Now that Mauricio Pochettino has taken charge at Spurs, he will have begun the job of planning for next season. What players should he sell, who should he bring in and what might his new Tottenham team look like?
Before going any further it’s worth looking at the way Pochettino’s Southampton were set up. While there he favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Here the defensive midfield two provide a base, giving the attacking midfield trio the freedom to get forward. They also act as cover for the defence, allowing the fullbacks to provide attacking width.
Players in the front midfield three need to be fast, technically proficient and good passers. This is a fluid group, with the nominally wide players coming inside and swapping places, supporting the lone striker.
The centre backs play a high line and cover out wide when the fullbacks get forward.
All players press energetically when not in possession, particularly in forward positions.
- Out – Danny Rose, Assou-Ekotto
Rose’s positional deficiencies last season gave away the fact that he is a converted winger but it was his poor play going forward that really disappointed. Assou-Ekotto had an undistinguished year in the Championship on loan at QPR.
A new left back is a priority this summer.
- In – Ricardo Rodriguez
Southampton’s Luke Shaw would be a great signing and he is supposedly close to Pochettino, however he is likely to go elsewhere – Manchester United are already reported to have made a £27M offer.
Ben Davies at Swansea is a more realistic target and seems a good fit, however I like the look of Ricardo Rodriguez. The Wolfsburg fullback will represent Switzerland at this summer’s World Cup. He has some very impressive statistics and is the sort of adventurous wing back who would fit into the Pochettino philosophy.
- Out – Michael Dawson
The long serving Spurs captain has been a great servant to the club. He is still Tottenham’s best defender in the air but it is his weaknesses on the ground that make me feel it is time for him to move on. Nowadays he is too slow and cannot cope with a fast paced passing attack. This was most evident in last season’s humbling defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool. He is fine when covering one forward up front with a faster central defensive partner but faced with two strikers supported by incisive, pacey midfield players, his deficiencies are exposed.
If Spurs are to become a regular fixture in the top four, let alone the Champions League, we need more mobile centre backs; especially given Pochettino’s preference for a high defensive line and fullbacks that spend a lot of time going forward.
- In – Dejan Lovren
Dejan Lovren looks a fantastic player. He was a stand out performer in the Southampton side last season and is part of Croatia’s World Cup squad. He is strong in the air but complements this with technical skill and accomplished passing. Most importantly he is familiar with Pochettino’s style and it suits him.
- Out – Emmanuel Adebayor
Adebayor was a revelation when Tim Sherwood brought him back into the Tottenham team. The Togolese striker confounded all expectations, even receiving commendations on his effort levels. So why should Spurs sell?
The truth is, I still don’t trust him long term. I don’t see him buying into Pochettino’s methods and the high work rate the Argentine coach demands of his centre forward. Adebayor is 30 years old, now is the right time to cash in, when his stock is still high.
- In – Romelu Lukaku
Romelu Lukaku would be the prefect fit. He is young, has a track record of scoring goals in the Premier League and has the athleticism required for the high pressing game Pochettino favours. The big question is: would Chelsea sell such a great prospect to their London rivals?
Last summer’s signings
It might surprise some, that I have not included any of the summer signings from last season in my list of players to offload. Most were a disappointment and there have been many rumours concerning the likes of Soldado, Paulinho and Lamela.
Signing seven new player, with no previous experience of the Premier League – or even of living in England – was a project that was always going to take time. The managerial upheavals and some prominent injuries have not helped. In my opinion, all are worth persisting with (possibly with the exception of Nacer Chadli), barring any big money offers.
Lamela should certainly not be sold. He was the star signing, the most expensive and the closest to a direct replacement for Bale. Injuries and rumours of difficulties settling in London mean we are yet to see the young winger have an extended run in the team. With Pochettino’s record at getting the best out of young English players at Southampton, surely he is well placed to develop the 22-year-old Argentine.
Capoue impressed me in the small number of games he featured in last season. He provides a great defensive shield and has the passing ability necessary to start moves from deep. It’s fair to say Paulinho had an up and down start at Spurs but he has the energy to fit into a Pochettino team.
Possible Pochettino Spurs line-up
There have been rumours that Gylfi Sigurdsson is surplus to requirements, so it may be a surprise that I have included him here. The Icelandic international has never truly established himself in the Spurs first team, despite scoring a few useful goals. With his movement and passing ability, I think he could finally find his place in Pochettino’s attacking midfield three. He also presses well, which could be key.
Lloris, Eriksen, Walker and Vertonghen are all class acts who would fit into any Premier League team. Eriksen should thrive in the number 10 role, rather than wasted out wide. Lloris’ willingness to come off his line suits a high defensive line. Walker should benefit from the extra freedom to get forward, while Vertonghen’s skill on the ball will be an asset.
So here is my hypothetical, Pochettino Tottenham team:
Of course one of the reasons Daniel Levy chose Pochettino, is his track record at introducing youth players. In the long run, this team will hopefully be supplemented by the likes of Kane, Townsend, Veljkovic and Fryers.
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Do you think Rose has a future at Tottenham? Should Spurs keep Sigurdsson and Paulinho? Let me know if you agree with my team or have any alternative transfer targets, in the comments section below.