Since when is passing this easy? A little analysis of Pochettino’s Tottenham

Guillaume
3 min readAug 13, 2018

Well, it’s remarkable. Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur. Last time the North London club finished a season without the Argentinian in charge, they ended up sixth. First season of Mauricio, fifth. Then fourth. Then third. Then second. Then third. Overall, he converted the Spurs into arguably the best consistent Premier League side of the last few years. How did he do that?

Money doesn’t play a big part. Despite the thrilling results he’s delivered, Arsenal’s arch rivals have a net spend of just £50m. Just for the sake of perspectives, Pep Guardiola has a net spend of £497m, counted from the day Pochettino began work under Daniel Levy. No no, it’s not the money. The coaching and tutoring of Lionel Messi’s compatriot.

Drained in the fundaments of positional play, Tottenham challenge the Premier League’s very best with limits that no other team conquered. Why does passing look so easy for them? Why do they find space so easily? Why do they win games? A — short — analysis of Tottenham Hotspur.

Since Pochettino has a bit of a grudge towards Toby Alderweireld for him wanting to leave the club, the club’s main starting centre-half pairing contains Davinson Sanchez and Jan Vertonghen. Both being excellent passers and understanders of the game and their roles, they’re the foundation of this team. Sanchez often uses his intelligent movement to create a multitude of passing options for World Cup winner Hugo Lloris. The Colombian does that by offering him on the right of the Frenchman and by doing so he drags the opposite centre-forward towards him. Options appear vertically in the central spaces for the keeper. He’s able to create perfect passing angles for teammates and for himself. This — very well coached by Pochettino — is another reason why passing seems to be so easy. Spurs players losing possession by not being positioned well is a very rare feat.

Whether it’s because of the World Cup retournees’ fatigue, or just a new plan; I don’t know as I’m — hands down — not a Spurs expert, but Mauricio Pochettino sure did try something new away at St. James’s Park. Before ending this I’ll explain the plan which Mauricio Pochettino drew on the tactics board in front of his players. Due to the extremely highly positioned full-backs, the centre-half pairing splits and the gap between Davinson and Jan covers the horizontal length of the pitch. The versatility of the exterior CM’s namely Dele Alli and Moussa Sissoko provides the option for them to scout wider spaces in the third phase to overload flanks. These very same central midfielders are essential for their respective FB’s, for who they either 1) offer an extra passing option or 2) create space in behind the back of the opposite midfielder marking them. The notorious bursts through midfield of Spurs exist after these sequences of play.

That’s that. I hope I somehow let you enjoy your short stay here, and you learned a bit more. Let’s see whether Pochettino will keep this plan anywhere near his tactics board even after everyone’s back to full fitness again. It sure was an interesting match to watch. Thanks go out to him, you, the books I’ve read and Twitter for this.

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Guillaume

UEFA-Licensed Football Coach, writer, PFSA-licensed Analyst and Fan. Account belonging to @guillaumevdwege on Twitter.