As soon as the curtain fell on a glorious World Cup in Brazil my attention quickly turned to the start of the Premier League season.
Becoming Tottenham manager or ‘Head Coach’ these days is a pretty daunting prospect, having to work with a chairman who has a notoriously itchy trigger finger as well as keeping an incredibly fickle and demanding fanbase at bay. Here are some things that should be on Mauricio’s to do list…
Buy a left back (please)!
Tottenham fans are a bit of a broken record on this subject but it is a position that we desperately need to strengthen. Worryingly, Liverpool seem to be sniffing around Ben Davies which would be a massive blow given that we have been interested in the Swansea left back for quite some time. Daley Blind would be another high quality option but given his performances in the World Cup it seems unlikely that Tottenham would be at the front of the queue. Ryan Bertrand is another name that been touted about but I’m not altogether convinced that he would be a significant improvement on Danny Rose – that said I’d take him as a last resort. It does appear that Spurs (Daniel Levy) are working on a sell before you can buy policy at the moment. On the subject of full backs I think we could promote young Ryan Fredericks to Kyle Walker’s deputy in order to sell Kyle Naughton.
Adapt our tactics, formation and personnel for home and away games
This is something that AVB and Tim Sherwood really struggled with. Villas-Boas’ tactics for away matches were absolutely spot on – we were designed to hit teams on the counter attack. The best example of this was probably away at Old Trafford a couple of years ago when Spurs probably produced their best 45 minutes of AVB’s reign. Obviously, having Gareth Bale in your side makes life a lot easier. Sherwood on the other hand got Tottenham playing more aggressively at home particularly against the lower placed sides reverting to a traditional 4-4-2 which generally worked. This formation however massively backfired whenever we played better opposition.
I feel Pochettino is well equipped to remedy this problem as Southampton played with a great deal of variety both at home and away last season. His preferred 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-2-2-1/4-3-3 formations will suit the current personnel, particularly away from White Hart Lane and against the bigger sides. The challenge is breaking down teams who come to N17 looking for a 0-0 draw or to nick one on the break against us. Bar the top 5/6 sides most teams come to Tottenham with the same game plan. AVB’s insistence on playing two defensive midfielders with a slow tempo at home played into our opponents hands as it allowed them to get men behind the ball. It seems unlikely that we will play with two out-an-out strikers (although I wouldn’t be against it if we did) so a defensive midfielder can be sacrificed in order to accommodate a more attack minded midfield player. The defensive midfielder can then drop deep almost becoming a third centre back in order for the full backs to push on and provide additional width on the overlap – as is the modern way.
Prioritise the Europa League
Hear me out on this one! The way I see it the Europa League is our best (maybe only) route into the Champions League next season. Some may see this attitude as negative and defeatist but I feel it is just me being realistic. Finishing in the top 4 next season will be incredibly difficult. Chelsea and Manchester City seem pretty nailed to finish in the top 3 while Arsenal have made some good signings as well. Man United under Louis Van Gaal will be an altogether different proposition to the mess they were under David Moyes. It will also be interesting to see how Liverpool cope with the additional pressure of Champions League football and the loss of Luis Suarez. Brendan Rodgers has made some good additions (on paper at least). Therefore, I think a top 6 finish (including a sustained challenge for a top 4 place) and some good cup runs would represent a good first season for Pochettino and a definite step in the right direction.
Our league form in AVB’s first season certainly suffered as a result of his strong team selection in the Europa League – so I am not naïve enough to think that Pochettino will not be well aware of the fact that the Premier League is our bread and butter and what Levy will ultimately be judging him on.
I still think that we can use the group stages of the competition to rotate the squad and give youngsters experience but still qualify for the knockout stages. I certainly questioned the wisdom of making senior members of the squad travel to Europa League games, not play them and then start them on the Sunday last season.
Once we get into the knockout stages it becomes much more of a juggling act as it would be dangerous for us to place all of our eggs in one basket but it is definitely a winnable competition for us. Spurs fans have a bit of a snobby attitude towards Europe’s secondary club competition and I’m not sure why given our history in it and the fact that we’ve only ever been in the Champions League once but I can safely say that our supporters would love us to win a trophy of any description next season and qualifying for the Champions League as a result would be icing on the cake!
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