Whilst it’s relatively obvious to anyone with a functioning brain, Nuno wasn’t exactly Tottenham’s first choice to be their new manager. But after talks with Naglesmann, Ten Hag, Conte, Rodgers, Gattuso, Pochettino, Lopetegui, Fonseca, Martinez, Parker and Potter went nowhere, they were forced to turn to Nuno as their 12th choice. Doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence over how well the season will go for Tottenham, especially when you consider their current business. Replacing Alderweireld, Lamela & Gazzaniga with Romero, Gil & Gollini are all upgrades, however, when you consider the business that teams around them are doing, it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.
When analysing Tottenham’s problems, most of them seem to stem from them being too passive out of possession. Last season they ranked 17th out of 20 for the number of times they won possession in the final third and overall last season had a pressure success rate of 28.3%. That means that, roughly, 79 times out of 100, teams could beat Tottenham’s press. And these numbers are most shocking when comparing them to the other teams around them. In the midfield third, Tottenham had 3238 attempted pressures. Liverpool by contrast, a team renowned for their intense Gegenpressing, had 3046 attempted pressures in the midfield third. So, it wasn’t necessarily a case of the quantity of Tottenham’s pressing being an issue, but the quality. Below is an example of how Nuno set up his team to press at Wolves.
As we can see, in this example, Wolves would set up in a 5-3-2. The 2 forwards would press high, one going to the ball carrier and one pressing the holding midfielder. The 3-man midfield would be able to outnumber the two, and the wingbacks would stay tight on the wingers. You can see how the team would press from the black arrows. This does make the team vulnerable to switches of play, as players can be dragged towards the ball side of the pitch, as you can see the right-back for the opposition is in plenty of space. However, I still feel this would benefit Spurs as a pressing system as it would allow their quicker players, like Son, to be able to break with pace without having to come from deep.
Above is an example of how Wolves played in possession. Whilst the two midfielders, usually Neves & Moutinho, completed the most passes in the team, they very rarely spent much time on the ball. Wolves’ focus was on using quick transitions in order to advance up the pitch, usually doing that by feeding the ball down the right-hand side and taking advantage of Adama Traore’s lightning pace. The centre forward would make a run into the box to get a head onto the end of the cross, or the midfielder could switch it to the other side. The left-winger, previously Jota but last season the role mainly went to either Neto or Podence, would drift inside, allowing the left wing-back a chance to overlap, creating a 2v1 situation with the opposition right back.
This could be replicated at Tottenham, with Son being more than capable of filling the Traore role and Bryan Gil being able to use his agility and low centre of gravity to drift inside. However, Spurs would need midfielders who would suit the role better, with Spurs’ midfield consisting of either destroyer types (Hojberg & Sissoko) or more box-to-box, athletic midfielders (Ndombele & Lo Celso). One name linked with Tottenham who could suit this is Houssem Aouar, whose passing ability was showcased last season with an 86% pass completion rate, along with 39 key passes and 42 chances created. For reference, Manchester City’s Phil Foden had a higher pass completion rate of 88%, but only created 36 chances and made 36 key passes. Those are impressive numbers, that would really improve Tottenham’s creativity.
The Role of Harry Kane
The key piece of the puzzle is, of course, the England captain Harry Kane. At the time of writing, Kane seems to be inching further and further towards a move to Manchester City, which would really damage Tottenham’s chances of success going forward. Without Harry Kane’s goals or assists, Tottenham would only score 33 goals and win 47 points, finishing 11th. Obviously, that isn’t entirely accurate, that’s assuming Kane’s replacement gets 0 goals or 0 assists, but it illustrates the point perfectly as to how crucial Harry Kane is for Spurs, as he won them 15 points alone last season. And if he were to leave, who knows how Spurs would end up. One thing is for certain though, and that is that Spurs are in a transition period. Whether it’s for the better is yet to be seen, however, they look a long way off from the 2019 Champions League finalists that they were under Pochettino.
Here are two ways that Tottenham could lineup this season: