charity doesn't start at home
|With Spurs currently sitting fourth
in the table, we have not really set the goal-scoring charts alight,
with just 13 goals in nine games. I know that is more than the
six scored by bottom club Sunderland, but the reason we are in the
position we are is because of our defence.
The last couple of games have ended 0-0 and while it is not as good as a win, in times gone by, these games would have been lost and with it the end of an unbeaten run or valuable points in Premier or Champions League.
Without our back four (plus players in reserve) and our outstanding goalkeeper, Spurs could be in a much worse position than they are. With just four goals conceded, it is an impressive defensive record that has carried on from last season, when the last game dented what was a very impressive season long campaign. And that was missing Jan Vertonghen for a considerable period of time, when Kevin Wimmer came in and did such a good job in his place.
While Walker and Rose pair up as full-backs for England, Alderweireld and Vertonghen for Belgium and Lloris is the French captain, our cover isn't too shabby. Davies is a Wales regular at full back or centre half; Dier is an England midfielder, who is adaptable enough to play in a few different positions; Trippier is a former England Under-21 international and might be pushing for a squad place with England if he was getting a first team place on a regular basis; Cameron Carter-Vickers is being fast-tracked through the US National teams, playing above his age group throughout; the aforementioned Wimmer has a place in the Austria team and below that Kyle Walker-Peters and Luke Amos are coming through from the Development squad.
It is not just the defence that are responsible but the whole team defends once the opposition has the ball, making it difficult to get through the midfield and the forward closing down the man on the ball to hurry them into a pass they don't want to make. It is about every player knowing their role in the side and being willing to work for each other. Some have not subscribed to Pochettino's theory on how he wants the game played and they are now no longer at the club. It is ruthless, but is paying dividends now.
The statistic that Spurs have not conceded a goal from open play so far this season is testament to Poch's organisation and being a former defender himself, he knows how to set teams up not to concede. His anger after the away game at Newcastle was clear, even though he never rages, but it was a blot on his record, as well as the team's, that he didn't want.
Tottenham's defence is as solid as it has been for a long time and at the plc's Annual General Meetings, there always used to be a question about when Spurs would replace Mike England. Back in the day, Richard Gough looked like he would be the natural successor to England, but he wanted to move to Glasgow Rangers and didn't stay that long, but in Toby Alderweireld, I think we have found that player. His reading of the game, his strength in the air at both ends of the pitch and his ability to come out with the ball all mimic England's style. They even had the long range pass in their locker to launch attacks from a deep position, with Toby looking for the runs of Dele Alli and our former Welsh international aiming for the head of Martin Chivers, Martin Peters or Alan Gilzean.
But the stationing of two defensive midfielders, who can turn into attacking midfielders has helped Tottenham to stop the reputation that they were always a soft touch. With good ability to break up play, the two from Dembele, Wanyama, Sissoko or Dier have shown that it is an effective system for Spurs to employ and when one does go forward, there is the understanding that someone drops to cover, as they do when Rose or Walker bomb up the wing.
It's a formation that is fluid and allows the exploitation of possession, whether it be through bringing the ball out from defence, launching the longer pass or breaking out quickly as an opposition attack breaks down. While not totally like Holland's 'Total Football' of the 1970s and 80s, the way the players interchange has elements of that style in it. And the technical ability of the players has to be able to meet the demands of the way Pochettino wants them to play, which is why he has built a team that mostly have good touch and the ability to move intelligently with and without the ball.
Having Lloris is a real bonus. His skills are varied and combine to produce some fantastic stops and his reading of the game as a sweeper-keeper stops him having to make as many saves as he might. His handling of crosses and his punching have improved since he joined Tottenham, but his shot-stopping was never in question and has saved Tottenham many points over his time with the club. If there is one criticism of Hugo, it is his distribution on occasion when we try to play the ball out from the back. Pochettino wants the team to play this way, but sometimes, passes from the goalkeeper are short or played to team-mates in a position where they are immediately under pressure.
Whereas Tottenham were often too charitable at the back, that has been wiped out and you can see the anger and disappointment when they do concede these days. It might mean we need less goals to win games, but a mix of the two would be the ideal situation for fans especially.
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