Tottenham Hotspur produced an excellent second-half display to establish a commanding first-leg lead in their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night.
Spurs’ latest European exertions at Wembley shouldn’t have a direct impact on Fantasy managers, as the Lilywhites – who are out of the FA Cup – have ten days to recover before they take on Burnley in Gameweek 27.
As we mentioned in our Digest article yesterday, however, the return leg in Dortmund could prompt rotation from Mauricio Pochettino as it takes place in between the north London derby in Gameweek 29 and a trip to Southampton in Gameweek 30.
Pochettino’s side will have contested five competitive matches in 15 days (four of them Premier League fixtures) by the time they visit St. Mary’s.
The Champions League quarter-finals take place either side of Gameweek 34, meanwhile.
Our Scout Notes article below recaps the goals, assists, Fantasy talking points and salient manager quotes from last night’s match.
Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Borussia Dortmund
- Goals: Son Heung-min (£8.9m), Jan Vertonghen (£5.9m), Fernando Llorente (£5.7m)
- Assists: Jan Vertonghen, Serge Aurier (£5.8m), Christian Eriksen (£9.3m)
Another game and another goal for Son Heung-min (£8.9m), who has now found the net on 14 occasions in all competitions since his purple patch started in Gameweek 13.
Son has scored in each of the four matches that he has featured in since returning from the Asian Cup, making light of his manager’s (and his own) comments that he was fatigued after international duty in January.
The South Korea international again started up front for the Lilywhites and scored the tie’s opening goal just after the interval, volleying home a superb Jan Vertonghen (£5.9m) cross.
Though his shot count was unremarkable (two – one blocked, one goal), Son’s all-round display was again impressive and his off-the-ball movement and pace on it caused Dortmund problems.
Son almost carved out a tap-in for Lucas Moura (£6.8m) in the first half but an outstretched Roman Burki leg deflected the Korean’s low cross to safety.
Pochettino said of Son’s performance:
Sonny was fantastic again, he’s doing fantastic. He’s a player who provides the team with a lot of very good things. His smile, he translates good energy and his performance in every single game is improving and improving. We’re so happy. It’s so obvious how he is.
The Spurs boss had lined his team up in a 3-4-1-2 at kick-off, with Son and Lucas paired up front and Christian Eriksen (£9.3m) dropping back from the number ten role to form a five-man midfield in the second half.
This tactical tweak proved to be something of a game-changer after a nervy opening 45 minutes that Dortmund edged, with Eriksen able to get on the ball with more regularity and increase his influence on proceedings.
Sitting in 6.6% of FPL squads, Eriksen is something of a premium midfield differential having understandably been overlooked in favour of the in-form Son by large swathes of the Fantasy community.
His underlying statistics remain competitive however and those who place their faith in attacking KPIs would have been encouraged by last night’s numbers: no player on either team registered as many goal attempts or key passes.
Eriksen’s shots, as they so often do, mostly came from distance but his sometimes disappointing set-piece deliveries improved in accuracy, with Toby Alderweireld (£6.0m) forcing a save from one of the Dane’s crosses before substitute Fernando Llorente (£5.7m) nodded in Spurs’ third goal to reward Eriksen with an assist.
Harry Winks (£5.5m) and Moussa Sissoko (£4.9m) continued their fine form in central midfield but while their performances are largely irrelevant to Fantasy managers (the deep-lying pair have a combined one goal and two assists in FPL this season), the display of Vertonghen at left wing-back was eye-catching.
Having played as more of an orthodox left-back against Newcastle in Gameweek 25, Vertonghen was given license to roam further up the flank on Wednesday and turned in a brilliant display, creating Son’s goal with a sublime cross before getting on the scoresheet himself when connecting with Serge Aurier‘s (£5.8m) delivery from the right.
Vertonghen’s standard of crossing was excellent overall and his ability on the ball impressed, with one slaloming run through the Dortmund defence culminating in a shot that arrowed wide.
While Ben Davies (£5.6m) remains sidelined, Vertonghen looks set to job-share with Danny Rose (£5.8m) at left-back, moving back across to centre-half whenever the England defender is recalled to the starting XI.
Hugo Lloris (£5.4m) was a virtual bystander in the second half as Spurs asserted control but the France international was the busier of the two goalkeepers before the break, making stops from Christian Pulisic, Thomas Delaney and Dan-Axel Zagadou as the home defence wobbled.
Pochettino shared his thoughts on this “game of two halves”:
The first half was very difficult, first of all because we never felt the confidence to play. We took some rash decisions. It’s like we weren’t comfortable. We didn’t feel what we planned to play.
But after fixing some problems, showing them some clips at half-time and talking a little about different positions, offensive and defensive and trying to help the team to perform better.
It was a massive confidence boost when Sonny score made the team play much better. We deserved the victory in the end. It was a massive victory and the players deserve all the credit. They were fantastic. To play after Sunday with one day less recovery we need to praise them.
Pochettino also praised Juan Foyth (£5.0m), who – save for a couple of mistakes in possession – largely performed well as part of a three-man backline:
I’m so happy for him, he was fantastic today.
Of course, he still needs to improve and learn. He’s so brave, braver than you expect, braver than the people expect.
The first action was unbelievable, the people were pushing him and then he made a few mistakes because he wanted to play.
But I prefer that players who make mistakes trying to play. I was a completely different type of centre back, not with his quality. I love the players taking risks and are brave like he is.
Lucas performed adequately up front alongside Son but the imminent return of Harry Kane (£12.4m) would indicate that both the Brazilian and Llorente are on borrowed time as strike options, save for perhaps the odd run-out when the fixtures pile up in March.
Tottenham Hotspur XI (3-4-1-2): Lloris; Foyth, Sanchez, Alderweireld; Aurier, Winks, Sissoko (Wanyama 90′), Vertonghen; Eriksen; Son (Lamela 89′), Lucas Moura (Llorente 84′).