Tottenham's pressing problem

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To dare is too dear

Tottenham's pressing has been a feature of their progress under Mauricio Pochettino, but they have done things differently lately.

UEFA's newly-published technical report is full of interesting insights into last season's Champions League, but there is one statistic that stands out particularly strongly.

According to its findings, more than half of the goals scored in the competition - 185 out of 366, to be exact - came from possession regained in the opposition's final third.


It is an eye-catching detail which reflects the growing prevalence of pressing at the highest level of the game. The report specifically highlights the "extraordinary intensity" of Liverpool's press in their semi-final second-leg win over Barcelona. But Jurgen Klopp's men were not the only ones to profit from forcing mistakes high up the pitch.

The final, when Liverpool faced Tottenham, was billed as a meeting between two of the best exponents of high pressing. Curiously, though, Spurs went on to record their lowest number of pressures in any Champions League game all season, with 64. By way of contrast, Liverpool's Mohamed Salah accounted for 34 pressures on his own.

An anomaly or a trend?

What felt like an anomaly at the time - Spurs had recorded more than twice as many pressures in their semi-final second leg against Ajax a few weeks earlier - now feels like the beginning of a trend. At a time when high pressing is becoming increasingly prominent elsewhere, recent evidence suggests Spurs are moving in the opposite direction.


So far this season, the high press simply hasn't been there. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville described Spurs as "lethargic" during their 2-2 draw with Manchester City last month. They were similarly flat in the 1-0 loss to Newcastle a week later. And while they did counter-attack at speed against Woolwich last Sunday, their pressing game was still oddly absent.

Unai Emery's side were able to build from the back more-or-less unchallenged at the Emirates Stadium, which was especially surprising given the obvious problems Liverpool's high press had caused them in their previous game. Klopp's side won possession in the final third 13 times at Anfield. At the Emirates, Spurs only managed it twice.


skysports-tottenham-stats-pressing_4771593.jpg


In fact, Spurs have only won possession in the final third nine times in four games all season, putting them 16th among Premier League sides. Their average of 2.3 per game represents a considerable drop-off on their usual numbers. Last season, they averaged 4.2 per game, putting them fifth. In 2017/18, their average of 4.4 per game put them third.

Opta's data for pressed sequences is even more revealing. Pressed sequences are defined as opposition passing sequences of three or fewer passes which end within 40 meters of their own goal. This season, Spurs have forced fewer pressed sequences (31) than any other Premier League side, averaging 7.8 per game compared to 13.2 last season.

skysports-tottenham-pressing_4771608.jpg



It is a small sample size, of course, but it is still alarmingly out of character for a side whose aggressive pressing was once a hallmark. It is not so long ago that returning Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores was comparing Mauricio Pochettino's players to "animals" for the speed and determination with which they hunted down possession.

Concern for Pochettino

So what's happened? If it is a deliberate strategy, then it is not working. Spurs have survived away trips to Manchester City and Woolwich this season, taking five points from their first four games, but the lack of off-the-ball urgency has seen them give up a worrying number of chances. Only Aston Villa have faced more shots. Only Norwich have faced more shots on target.

It is also clear that the issues have been a source of frustration to Pochettino. He has cut a disgruntled figure since the Champions League final, complaining that his squad is the most "unsettled" it has ever been since his arrival at the club and alluding to its impact on the team's performances - specifically their pressing - after the Woolwich game.

"We need togetherness," he said. "The team wasn't settled and I told you from day one of pre-season that I wasn't happy. The most important thing is to all be on the same page and that the players have a clear idea of how we need to move."

An effective press requires total commitment from every player, it requires team spirit and focus. But with Christian Eriksen's mind elsewhere, with Jan Vertonghen mysteriously losing his place in the side and with new signings still bedding in, those factors have not been there. Tottenham's cohesion has taken a hit and recent evidence suggests their pressing has too.

Kane conundrum

Pochettino hopes the closure of the transfer window - coupled with a pause for the international break - will allow Spurs to get their rhythm back. But a high-pressing approach requires a striker to set the tone. Is Harry Kane still that striker? Is he still suited to playing in a high-pressing system?

It is a conundrum for Pochettino. There can be no questioning Kane's attacking contribution. He has scored seven times for club and country in the opening month of the season alone. But in the last few years he has suffered a string of ankle injuries and his game is evolving as a result.

Kane is still at his most dangerous in the opposition's penalty box, but these days he is just as likely to be seen dropping deep as he is playing on the shoulder of the last defender. Instead of running in behind himself, he now prefers to vacate the space for his team-mates to take advantage.

