Mauricio Pochettino is the current favourite to be named the next Spurs manager. The Argentine coach has been heavily influenced by his compatriot Marcelo Bielsa – the legendary tactician behind Chile’s wonderful football at the last World Cup and Athletic Bilbao’s destruction of Manchester United in 2012. Pochettino’s time as a player and manager at Espanyol, the “other” team in Barcelona, has also had a part to play in developing his footballing philosophy.
So, what style do his teams play?
Let’s take a look at his approach using the statistics for his Southampton team from last season.
- Lots of possession – Pochettino adheres to the modern philosophy that possession is key. This is borne out by the fact that Southampton topped the Premier League possession table last season, with an average of 58.6%.
- A high pressing game – He looks to win the ball as soon as possible, as high up the field as possible. Southampton made the third most tackles last season and were fourth for number of fouls committed, despite having so much possession. Pochettino expects all his players to work hard to pressurise the opposition and create key turnovers.
|Rank||Team||Tackles per game|
- Moving the ball forward quickly in transition – Pochettino looks to get the ball forward quickly and vertically when his team wins possession. Southampton played the second highest number of long balls last season, very unusual for a team with so much possession. They also were caught offside the third most times, another indication of how quickly they get bodies forward and how direct their passing can be.
|Rank||Team||Long Balls per game|
- Not tiki-taka – Pochettino does not believe in possession for possession’s sake. He advocates a more pragmatic, more direct approach. Southampton may have topped the possession table but were only fifth for short passes – closer to Moyes’ United and Mourinho’s Chelsea, than to the more dogmatic Wenger. Pochettino’s team have lots of the ball but his style is very different from Barcelona’s tiki-taka.
|Rank||Team||Short Passes per game|
- Direct approach – team pass success and possession are normally very strongly correlated. Strangely for a team with so much of the ball, Southampton were only ninth for pass success. This, along with the short pass statistics, hints at the more direct approach Pochettino favours and the quick, often one touch passing he encourages. They make fewer simple, short passes and more direct, risky ones.
|Rank Pass Success%||Rank Possession %||Team||Difference between ranks|
- Solid defence – Despite their attacking flair Southampton have a well organised defence, conceding fewer shots last season than any team apart from the Champions, Manchester City. Pochettino knows how to organise at the back – he was an Argentine international central defender after all.
|Rank||Team||Shots conceded per game|
Pochettino has a very clearly defined tactical style which has been heavily influenced by Marcelo Bielsa and his time in the Spanish League. This revolves around aggressive pressing high up the pitch, maintaining possession but also moving the ball forward quickly and vertically in transition to catch an opponent off guard.
Maybe more importantly for Tottenham, he has shown this works in the Premier League. He took over a newly promoted club, heavily tipped for relegation and turned them into challengers for the European places, and he has achieved all of this while playing nice yet pragmatic football. In my opinion this makes Pochettino a good choice for Spurs manager.
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