Tactical Analysis: The Mislav Oršić masterclass that saw Dinamo Zagreb eliminate Tottenham Hotspur in the Europa League

With a 2-0 home advantage in hand from the first leg, Tottenham Hotspur visited Dinamo Zagreb with the simple objective of getting the job done.

They had stumbled after their success at home, though, as Arsenal beat them 2-1 in the north London Derby in the Premier League.

Dinamo Zagreb, on the other hand, had won 5-0 over the weekend as they went two points clear with a game in hand at the top of the Prva HNL.

They had won each of their last nine domestic matches, but a Premier League side were a completely different challenge (as they found out in the first leg).

Spurs did a Spurs, though, as they allowed Zagreb to put three past them over the course of the 90 minutes and extra time.

This disaster spelt the end of their Europa League campaign, which could further reduce José Mourinho’s time in North London.

The undeniable headline-grabber, though, was Mislav Oršić, who netted all three of his side’s goals to deliver the win for them. So, let us take a deeper look at his performance.

Defending

Dinamo Zagreb needed just 43.2% of the ball to score this historic victory, meaning that they did have a bit of defending to do. Oršić had an important role here as well.

Tottenham’s right-back for this match was Serge Aurier, whose main strength unquestionably is his attacking threat. Therefore, Oršić pretty much dropped into the left of midfield in a bid to contain him.

With Lovro Majer pushing up from midfield to mark one of the two Tottenham holding midfielders alongside Luka Ivanušec (the right-winger), Oršić’s defensive position was on the left of the three in an interesting 4-3-2-1.

As Spurs advanced further into the Zagreb half, Oršić had to track back even further. So, he even reached the defensive line at times as a second left-back to keep Aurier in check.

It is safe to say that Oršić was quite successful in this task, as he made four tackles (the most of any Zagreb player), three clearances and one interception, allowing Aurier to only attempt two crosses and one shot.

This alone makes for a respectable performance, but there was so much more that the 28-year-old Croatian produced.

Positioning in possession

On paper, Oršić was used as a left-winger, but in possession, he played a marginally different role.

Zagreb transitioned into a 3-4-3 in possession, as Stefan Ristovski pushed forward from right-back but Bartol Franjić did not venture as far on the opposite flank. Majer stayed forward, so Oršić was on the left of the midfield four.

His relatively deeper position in possession often dragged Aurier out of position, creating space in behind him which Franjić could exploit on the overlap.

A similar tactic was used by Arsenal against Matt Doherty in the north London Derby, although Zagreb failed to exploit the space on the right of the Tottenham defence to the same extent.

In other cases, Majer exploited this space by drifting wide from his position on the inside-left in the front-three.

When Majer did stay in midfield, Oršić pushed forward in the front-three. However, unlike Majer, he stayed wide, stretching the Spurs defence horizontally in this way.

Positioning alone does not get you anywhere, though – you need to be able to create something after getting into good situations. Oršić certainly did.

Attacking

Now we come to the fun part – Oršić’s work at the sharp end.

His wide positioning helped him isolate the defensively-weak Aurier on many occasions, after which he could run at the ex-PSG right-back.

A quick change of direction enabled him to get past the defender, so he had a clear run towards the byline, which would be a very threatening crossing position.

He got there unchecked and could also deliver a ball across the box, but it was not turned in by anyone. However, the threat was very clearly present.

The opener originated with a positional interchange with Majer. Aurier was already out of the equation as his attempt to dispossess Oršić prior to his pass to Majer had failed, so the 28-year-old winger had some space on the left to run into.

Aurier rushed back to cover, but he had to overcommit and allow Oršić to chop onto his favoured right foot, after which the Croatian winger unleashed what can only be described as a thunderbolt.

His second came immediately after Majer was replaced by Mario Gavranović, meaning that Oršić had the freedom to drift infield too. He made a run into the box between the Tottenham defence and midfield, punishing their lack of awareness with another emphatic finish.

The hat-trick goal combined all three attributes of Oršić’s attacking play – slick dribbling, the ability to drift inside due to the lack of Majer and world-class finishing.

He started off by chopping inside and away from both Moussa Sissoko and Aurier (who would be subsequently brought off), opening up a little bit of space for himself.

The Croatian international then got to the edge of the box, from where he picked out the bottom corner with yet another sensational strike.

(Image Credits: WhoScored)

Oršić’s shot map tells quite an interesting story – six of his seven efforts came from outside the box, only four of which were from open play. Half of those went in, while the outlier also resulted in a goal.

Conclusion

Oršić’s performance – both in defence and especially in attack – certainly deserves all the headlines in the world.

He helped his side shut Tottenham down on one flank, while his hat-trick (complete with two unbelievable individual efforts) quite obviously won the tie for Dinamo Zagreb.

However, the rest of Damir Krznar’s men deserve a lot of credit as well, as each of the 17 players that stepped onto the pitch in the Zagreb shirt worked their socks off.

Krznar himself should be praised too – he only had a couple of days to get his side together after Zoran Mamić stepped down as he was sentenced to four years in prison after being found guilty in a tax fraud case.

Tottenham Hotspur, on the other hand, were the polar opposite of good. They had many big-hitters on the pitch, but they were simply flattened by a very hard-working and well-structured Dinamo Zagreb side.

Hugo Lloris’ comments encapsulate their frustrations pretty well, and once again, a summer shakeup (quite possibly involving something to do with the manager) seems inevitable.

Stats courtesy of WhoScored.

Europa League 2020/21 Round of 16: UEL Results & Highlights.