Talking Tactics

Kulusevski and Doherty putting Spurs on right track

By Adrian Clarke 11 Mar 2022
Dejan Kulusevski and Matt Doherty, Spurs

Adrian Clarke explains how the duo are linking up to great effect ahead of a trip to Man Utd

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Kulusevski and Doherty (TOT)
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Tottenham Hotspur’s new look right-hand side has the potential to cause Manchester United headaches at Old Trafford this weekend.  

After suffering a difficult start to the campaign Matt Doherty is now very much Antonio Conte’s first-choice right wing-back, providing four assists and scoring once across his last six Premier League outings.  

Playing ahead of him down the same flank is January signing Dejan Kulusevski.  

The Sweden international has settled in quickly, scoring in away matches at Manchester City and Leeds United, while also supplying three assists in five starts. 

Kulusevski's goal v Leeds 
Filling a creative void 

One of Spurs' most obvious weaknesses is the absence of a creative midfielder that chips in with regular goals and assists. 

So, from their own very different roles, Doherty and Kulusevski have filled this void, providing plenty of end product in recent weeks.  

On a per 90 minutes basis, despite starting just four matches each, they are currently ranked first and second at Spurs for the most chances created in open play.  

Open-play chances crated
2021/22 Open-play chances created per 90
Matt Doherty 2.5
Dejan Kulusevski 1.9
Lucas Moura 1.6
Sergio Reguilon 1.4
Emerson Royal 1.2

Kulusevski, on loan from Juventus, has displayed smart movement and a bright footballing mind since arriving in north London.  

Adept at floating into pockets of empty space from a nominal berth on the right of Spurs' attack, the 21-year-old frequently gets on to the ball in good areas.  

This positional knack has led to him taking on more shots from inside the penalty area per 90 than both Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.  

Most shots inside the box
2021/22 Shots inside box per 90
Dejan Kulusevski 2.3
Harry Kane 2.2
Steven Bergwijn 2
Son Heung-min 1.6
Matt Doherty 1.4

In Monday’s 5-0 victory over Everton, Kane was the chief beneficiary of Doherty’s renewed confidence.  

Moving infield from a wing-back role to central areas, in a switch that frees up space for Cristian Romero to push on out wide, the 30-year-old delivered a fabulous pair of assists for the England captain.  

A perfectly weighted through-ball sent Kane clear to score in a 1v1 with Jordan Pickford before a precise, angled clip picked him out for a superb left-foot volley later on in the match.

Doherty assists for Kane

The quality of Doherty’s passing has perhaps caught some people by surprise, but the Republic of Ireland international’s ability to break into the opposition penalty area is well known.  

During his first two Premier League campaigns with former club Wolverhampton Wanderers (2018/19 and 2019/20) he enjoyed the second-highest number of touches by a defender inside the opposition box.  

Serving up a reminder of those days, Doherty made a brilliant late run into the area to help tee up Steven Bergwijn for an equaliser in a 3-2 win at Leicester City

He followed this up at Elland Road by storming into the penalty area to convert a low Ryan Sessegnon cross. 

This range of contributions appear to have convinced Conte that Doherty is a wing-back who can add firepower to his side for the remainder of the season.  

If Man Utd do not make a concerted effort to get tight to Doherty or Kulusevski inside the final third, these two unexpected form players can expose them. 

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