Match Overview

With 59 league places and an even bigger gap in budgets between the two sides, the Premier League club has every expectation to get the result in this Third Round FA Cup tie. To put it into perspective, just one of Spurs’ key players’ yearly wage would cover the whole of The Shrimps squad’s budget several times over, so all the pressure is on Antonio Conte’s side at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

In the other dugout, Stephen Robinson will be doing his absolute best to get a result against the odds, but most of all, he will want to ensure his side put in a performance for the estimated 3000 travelling Shrimps supporters. Against all odds, Spurs old boy Stephen Robinson saw his side battle back from being three-nil down after 52 minutes to win 4-3 in a crucial League One relegation scrap against Doncaster Rovers, thanks in part to a stunning Toumani Diagouraga winner on 85 minutes.

They will need that never say die attitude to do the unthinkable and cause an upset on Sunday. 

To get a Spurs perspective of the game I am extremely grateful to have the Tottenham correspondent from The Athletic sports website, Jack Pitt-Brooke and StatBomb Director of Football and Spurs fanatic James Yorke

What are they expecting from the game? 

Jack, 

“First of all, I’d expect Tottenham to win, simply because that’s how these FA Cup Third-round games tend to go when you’ve got a Big Six team at home to a League One side.

I don’t think this tournament is Antonio Conte’s number one priority, or at least not yet, but even with changes to the team I would expect Tottenham to have enough quality to get the job done.”

James, 

“Hopefully I’m not offending anyone by suggesting anything less than a comfortable win will be seen as a disappointment, regardless of what team is put out.”

No offence taken, James. As a club, we prefer the underdog tag, perfectly typified by our playoff promotion to League One last season despite being relegation favourites at the start of the season! 

With Jack and James’ expertise, the preview will cover selection decisions for both sides, Spurs’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities against and threats from them. 

Shrimps’ Selections 

The dramatic win against Doncaster Rovers gave Robbo and his men a timely boost in morale having not won in the previous six league outings and that overall performance provides a platform to build on. 

Robbo said in his Doncaster post-game interview,

“To show that level of character and quality (to come back and the performances during the game). Please don’t get away from the fact at three-nil down we still tried to pass the ball and still tried to play. We created lots of chances at three-nil down, but in the second half the momentum (we had), the pressing, the desire to win tackles and come out to win second balls is to be admired.

We have to continue that in the league and we can go to Spurs and enjoy the game. We can try and cause a shock, but the reality is if we play like that we’ll be OK”

In a 4-3-3 system, which the Northern Irishmen has tended to prefer, we were able to play positive football through midfield and create a constant flow of chances to make the comeback possible. 

Through the season he has tinkered with the formation and sometimes changed to 3 at the back to try to cover defensive frailties or counter the opposition, but we’ve arguably put in our most confident displays using 4-3-3 – including an eye-catching 2-2 result away to Ipswich Town on the opening day of the season. 

I foresee, despite the world-class threats against The Shrimps that will no doubt come from many angles, that Robbo will set up to play in a system that gives us the best chance to produce progressive football when in possession, and continue with the same 4-3-3.

One major difference is that we won’t be dominating the possession stats against a top-class Premier League outfit – like we did against Doncaster with, according to Wyscout, 62.92% – and we will have to make each phase on the ball count. 

As I have said, whilst I expect the same system, I do expect three changes to the side who played in the last game.

Starting Lineup vs last game vs Doncaster from Google

The first change is between the sticks; I expect Kyle Letheren to make way for a new loan signing, Trevor Carson from Dundee United. 

Carson, a Northern Irish international with seven caps, played 78 games under Robinson during his time at Motherwell according to Transfermarkt.

One of his key achievements was during Motherwell’s incredible 17/18 Scottish League Cup run which saw him keep clean sheets against Aberdeen and Rangers in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively. ‘The Well’ went on to lose the final to Celtic two-nil at Hampden Park, but there’s an enormous amount of pride connected with that run to defy the odds against teams with sizeable bigger budgets. 

Following the signing, I asked Scottish football specialist, journalist Ben Banks about the 33-year-old keeper and he felt it was a ‘coup’ to bring him on board with his shot-stopping and distribution as his key assets. 

The second change I predict is for us to bring in our other January signing, Jacob Bedeau. The 22-year centre-back has signed on loan from Burnley until the end of the season and provides an option as a partner to Anthony O’Connor at centre back. This is a position we’ve found problematic to fill since the departure of club captain, Sam Lavelle, to Charlton on the last day of the summer transfer window. 

Replacement captain O’Connor has warmed into the season since signing from Bradford City in the summer. The Irishman has put in some stellar performances lately and has stepped up his game, particularly since scoring his first for the club against Charlton Athletic. 

