Mauricio Pochettino was a young and inexperienced manager when he first came to the Premier League but he announced himself when he pulled off an unlikely victory against one of the title favourites. At the time, he was the Southampton manager and his team were full of dynamism and vigour. “We have our brand of pressure” is what Pochettino has said in the past in regards to the football his teams play. It was typical performance from a side managed by Pochettino, but he has showed his tactical diversity this season. Rather than pressurising the opposing team higher up the pitch, he has shown that his sides can also sit-back and soak up pressure when they need to. That is exactly what happened in the game against Arsenal. They allowed the Gunners to dominate possession but they defended in numbers and resolutely when the Gunners threatened their goal. They were rewarded with a draw at The Emirates, so it is likely that Pochettino will use the same game-plan when he faces Manchester City.
Tottenham Hotspur suffered some embarrassing defeats last season and this was largely down to their suicidal high line. Andre Villas-Boas persisted with this despite having slow defenders such as Michael Dawson that were simply not able to recover once the ball had been played in behind. Things have changed this season under Pochettino bar the loss to Liverpool. They have conceded just seven goals, and the partnership between a revitalised Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen is showing a lot of promise. Etienne Capoue is also another that has blossomed under Pochettino’s tutelage. Ex-Spurs managers Tim Sherwood and Villas-Boas barely gave him a chance but Pochettino has built his defensive structure around the former Toulouse player. He has shielded the defence well, and his physical presence aligned to his tactical awareness has proved a good foil to the more technical players around him. The defence is more compact and the confidence has grown as a result. They will have to be wary of a City attack that can conjure goals from almost nothing, but if they hold firm than a positive result is likely.
The transfer business Pochettino conducted over the summer may have seemed underwhelming at first, but it has proved to be quite astute. Eric Dier has settled into the Premier League very quickly and was a bargain at just £4m. He has also solidified the central defensive area bringing in the experienced Federico Fazio. But it was more about who he didn’t sell and the gamble to give them a chance has paid off. Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela had barely featured last season but they have proved a revelation in this one. Chadli, the scorn of many fans last season, has re-invented himself and is Spurs current top goal-scorer with four. Last season, he showed glimpses of his talent such as his curling effort against Newcastle United, but this season he has added more consistency to his game. He has shown great composure in front of goal but also performs his defensive duties diligently. Erik Lamela is another player that seems to have improved under Pochettino. He is capable of real moments of magic and some of his dribbling is a joy to behold. If someone is likely to win the game for Spurs then it could be Lamela. He was outstanding against QPR earlier in the season and his perfectly weighted pass for Chadli’s goal against Arsenal was another moment of inspiration. If either of them fire, than Spurs could win at the Etihad for the first time since 2010.
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