First reports don’t sound promising. Super Jan may be on the sidelines for up to ten weeks.
Like me, I guess many other Spurs fans are now asking themselves – what happens now? Will we go back to 4 at the back? Or will we keep 3 at the back that has worked so nicely over the last couple of weeks?
Here is my thought. We are gonna stay with 3 at the back. I can see at least three reasons why:
#1 – This formation suits perfectly our full backs
Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are without a doubt the best full back pairing, and among the most in-form players in the league. So it makes sense to keep a formation which reduces their defensive duties, allowing them freedom to create havoc in attack. The picture below shows the average position of each Spurs player in the first half v West Brom last Saturday.
‘But it’s West Brom home’ you might say. That’s a fair point, but what I want to highlight are the positions of Vertonghen (#5) compared to Rose (#3) and Dier (#15) compared to Walker (#2), regardless of how high up the pitch they are.
Their positions put the opposition tactics in jeopardy. What can the opposition do with their “wingers”? Ask them to be more defensive, and Dier and Vertonghen are up there adding more pressure. Ask them to be more proactive, and Dier and Vertonghen can take care of them, with Walker and Rose still up there with the attacking players. Ask them to try to cut inside, and you have Dier and Vertonghen who have experience as full backs and understand what to do in those situations. Without even mentioning that this would funnel the opposition players to the centre, where Alderweireld, Wanyama and Dembélè are waiting.
#2 – This formation facilitates playing from the back
Pochettino, like Guardiola, clearly took on board what shown by Ricardo La Volpe’s Mexico. I build the game from the back, I don’t let you have the ball until I find the right way of moving it forward.
3 at the back gives Lloris so much more choice about who to play the ball to. Surely in the past we have seen the two centre backs moving to the sides, with one of the two central midfielders tracking back to create an alternative. But now, the first receiver in the middle is a centre back (Alderweireld) and not a midfielder, meaning that midfielders can take the ball several metres ahead of where they would have done it in the past. And second, Alderweireld seems to have a better long ball than both Dembélé and Wanyama, meaning that we also have the choice of playing the ball long more accurately.
This defies majority of the pressing attempts from the opposition, as it would be impossible to man mark each of the potential receivers. Correct me if I am wrong, but I can’t recall a dangerous situation of playing the ball from the back since we switched to 3-4-2-1.
#3 – The players who may step in
If points #1 and #2 are not enough to discourage any idea of returning to 4 defenders, let’s check who is available to step in midfield.
With Lamela injured, the only two real attacking options are Sissoko and Son. We all know that Nkoudou is still seen as a 3-0 85th min player. Sissoko seems to be more effective when he has space to run into, more often on the right lane. But we have already Walker there. Son seems instead more prone to cut to the middle of the pitch, but at the moment Dele and Eriksen are playing so well you don’t wanna mess with their spaces.
Further back we may have Harry Winks. I think he is a decent player, but again the team seem to be working so well together with this new formation that an extra body in midfield may do more harm than good.
So I guess we are left only with two choices – Ben Davies or Kevin Wimmer. A detail not to underestimate is Jan being left-footed. This naturally brings him to look to Danny Rose and open up the pitch even more. So it makes sense to keep a left-footed there. Let’s start with saying that I like both Ben and Kevin – they have always performed well when called in. Wimmer rarely switches off, and he is a really decent centre back. But I see him better when he plays in a pair and not in a trio. So I would go for Davies. He plays for Spurs as a left back, but let’s not forget that he plays as left centre back for Wales, so he knows the position already. He is also quicker than Wimmer, which is always a plus. And he is more experienced in the Premier League.
So in summary, I think we are gonna stick with 3 at the back with Ben Davies taking his chance to contribute to the team.
Hope you enjoyed the reading #COYS