Since the death of the 4-4-2 formation a few years ago, the role of the full-back has been redesigned. Attacking full-backs who possess an engine enabling them to get up and down the flank non-stop for 90 minutes are now a vital component of any successful team. Of the four full-backs in Tottenham’s squad, only Kyle Walker is really coveted by other teams, and a fair share of Spurs fans are far from convinced he’s good enough. Mauricio Pochettino handed Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier starts in the 2-1 defeat by Anderlecht – at left and right-back respectively – but neither did their credentials any good. Trippier found himself exposed for the second goal and looked somewhat out of his depth which isn’t really a surprise considering his career to date. Davies, three years younger than Trippier at 22, looks more of a prospect but is hardly pulling up trees. That just leaves Danny Rose who seems to have been around for decades and is still living off that once-in-a-lifetime wonder goal against Arsenal. If Tottenham really want to challenge the established top-four they need to overhaul this area of their squad.
On one hand, by playing the majority of their first-choice players against Anderlecht, it seems as if they are. Yet based on tonight’s performance, you could be forgiven for thinking they want to get knocked out as soon as possible in order to focus on their Premier League exploits. It’s far from outlandish to suggest that Spurs have the quality within their squad to win the Champions League’s baby brother, but Pochettino has previously criticised the tournament. When he was manager of Southampton he suggested that Europa League qualification can “kill” teams and described it as “not an attractive competition.” Playing Thursday, Sunday, Thursday undoubtedly impacts a team’s performance but the really big club have a recruitment policy which makes sure they have the strength in depth to cope. Tottenham clearly aren’t in the position to handle fighting on four fronts and with the construction cost of their new stadium on the horizon chairman Daniel Levy will have to dig deep to keep Tottenham competitive. And splashing the cash is not something Levy is renowned for.
Tottenham’s spectacular 4-1 comeback win over Manchester City a few weeks ago featured Harry Kane’s one and only goal of the current campaign. By this point last season, Kane had already bagged eight goals. It’s too easy to suggest his lack of goals is down to defenders ‘working him out’ or a lack of confidence. He scored twice in September for England – albeit one was against San Marino – so are Pochettino’s tactics failing to bring the best out of last season’s wonder kid? Kane was benched for the loss to Anderlecht and initially looked good as he entered the fray with 30 minutes still to play, but soon faded. He made the best of the one clear chance he did have, out-muscling his marker but seeing his shot saved by the feet of Anderlecht’s keeper. Pochettino would prefer to play Kane behind an out-and-out striker, someone in the mould of Saido Berahino, but that is currently not an option. Last season Kane thrived on crosses, cut-backs and balls through the channels as Spurs played a more direct brand of football. Spurs are now playing a more possession based game – they had 67% of the ball against the Belgians – but the slower build-up play is not helping the England front-man.
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