Giving more importance to the tactics of this beautiful game is the main motive of this website and in doing so, it is important to give full credits to the best club which has performed exceptionally well including tactics and all aspects of the game throughout the whole season on a consistent basis. This piece is about Tottenham Hotspur whom we think is the best Premier League Club for the year 2016/17.
Finishing third in the 2015/16 campaign after chasing Leicester for longer periods of the season, Spurs started the 2016/17 season with the hopes of winning the Premier League and also importantly to finish above their city rivals Arsenal for the first time in 22 years. Spurs under Pochettino in the 2016 actually proved everyone that they’re a great prospect for the future. But in the 2016/17 season they went on to make great progress by chasing Chelsea for the title till the final few weeks.
Tottenham had made more than a decent start to the season by going undefeated for 12 continuous games. Their 12 game unbeaten streak was ended by Chelsea when the Spurs were beaten 2-1 at the Bridge. Though Spurs were unbeaten for the opening 12 games in the league, they were able to win only six games and drew the remaining six games. This accumulated to just 24 points from a possible 36.
On the other hand, the way which they ended the season was quite impressive. They had lost just once in the final 13 league games and won all the other games. They took 36 out of the final 39 points and ended the season on a high note finishing second only to the champions Chelsea. They hammered 13 goals in the last two games and showed what may come in the forthcoming season. They also finished above Arsenal for the first time since the 1994/95 season.
Tactics over the season
The most impressing part of the Spurs from the last season was their scintillating style of play. Spurs were very attractive with their dynamic display of football. One of the most noted points of Spurs tactics was the high pressing style adopted by Pochettino. The most talked point is the two main shapes followed by Spurs and the interchanging between these two formations. The 4-2-3-1 and the 3-4-3 were the predominant formations preferred by Pochettino in the previous season.
In all the shapes that were used, Spurs did not change their fundamentals in pressing. Spurs under Pochettino have been synonymous with their aplomb in pressing. We feel that a separate article for how Spurs play under Pochettino would do justice and instead we would focus on how their polyvalency in formations and flexibility was key to their success throughout the season.
In the early stages of the season, Pochettino tinkered with his side with different types of setups and one among them was 4-1-4-1. A defensive minded central midfielder started in the heart of midfield who would fall back and allows the wingers to bomb-up forward in attacks. Four creative players played behind the striker and a wing back with a winger on both the flanks meant that they could overload the wide areas. In most occasions the striker would provide lateral movements which allows other players to run into the space especially Dele Alli in most occasions.
Tottenham 2-0 Man City (02 Oct 2016)
Made using TacticalPad
In the graphic above, the formation deployed by Spurs in the game versus Manchester City is depicted. In this game City were outclassed for the first time in the season and the defeat ended their 10 match unbeaten run in all competitions. Spurs under Pochettino dominated Pep’s team for longer periods of the game and showed how good they were to fight for the title.
In the season, Pochettino majorly favoured two formations in 4-2-3-1 and the 3-4-3. The 3-4-3 acts as the 3-4-2-1 since Eriksen and Alli would often play behind Kane creating chances for the English striker. The most intriguing thing tactically was the way in which Spurs find the balance between the two formations and interchange between the both during the course of play.
The three at the back offers Spurs to play out from the back by ball circulation to create chances. Two central midfielders play ahead of the back three and one of these two would be a defensive minded player in the likes of Eric Dier, a converted DM from CB. Two wing backs play high up the pitch and they are one of the most important parts of the Spurs play.
On the other hand, two creative players play behind the striker, Harry Kane in most occasions. The lateral movements of Kane often provide players behind him to penetrate into the space vacated by him. The movements of Eriksen is quite important as well, as he often drops deep to collect the ball from midfield and create chances upfront. He also plays long balls to find players in the box by anchoring the play from the back.
Also Dele Alli (Son in some occasions) played up along with the striker changing the system to a 3-4-1-2. This is possible because of Harry Kane’s lateral movements and the goal scoring prowess possessed by the English youngster. In the image below we can identify how this 3-4-2-1 looked on paper.
Spurs 2-0 Chelsea (4 Jan 2017)
The 4-2-3-1 played by Spurs consists a double pivot with two from Dembele, Dier and Wanyama. One of these two is often defensive minded and will look to drop back allowing his partner to join the attacking third. While the defensive midfielder would fall back, Erisken would join the lone central midfielder at times from the right. Son is often deployed at the left of the attacking trio with Alli playing behind the striker.
The 4-2-3-1 allows Spurs to create chances from the centre of the field and is more effective when playing directly. The graphic below shows how Spurs used the 4-2-3-1 versus Manchester United. The game resulted in a win for the Spurs.
Spurs 2-1 United (14 May 2017)
Interchanging between 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3
The transition between the 4-2-3-1 and the 3-4-2-1 had been the key tactical nous shown by Pochettino last seen. The two wing backs in Rose and Walker brought great appreciation to the manager for the manner in which they were set up. The two wing backs were touted as arguably the best wing back pairs last season when their movements proved to be the vital factor for the transition.
When the two full backs in the 4-2-3-1 fan out to play wide, the defensive midfielder would join the centre backs creating a back three. The lone midfielder in the centre would be joined by Eriken who would fall deep to create chances from midfield. The player behind the striker and the left winger would move into the half spaces to play as two 8s behind the striker. These movements helped the way for Spurs to play with such scintillating and dynamic high pressing game.
Spurs often defend with five at the back as both the wide defenders fall behind to defend. The three centre backs would be guarding the defense in the central areas and will be supported by the two in front. Often when playing the back four, the defensive midfielder will fall into the backline switching the defensive set up into a line of five.
This space left in the defensive half is now taken up by the attacking player, Eriksen in most occasions. He will join the other midfielder to help out his defense and Eriksen movements prove crucial just like the movements of the defensive midfielder, Eric Dier in many instances. This shapes the team to 5-2-2-1 shape and they defend with this structure rather than falling for banks of four and five.
Eriksen the key
Christian Eriksen is the focal point of the Spurs attack. He would often fall behind to attack from the centre and find space in between the lines to provide forward progression for others. He has been an all round package for Spurs and the last season he did wonders for the team as he scored 8 goals and racked up 15 assists from the 36 games he played in the League.
He amassed a massive 111 chances with 80% average pass accuracy. He is one of the key figures in the side and he has earned 7 MoTM awards last season which goes on show his brilliant displays. In the game against Swansea he scored his max performance score of 117 (according to Squawka). This was his best game of the season. The image below shows his overall performance versus Swansea.
Image credits: www.fourfourtwo.com/statszone
The way Spurs played in the last season showed how good they really are together as a side and how they have developed under Pochettino. Their manager has proved that he is one of the best in the league by beating the likes of Guardiola, Mourinho, Conte and Wenger. Certainly this was the best season for Spurs in the Premier League under the ownership of Daniel Levy.
The way in which Spurs played the previous season gave everyone intriguing ideas of how beautiful English can become in terms of high pressing and quick movements to create chances in the forthcoming years. With every bit of quality possessed for a team to survive with such style and even exceeding expectations by finishing 2nd only to the champions, Tottenham Hotspur are Football Bloody Hell’s Premier League Club of the Year 2016/17.