By 90Min
October 04, 2019

90min presents a special column from Spurs fan and host of The Extra Inch podcast, Chris Miller, ahead of Tottenham's game with Crystal Palace on Sunday.


Find Chris on Twitter at @WindyCOYS.


After a tumultuous period, Mauricio Pochettino needs to go back to basics with his team selections in order to get Spurs back on track.

Since the sale of Mousa Dembélé, Spurs have seemingly lost their ability to control the midfield; struggling to press effectively on and off the ball. Pochettino has tried to mitigate the loss of Dembélé by playing a midfield diamond, often with Moussa Sissoko to the left, Christian Eriksen to the right, and Harry Winks at the base. However, this has restricted Eriksen’s ability to influence the game in the final third - where he is most effective. 

Matthias Hangst/GettyImages

While damaging the midfield's ability to attack, it has also been detrimental defensively. 

The drop-off in the midfield's defensive contribution since Dembélé left is rather staggering. Even just a rudimentary look at some basic numbers over the past two seasons and the start of the current season, it’s clear to see how much Spurs miss the defensive solidity of the partnership of Mousa Dembélé and a fit Eric Dier. 


2017/18 Premier League

Player Tackles Per 90 Interceptions Per 90 Total Tackles & Interceptions Per 90
Mousa Dembélé 1.7 1.6 3.3
Moussa Sissoko 1.2 0.6 1.8
Eric Dier 2.2 1,4 3.6
Total 4.1 3.6 8.7

2018/19 Premier League
Player Tackles Per 90 Interceptions Per 90 Total Tackles & Interceptions Per 90
Moussa Sissoko 1.4 0.5 1.9
Harry Winks 1.3 1.2 2.5
Christen Eriksen 1.2 0.5 1.7
Total 3.9 2.2 6.1

2019/20 Premier League
Player Tackles Per 90 Interceptions Per 90 Total Tackles & Interceptions Per 90
Tanguy Ndombele
3.9 1.2 5.1
Harry Winks 2.3 1.0 3.3
Moussa Sissoko 0.4 0.4 0.8
Total 6.6 2.6 9.2

The sample size is small for this season, but there are positive signs for Ndombele, in particular, thus far, and Winks is trying to do more. But, despite bringing other tangible benefits, Sissoko’s defensive contribution does not compensate for not having Eric Dier or Victor Wanyama in midfield, and so whilst Spurs are struggling to grind out wins, it’s time to make some changes. 

Yes, Dier’s form has fallen off of a cliff in recent season, but when fit, he can off Spurs a much more solid anchor in midfield. Not only is he very underrated in terms of his ability to shuttle opposition players into areas where they ultimately lose the ball, but he is also adept at splitting the centre-backs, receiving the ball, and then playing the ball forward.

Tanguy Ndombele

If Spurs were to trust Dier in the sitting role, the next decision that would need to be made is who should play along side him. There are two options: 

A) A double pivot of Dier and Ndombele.

B) A three of Dier, Ndombele and either Winks or Sissoko.  

Perhaps the former would be the way forwards, as it has been in the past. The double pivot would allow Poch to field three creative players behind Harry Kane, and perhaps allow Dele Alli to find his best form one again. 

Pochettino then needs to look at the defence. 

Danny Rose has endured a very poor start to the season, with his feisty approach and offensive contribution not compensating for his regular lapses at the back. On the opposite flank, Serge Aurier is still a liability, and was - as expected - torn to shreds in the Champions League by Serge Gnabry. In my view, it’s time to install the more resolute pairing of Ben Davies and Kyle Walker-Peters.

Kingsley Coman,Danny Rose

Davies played through a number of niggling injuries last season, so didn't exactly show his best form. However, there was a spell through March, April and May 2017 during which Davies was one of the Lilywhites' standout players, as he managed a goal and three assists in that time. He’s also a far more diligent player at the back, whose focus is on defending first. 

Walker-Peters, on the other hand, has never really managed to garner the trust of Pochettino, so has never played more than three matches back-to-back. However, with Aurier being as bad at football as humanly possible, now seems to be the perfect time to give him a sustained run int he side.

We then come to one of the trickiest decisions facing Poch: who to play at the heart of the defence. 

Jan Vertonghen has been a stalwart of the Spurs defence since joining in July 2012. Over the past 18 months however, age has seemingly caught up with him, with Vertonghen looking ever more laboured on the turn.

Granted, he was never blessed with exceptional pace, but he always had enough acceleration to be able to play the high line Poch usually utilises. However now, he simply doesn't. 

Jan Vertonghen

Given that he is out of contract at the end of the season, and given that Spurs are also likely to lose Toby Alderweireld too, it’s time to start transitioning and giving the young centre backs at the club more opportunities.

 My pick to come in would be the returning Juan Foyth, who has all the tools to become an exceptional ball-playing centre-half himself - in the mould for Vertonghen.

I rather like the balance of attacking threat and defensive capability of the line-up below and feel that this more simplistic structure would lend itself to Spurs playing their way back into some form.

Lloris

Walker-Peters Alderweireld Vertonghen/Foyth Davies

Ndombele Dier

Eriksen Dele Son

Kane

I can absolutely see the argument that there are too many defensive changes at once, but the added protection of Dier would allow Walker-Peters, Davies and potentially Foyth to establish themselves whilst having plenty of cover. 

FBL-EUR-C1-TOTTENHAM-BAYERN MUNICH

This could be the way Pochettino will revitalise his struggling Tottenham side and ensure that this season isn't one to forget for the club. 


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