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Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 13:22 UK

Lee Dixon's tactical view

Lee Dixon
By Lee Dixon
Match of the Day 2 pundit

The funny thing about Tottenham's 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth on Sunday is that at the start of the season, they were saying they didn't want to play with just one up front.

After they lost Robbie Keane to Liverpool and Dimitar Berbatov to Manchester United they were only left with Darren Bent as a striker, and they were keen to get Roman Pavlyuchenko in.

Roman Pavlyuchenko
Roman Pavlyuchenko was isolated up front for Spurs

That's fair enough but then to select Pavlyuchenko as a lone striker against Portsmouth strikes me as a bit strange. Then even more bizarrely when they are 2-0 down and chasing the game, they bring on Bent and take Pavlyuchenko off still leaving a solitary man up there.

Playing like that away from home is an option, and perhaps they didn't want to lose the game, but don't forget they were up against a team which had shipped 10 goals in their previous two games.

Two forwards up against a back four with fragile confidence would have given Spurs something to work with. Instead the Portsmouth back line built in stature and now they've got a clean sheet under their belts too, so it was a missed opportunity as far as I'm concerned.

In order for a single striker to work you need to get players forward to support from wide areas but Gilberto on the left and David Bentley on the right did not really do that.

Tottenham had quite a lot of possession in midfield. I thought Didier Zakora was their best player, but by the evidence of this match they still haven't worked out the dynamics of this system.

They passed and they passed, but often the ball went square, and Jamie O'Hara hardly made a forward pass in the whole game.

They worked it wide too but Portsmouth were quite happy for them to let them play in front of their defence.

Chelsea play one up top, often Didier Drogba on his own, but their midfield movement is fantastic.

In contrast Tottenham's midfield was static, the passes were often only 10 yards and there seemed to be no through balls or anything diagonal. As a result Pavlyuchenko was very isolated and then you have a playmaker like Luka Modric sat on the bench.

Bent is not the same type of player as Pavlyuchenko, which is a good thing. The one thing he has got is pace, he plays on the shoulder of the last defender and he wants the ball in behind the defence.

The other thing is that Portsmouth's left-back Nadir Belhadj was there for the taking as well. He was good going forward but he is more of a wing-back and on several occasions he was caught out of position.

Alistair M - BBC Sport

Although Bentley got in a couple of times, Tottenham's formation didn't allow this situation to be exploited.

If Bent and Pavlyuchenko were playing together they would have occupied the two Portsmouth centre-backs Sylvain Distin and Sol Campbell, allowing a ball over the top for Bentley.

But because there was only one forward to mark, as soon as Belhadj got caught up field Distin or Campbell could just come across and sweep up.

You have to occupy defenders, and because there was no pace there was no threat over the top from Spurs. It was crying out for Bent to come on and maybe Pavlyuchenko to come short and give another option but there was no penetration at all.

Judging by his comments after the game that it was up to the board whether he stayed or not, Spurs boss Juande Ramos is already on the defensive and perhaps his side are playing the same way too.

In the interest of fairness a quick word too on Arsenal and their 2-1 defeat by Hull at the Emirates.

They have been guilty of not killing teams off in the past and sometimes because they are so technically gifted, a match almost becomes like a five-a-side and a bit of a competition as to who can get the best goal.

It sort of fits into their free-flowing mentality but the lack of a killer instinct can be a hindrance. It's all down to mental attitude and concentration.

My former boss George Graham used to say if you've got someone on the floor then don't forget to finish him off.

Arsene Wenger will be a little concerned about the two defeats against two of the less strong outfits. They can still win the league but I feel they have to get a stronger self-belief and focused attitude.

They cannot afford any more slip ups.

Lee Dixon was speaking to Alistair Magowan

see also
Portsmouth 2-0 Tottenham
28 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Ramos stays calm over job future
29 Sep 08 |  Tottenham
Lee Dixon's tactical view
22 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Alan Hansen's tactical view
14 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Lawro's tactical view
09 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Lee Dixon's tactical view
26 Aug 08 |  Premier League
Lee Dixon's tactical view
18 Aug 08 |  Premier League

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