The consequence of this would be to drop Liam Gibson. The Durham born 24-year-old is naturally a full-back but has filled in at centre back and he showed great composure on the ball in the last game – including an 87% pass success rate (45/52 completed passes) according to Wyscout with 10 out of 12 of those with success to the final third.

The reason I believe we’ll make the change – Bedeau for Gibson – is there’s been a continual lack of aerial presence in our backline. Playing Bedeau brings in a centre-back with good technical ability to play in his natural position as opposed to playing a full back as a centre-back. 

The final change I foresee would be to bring in club veteran Aaron Wildig for Leeds loanee Alfie McCalmont. According to Transfermarkt, Wildig has played 231 times for the Shrimps so brings experience and know-how to big games. Last season, in the absence of Sam Lavelle for last year’s trip to Chelsea in the Third Round of the FA Cup, Aaron was selected as captain for the day ahead of other, more experienced EFL players in the squad. 

Wildig up against Mason Mount. Image courtesy of Getty Images and Darren Walsh. 

Against Rovers, in his 50 minutes off the bench, he was calm in position, completing 19 of his 20 (according to Wyscout) passes to ensure we retained the ball. 

I suspect we will be starved of possession for large periods of the game on Sunday, so it’s crucial when we do have the control that we don’t give it away needlessly. 

Spurs’ Selections 

Jack, 

“The big question is how many of his top players he uses, especially given that this game falls in between two League Cup semi-final legs against Chelsea, which will surely be the bigger immediate priority. So far Conte hasn’t rotated very much, he’s tended to use the same team in that 3-4-3 for almost every game. But this game will give him a chance to look at some other players, so in that sense, it might be a bit like some of those Europa Conference League group games from earlier in the season.”

James, 

“Under Conte, Tottenham have consistently played a general 3-4-2-1 and appear to have a core of players he prefers. That said, in 3 non-PL fixtures, he has twice played what looked like a strong first team (in victories vs Vitesse in the ECL and vs West Ham in the League Cup) and once played a very much second string (away in a surprise defeat vs Mura, ECL). As such, knowing what the starting XI here might look like isn’t straightforward. That said, with Chelsea in midweek in a League Cup semi, it would make sense to play a strong team there and a lesser team here. “

Spurs’ Strengths

Jack,

“Two things. The first is that as a Big Six team they have good players in most positions and a handful of world-class stars (Harry Kane, Hugo Lloris, Son Heung-min etc). The second is that they have a manager who could reasonably claim to be among the few very best in the world. Antonio Conte has worked wonders at Juventus, Chelsea and Inter and so he gives Spurs a better chance of winning something than they have had for a while.”

James,

“In the time Conte has been at the club, he’s been clear in how he wants the team to play. The patterns were evident from day one, and are quite set now; the full-backs contribute a lot to the attacking play, at times the wider centre backs join in (seeing Ben Davies streaming forward is something we have learned to get used to quickly).

The CMs will always apparently be nominally two “sitters” but with a clear encouragement to pass forwards: Winks in particular has been making passes nobody thought he was capable of in recent weeks. He, amongst, others appears reborn under Conte, who evidently likes players with clear and consistent outputs, hence someone with unique vision like Ndombele has been scarcely used.”

According to The Analyst, Spurs have an expected goals of just 14 from open play in 18 games against Premier League opposition.

As mentioned earlier, it’s extremely difficult to predict which 11 players will run out for Spurs on Sunday. However, it is guaranteed they’ll all be players who on their day will cause any League One side a headache. 

Spurs’ Weaknesses

Jack,

“Spurs are still coming to terms with Antonio Conte’s style of play and there have been signs in recent games that they struggle to create chances against well organised low block defences. See the second half of the Southampton game and the Watford games as examples. Especially given that all of Spurs’ play goes through their wingbacks and they don’t always have quality from out wide.”

James, 

Despite a deep squad for many seasons, you can probably count on one hand the amount of good performances from a heavily rotated Tottenham team. If you leave out Son and Kane, the goals don’t obviously magic themselves from elsewhere, and the midfield/full backs are not prolific contributors. A rotated team and no big guns in attack may keep the scoreline close.

Harry Kane and Heung-min Son have now combined 31 times in the Premier League
GETTY IMAGES

Kane and Son combined have scored 52.6% of Spur’s goals across competitions (20/38) so if neither play it will require others to step up. The replacements would be considered weak, but it’d be fair to say taking out those two is removing two World Class players albeit to be replaced by other international players. 

Opportunities against Spurs

Jack,

“I’d say the opportunity would probably come in sitting deep and narrow, hoping that Spurs’ delivery from wide areas isn’t good enough and then hitting Spurs on the break. Especially if the back three pushes too high up the pitch and there is space to counter into. But Tottenham have been very good on the defensive counter under Conte so far!”

