Chicago Fire 0, Tottenham 2: 6 Things We Learned from Spurs Friendly
Tottenham scored a goal in each half to round off the third leg of their pre-season tour of North America with a 2-0 win over Chicago Fire.
Harry Kane opened the scoring, but it was Lewis Holtby who made the goal. Pouncing on a hesitant Fire defender, Holtby stole the ball in front of the Chicago box. He raced toward goal before squaring to Kane. The young English striker made sure of the finish from close range, carefully curling his shot around Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Spurs continue to refine their pressing game, and it was less in evidence against Chicago than in the other tour matches. Perhaps the fitness sessions are beginning to bite, but it was Spurs who had a late sting in their tail.
Roberto Soldado combined with Aaron Lennon to send the winger clear down the right with less than 10 minutes remaining. Lennon beat the covering defender before skipping past the lunging Johnson and shooting into an empty net.
Spurs were deserving of the win, and it gave crucial time to work on match fitness and Mauricio Pochettino's new system.
Erik Lamela Continues to Impress
Erik Lamela has impressed throughout Spurs' tour of North America. There is no doubting that his brace against Toronto was his finest performance of the pre-season, but against Chicago he continued to show his growing confidence.
At Roma, where Lamela became a star, he usually played on the right wing and floated inside when he could. At his best, Lamela was able to control games from that position. Against Chicago, Lamela came from deep positions to create havoc in the Fire defence. He was unable to score, but he produced several fine saves from Sean Johnson and was Spurs' finest player.
Lamela's impressive showing from this deeper role adds dimension to what Spurs fans already knew. He is a brilliant dribbler and a goalscorer, but he is also a creative player. He was being groomed to replace Francesco Totti at Roma, and we are finally beginning to see why.
Ryan Mason Is Not a Seat-Filler on This Tour
Ryan Mason has formed a solid partnership with Etienne Capoue during Spurs' tour of North America. The young midfielder showed again against Chicago that he is a robust defender and a quick and intelligent passer. Some of his passes were too ambitious, but Mason has done himself justice in a Spurs shirt during this tour.
Mason has been on the cusp of breaking through at Spurs for several years. After joining the club in 2007, Mason climbed the Football League in loan spells with Doncaster, Yeovil and Millwall, while also representing England at the under-19 and under-20 level.
He was not simply included in the tour squad to gain experience ahead of another loan. He's ready for his chance in the first team.
Often a standout at youth level, the 23-year-old is in a delicate position, but he has taken the opportunity of this pre-season tour with both hands. Strong against Toronto, Mason's evident confidence saw a further improved performance against Chicago.
Spurs Defence Remains Their Biggest Concern
Spurs began their final pre-season friendly with Danny Rose and Michael Dawson in the back line. Within five minutes of kick-off, each had committed errors that would have been punished by a more effective opposition.
Dawson continues to look out of place in Tottenham's defence. Despite his admirable years of service, it is time to let him go. His lack of pace and his unsuitability for Tottenham's defence continue to be exposed.
Similarly, Rose looks to have learned nothing from his new manager. He still lacks effective decision-making skills, and his brainlessness was on display against Chicago. Repeatedly losing the ball and diving unnecessarily into tackles, he has virtually no chance of retaining his starting role in the presence of Ben Davies.
To be fair to Rose, he looks relatively comfortable with Spurs' new policy of playing the ball out of dangerous positions. His short passing is effective, and he is savvy enough to get himself out of trouble.
Spurs Are Taking More Risks
As Pochettino's system is gradually adopted by his new team, certain elements will become more prevalent. During this tour, it has become apparent that he is coaching his team to take more risks in possession.
In advanced areas, Spurs are moving the ball quickly and seem happy to throw in tricks and flicks which are usually considered low-percentage options.
This attitude can also be seen as Spurs play out from the back. When winning the ball in defensive areas, Spurs are resisting the urge to play a long pass, rather preferring to use the same short passing that they are using in more advanced areas.
This aspect of Pochettino's philosophy is making Spurs far more entertaining to watch than last season.
Aaron Lennon May Have a Spurs Future
Aaron Lennon has been sleepwalking through the last two seasons. His staunch refusal to develop his game beyond running quite quickly seemed unlikely to endear him to Pochettino, but this pre-season tour has hinted at another side to Lennon's game.
He scored his first goal of the pre-season to seal victory in Chicago. Following a neat combination with Roberto Soldado, Lennon found himself racing the Fire goalkeeper, and he was first to the ball. He calmly finished into the empty net.
Against Toronto, Lennon played an important role as one of three attackers behind Soldado. He buzzed around creating havoc but wasn't called upon to produce a cross. His dummy run helped to open the space for Lamela's opening goal that day.
If Pochettino is able to help Lennon develop his game, the former England winger could salvage his Tottenham career.
Etienne Capoue Is Potentially a Starter This Season
Etienne Capoue began his Spurs career in steady, if unspectacular, fashion. Injury ruined his season and torpedoed his World Cup hopes, but his presence on the pre-season tour may have secured a place in Pochettino's squad.
Spurs' Argentine manager played Morgan Schneiderlin as a defensive pivot for Southampton. The French midfielder has been subsequently linked with Spurs, but Capoue plays a similar role.
Tottenham are overloaded with central midfielders, but he is the only senior defensive midfielder who has attended the North American tour.
Given that he has been selected to start each of the three tour matches, Pochettino may have been convinced that Capoue has the necessary quality to play the Schneiderlin role in his system.