Having had the time to reflect on last night’s magnificent 3-1 victory against Real Madrid at Wembley I have put together some thoughts on the performance.
Last nights result was a great reward for the skill, determination and hard work from the players, through to the vision from the Boardroom of Daniel Levy. However we mustn’t under estimate the role played by our (fast becoming) great Manager Mauricio Pochettino. There were so many elements of the performance last night that epitomise what Poch has bought to Tottenham.
Firstly and obviously is his tactical approach. When Pochettino first came to Spurs he employed the ever popular 4-2-3-1 formation. This was also favoured by AVB and during his time at Spurs became synonymous with out-passing teams but lacking a cutting edge. During last season Poch experimented with 3 at the back with great success and has become his formation of choice this season. However he now appears far more flexible in his approach to team selection and tactics. This was demonstrated by the left field but ultimately successful decision to play Llorente and Kane up front together at the Bernabeu.
We all know the media love a Spurs hoodoo and many articles were written about Spurs inability to win games at the National Stadium. During their three most successful results at Wembley this year, namely Dortmund, Liverpool and Real Madrid Spurs recorded possession stats of 32%, 37% and 36% respectively. This represents a definite tactical switch maybe born out of trying to find a way to use Wembley’s wide open spaces to our advantage. It was a joy to see Spurs spreading the play last night with Tripper (my man of the match) enjoying the freedom of the right flank. The approach v Dortmund seemed to be to play on the counter attack with Son proving devastating. Last night we were more on the front foot and despite the disparately in possession were able to restrict the space afforded to the dangerous ball players of Real Madrid.
There also seems to be a steely resilience and togetherness in the team that ultimately must come from Poch. Last night when arguably one of Spurs most influential players Toby Alderweireld went off injured in the 24th minute there was no panic. Dier simply slotted into the back 3 seamlessly. Dier certainly displayed the resilience that we are fast associating with this team. Having ultimately been at fault in the lead up to the only goal at Old Trafford he put in a flawless performance when asked to fill in at Centre Back.
It is also now becoming very obvious that Poch is a World Class ‘coach’. The number of players that have benefitted from their work with Poch on the training ground is becoming increasingly obvious and last night was the perfect example of this. Kieran Tripper joined Spurs from Burnley in 2015 as understudy to Kyle Walker. During his time at the Club Trippier has improved immeasurably culminating in perhaps his most complete performance for Spurs last night.
Then there is Moussa Sissoko. Perhaps a controversial inclusion in the article but his performances this season have been vastly improved to last. I feel its no coincidence that he enjoyed a full pre-season this year with Poch and the team (having joined on deadline day 2016). Granted there are players that I would probably prefer ‘on the end of a cross’ and he is still liable for the odd wild control or pass but I feel he generally tries to play / drive forward and this is an asset to the team.
That then brings me to Pochettino’s eye for a player. While I appreciate that all clubs now have a network of scouts I would like to think that the manager still has an input in this regard. Davinson Sanchez looks like being one of most astute signings at Spurs for a number of seasons. Slotting in between Vertonghen and Alderweireld, he looks as though he has been playing at the highest level for years. Spurs defended very well as a team last night and it appears they now have a unit that simply enjoy defending. Perhaps no coincidence that Poch was indeed a no nonsense defender himself.
His willingness to use academy players (and trust them in big games) is now well documented. Poch has obviously seen something in young Harry Winks and he is now having the chance to demonstrate this to the world stage. His performance last night was superb, again defying his meagre 21 years of age. Especially when you consider he was up against a midfield containing Kroos and Modric.
Finally we have Poch’s general attitude and approach. Last night when some managers would have been jumping up an down in the dug-out (we all know those Managers who will celebrate a throw in) , Poch respectfully embraced Zidane and had the air of a man who realises that the job is no where near done. I don’t subscribe to the theory that Spurs need to win a trophy to show progression. Last nights victory against the reigning European Champions would have been unthinkable even as little as a year ago when Spurs were limping out of the Champions League. I do however believe that Spurs ultimately need trophies to cement their place amongst the great teams. Poch believes this too which is why it will have been back down to business on the training ground this morning.
Poch genuinely believes that Spurs can win the Premier League or Champions League during his tenure, A tough ask this season or any season but the manager believes which is so important. If Poch believes then so should we! We have to dream but if we are to be trophy-less come the end of the season then I can guarantee with Poch at the helm “failure will have in it an echo of glory”.
Here’s to more Glory Glory Nights………………