James, 

Again the patterns of play are so consistent that a team can strategise to minimise the impact. Southampton (best part of an hour with 10 men) and Watford (lost it to a set piece in injury time) have both shown that if you sit back and dig in, you can frustrate Tottenham. Conte has appeared somewhat slow to make attacking changes in these games and persisted with 3 CBs on the pitch in these situations, where it may seem viable to try and change it up.

For The Shrimps to be successful, every single player must work to their limit off the ball – whether it be chasing down lost causes, pressing as a unit or concentrating at set-pieces to name just a few important components. 

When we have the ball we must use it well and be clinical with any chances that come our way. 

Fortunately, in Cole Stockton, we have a forward who is in red hot form for the season, having scored 18 goals (from all parts of the pitch, including from his own half against Fleetwood in 2nd half stoppage time) in 25 games across all competitions. 5 of his best are in the Tweet linked below.

According to Wyscout, Cole’s eighteen goals have come from just 42 shots on target and 91 shots overall.

Cole celebrating one of his two goals vs Ipswich on the opening day of League One 21/22. Image from Morecambefc.com

Therefore, 19.8% of his shots have resulted in goals with 42.9% of his shots on target ending in a goal. 

Incidentally, just for fun, Harry Kane has scored 11 from 68 shots. Of course, this isn’t comparing apples with apples due to the varying levels of the opposition, with Harry obviously playing against Premier League defences most weeks. 

Jack pointed out that Morecambe’s best chance against Spurs is to play on the break. The two players likely to play on either side of Stockton are Jonah Ayunga on the right and Arthur Gnahoua on the left both have the ability to carry the ball. Ayunga has an average of 7.58 carries per game with a 55% success rate across competitions, whilst Arthur averages 5.04 with a 59.2% success rate. 

Jonah has been looking more threatening in the last few games and he isn’t scared to take a shot when an opportunity arises. 

Another player who would love to make an impact is former Spurs forward Jonathan Obika. He began his youth career at White Hart Lane playing for the under 18s, under 23s and made four first-team appearances. Jon made one full appearance at home to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2009 in the Uefa Cup. For The Shrimps, after signing in the summer he, unfortunately, suffered a shocking hamstring injury which kept him out for five months. Despite having played just 193 minutes this season, he’s already off the mark with the crucial equalising goal against Doncaster after coming off the bench in his 12-minute cameo. 

Threats from Spurs

Jack,

“Individual quality. Even if Spurs make a lot of changes they will still have high quality attacking players – Dele Alli, Tanguy Ndombele, Steven Bergwijn etc – who have the ability to make a difference. Keeping Spurs quiet all afternoon is going to be a big challenge.”

James, 

“The flip side to this (in terms of the opportunity to frustrate Spurs) is that Tottenham have very constantly created a good volume of chances in their games under Conte. They keep coming and despite a relatively kind schedule against mostly weaker teams and with a lot of home games, have the third best in the league expected goals in attack and defence during Conte’s 8 games from around 60% of the shots. This is strong form.

They are also very good if allowed to break, with Lucas, Son and Kane interchanging. That is unlikely to be a feature of this game, but don’t commit too many men forward or you could get ripped apart!”

With the squad Spurs possess, the threats could come from literally any angle. The reality is, even if Kane and Son don’t start, their replacements will be quality and highly motivated to impress their boss in the dugout. Let’s not forget England and Spurs captain Harry Kane first got his chance in a competition outside of the Premier League! 

LET THE BATTLE COMMENCE!

This is the FA Cup. This is the ‘heart versus head’ time. Realistically, we should come away with something akin to last season’s Third Round result, a resounding four-nil defeat at Stamford Bridge. We may even suffer because of Spurs’ result at the same ground midweek and catch the backlash. That’s what my head says. My heart, however, my heart is looking for the smallest crumbs to give me that little bit of hope going into the game. If a number of the Spurs team play below par and the Morecambe side can raise their game to their best level, who knows what could happen with a bit of luck? We’re allowed to dream, surely? 

Whatever the result, I really hope the team puts in a shift to make Robbo and the travelling support proud. Sadly the fans didn’t have the chance to go to Stamford Bridge last year – due to COVID restrictions – so they’ll be looking to make the most of the day out and I’ve no doubt they’ll be right behind The Shrimps every step of the way. 

I must say a huge thank you to the fantastic contributions from Jack and James. It is greatly appreciated. Be sure to give them both a follow on Twitter to keep updated with their excellent work.

I hope you enjoyed the preview and analysis. If you did, please follow ShrimpsOnline for more news & updates. FEEL FREE TO LEAVE COMMENTS BELOW.

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