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What Mauricio Pochettino has done at Spurs this season has gone slightly under the radar given what’s happening at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, but the Argentine manager continues to do remarkable things.
His side are currently joint second in the league after yet another convincing win. West Bromwich Albion turned up at White Hart Lane and the home side dismantled them in a comfortable 4-0 win. It’s the sixth time in their last 10 matches that they’ve scored three or more goals. Their form is looking ominous for their rivals.
It’s a far cry from side that went through a barren run earlier on in the season. In 10 matches in all competitions Spurs scored nine goals, with three of them coming in a single match against West Ham United. This was a team that looked blunt in the absence of Harry Kane and made their summer recruitment strategy look bizarre.
They appeared to be overly reliant on Kane despite having spent over £20million on Vincent Janssen.
The Dutch striker was brought in with the thought he could not only play alongside the Spurs hitman but play instead of him occasionally too. But, in his 607 minutes of Premier League action, he’s scored just the single goal and when tasked with filling in for the injured Kane he has failed to deliver.
It’s not entirely his fault.
He can’t be blamed for not having the same impact as Kane. Likewise, he can’t be blamed for the fact he was isolated in the set-up and the system Pochettino was originally using.
What happened next though could be Pochettino’s greatest achievement in English football. He’s managed to turn this side into a rampant attacking force with goal threats all over the place. The media will give all the plaudits to Kane. The flurry of goals coincides with the return of the number 10 but it’s a system tweak which is seeing Spurs reap the rewards of some fine attacking football.
In their last 10 matches they have scored 29 goals and only Manchester United have been able to keep a clean sheet against them. Swansea, Hull, Southampton, Watford, West Brom and even league leaders Chelsea have all been comprehensively beaten during this run. People may claim a streak like that isn’t sustainable but looking how they’re currently their goals it’s hard to see it coming to an end anytime soon.
The tactical masterstroke is a simple one really; Spurs are committing more men into the penalty area and, in turn, increasing their chances of finishing the moves they create.
How Spurs looked earlier on in the season.
The image above is from the away match against West Bromwich Albion in October, which saw Spurs draw 1-1. You can see Christian Eriksen having a shot from 25 yards out with just Janssen in the penalty area. If the shot is punched out by Ben Foster, the likelihood of a Spurs man getting onto the end of the rebound is slim. They just weren’t committing men into attacking positions.
How Spurs look now.
In the two images above, from the 2-0 win against Chelsea, you can see how Spurs now get players into the penalty area. There's automatically more of a goal threat from the team because there are enhanced numbers in forward areas. Dele Alli is gambling and making a run from deep and then there’s Danny Rose on the overlap from left wing-back. Unsurprisingly, a goal is scored.
It’s a similar story against Watford. Spurs once again have bodies forward and as a result score a second. The Alli finish looks simple, and it probably is, but it only comes about because the Watford back four have numbers to deal with – and like most defences in the league, they find it difficult when faced with plenty of movement in their own area.
If Spurs can continue flooding the opposition’s penalty area and getting players around and beyond Kane then their run of goals isn’t going to come to an end anytime soon, simply because you can’t defend against it for the entire 90 minutes.
No matter how good the defence is, it will inevitably crumble when faced with a lot of pressure. Pochettino is flexing his attacking muscle right now.