The Chalkboard: Foyth stat damns Pochettino’s approach in Champions League semi-final

Tottenham Hotspur’s gameplan against Ajax in their Champions League semi-final did not work.

Spurs lost the first leg 1-0, with Donny van de Beek’s goal proving decisive, and much of the blame for their defeat can be traced back to the system employed by Mauricio Pochettino.

On the chalkboard

With Harry Kane injured and Son Heung-min suspended for the encounter at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Spurs were always going to try to keep it tight and attempt to nick a goal.

However, with Fernando Llorente up front, much of their searching for that strike came about in the form of crosses from both full-backs, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose.

Though Rose enjoyed a more productive game than Trippier across the board, neither delivered the ball anywhere near well enough throughout the 90 minutes.

And this is emphasised by the fact that, per WhoScored, Juan Foyth, an 80th-minute substitute for Trippier, completed the most accurate crosses of any player on the pitch. The number? Two.

During his time on the pitch, Rose attempted three crosses but only one found its desired target.

Trippier, renowned for his set-piece ability and deliveries from the flank, completed one successful cross from five attempts.

That is scandalously bad from the two England internationals.

Of course, Llorente is not Spurs’ first choice and his immobility and general lack of pace can actively hinder the side as they look to get on the front foot, but sometimes he just needs better service.

If Trippier had been more accurate with his deliveries, Llorente could have caused havoc; the Spaniard scored the decisive goal against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in the quarter-final second leg after a rare pin-point cross from Trippier.

A change in tack

Pochettino needs to alter the way Spurs set up in Amsterdam.

With his side now chasing the game and looking to score, dropping Llorente altogether would be a smart move.

That he is paying for the sins of both Rose and Trippier may seem harsh but he does not have the speed required to lead counter-attacks, nor is he a composed enough finisher to take a half-chance.

Son can do both, and his inclusion from the start would lighten the creative load currently placed on both full-backs.

Ajax, of course, keep the ball remarkably well but springing at them on the counter seems an effective weapon, particularly if both Son and Lucas Moura are paired together in a pacier front line.

One thing we do know is that crossing the ball simply doesn’t seem to work for Spurs.