Mauricio Pochettino has turned Spurs into a force to be reckoned with
Glamour is an important aspect in football these days. The more glamorous a team is, the more limelight it attracts. When Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho announced their arrivals in Manchester, it seemed as though all the flamboyance in the world had found a new home.
Then came the signings. Some of the finest players in the world were recruited to represent the two giants of the Premier League. Be it Paul Pogba’s world record signing by the Red Devils or the Citizens’ flashy signings in llkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane; all eyes were now, rightfully, towards the Manchester clubs.
So far, their fates have been a bit contrasting. While Pep Guardiola seems to have already found his feet at the Etihad, Jose Mourinho is still trying to grasp the surroundings at Old Trafford.
And yet, the focus should be on someone else.
With almost every club making big deals in the summer, Tottenham Hotspur somewhat fell under the radar with a quiet summer transfer window. With the signings of Vincent Janssen and Victor Wanyama, coupled with a deadline day move for Moussa Sissoko, it felt like Spurs had blown up the opportunity to lay the foundations of a dominating period in the Premier League.
But Mauricio Pochettino is not average muck like you or me; and he has shown, so far, that he knows exactly what he is doing.
It is not always that we see a manager who is adept as a man manager while also having a tactical nous, coupled with good looks and proper dressing sense—Pochettino is the complete package.
Tactically, he is the student of the school of Catenaccio gurus that regarded defense as the key to success. Indeed, Spurs had the best defensive record last season and have continued that impressive trend this season as well—3 goals in 7 games works as a testament to that fact.
Shielding the back-four with a double pivot, the former Espanyol boss’ Spurs are rarely exposed defensively. It is not like he plays with a low block either as Spurs are not strictly catenaccio.
In Helenio Herrera’s school of football, letting the opponents have the ball while playing with a deep defensive line—the aforementioned ‘low block’—was the mantra to winning titles. His Inter absorbed pressure and then quickly broke out through the wings to inflict damage on the opposition.
You see, the thing with playing a deep defensive line and rarely ever attacking is that the opponents, at some point, become so frustrated that they commit a lot of men forward—leaving their defenses exposed to the counter.
In recent years, Atletico Madrid’s astute defensive performance against Bayern Munich in last year’s Champions League could be seen as something of a tribute to Helenio Herrera’s Inter.
However, the North London club can’t be labeled as a side that preaches catenaccio. For one, Spurs play with a relatively higher backline and, two, their first line of defense begins with the forwards relentlessly pressing the opposition defenders, giving them no time and space on the ball.
This is something that doesn’t happen in a catenaccio system; rather it is a method employed by the other end of the spectrum: the possession mongers.
Pep Guardiola’s Barca, and now Manchester City, gave the impression that the ball was their oxygen and retrieving it after losing it was an absolute must. Combined pressing all over the pitch meant that the ball was won higher up and, hence, Barca didn’t concede much either.
Amalgam of catenaccio and high-pressing
Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, defensively, is the best of both. Structural consistency coupled with relentless pressing up top means that ball retrieval in the attacking half is not an uncommon sight for Spurs’ fans.
But if somehow the opponents go past Spurs’ front four, the back six is ready to squeeze the ball out of the opposition’s grasp. Spurs’ double pivot might consist of players that make it look rigid—regardless of the combinations used—but it is effectively stiff since it handles its zone well while also providing the directness, in the form of either Dembele of Sissoko, for the attack.
The basis of Spurs’ strength is their defence. At times, their attack might look uninspiring, but the defense is always there to make sure they don’t lose.
After a complete season with Tottenham, Pochettino has successfully implanted half of his idea within the system. What remains now is a telepathic commotion in attack. Often during last season, Spurs looked out of ideas while going forward.
Improved chemistry in attack
This season, however, we can already see an improved Spurs when it comes to attacking. The cohesiveness between the forwards and the midfielders is resulting in some beautiful moves that bring the White Hart Lane faithful to their feet.
The double pivot, along with the centre-halves Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, forms an impressive line of defense while the full backs push slightly forward to become the extra players in attack.
Heung-Min Son’s red-hot form coupled with Delle Ali’s surge to the top and Erik Lamela’s bulldog approach is bringing out some absolutely stunning football at the White Hart Lane.
Tottenham Hotspurs fan right now are hopeful and why not? The club has spent much less in comparison to the Manchester clubs but are yielding something that even money can’t buy––just ask Jose Mourinho.
It is fun to be a Spurs fan right now, and they should all thank Mauricio Pochettino for that.
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