Kane's evolution has impacted his off-the-ball work, too. This season, he is averaging fewer ball recoveries and fewer attempted tackles than in any of his previous six campaigns with Spurs. So far this season, he has only won possession in the final third twice in 360 minutes on the pitch.

A player who once led the press for Pochettino is no longer playing with the same intensity, and it is perhaps no coincidence that, the last time Spurs produced the kind of breathless pressing they have become known for under Pochettino - in that Champions League semi-final second leg against Ajax in May - Kane did not feature at all.

His return to the starting line-up for the final was a welcome boost for Spurs, but as UEFA's technical report tells us, their intensity suffered.

What now for Tottenham?

Perhaps Pochettino is still hoping that Kane will get back to his old intensity levels. There was encouragement in how he won possession in the opposition half in the build-up to England's third goal against Bulgaria on Saturday. He then created another opening for Raheem Sterling in similar circumstances against Kosovo on Tuesday.

But the Premier League is an altogether more taxing environment. Kane's evolution suggests he knows his attributes are changing and Tottenham's adjusted approach this season suggests Pochettino knows it too. A side whose progress has been driven by high-pressing tactics must find a new way forward. For now, it remains a work in progress.



Really good article and well worth a read.
 

Tottenham's pressing has been a feature of their progress under Mauricio Pochettino, but they have done things differently lately.

UEFA's newly-published technical report is full of interesting insights into last season's Champions League, but there is one statistic that stands out particularly strongly.

According to its findings, more than half of the goals scored in the competition - 185 out of 366, to be exact - came from possession regained in the opposition's final third.


It is an eye-catching detail which reflects the growing prevalence of pressing at the highest level of the game. The report specifically highlights the "extraordinary intensity" of Liverpool's press in their semi-final second-leg win over Barcelona. But Jurgen Klopp's men were not the only ones to profit from forcing mistakes high up the pitch.

The final, when Liverpool faced Tottenham, was billed as a meeting between two of the best exponents of high pressing. Curiously, though, Spurs went on to record their lowest number of pressures in any Champions League game all season, with 64. By way of contrast, Liverpool's Mohamed Salah accounted for 34 pressures on his own.

An anomaly or a trend?

What felt like an anomaly at the time - Spurs had recorded more than twice as many pressures in their semi-final second leg against Ajax a few weeks earlier - now feels like the beginning of a trend. At a time when high pressing is becoming increasingly prominent elsewhere, recent evidence suggests Spurs are moving in the opposite direction.


So far this season, the high press simply hasn't been there. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville described Spurs as "lethargic" during their 2-2 draw with Manchester City last month. They were similarly flat in the 1-0 loss to Newcastle a week later. And while they did counter-attack at speed against Woolwich last Sunday, their pressing game was still oddly absent.

Unai Emery's side were able to build from the back more-or-less unchallenged at the Emirates Stadium, which was especially surprising given the obvious problems Liverpool's high press had caused them in their previous game. Klopp's side won possession in the final third 13 times at Anfield. At the Emirates, Spurs only managed it twice.


skysports-tottenham-stats-pressing_4771593.jpg


In fact, Spurs have only won possession in the final third nine times in four games all season, putting them 16th among Premier League sides. Their average of 2.3 per game represents a considerable drop-off on their usual numbers. Last season, they averaged 4.2 per game, putting them fifth. In 2017/18, their average of 4.4 per game put them third.

Opta's data for pressed sequences is even more revealing. Pressed sequences are defined as opposition passing sequences of three or fewer passes which end within 40 meters of their own goal. This season, Spurs have forced fewer pressed sequences (31) than any other Premier League side, averaging 7.8 per game compared to 13.2 last season.

skysports-tottenham-pressing_4771608.jpg



It is a small sample size, of course, but it is still alarmingly out of character for a side whose aggressive pressing was once a hallmark. It is not so long ago that returning Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores was comparing Mauricio Pochettino's players to "animals" for the speed and determination with which they hunted down possession.

Concern for Pochettino

So what's happened? If it is a deliberate strategy, then it is not working. Spurs have survived away trips to Manchester City and Woolwich this season, taking five points from their first four games, but the lack of off-the-ball urgency has seen them give up a worrying number of chances. Only Aston Villa have faced more shots. Only Norwich have faced more shots on target.

It is also clear that the issues have been a source of frustration to Pochettino. He has cut a disgruntled figure since the Champions League final, complaining that his squad is the most "unsettled" it has ever been since his arrival at the club and alluding to its impact on the team's performances - specifically their pressing - after the Woolwich game.

"We need togetherness," he said. "The team wasn't settled and I told you from day one of pre-season that I wasn't happy. The most important thing is to all be on the same page and that the players have a clear idea of how we need to move."

