Pochettino explains the thinking behind Tottenham’s new system
Mauricio Pochettino says his new 4-1-4-1 system has given Tottenham greater tactical flexibility and a better chance of breaking down defensive opponents.
The Argentinean has generally favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation during his time at White Hart Lane but, before the international break, there was a subtle shift to a 4-1-4-1 set-up which sacrificed a holding midfielder and allowed Spurs to play with an extra attacking player behind the striker.
The new system worked well as the Lilywhites went into the Premier League interlude on the back of five successive victories in all competitions, culminating in a 2-0 home win over top-flight leaders Manchester City.
Pochettino stated after that impressive performance that “the future and the project of the team is to play with only one [holding midfielder].”
And, asked to elaborate on his thinking ahead of Saturday’s trip to West Bromwich Albion, he said: “Plan B! When I was in Espanyol and Southampton, and from the beginning here, when we didn’t take a good result there were some comments that it was because ‘we play like this’ or ‘we don’t have a Plan B’ - and now we have Plan B.
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“It’s important when we are in a project after two years to try to improve the values and concepts and to try to play in different ways in different games - always with the same concept and values but with different positions on the pitch. It’s good for us and sometimes very complicated for the opponent.
“We have players that can play in that way to keep possession and play more in the opposition half when they are very deep. You have more control and capacity to create a chance.
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“It’s always a challenge for the team and players to learn about different systems and play in different ways. In the end we are not changing our concept to press high, build from the back and play along the grass.
“[The system we will use] depends on the characteristics of the players that we have on the pitch. We can use one or another. Both are good – all systems are good if you believe you can use them.
“We always play with one striker – Harry [Kane], [Vincent] Janssen or [Heung-Min] Son, and [Moussa] Sissoko can play on the side or can play inside, how he plays for France. Then there’s [Victor] Wanyama or [Eric] Dier. I think you have clever players who can play in different ways.”
Last season Dier started 50 of Tottenham’s 53 matches in all competitions, but he now faces competition from summer signing Wanyama, who was chosen as the sole holding midfielder for the Lilywhites’ last outing against City, with Dier coming off the bench for the final 20 minutes to play alongside the Kenyan.
Dier may find himself among the substitutes more often if Pochettino elects to continue picking only one guardian in front of the back four – but the manager says it is a healthy situation for the squad.
“We cannot create issues where the issue is not here,” he said. “When [Eric] was fit, he always played. Against City he was coming [back] from an injury.
“We’ll see what happens but football is about 25 players. Maybe last season there was only him, but this season we want to improve our squad.
“It’s not a problem. Now the players need to feel the competition. There is Wanyama in his position too, and don’t forget Harry Winks, who is coming and pushing a lot from behind. You have to look forward and carry on working.
“Eric played 90 minutes [for England on Tuesday] and it was good for him after his injury. Now he needs to stop the ball and build his confidence and he needs to improve in his self-belief.
“It’s always difficult for a player that’s coming back from an injury but there’s no doubt about his quality and he’ll be an important player for us.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs