Five talking points from Tottenham's 3-0 FA Cup victory over AFC Wimbledon

Harry Kane set Tottenham on their way against AFC Wimbledon
Harry Kane set Tottenham on their way against AFC Wimbledon

Harry Kane scored two second-half goals and Jan Vertonghen was also on target as Tottenham beat AFC Wimbledon 3-0 at Wembley in the third round of the FA Cup. Here are five talking points:

  1. Harry Kane starts in a much-changed but unexpectedly strong line-up

This was Spurs’ third match in six days after Tuesday night’s trip to Swansea and Thursday’s outing against West Ham, so it was inevitable that Mauricio Pochettino would make widespread changes.

In the end there were eight of them, and youngsters Juan Foyth and Kyle Walker-Peters were both given rare opportunities in the back line.

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Yet the team could certainly have been weaker. Kane was named in the starting line-up, while Vertonghen was preferred to Davinson Sanchez as Foyth’s centre-back partner, despite the fact the Belgian had played rather more than the Colombian in previous weeks, given the latter’s three-match ban in December and early withdrawal at Swansea this week.

Moussa Sissoko also started for the second successive game, while Georges-Kevin Nkoudou was overlooked once again, despite scoring in his last start against Apoel Nicosia in early December.

The French winger had to make do with a place on the bench, and he was joined by a host of Spurs’ big hitters – Ben Davies, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen. There was no room for any academy players, and Hugo Lloris was named as the reserve goalkeeper instead of Paulo Gazzaniga.

There was no room in the squad for Harry Winks either. The 21-year-old has revealed he is still struggling to shake off the ankle injury he sustained against Crystal Palace in early November.

The Wembley scoreboard beams bright for Harry Kane and Tottenham
The Wembley scoreboard beams bright for Harry Kane and Tottenham

2. Pochettino opts for 4-3-3

Eriksen, Alli and Son had all played throughout the two previous matches this week so it was entirely understandable that Pochettino would want to rest the trio.

He therefore switched his formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, reducing the number of attacking midfielders required. Lamela was the only specialist of that ilk, with the Argentinian playing alongside or behind Kane and Llorente in a fluid front three.

Meanwhile, Pochettino selected Victor Wanyama, Mousa Dembele and Moussa Sissoko as a powerful central midfield triumvirate.

That protection allowed the full-backs – Walker-Peters and Kieran Trippier – to push high up the pitch. In possession, Spurs were virtually playing with a 2-3-5 set-up

That was all very well. But Pochettino was criticised by a number of fans on Thursday for picking two holding midfielders against a defensive West Ham side, and persisting with that overly-reserved system for far too long.

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Three days later, the Lilywhites were playing with Wanyama, Dembele and Sissoko in front of the rearguard, against a struggling League One side.

As the first half wore on, Pochettino’s midfield again seemed to lack the necessary creativity.

When Wimbledon were camped on the edge of their box, Spurs’ middle men offered little to solve the problem – there were too many sideways passes as the trio declined to take on a shot at goal.

Yet there was an improvement in that respect after the interval, with Dembele hitting the post from the edge of the area early in the second half, and Sissoko went from strength to strength as an attacking force (see below).

In the end, after a goalless hour, Pochettino’s system worked out fine and he will be happy with his tactics.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Moussa Sissoko impressed against AFC Wimbledon
Tottenham Hotspur’s Moussa Sissoko impressed against AFC Wimbledon

3. Sissoko enjoys one of his best outings for the Lilywhites

Of the three central midfielders, Sissoko was the most progressive and ambitious. He carried the ball well, charging into any gaps that appeared and playing a key role in setting up one of Spurs’ best first-half chances, as Lamela got through on goal but was denied by goalkeeper George Long.

Early in the second half the Frenchman led another attack up the left flank, before then heading over to the other side and haring back to stop a break from Andy Barcham.

Sissoko went on to play an instrumental role in both of Kane’s goals, which came shortly after the hour-mark.

It was he who ran in behind the Wimbledon defence and delivered the cross for the first goal, and he who brought the ball forward for the umpteenth time before Walker-Peters’ deflected shot fell to Kane in the goalmouth moments later.

Sissoko was withdrawn soon after, having fully done his job and put in surely one of his best displays in a Spurs shirt – if not his best.

4. Kane’s quickfire brace comes soon after Llorente’s withdrawal

The two strikers have played together with some success on occasions this season – they both started the 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu, with Llorente laying on Kane’s best chance of the game.

Kane then seemed to benefit from the Spaniard’s introduction during the 3-0 win away against Apoel Nicosia in September. With Llorente arriving in the 57th minute and distracting the defenders, Kane thrived in a deeper role and scored twice in the following 10 minutes.

Today the scenario was almost identically opposite after the pair were selected together from the start.

There were positive early signs – Llorente teed Kane up for a couple of strikes in and around the box. However, the 32-year-old summer signing did not present much of a goal threat of his own and he was the first player to be taken off in the 59th minute.

Like against Apoel, the impact of the substitution was rapid, with Kane scoring twice within six minutes – but this time Llorente had been taken off.

A rare goal for Jan Vertonghen
A rare goal for Jan Vertonghen

5. Vertonghen finally gets his goal

The Belgian had enjoyed a fairly prolific debut season at Spurs in 2012-13, netting six times. He then stuck in the 2-0 Europa League victory against FC Sheriff in October 2013 – but that was his last goal for the club, until today.

Winning the ball 25 yards out in the 71st minute, Vertonghen tried his luck and found the top right corner.

He got a benefit of a hefty deflection but will surely not care, with a drought that has lasted over four years finally over.

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