Now that Mauricio Pochettino has officially become Tottenham manager, the work to mold a team begins. Much has been made of the swashbuckling style of Southampton’s play under the Argentine coach. And Spurs fans will be expecting to see a similar approach from Tottenham next season. In fact, given the belief that Tottenham’s squad is better than Southampton, Spurs fans will be expecting good football AND good results. The question is, will Pochettino be able to establish this style of play at White Hart Lane and does he have the players to do it?
Here is a look at what a Pochettino Spurs team might look like.
Generally speaking, Pochettino plays a 4-2-3-1 formation but there are a couple of tweaks that I’ll get to later. Starting at the back:
There is nothing particularly special here and Lloris is likely to be an upgrade on Boruc. One slight issue may be Lloris’ tendency to rush out and sweep as this was not a hallmark of Boruc’s play. Should Lloris leave, somebody like Stoke’s Asmir Begovic would be a decent replacement.
Although Southampton’s high pressing game has been discussed at length, this does not extend to the centre-backs playing a high line. Generally speaking, first choice center backs Dejan Lovren and Jose Fonte stay quite deep while the full backs, Clyne and Shaw push up.
For Tottenham, this may mean that players like Michael Dawson and Younes Kaboul will not be left as exposed as they were under Andre Villas-Boas. In fact, none of the Tottenham’s center backs are particularly blessed with pace so this may be a welcome change. I would guess that should Kaboul be fit, Pochettino will go for Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen here.
At full-back, Kyle Walker seems a shoe in if he is fit as he is exactly the kind of high energy, attacking full back that Pochettino seems to like. On the other side, Danny Rose has come in for much flack this season but he seems a decent fit at left back. Although Rose’s is clearly more comfortable going forwards than backwards, some of his defensive errors last season were in part due to a lack of awareness from the centre backs and a general lack of cohesion at the back. As a former centre back himself, Pochettino should be able to help Tottenham improve in this area.
This will probably be Pochettino’s biggest problem. At Southampton Pochettino used a two man central midfield of Morgan Schneiderlin plus either Jack Cork or Victor Wanyama. While Tottenham have plenty of players of a similar build to Wanyama – Sandro, Etienne Capoue, Moussa Dembele – the Kenyan always seemed to be the weak link. Southampton often looked better with Cork in the side instead of the Kenyan. Should Pochettino decide he needs a Wanyama-type, the above trio are all better than Wanyama and should have no trouble slotting in.
The bigger issue is finding players similar to Cork and Schneiderlin. Both are energetic, agile and disciplined; capable of distributing the ball quickly, but also effective defensively. Spurs don’t really have anybody that fits this mold particularly well. The best fit may be Lewis Holtby but he doesn’t quite have the discipline and likes to get forward and create. Paulinho may be another option here but he too has a tendency to leave his position and look for goals. Perhaps Pochettino can teach these players to be more disciplined, otherwise he may have to bring somebody in from outside.