Opinion: Why Erik ten Hag is perfect for Spurs and what his XI could look like

Erik ten Hag
Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Since Daniel Levy sacked Jose Mourinho, Tottenham have seemingly lost out on numerous managerial targets, with fans still being left in the dark as to who the next boss could be. 

However, I still feel that current Ajax boss Erik ten Hag could potentially be the ideal candidate for the job, despite coming across quite underwhelming after the Conte and Pochettino links. 

Since his appointment in 2017, ten Hag has led Ajax to the Champions League semi-final while also winning the Eredivisie and KNVB Cup all in the 18/19 season. His free-flowing attack-minded squad gave him great success that season and his stock rose significantly. 

He was also top of the league in the 19/20 season before it was ultimately abandoned. 

In the season just gone, he managed to win the Eredivisie title by an outstanding 16 points having scored over 100 goals and only conceding 23.  

Before Ajax, ten Hag took FC Utrecht to 5th in the table from 11th when he joined as sporting director and head coach in the summer of 2015. He took over a team that finished 11th in the 14/15 season and finished 5th while also reaching a cup final a season after

In the 2016–17 season, FC Utrecht secured a fourth-place position, which is their highest ever league finish. Erik ten Hag’s impressive performance at Utrecht secured him the Ajax job in 2017. 

So what makes him so desirable? 

Well, with his attacking minded philosophy, Ajax have consistently played some of the best football in Europe and their remarkable run in the 18/19 Champions League campaign made the world aware of this. 

They tore Real Madrid to shreds at the Santiago Bernabeu, beating them 4-1 seeing them progress into the quarter-finals. This youthful Ajax side including Frenkie De Jong and Matthijs De Ligt danced past Madrid and showed Europe what they were all about.

Erik ten Hag’s side utilised a high-pressure style to overcome Real and the role of Donny van de Beek was an interesting aspect of Ajax. During this game, former Southampton man, Dusan Tadic put in a world-class display with Tan Hag allowing him to have a lot of space due to the role he made Donny van De Beek play. 

Van De Beek would fill in for Tadic while he dropped into midfield dragging the centre backs away, giving Tadic the space he needed to create chances. Varane and Fernandez couldn’t handle the movement of ten Hag’s men.

Erik ten Hag used this similar style multiple times that season in a 4-3-3 system with one of the midfielders often dropping between the centre backs allowing the full-backs to get forward. 

Ten Hag makes his team play a free-flowing attacking style of football with his pacey wingers playing a pivotal role in his side who can often move into the half-spaces while the fullbacks progress forward. 

He often uses an advanced midfielder who has a certain skill and awareness of the game who can create space for those around him while also having good ability on the ball. 

Behind this front line, two deep midfielders would be used who control the tempo and keep play moving at a high pace– connecting the defence and attack. Frenkie De Jong was fantastic at this job and also moved in between the centre backs brilliantly well, still doing this at Barcelona. This is a role I could see Oliver Skipp potentially playing next season.

In defence, we would need to buy some good ball-playing centre backs to play through the opposition’s press who are calm on the ball while also being able to dribble out of the back. 

What would ten Hag’s Spurs look like? 

For me, including summer transfer business, Spurs’ team might look something like this: 

Hugo Lloris; Sergio Reguilon, Sven Botman, Joe Rodon/ Lisandro Martinez, Tariq Lamptey; Pierre Emile Hojbjerg, Tanguy Ndombele, Marcel Sabitzer; Heung Min Son, Harry Kane, Steven Bergwijn. 

Sven Botman seems to already be targeted by Tottenham and seeing him and Erik ten Hag would be a brilliant scenario for Tottenham Hotspur.

Botman and ten Hag know each other from his Ajax days despite not making an appearance in the first team before being sold to Lille.

However, ten Hag said in a press conference that he was not amazed at his development as he “saw the potential at Ajax.” Botman is incredibly highly regarded and would be an impressive coup for Spurs. 

Another centre back would also be needed such as Joachim Andersen would fit a ten Hag system perfectly with his composure at the back and Spurs have been looking into him for a long time now. 

Lisandro Martinez is a current Ajax star who I can see making the switch to North London. The 23-year-old is able to play at centre back and defensive midfield.

This versatility could help Spurs a lot due to his ability on the ball and the skill he possesses through his dribbling. He can easily break through an opposition press as he’s viewed as one of the most skilful young defenders in Europe. 

Tariq Lamptey is a player who flourished at Brighton during the first half of the 20/21 campaign and could bring a lot to Spurs shown by his 1 goal and 3 assists from right-back (TransferMarkt).

Him and Sergio Reguilon down both flanks could provide Spurs with some incredible attacking threat while Hojbjerg or Skipp fill into the defence between the centre backs allowing the full-backs to bomb forward.

This could bring a threat down both wings which is something Spurs have lacked for years– since the Walker and Rose days. 

Finally, Marcel Sabitzer is a near world-class talent who Tottenham have been tracking for a while. He can bring that composure in the middle while also possessing brilliant leadership skills in the middle of the park. He’s also got fantastic technique and often contributes to key goals. 

Another midfield candidate we could look at is Ryan Gravenberch. Ryan Gravenberch at the young age of just 19, made 32 appearances last season under Erik ten Hag scoring 3 and assisting 5 (TransferMarkt) and with two years left on his deal should be a player we should be targeting as he’s destined for the very top. 

The front three of Son, Bergwijn and Kane could work quite nicely under ten Hag with Kane’s crazy good play from deep, dragging away defenders and creating space in behind for Son. Not much more has to be said about the quality of Kane, everyone knows he’s the best around with his all-around play.

In my opinion, Steven Bergwijn will have a much improved season under ten Hag with the Dutch connection they’ll have.

The style ten Hag would play would suit Bergwijn far better than anything Mourinho implemented over his tenure.

I really do believe ten Hag would get the best from Bergwijn, utilising his pace and underrated playmaking ability which we haven’t been seeing this season but has been seen in the past at PSV shown by his 12 assists in the 18/19 season (TransferMarkt).

To summarise, I think that Erik ten Hag would be a good fit for Spurs as Daniel Levy wants an attacking minded manager who has good experience with youth, according to Sami Mokbel.

This is exactly what ten Hag is. He may be the right man for us to build a long term future with.

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