An effective press requires total commitment from every player, it requires team spirit and focus. But with Christian Eriksen's mind elsewhere, with Jan Vertonghen mysteriously losing his place in the side and with new signings still bedding in, those factors have not been there. Tottenham's cohesion has taken a hit and recent evidence suggests their pressing has too.

Kane conundrum

Pochettino hopes the closure of the transfer window - coupled with a pause for the international break - will allow Spurs to get their rhythm back. But a high-pressing approach requires a striker to set the tone. Is Harry Kane still that striker? Is he still suited to playing in a high-pressing system?

It is a conundrum for Pochettino. There can be no questioning Kane's attacking contribution. He has scored seven times for club and country in the opening month of the season alone. But in the last few years he has suffered a string of ankle injuries and his game is evolving as a result.

Kane is still at his most dangerous in the opposition's penalty box, but these days he is just as likely to be seen dropping deep as he is playing on the shoulder of the last defender. Instead of running in behind himself, he now prefers to vacate the space for his team-mates to take advantage.

Kane's evolution has impacted his off-the-ball work, too. This season, he is averaging fewer ball recoveries and fewer attempted tackles than in any of his previous six campaigns with Spurs. So far this season, he has only won possession in the final third twice in 360 minutes on the pitch.

A player who once led the press for Pochettino is no longer playing with the same intensity, and it is perhaps no coincidence that, the last time Spurs produced the kind of breathless pressing they have become known for under Pochettino - in that Champions League semi-final second leg against Ajax in May - Kane did not feature at all.

His return to the starting line-up for the final was a welcome boost for Spurs, but as UEFA's technical report tells us, their intensity suffered.

What now for Tottenham?

Perhaps Pochettino is still hoping that Kane will get back to his old intensity levels. There was encouragement in how he won possession in the opposition half in the build-up to England's third goal against Bulgaria on Saturday. He then created another opening for Raheem Sterling in similar circumstances against Kosovo on Tuesday.

But the Premier League is an altogether more taxing environment. Kane's evolution suggests he knows his attributes are changing and Tottenham's adjusted approach this season suggests Pochettino knows it too. A side whose progress has been driven by high-pressing tactics must find a new way forward. For now, it remains a work in progress.



Really good article and well worth a read.

That's a really informative piece that not only confirms, but quantifies what many of us have been saying for quite a while now. The shots against we are allowing is staggeringly bad for an "elite" team

It's not just about "high" pressing either. We have the third fewest tackles per game in the PL right now. We have the lowest interceptions.

Defensively from top to bottom we've become a very lethargic and incoherent side. This is what I was stalking about last week in the Pochettino thread when I said he needs to get the intensity and aggression back. It doesn't matter what kind of "press" you are operating, any decent team is at least cohesive, coherent and aggressive. We got dicked about by shit teams last season, and it's already happening this season, Woolwich were allowed to just knock the ball about (as were City and Newcastle for their goal) and Poch needs to get a fucking grip of it.
 
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Something has to change as we all see it and have been writing about it for awhile now.

I don't buy that it is Kane who is changing his game.

This is a Poch call as he is the one that sets the strategy. The stats are clear as day and it is time to shift our style back to what made us feared. The high intensity game of breaking the oppositions back from the first whistle.

This is why I watch so much City and Pool now. They are relentless and very entertaining to watch.
 

Tottenham's pressing has been a feature of their progress under Mauricio Pochettino, but they have done things differently lately.

UEFA's newly-published technical report is full of interesting insights into last season's Champions League, but there is one statistic that stands out particularly strongly.

According to its findings, more than half of the goals scored in the competition - 185 out of 366, to be exact - came from possession regained in the opposition's final third.


It is an eye-catching detail which reflects the growing prevalence of pressing at the highest level of the game. The report specifically highlights the "extraordinary intensity" of Liverpool's press in their semi-final second-leg win over Barcelona. But Jurgen Klopp's men were not the only ones to profit from forcing mistakes high up the pitch.

The final, when Liverpool faced Tottenham, was billed as a meeting between two of the best exponents of high pressing. Curiously, though, Spurs went on to record their lowest number of pressures in any Champions League game all season, with 64. By way of contrast, Liverpool's Mohamed Salah accounted for 34 pressures on his own.

An anomaly or a trend?

What felt like an anomaly at the time - Spurs had recorded more than twice as many pressures in their semi-final second leg against Ajax a few weeks earlier - now feels like the beginning of a trend. At a time when high pressing is becoming increasingly prominent elsewhere, recent evidence suggests Spurs are moving in the opposite direction.


