Following the almost non-stop turmoil of last season, Tottenham’s 2014/15 pre-season has been notable for its lack of headlines. Aside from a well publicized attempt to snatch Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton, Spurs have just made a couple of low profile acquisitions in Swansea’s Ben Davies and Michael Vorm and future prospect Eric Dier from Sporting Lisbon.
Often such sedate transfer activity will cause frenzy amongst fans hungry for high profile signings and new blood, but this summer things are a little different. The club and the manager have made it clear that they don’t intend to repeat last summer’s mistakes (i.e. bring in multiple big names with no Premier League experience), but would rather work with the players already at the club. Rather than transfers, the focus would be on building a team in pre-season with the right attitude and a coherent style of play.
Perhaps this is just Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy’s way of spinning his parsimony (lest we forget, despite all the spending Tottenham actually made money from transfers last summer) but this time it does seem to make sense and the pre-season results have been promising.
Most regular Tottenham watchers will know deep down that despite Gareth Bale’s heroics in the 2012/13 season, the team hasn’t really looked fluid going forward since the Harry Redknapp days. Andre Villas-Boas’ systems never quite seemed to get the best out of the team and Tim Sherwood seemed unsure of exactly what he wanted to do, tinkering repeatedly over his short stint in charge.
Pochettino, by contrast, appears to have already created a clear style of play during pre-season. Utilizing a high press and fluid attacking movement, the difference between Tottenham last season and Tottenham in pre-season has been remarkable. Last season, central midfielders would often look isolated from attacking players leading to endless sideways passes to the flanks and little of the fabled “verticality”.
In pre-season, when Spurs have gone forward, players in possession always seem to have a couple of options ahead of them and the team are attacking with greater speed and less predictability, a handy combination.
It is, of course, just pre-season and there is every chance that Spurs will not be able to replicate their pre-season form once the Premier League season begins. Plenty of questions also remain at least from the perspective of an outside observer.
Who will partner Etienne Capoue in central midfield and what lies ahead for the others?
Etienne Capoue barely featured for Tottenham last season following his move from Toulouse last summer. The imposing defensive midfielder was stricken by injury, and then appeared to fall out of favor with interim manager Tim Sherwood. In pre-season the Frenchman has been an ever-present. Capoue is not blessed with immense speed or agility but instead uses his strength, length and ability to read the game to shutdown attacks. He is also an adept passer of the ball with a particular knack for playing vertical, central passes to more attacking midfielders. With Sandro still struggling for fitness and form, Capoue seems close to a lock to start as the deepest lying midfielder in Pochettino’s favoured 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation.