Getting High – A Blessing and a Curse

by The Fighting Cock

 

Like most Spurs fans I spend my time obsessing about how Spurs seem to control so many games without truly threatening their opponents. After witnessing a textbook Spurs performance against Aston Villa at the weekend- I’ve come up with is a hypothesis that AVB’s high line is both a blessing and a curse.

Spurs-Very-High-LineAt the heart of it, the high line, is a hard-pressing strategy all about achieving control through the compression of space. We fence the opponents in to their half, force them to turn over the ball in that area, preventing ourselves from being overexposed in midfield, which in turn stops the opposition from creating much in our half.

In many respects, this is a provident strategy, as it’s been a key reason why we’ve conceded some of the fewest shots on goal of all of the sides in the Premier League in 2013.

The problem comes when opponents start to bunker down against us, which is now happening pretty much on a weekly basis. When the other team doesn’t come out to play as we fence them back, the space starts to become a little too compressed- most importantly, it means players like Roberto Soldado, who thrive off of those little pockets to get volleys away, don’t really have anything to work with.

This is the heart of ‘domination without threat’- turnovers in the opponents half and transitions become irrelevant, because we have no room to do anything with the possession we hold on to.

t’s been a key reason why we’ve conceded some of the fewest shots on goal of all of the sides in the Premier League in 2013

In these situations, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be best for AVB to ease up the high line. Perhaps sit back and invite opponents on to us a little bit, then torch them on the counter with our wing play. In theory, squad members like Andros Townsend, Soldado and Paulinho, all ‘space players’, should really thrive off of this approach.

I’m not saying we ditch the high line for good- I just don’t see the point of dogmatically sticking to it when it’s very much playing into our opponent’s hands to push up. If we want to start putting a gloss of goals on to our decent weekly stats, I think we have to let matches breathe a bit, take the risk of allowing play to become more open. Then, when the time is right, apply the high line and compression tactics to seal out wins.

I think the heart of what made Spurs so entertaining under Harry Redknapp was that cavalier tendency to play a really low-block and create acres of space around the pitch for Rafa Van der Vaart and Luka Modric to play in and for speedy lads like Gareth Bale and Kyle Walker to sprint into.

Obviously, that approach isn’t really sustainable and lead to us shipping far more goals than we do now- but maybe the timely injection of it into certain games will make us less turgid and help us to turn domination into goals.

I think the heart of what made Spurs so entertaining under Harry Redknapp was that cavalier tendency to play a really low block and create acres of space around the pitch

Currently under AVB we’re sometimes guilty of compressing space too much, and we’re making life too hard for ourselves when our opponents don’t turn up and play. I don’t think we should ditch the high line, but I think sometimes it would be appropriate ease it up, open up the pitch, take a few more risks and hit opponents on the counter.

Mix it up, Andre.

[author name=”Erik_Edman” avatar=”https://www.thefightingcock.co.uk/forum/data/avatars/l/1/1252.jpg?1353963738″ twitter=”ErikSpur” website=”lifeislillywhite.wordpress.com” tag=”Erik_Edman[/linequote]

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