Whether it was the time of day, the temperature, or Conte missing some of the week’s preparations, Tottenham Hotspur was flat and fell 0-1 vs Brighton.
With a golden opportunity to solidify their place in the battle for Champions League places, Tottenham Hotspur never found their footing and ultimately lost all three points to a well-prepared Brighton & Hove Albion side. Spurs had some possession but rarely threatened on a disappointing afternoon in west London.
Brighton was ready for Tottenham’s attack
The flow and the feel of the match felt more like something akin to the end of the Mourinho or Nuno eras, as Spurs slowly moved the ball from side to side around the back. Tottenham was far too slow with the ball and lacked the conviction in their passing to move Brighton from their spots. Further, Graham Potter had set up his Seagulls to stop the things that had been working for Tottenham.
Boxing out Kane’s connections
Maybe Potter is a fan of NFL football because his team took a page out of many defensive coordinator’s schemes from the American game. Essentially, Harry Kane faced a double-team most of the match, where Brighton played one player behind Kane – Lewis Dunk – and another in front of him – Yves Bissouma.
Dunk was responsible for competing with Kane on every high ball and not letting the Tottenham talisman get behind him. Dunk did his job well; even if he got a big knee in the back for his troubles, undoubtedly, he will take the win.
Bissouma had the more challenging job of working on cutting the passing angles, not allowing any balls into Kane’s feet. His job was more difficult as he continuously looked behind himself to find Kane as he mirrored the ball in possession. Surely he was getting shouts from his teammates but tracking a player you cannot see is much more complex than one in front of you, and Bissouma did it to perfection.
With Kane neutralized, Spurs needed an alternative approach, but Potter and Brighton also had Spurs’ number.
Tottenham was taken to task on the flanks
Most people knew the loss of Matt Doherty was going to hurt Tottenham, but having both flanks look utterly ordinary was discouraging.
Brighton recently moved to a three-man back-line which includes a commitment to both a three-person defence and forward-facing wing-backs. Whereas Tottenham was often in a 5-4-1 without the ball, Brighton was in a 3-5-2 with or without the ball, giving them tactical dominance on the flanks.
Suppose you combine the tactical dominance with Tariq Lamptey and Leandro Trossard’s technical dominance over Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal. In that case, you end up with the result Spurs got, which was zero play from either wing.
Spurs’ anemic attack gave Brighton all the impetus they needed as the game opened up over the last 20 minutes. Eventually, some sloppy defence from Cristian Romero led to a loose ball at the edge of the box. Trossard ran onto that ball and finished well, leaving Tottenham with nothing to show for a sad day.
The loss leaves Spurs hoping others lose as the control of their destiny again slips away.