When Mauricio Pochettino was installed as Tottenham’s new Head Coach, chairman Daniel Levy was quick to point out that they had appointed a man who would “embrace the style of play we associate with our club”. Pochettino himself vowed to “give the supporters the kind of attacking football” that they crave.
Pochettino’s high-tempo, high-pressing game won over many supporters in his Southampton days and this is something the Argentine will attempt to replicate at Spurs. He favours an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, a system which strikes the perfect balance between defensive stability and attacking potency. The statistics support his philosophy. Last season Southampton had on average 58.6% possession per game, the highest rate of any team in the Premier League. The Saints also recorded a pass success rate of 81.4%. It therefore comes as little surprise that they managed to keep things tight at the back conceding on average only 9.6 shots per game, the second fewest of any Premier League side.
Pochettino encourages his teams to play their way out from defence. Centre-backs must be composed with the ball at their feet. They will be asked to split wide and marshal the halfway line, allowing the full-backs to push further up the pitch. Jan Vertonghen, Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches all fit the bill although Michael Dawson may struggle to adapt to the high line. This system also favours our attacking minded full-backs, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. Both will play a vital role in the functioning of Pochettino’s setup. Crosses will need to be perfected and fitness levels high, such is the physical demand that will be placed upon them.
In front of the defence sit two holding midfielders. They act as a double pivot providing cover for the two centre-backs when the full-backs go marauding forward. These two holding midfielders should available to receive the ball at all times. Dembélé would suit this role perfectly. The Belgian has immense physical strength and is an accurate short-range passer. It is likely that alongside him would sit a more natural defending midfielder in the form of Sandro or Capoue. Both looked relatively comfortable when slotting in at central defence when called upon last season. Capoue’s stand out performance at centre-half away to Sunderland last December means he gets the nod from me.
Next we have an interchangeable bank of three. Two inside forwards and an attacking midfielder tasked with supplying key passes. Pochettino is likely to entrust club record signing Erik Lamela to fill the left-sided role. The Argentine missed a large part of the last season through back injury but managed to assist five and score fifteen for Roma in the 2012/13 campaign. Pochettino will be hoping that his compatriot is able to rediscover that form for Spurs in the coming years.
Adam Lallana was a key figure in Pochettino’s Southampton side netting nine times and assisting six goals in the Premier League last season. He occupied a floating role, often starting wide right and drifting inwards as the game progressed. Christian Eriksen is the obvious choice to fill this position. When comparing stats over the course of 90 minutes last season, the Dane created 3.10 chances compared to Lallana’s 1.98. He also found the back of the net on seven occasions in the league.
When it comes to the central attacking midfield role, Pochettino has a plethora of options to choose from. It requires a player capable of keeping possession and creating chances with defence splitting vertical passes. Paulinho’s high energy levels means he is suited to the pressing game whilst Gylfi Sigurdsson offers goal threat from midfield. However, Lewis Holtby statistics reflect favourably upon him. The German spent the majority of last season on loan at Fulham, creating on average 1.95 chances per game.
Finally we have a lone striker. Ideally, Pochettino will be looking for a centre-forward in the mould of Ricky Lambert and in Emmanuel Adebayor he has one. Adebayor is one of the best around at holding up the ball, allowing his teammates to come into play. His surging runs in the channels means he occupies defenders creating spaces in other areas of the pitch. The big question mark surrounding Adebayor would be his willingness to engage in Pochettino’s notoriously rigorous training sessions.
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