Mauricio Pochettino’s tactics through statistics

Pochettino and Bielsa

Pochettino with Bielsa

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%.


Rank Team Average Possession
1 Southampton 58.6%
2 Manchester City 57.6%
3 Swansea 57.3%
4 Arsenal 56.8%
5 Liverpool 55.8%
6 Everton 55.6%


  • 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
1 Liverpool 22.3
2 Crystal Palace 22.2
3 Southampton 21.2
4 Stoke 20.8
5 Manchester City 19.9


  • 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
1 Aston Villa 71
2 Southampton 70
3 Everton 68
4 Fulham 68
5 Hull 67
6 Sunderland 66
7 West Ham 66


  • 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
1 Arsenal 524
2 Swansea 506
3 Manchester City 502
4 Liverpool 469
5 Southampton 457
6 Manchester United 447
7 Chelsea 432


  • 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
1 2 Manchester City 1
2 4 Arsenal 2
3 3 Swansea 0
4 5 Liverpool 1
5 7 Manchester United 2
6 6 Everton 0
7 8 Chelsea 1
8 9 Tottenham 1
9 1 Southampton 8


  • 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
1 Manchester City 9.5
2 Southampton 9.6
3 Chelsea 10.4
4 Tottenham 11.2
5 Manchester United 11.9



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.


Read Why I think Pochettino will do well at Spurs

Discuss it with me on Twitter: @ABPSpurs


Football tactics / statistics on Amazon



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