just a touch away from scoring.
This is a beautiful combined goal where Kane is aware of the run from Son and plays a perfect through ball between the two center-backs. Son is aware of this opportunity and makes a perfect run in space beyond the defenders to receive the perfectly weighted ball from Kane. Son beats the defenders and goes on to score.
Another perfect ball from Kane to Son where he beats all the defenders with this pass and Son gets the opportunity to go one on one with the Keeper and Son easily beats him. Kane receives the ball in the center from Lo Celso and takes it wide in the free area to have that space to launch a cross towards Son. He is aware that Son will take the forward position and run in that space. Such understanding of Son’s run from Kane helped Spurs to score 4th against Southampton.
Here, Spurs win the ball in the penalty box with their counter-pressing on United. Kane intercepts Eric Baily’s pass and creates panic in the United defence. Son makes his runs and receives the ball from Sissoko who retrieves the ball post Kane’s interception. Son is composed and holding the ball to wait and pass back at the correct time to his strike partner, Kane. Also, Sissoko takes Maguire away with him and allows Kane to have clear shot at the right bottom corner.
At times, during the Spurs attack, Kane goes wide towards the starting position of Son or drops deep in the midfield and Son makes inward runs towards the center forward position of Kane. This tactic helps to break the defence and free up space in the center. Let’s have look at some examples where Kane has gone wide and created chances for Son in the center.
In this instance, Kane and Son have switched positions. Kane receives the ball on the left flank from Tanguy Ndombele and Son makes the run in the center of the pitch as soon as Kane gets the ball. It can be observed that Son accelerates as soon as the ball is close to Kane. This gives an indicator to Kane and he wastes no time to put the ball across Son on his first touch here.
It is evident here, how Son accelerates his run when Kane has the ball. Kane drops deep to take defenders away with him and create a free area for wingers, Eric Lamela and Son to make runs. As Kane drops to midfield, Son makes the forward run towards Kane’s initial position. Southampton defenders are caught out of position with this movement and the South Korean goes on to score another from Kane’s assist.
Another example where Kane drops deep to receive the ball and take Maguire with him. He is fouled but he wastes no time in taking a quick free-kick as he is aware of the switch and Son making that run towards the goal. Kane and Son both don’t hold back and they surprise the United defence with Kane’s execution of this free-kick and Son’s forward run. Again the idea of one dropping deep and another moving forward worked here.
In this match against Newcastle, Kane has switched with Son to create a goal-scoring opportunity. Son receives the ball in the center and passes it to Kane on the left flank to set him for an assist. Kane crosses the ball low and Lucas Moura scores for Spurs. In this example, Son and Kane were seen switching and combining to set Moura for the goal. This can be more threatening when Gareth Bale replaces Moura and combines with Son and Kane.
It can be seen again how Kane drops taking center-back, Jamaal Lascelles with him and creating space for Son to run in that area. Lascelles finds it difficult to track back and catch Son on the return. Here, again Kane and Son with their switch were lethal in beating the defence and opening the attack. Later, Son’s side pass towards Moura was blocked and Newcastle survived the threat. It also highlights Son’s incredible off the ball movement to create such an opportunity for Spurs.
It is evident from the above analysis that Kane and Son’s interaction is a big factor in the Spurs attack. There are no other two players with such understanding in the Spurs squad. With Gareth Bale on the verge of getting fit and looking to start with these two in the Spurs attack, it is going to strengthen the Spurs attack and hopefully bring more goals. Having signed Vinicius and Bale, Jose Mourinho has depth and will look to explore options and attacking tactics with the advantage of having such an understanding between his two best players in the squad.