Three lessons Tottenham Hotpsur have learnt this season
Dipak Patel looks at Tottenham Hotspur's start to the season
Pochettino has to modify his tactics at Spurs
You get the feeling that Mauricio Pochettino is trying to replicate the style of football he instilled at Southampton. It was immensely successful and helped Pochettino pull off a number of unlikely victories. But the key difference between his former side and the current Spurs team is personnel. Players such as Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez carried out his instructions to perfection, but he doesn’t seem to be getting the same response at Tottenham. You get the occasional moment. The equaliser against Arsenal at The Emirates was down to Christian Eriksen pressurising high up the pitch. You could also see elements of this in Spurs 4-0 win against QPR earlier in the season. But it has been a rare occurrence rather than the norm. Right now, Pochettino cannot rely on players like Emmanuel Adebayor, Erik Lamela or even Nacer Chadli to consistently play at a high tempo. It means that Pochettino will have to find another way of getting the best out of the group he currently has. One thing the team has lacked this season is pace but in Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend that could easily be re-integrated back into the team again. Chadli and Lamela are fine players, but they also cut inside quite often and that gives the opposing full back an easier time. Aaron Lennon and Andros Towsnend are quite one dimensional, but they are more likely to commit defenders and when that happens it creates more space for the strikers.
Pochettino needs to pick a striker to lead the line
The strikers’ responsibility in a 4-2-3-1 is much greater than any formation which has two playing up front. Firstly, he doesn’t have a partner to occupy the other defenders. Also the onus is on him to hold the ball up and bring the midfielders into play. He must also have a good awareness of space and make runs out wide to pull the defenders out of their shape. Pochettino has Harry Kane, Adebayor and Roberto Soldado at his disposal but none of them seem particularly suited to the lone role. Adebayor seems the most obvious fit but his consistency is a major issue. When he plays well defenders struggle to deal with him. The problem is that this sort of performance is rare, most of the time we see him moping about on the pitch or seeming disinterested. Then you come to Soldado. He came to the Premier League with a huge reputation having scored 81 goals in 141 games for Valencia. But all those traits that made him such a dangerous player in La Liga seem to have deserted him. There are no more sharp movements, no intelligent positioning. Instead we see a forlorn striker that scores the occasional penalty. That leaves Kane who has so far scored 10 goals in all competitions. There has been increasing pressure from the media and Spurs fans for him to be given a chance but Pochettino refuses to bow to the pressure. He recently said: “My decision (on team selection) is always about my analysis on the training and after to give the balance to the team and our performance”. This statement has validity, but the balance of the side has been affected by Pochettino’s decision to keep changing whom he plays up front. Tottenham are currently struggling to score goals so Pochettino will have to make up his mind soon on which player should be given the responsibility.
Lloris has proved he is one of the best goalkeepers in the league
Tottenham will be grateful for the excellence of Hugo Lloris otherwise they surely would have conceded more than 16 goals this season. In defence Spurs have been a shambles, but the Frenchman has been in outstanding form making numerous world class saves. In the London derby he denied Per Mertesacker the winning goal as he acrobatically palmed away a header that was destined for the bottom corner. It prompted Pochettino to claim that he was “the best goalkeeper in the world.” His anticipation is brilliant, he has great reflexes and is commanding in the box. Spurs will do well to keep hold of him as top class goalkeepers are a rarity in today’s game.