Harry Kane’s second Premier League goal of the season gave Tottenham Hotspur earned Spurs all three points against a stubborn Sunderland rear-guard. Spurs dominated the game in its entirety, enjoying 74% possession and peppering the Black Cats’ goal with 31 shots. The result moves them up to third, above Arsenal, and was a solid response to their disappointing midweek defeat against Monaco in the Champions League. Moussa Dembélé made his first league start of the season, and was an integral part of a convincing home performance.
The victory did come at a high cost however; Eric Dier and Dembélé limped off with hamstring injuries and Kane was stretchered off after rolling his ankle.
As far as Sunderland are concerned, David Moyes will have to answer questions about his tactical approach. In many respects, defending so deep and focusing so heavily on team shape is understandable after conceding three at home to Everton.
However, there has to be a balance struck. At present, Sunderland look like a team that balances on a precipice between defence and attack. When they look tighter at the back, the look toothless offensively and when they carry a threat going forward they look vulnerable defensively.
Over the next few pages, we have suggested three things we learned from this one-sided encounter.
Spurs Could Use More Creativity
Mauricio Pochettino rested Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela after European exertions, and given the injuries Spurs suffered in the second half this may have been wise. However, the North London outfit badly missed their guile and technical quality. Sunderland were always going to defend deep and in numbers, and the game settled down into a very familiar pattern.
Spurs may have had an immense number of goal attempts, but may were from distance or from set pieces. Tottenham have now scored just five goals in their last five league games at White Hart Lane, an inadequate figure given the talent at their disposal.
Pochettino picked an extremely direct front four of Harry Kane, Heung Min Son, Dele Alli and Moussa Sissoko; all players who look to run through people rather than split open a packed defence with a cute pass. Lamela made a huge difference when introduced as a substitute, and Spurs looked a slicker outfit with him on the pitch.
You cannot have a team packed with bulldozers, there have to be some ballerinas in among them too. Spurs fans have been treated to many a mercurial talent from Hoddle to Van der Vaart and you get the feeling this team would be completed by a sprinkle of stardust.