Tottenham have always had an abundance of talent in their squad. However, lack of a tactical manager and an impatient Chairman, who fired the last manager well ahead of time, have resulted in their sub-standard performances. What should Pochettino do, if he wishes to keep his job and bring Tottenham to higher grounds?
“This season we are going to beat those Gooners, this is our year, we’re gonna get to that Champions League spot”, is a statement that has been all too common from Spurs fan world over. But come mid way to the season, most Tottenham fans are lurking in the shadows, hoping that they don’t lose another manager.
The Lonely Striker
Kane has been the find of the season and his introduction into the team has not only sent shivers down the opponent’s spine but also injected into the Tottenham side, some spirit which they have lacked in recent games. However his performance has been credible only when it comes to the league cup and Europa league. When played in the premier league against stoke city, he failed to perform as well as he did in other tournaments. His failure can no doubt be attributed to the fact that he had no strike partner.
Tottenham have only three able strikers. However, none of them are capable of playing on their own. Adebayor is tall and strong, however much like Giroud, he prefers to play with his back to the goal and deeper than a usual striker. When left alone, he tends to leave a void up ahead with neither of the midfield players, save Chadli on certain occasions, making runs to receive the ball. Often lazy and unwilling to make runs, Adebayor is in desperate need of a second striker to whom he can knock balls to or hold up plays for, without whom he is redundant.
Soldado has never felt comfortable either in the premier league or in the Tottenham squad. He seems lacking in skill to get past any defenders and to slow to out run them. With a very minimum ability to take the game into his own hands, he has been unable to create chances and score goals. The one game where some glimpse of his past were visible was when Tottenham played Aston Villa. Playing at first along with Adebayor and then with Kane, Soldado was more than comfortable when combined with a second striker.
It is hence evident that for Tottenham to score goals, they need an out and out lone striker or change their formation to one with a two strikers.
With an abundance of midfield players, Pochettino might ask a few to leave in order to gain funds for a striker. However, the current players are anything but a functional unit. With the preferred 5 man midfield, Pochettino is required to play 3 attacking midfielders, one deep lying midfielder and one defensive midfielder. With almost two battling for each position, it is a wonder neither of them except Capoue have been consistent.
Lamela, Chadli and Eriksen are the three strongest advanced midfielders for Tottenham, at least on paper. However, with all three of them prone to drift to the left has left the right wing vulnerable. Townsend has been average to take the place of any of the three, while Lennon seems to be sidelined by Pochettino, both of whom would be quiet effective on the right. With Adebayor and Kane, two strikers who are aerially strong, it would be useful to have wingers who aren’t playing in their opposite side to provide a steady supply of crosses. For this, it would be useful to play Chadli or Lennon on the right. Lamela has been better this season as compared to last but has lost steam. Pochettino must explore playing him in the center or the left and try to find his most efficient playing position. Eriksen, on the other hand, has seemed more effective when played wide right and this change to a central role has seen him become quite apprehensive on the ball.
In the two deep midfield roles, Pochettino initially started with Capoue and Bentaleb, who both looked extremely comfortable with each other. Sandro having been asked to leave, the other players contending for the position were Dembele, Paulinho, Mason and new arrival Stambouli. Stambouli is yet to play a big part in the campaign, However with Bentaleb injured, Mason’s hard working League cup performance has seen him consistently occupy the place over the Brazilian and the Belgian. With lack of game time, one of the two or both might be forced to head out in the January transfer window if no improvement is shown on the training ground.
Tottenham have had a reputation to concede one more than they score and this has been mainly due to a poor defensive record. With almost ten defenders to choose from, it is a wonder how Pochettino has yet to find his best back four. With Kaboul named as captain, his inclusion in the defensive line has become consistent. However he is has not performed as well in every single game. Vertonghen has been Tottenham’s best defender yet, however Ciriches and now Fazio have been played ahead of him. With youngster Dier also available to play either the right or center back, the competition itself should have made sure the 5 outplayed each other. However, neither defender has shown a fighting spirit to earn their spot. Fazio has received two reds in the games he has played and seems unsettled. Vertonghen needs to fit in with either Chiriches or Kaboul and a consistent partnership must be established.
With Kyle Walker injured, Tottehnam have experimented with Dier and Naughton. Initially Dier’s start brought about talks of dethroning Walker, however Naughton has been the preferred over the former. With DeAndre Yedlin arriving in January and Walker set to return from injury, Pochettino must decide soon on who his first choice right back would be. On the left, with Davies and Rose the contenders, the latter has been the preferred choice; however Rose is injury prone and if Davies regains the Swansea form of last season. He would easily be the pick of the lot.
Pochettino needs to find his best eleven and an operational formation for the players he has. Else his team will fall like a pack of cards. 4-2-3-1 has been his preferred weapon of choice; however with the lack of lone strikers and 3 left sided players in the advanced midfield role, this formation has fallen redundant. Tottenham need to look into using a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 to benefit their performance.
Kane with Adebayor or Soldado would be a perfect fit for the 4-4-2. Lamela and Eriksen on either side of Mason and Capoue would be an apt 4-4-2 formation. With both Mason and Capoue sitting back and protecting the back line, both Eriksen and Lamela will have the freedom to remain wide as well as drift in to enable the two strikers to score. In a 4-3-3, Kane accompanied by Lamela and Chadli as the three strikers would work well ahead of a defensive Capoue, Erikensen to the left and either Dembele or Paulinho to the right would make for a strong partnership. Nevertheless, no formation or tactical change would benefit unless Tottenham can learn to prevent conceding goals.