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Focus: How Spurs can punish manager-less Villa

While Kevin MacDonald is in caretaker charge of Aston Villa it is very difficult to imagine an inspiring performance is imminent, particularly when Monday night's opponents are a Tottenham Hotspur side in superb form. However, given that MacDonald will almost certainly field young players eager to impress, Spurs’ tactical model is worth analysing.

Mauricio Pochettino’s preference for short-passing, possession-centric football is now firmly embedded in the philosophy of Tottenham. A cautious formation underpins this process, with Spurs consistently utilising a 4-2-3-1 system that relies upon infield drifting wingers (to provide multiple short passing options centrally) and minimal dribbling with the ball.

In their last two matches, Spurs have completed 12 take-ons, but 8 of these have come from Moussa Dembele from defensive midfield - this is not a team that takes risks.

Width and space, therefore, is created via the movement of Harry Kane – a striker who can often be seen drifting wide left to receive possession. Given that Villa are playing in a deep, tentative system of late, it is his movement in the channels that will be of primary concern. Alan Hutton’s performance will be key, as will Jordan Ayew’s ability to track back effectively.

Aston Villa were very direct under Tim Sherwood, attempting 28.3 take-ons per match (most in division). The former Villa youth coach is likely to encourage a similar approach, not least because he will favour youth; in his last caretaker spell after Martin O’Neill’s shock departure, he gave surprise starts to Marc Albrighton and Ciaran Clark. Adama Traore, Tiago Ilori, and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy could all be handed starts, with Jack Grealish likely to play a key role; expect plenty of width-focused counter-attacking football.

This is unlikely to be successful. Spurs are dribbled past only 8.4 times per match (18th in league), and make the most tackles (24.4 per game) and fouls (14.8 per game) in the division. They are a ruthless high pressing team more than capable of stunting the disjointed, pace-centric approach of Aston Villa.

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