Tottenham Hotspur bounced back from their lapse last time out to Wolves to comprehensively beat Cardiff City 3-0 in the Welsh capital.
Wolves caused an upset at Wembley last weekend and Spurs bounced back in style. Harry Kane opened the scoring with a scrappy goal but soon after Christian Eriksen doubled the lead with a precise finish. Son Heung-min made it 3-0 in the first half and the game was effectively over before the interval. Spurs climbed back over Manchester City before their clash against Liverpool, while Cardiff stay in 17th place despite the loss.
Son Heung-min is on a roll and will be missed
At the beginning of the season, Son was busy at the Asian Games for his national side. He helped South Korea clinch gold in emotional circumstances. Due to this, his contribution to Spurs was limited in the early months with the likes of Lucas Moura filling in.
Since then he has slotted back into the starting XI and he has been sensational in recent weeks; often taking the role of Spurs’ most potent attacking threat. Since his goal helped Tottenham beat Chelsea in October, he has enjoyed a purple patch and in December he has recorded seven goals and five assists. At times he has eclipsed Harry Kane in terms of position, taking over goalscoring duties as well. Son’s presence has helped the attack as a whole, his pace and running in behind has provided a different dimension, as both he and his side are reaping the benefits.
Unfortunately for the Lilywhites, the South Korean has national duties once more during January and he will be exiting London for the UAE where his national side will play in the Asian games. Although Spurs do have the calibre to replace him, he will be a monumental miss and others will have to step up in his absence.
Cardiff’s tactics fail miserably
Spurs’ attacking unit was in great form going into the game and one would have expected Neil Warnock to take a cautious approach. But he went for the jugular, as Cardiff adopted a different route. The deep defensive line was nowhere to be seen and the Cardiff players were tracking opposition players all over the pitch. Centre-backs Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison went wherever Harry Kane and Son Heung-min went, and Spurs exploited the space in behind.
The Spurs midfielders were also pressed, as Mousa Sissoko and Christian Eriksen were very deep at times. But when they beat the press by some neat passing, Cardiff had no answer. Son especially made numerous runs in behind, and Cardiff failed to cope. The other home games against the big sides have not been joyful occasions for the Bluebirds either. Perhaps the bold tactics were a tad too much, which was certainly the case against Spurs.
Harry Winks getting better with each passing game
First of all, the pun was intended. Secondly, Harry Winks has really blossomed of late. It’s no secret that Mauricio Pochettino loves Harry Winks; but there can be no accusation of favoritism, as the young midfielder has been brilliant for Spurs. Stalwarts Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele have been sidelined due to injuries and Winks’ inclusion was enforced at first. He was calm in the huge tie at the Camp Nou against Barcelona and he has taken it on since.
Composed on the ball, Winks fits the mold of an archetypal holding midfielder. He is adept at circulating possession, which is of great value to a team like Spurs. His positioning is really good as well which helps the centre-backs and the full-backs to break the press. Still just 22, Winks has much to learn. His forward passing can be improved, and so can his long-range passing. But his future is bright, and so is his present.
Is this the best formation for Pochettino?
Against Cardiff, Pochettino deployed a 4-3-3 formation with slight variations. Harry Winks was the deepest midfielder, flanked by Christian Eriksen and Mousa Sissoko on either side. The attacking trio was formed by Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, and Dele Alli. It was Alli who was central, and Kane and Son were ahead of him. It is seeming as though this is the strongest lineup for Tottenham.
Pochettino has used a three-man defence before as well. He has also deployed a 4-2-3-1 lineup, in which Dier and Sissoko have anchored the midfield. Eriksen has usually player further up the pitch, but he excelled in the wide midfield role. Sissoko has also improved massively this season and he is finally repaying his hefty transfer fee. Son has also found a role where he can shine the best. Each player is flourishing, which suggests that the system is working.
Cardiff staying afloat, but barely
The Bluebirds are still out of the relegation zone, but just. They are two points above 18th placed Southampton in a really cramped bottom six in terms of points. The recent form has kept them there, but both Southampton and Fulham seem to be on the rise. Claudio Ranieri has brought change at Fulham and Ralph Hassenhutl is also having an impact at Southampton.
Neil Warnock must be looking warily over his shoulders, and the gap of two points is hardly encouraging. Cardiff have a relatively favourable run in January, where they will be hopeful of picking up some points. Their 18 points at this stage are what they had at this stage during their last Premier League campaign. You know what happened then.