Mauricio Pochettino makes three changes
Most fans probably expected the same line-up that started the 2-1 home win over Southampton before the international break, so it was something of a surprise when it emerged that Pochettino was making three changes to his team.
Kieran Trippier, Vincent Janssen and Harry Winks all came into the side in place of Kyle Walker, Heung-Min Son and Mousa Dembele, whom Pochettino had hailed as a “genius” 48 hours earlier.
It seemed to be something of a risk given Tottenham were visiting a team boasting the sixth-best home record in the Premier League – better than both of the Manchester clubs.
However, Pochettino had apparently considered how much effort his players had put in during the international break.
Walker played throughout both of England’s matches against Germany and Lithuania, and Dembele played for 85 minutes for Belgium on Tuesday while Son was required for all of South Korea’s 1-0 victory over Syria on the same day.
Spurs may have fortunately avoided injuries during the international break but Pochettino’s team selection was nonetheless affected.
It initially seemed his decision to rest Walker and Dembele, in particular, was going to backfire – it wasn’t long before the travelling Tottenham fans were singing Dembele’s name
However, Spurs secured the three points in the end and, although Dembele ultimately had to play for 45 minutes today due to an enforced change, Walker and Son should be fresh for Wednesday’s trip to Swansea.
2. Spurs’ lethargic first half
Tottenham developed a useful habit of making quick starts before the international break, opening the scoring before the 20-minute mark in five out of six matches – the other being the victory over Millwall when they went ahead in the 31st minute.
However, they were slow out of the blocks at Turf Moor today and struggled to change gears before the break.
The passing was pedestrian and sometimes sloppy, while there was a notable lack of pace in the side, especially out wide, with Trippier and Ben Davies failing to make any impact down the flanks.
Up front, Janssen worked hard to get involved, offering himself as a target for forward passes and helping to link the play, but his touches were generally a long way from goal and he was unable to provide a threat.
Burnley’s Andre Gray was causing Spurs problems with his runs in behind the defence and down the channels but the visitors were lacking a similar option. Although Dele Alli missed a gilt-edged opportunity when he fired wide from six yards, it was generally too easy for the hosts to keep their high-flying visitors at arm’s length before the break.
Two more injuries
Spurs were already missing Erik Lamela, Danny Rose and Harry Kane when they arrived at Burnley, and they suffered two more setbacks at the end of a difficult first period, losing both of their central midfielders.
Victor Wanyama and Winks had to be withdrawn before the interval – the latter being taken off on a stretcher – while Dembele and Moussa Sissoko were introduced.
Tottenham’s winning run has continued but the treatment room is filling up as the Lilywhites enter a busy period which will feature six more games in April.
A tactical change sets Tottenham on their way to another victory
Pochettino was facing a series of difficulties at the break but he responded effectively, making a tactical change at half-time by switching from 3-4-2-1 to 4-2-3-1 and moving Eric Dier into midfield alongside Dembele.
It helped Spurs to gain the upper hand and they got the crucial breakthrough from a corner in the 66th minute, as the ball dropped to the versatile Dier, who took a moment to compose himself before coolly finding the net.
With Burnley now having to come forward, gaps opened up in their ranks and Pochettino smartly swapped Janssen for Son to take advantage of the space.
The change paid off just four minutes later as Dele Alli teed up the South Korean with a fine first-time cross, gifting his team-mate a simple finish at close range.
Spurs had struck twice in 11 minutes – and they continued to catch Burnley on the break and create further chances, with Alli going close to a goal of his own on a couple of occasions.
The gap is reduced to seven points
This was a triumph in the face of adversity as Spurs put an underwhelming first-half display and two injuries behind them to pick up three points at a notoriously tough venue and secure their fifth successive victory.
Their celebrations were only enhanced by the news that league leaders Chelsea had lost 2-1 at home to Crystal Palace, leaving Tottenham now seven points off the top.
Cheers erupted in the away end at Turf Moor when the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge and the Blues’ defeat was confirmed.
With nine games still to go, should we be talking about Tottenham as title contenders again?
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