Opinion: Why the diamond formation does not suit Tottenham’s play

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

It’s hard to understand the persistence or better yet, the stubbornness of Pochettino with regards to how Tottenham play. It has been well noted that since the beginning of last season, Pochettino abandoned his heavily employed 4-2-3-1 shape in favour of the 4-3-1-2 diamond shape formation.

This is a theme which has spilled over into the 19/20 season at times, with the 4-3-1-2 already being deployed 4 out of a possible 10 fixtures (Transfermarkt). This is unsurprisingly the highest of the formations deployed in the current season with 4-2-3-1, 3-4-1-2, and 4-2-2-2 as the other shapes utilised.

Whilst the diamond has been effective in games against the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man Utd – it is quickly becoming more of a hindrance than a blessing to the side for numerous reasons.

Hindering Kane

Kane is the only world-class player in the team and the only player capable of scoring 30 – 40 goals a season, such is his reliability in front of goal. He also offers a diverse skill set including excellent hold-up play with his back to goal, aerial prowess for long-ball tactics and most importantly, an excellent passing range meaning he can drop deep.

This, unfortunately, has convinced Pochettino that Spurs’ best goal threat should be deployed further back instead of forward. In 18/19, he was mainly deployed off Son/Moura and tasked with linking play just as much as scoring whereas in 17/18, he plundered 41 goals in 48 apps as the focal point and furthest forward in a 4-2-3-1 shape (Wikipedia). He still maintained crucial inputs into Tottenham’s build-up but was always in the box to be at the end of most attacks.

Lack of width/Protection for defence

Throughout Poch’s tenure, Tottenham have heavily relied on the full-backs to offer width. In the absence of wide attacking players, full-backs are instructed to push high up the pitch and stretch the game by the manager.

At the moment, none of the Spurs full-backs are consistently good crossers of the ball which reduces the quality of deliveries out wide. This equally isolates the two centre-backs as opposition wingers exploit the spaces left behind.

This is further exasperated by the lack of support from the midfield three who are expected to cover these spaces, whilst also blocking off passing lanes through the middle as well as contributing to the attack.

Sissoko recently commented on how they “get tired too quickly physically when we play with a diamond midfield”.  It’s become a detriment to the side against opposition who use the flanks extremely well.

A return to 4-2-3-1 would relieve Kane of his creative burden. A 3-4-1-2 formation would allow the full-backs to push high up knowing there is adequate cover out in the wide areas. The introduction of Dier instead of three pure CMs in some games would provide defensive cover for the full-backs and centre backs in all of the formations Pochettino uses including the diamond. Poch has the tools to bounce back. He must utilise them.

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  1. It all starts to make sense now about people having an agenda. For me poch will continue with the diamond and to hell with the results it’s the win against the board he is after. This is about the rebuild that never happened well not all of it. So it’s going to be push things to the limit I’m guessing and see how far the board will let the team drop before they either back him or sack him. Either way he wins.


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