Spurs vs Manchester United

Match Forecasting
Lee Scott

Lee Scott

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By the time that this game kicks off on Sunday afternoon the Premier League title could already be wrapped up with champions elect Chelsea playing on Friday evening against West Bromwich Albion with three points being enough to end the title race.

For the second season in a row therefore Spurs could be the side that presses the eventual champions harder with their pursuit of Leicester last year. The important thing for Spurs and for their fans is that the team do not drop away this season as they did last time around when they eventually finished third.

The club from North London has to show that is ready to take the next step in continuing their positive form up until the end of the season. This would at least show the footballing world that the club is ready to challenge again for the title next season with statistics over the last two seasons showing that with all fixtures taken in to account over that time period Spurs would sit comfortably at the top of the Premier League table.

Manchester United on the other hand are still very much chasing a top four finish but have the added complication of a Europa League semi final match against Celta Vigo in the days preceeding this match.

If you look at this match from a tactical point of view then Spurs under their impressive coach Mauricio Pochettino have to be down as favourites. The attacking capabilities of the Spurs squad far outweigh that of Manchester United with the key area of the match being the space between the Manchester United defence and midfield, a space in which Spurs are set up to exploit.

United can be exposed centrally

So far this season under Jose Mourinho we have seen United struggle to find their tactical identity, especially in the central areas of the pitch. Expectations were raised beyond realistic measure by the signing of Paul Pogba for a world record fee but in the initial months his partnership with Ander Herrea was problematic with little in the way of balance.

We have seen Mourinho adapt slightly with the introduction in some matches of a player in the defensive midfield slot in order to add some defensive strength.

The issue however is that this player tends to be the veteran Michael Carrick whose ability on the ball is unquestioned although his capacity to cover spaces in between the lines and cope with runners from deep positions is somewhat less certain.

In the recent match against Swansea we saw the issues that United face in the centre area time and time again. Luckily for United though Swansea were not adept at penetrating through the flat midfield line in to the central space and would instead look to build in to the final third using the wide areas.

In this sequence we see Swansea press and win the ball back in the United half before attacking through the wide areas and creating a goalscoring chance.

Twice though in the build up we saw the pass open in to the central areas where Swansea had a man in space that could have immediately threatened the United goal. The first time the ball was cycled through to the wide area and the on the second occasion when the ball breaks in to the penalty area we see the central player again coming in late to the penalty area and perfectly placed for a pull back.

Here we see the ease with which Manchester City break through the centre of the United structure. As United give the ball away cheaply we see City immediately counter through the centre and the ease with which City break with Yaya Toure is indicative of the problems that United have in this issue.

When Toure breaks the initial challenge he is then able to drive in to space before easily feeding the ball to Aguero ahead of the defensive line and the Argentinian international is able to get a shot away on goal.

So, United have a clear weakness but are Spurs the kind of side to take advantage of that?

The playmaking of Christian Eriksen

The Danish international midfielder is an interesting proposition in the Spurs midfield with his versatility allowing Mauricio Pochettino to use a variety of different tactical systems from game to game.

Eriksen drifts from either deep or wide areas in to the centre of the field and tends to capitalise on the space that is created by the vertical runs of Deli Alli as he breaks through the central areas.

The danger that the Danish midfielder poses comes as a result of his ability to either play intelligent passes in to the final third from these central areas or to shoot accurately from range.

Here we seen a clear example of Eriksens creativity from a central area.

As the ball comes to the Dane in the central area we see the exact area in which he can cause issues for United in the forthcoming match. He collects the ball without immediate pressure from a Chelsea player and he is allowed to take a touch and evaluate his options.

The quality then of the ball in to the penalty area is outstanding with Deli Alli arriving in the area to finish well.

Again in this example we see Eriksen come in to take possession of the ball in the central areas. As with the previous example the movement of Eriksen coming in to the space late ensures that he is not marked closely by a Crystal Palace player.

As he collects the ball and with a relatively compact defensive line ahead of him he is able to unleash an excellent low shot in to the corner of the net.

The movement of Deli Alli

Whilst it is important for Spurs that Christian Eriksen plays and thrives in a playmaking role, equally important is the movement of Deli Alli who occupies the number 10 position before thrusting forward in and out of possession.

The young England international has developed this season in to one of the best players in the world when it comes to identifying and taking advantage of spaces in the opposition defensive structure,

Alli will be the key in creating space in the central areas with his ability to drag defenders away and we should see Eriksen move in to capitalise on that space.

Here we see Spurs use Alli in order to access the central spaces in the final third of the pitch. As the ball is played in to his feet his teammates are confident that he will retain possession and either move the ball towards the front line or spread it out intelligently.

In this instance he collects the ball with pressure from two Southampton players before immediately turning the ball to a teammate and then driving towards the penalty area.

Playing this time against Watford we see Spurs win possession before the ball is fed in to the feet of Alli in the central area.

Once again he is in a pocket of space between the lines of the defenders and the midfielders and there is no Watford player able to move in and apply pressure effectively on the ball.

As Alli drives centrally towards the Watford penalty area the defensive line sits passively and Alli is able to strike at goal, unfortunately hitting the woodwork on this occasion.


There is little doubt that going in to this match Spurs are the favourites. A side coached by Jose Mourinho has not scored an away goal against a top six side for coming on two years and there is little sign that United will come to White Hart Lane looking to attack.

Given that the weak points of the United structure under Mourinho almost completely mirrors the strengths of the system favoured by Pochettino and Spurs it is highly likely that we will see Spurs win comfortably with goals in each half. 

This match represents an opportunity for Spurs to stamp their mark as a truly elite force in English football. Are they ready to take that step? I think so.


As I said, having analysed both sides from a tactical and form perspective and then compared potential outcomes to the odds available, I would forecast that the best value bet would be goals in both halves. And, to make your life easier, use the graphic below taken from Oddschecker to choose the best bookmaker odds available.

Good luck, bet wisely!

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