Tottenham’s pressing problem: Is Mauricio Pochettino changing their approach this season?

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UEFA’s newly-published technical analysis is full of intriguing insights into the Champions League of last season, however there is 1 statistic that stands out especially strongly.
According to its findings, over fifty percent of the goals scored at the contest – 185 to be precise – came from possession regained in the opposition third.
It is an eye catching detail that reflects the incidence of pressing the level of the game. The report specifically highlights the“outstanding intensity“ of Liverpool’s media in their semi-final second-leg win over Barcelona. However, the men of Jurgen Klopp were not the only ones up the pitch.
When Tottenham were faced by Liverpool the final, was billed as a meeting between two of the best exponents of pressing that was top. Oddly, however, Spurs went on to list all year to their number of anxieties in almost any Champions League match . On his own, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah accounted for 34 pressures by way of comparison.
What felt like an anomaly at the time – Spurs had recorded over twice as many pressures within their semi-final second leg from Ajax – feels like the beginning of a trend. In a time when high pressing is becoming more and more prominent elsewhere evidence suggests Spurs are currently going in the opposite direction.
So far this season, the press that is large hasn’t been around. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville explained Spurs because“lethargic“ throughout their 2-2 draw with Manchester City last month. They were similarly flat in the 1-0 loss to Newcastle per week after. And last Sunday, while they did counter-attack at speed, their pressing game was oddly absent.
Unai Emery’s side could construct from the trunk unchallenged in the Emirates Stadium, which had been particularly surprising given the apparent difficulties they had been caused by the high-profile of Liverpool in their previous game. The side of klopp earned possession in the final third 13 occasions. In the Emirates, Spurs only managed it.
In fact, Spurs have won possession in the last third nine times in four games all season, setting them 16th . Their typical of 2.3 per match represents a substantial drop-off on their regular numbers. Last season, they averaged 4.2 per game, placing them fifth. Back in 2017/18, their average of 4.4 per game put them third.
The data for sequences of opta is much more revealing. Pressed sequences are described passing sequences of three or fewer moves which end within 40 meters of their goal. This season, Spurs have driven fewer pressed strings (31) than any other Premier League side, averaging 7.8 per game when compared to 13.2 last season.
It is still alarmingly out of character to get one side whose pressing was a hallmark, although it is a small sample size, naturally. It’s not too long ago that returning Watford director Quique Sanchez Flores was comparing Mauricio Pochettino’s gamers to“animals“ for its speed and determination with which they hunted down possession.
So what’s happened? Then it is not working, When it’s a deliberate strategy. Spurs have survived away trips to Manchester City and Arsenal this season, taking five points from their four matches, but the deficiency of urgency that was off-the-ball has seen them give a worrying number of chances . Just more shots have been faced by Aston Villa. Only Norwich have faced more shots.
It is also obvious that the issues have been a source of frustration to Pochettino. He has cut a thwarted figure since the Champions League final, whining that his team is the most“unsettled“ it’s ever been since his arrival at the club and alluding to its impact on the group’s performances – especially their pressing – after the Arsenal game.
„We want togetherness,“ he said. „The team wasn’t settled and that I told me from day among pre-season I was not content. The most essential thing will be to all be on precisely exactly the identical page and the players have a clear idea of the way we have to move.“
An media demands total commitment from every participant, it demands focus and team spirit. But together with Christian Eriksen’s thoughts elsewhere, with Jan Vertonghen strangely dropping his place and with fresh signings still bedding , these variables have yet to be there. Tottenham’s cohesion has really taken a evidence suggests their pressing has also.
Pochettino expects the close of the transfer window coupled with a pause for its global break – enables Spurs to receive their rhythm back. However, a high-pressing strategy wants a striker. Is Harry Kane still that striker? Is he still suited to playing in a system?
It is a conundrum for both Pochettino. There can be no questioning Kane’s attacking participation. He has scored seven days for golf and country from the opening month of this season . But in the last few years he’s suffered a series of injuries that were ankle and his game is growing as a outcome.
Kane is in his box, but he is just as likely to be seen falling deep as he’s playing the back of the last defender. Instead of running behind himselfhe prefers to vacate the space for his.
Kane’s evolution has impacted his work. This year, he’s averaging chunk recoveries and fewer tackles that are attempted than any of his previous six campaigns with Spurs. This year, he has only won ownership in the last third twice in 360 minutes.
A player who once led the media for Pochettino is no more playing the exact same intensity, and it’s not any coincidence thatthe last time immemorial generated the kind of breathless pressing they’ve become known for under Pochettino – because Champions League semi-final second leg from Ajax at May – Kane didn’t feature whatsoever.
His return to the beginning line-up for its final was a boost for Spurs, but their intensity endured since UEFA’s technical analysis tells us.
Pochettino remains hoping that Kane will contact his intensity levels. There was in the way he won ownership at the opposition half in the disagreement. He then created another introduction on Tuesday for Raheem Sterling in similar circumstances from Kosovo.
But the Premier League is an environment that is altogether more taxing. Kane’s development suggests he knows Tottenham’s adjusted approach this year indicates Pochettino understands it and his characteristics are shifting. A negative whose progress was pushed by tactics must get a way. For the time being, it’s still a work in progress.
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