So far this season, the high press simply hasn't been there. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville described Spurs as "lethargic" during their 2-2 draw with Manchester City last month. They were similarly flat in the 1-0 loss to Newcastle a week later. And while they did counter-attack at speed against Woolwich last Sunday, their pressing game was still oddly absent.

Unai Emery's side were able to build from the back more-or-less unchallenged at the Emirates Stadium, which was especially surprising given the obvious problems Liverpool's high press had caused them in their previous game. Klopp's side won possession in the final third 13 times at Anfield. At the Emirates, Spurs only managed it twice.


skysports-tottenham-stats-pressing_4771593.jpg


In fact, Spurs have only won possession in the final third nine times in four games all season, putting them 16th among Premier League sides. Their average of 2.3 per game represents a considerable drop-off on their usual numbers. Last season, they averaged 4.2 per game, putting them fifth. In 2017/18, their average of 4.4 per game put them third.

Opta's data for pressed sequences is even more revealing. Pressed sequences are defined as opposition passing sequences of three or fewer passes which end within 40 meters of their own goal. This season, Spurs have forced fewer pressed sequences (31) than any other Premier League side, averaging 7.8 per game compared to 13.2 last season.

skysports-tottenham-pressing_4771608.jpg



It is a small sample size, of course, but it is still alarmingly out of character for a side whose aggressive pressing was once a hallmark. It is not so long ago that returning Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores was comparing Mauricio Pochettino's players to "animals" for the speed and determination with which they hunted down possession.

Concern for Pochettino

So what's happened? If it is a deliberate strategy, then it is not working. Spurs have survived away trips to Manchester City and Woolwich this season, taking five points from their first four games, but the lack of off-the-ball urgency has seen them give up a worrying number of chances. Only Aston Villa have faced more shots. Only Norwich have faced more shots on target.

It is also clear that the issues have been a source of frustration to Pochettino. He has cut a disgruntled figure since the Champions League final, complaining that his squad is the most "unsettled" it has ever been since his arrival at the club and alluding to its impact on the team's performances - specifically their pressing - after the Woolwich game.

"We need togetherness," he said. "The team wasn't settled and I told you from day one of pre-season that I wasn't happy. The most important thing is to all be on the same page and that the players have a clear idea of how we need to move."

An effective press requires total commitment from every player, it requires team spirit and focus. But with Christian Eriksen's mind elsewhere, with Jan Vertonghen mysteriously losing his place in the side and with new signings still bedding in, those factors have not been there. Tottenham's cohesion has taken a hit and recent evidence suggests their pressing has too.

Kane conundrum

Pochettino hopes the closure of the transfer window - coupled with a pause for the international break - will allow Spurs to get their rhythm back. But a high-pressing approach requires a striker to set the tone. Is Harry Kane still that striker? Is he still suited to playing in a high-pressing system?

It is a conundrum for Pochettino. There can be no questioning Kane's attacking contribution. He has scored seven times for club and country in the opening month of the season alone. But in the last few years he has suffered a string of ankle injuries and his game is evolving as a result.

Kane is still at his most dangerous in the opposition's penalty box, but these days he is just as likely to be seen dropping deep as he is playing on the shoulder of the last defender. Instead of running in behind himself, he now prefers to vacate the space for his team-mates to take advantage.

Kane's evolution has impacted his off-the-ball work, too. This season, he is averaging fewer ball recoveries and fewer attempted tackles than in any of his previous six campaigns with Spurs. So far this season, he has only won possession in the final third twice in 360 minutes on the pitch.

A player who once led the press for Pochettino is no longer playing with the same intensity, and it is perhaps no coincidence that, the last time Spurs produced the kind of breathless pressing they have become known for under Pochettino - in that Champions League semi-final second leg against Ajax in May - Kane did not feature at all.

His return to the starting line-up for the final was a welcome boost for Spurs, but as UEFA's technical report tells us, their intensity suffered.

What now for Tottenham?

Perhaps Pochettino is still hoping that Kane will get back to his old intensity levels. There was encouragement in how he won possession in the opposition half in the build-up to England's third goal against Bulgaria on Saturday. He then created another opening for Raheem Sterling in similar circumstances against Kosovo on Tuesday.

But the Premier League is an altogether more taxing environment. Kane's evolution suggests he knows his attributes are changing and Tottenham's adjusted approach this season suggests Pochettino knows it too. A side whose progress has been driven by high-pressing tactics must find a new way forward. For now, it remains a work in progress.



Really good article and well worth a read.
"Under pressure" dum dum de de de dum
 
I’ve been saying it for a long time, the balance of the team is completely wrong and it’s mainly due to our midfield. Ever since the Dier/Dembele pairing disappeared we have been flimsy and struggled to play serious football.

I understand that Poch has been forced through injury to rely on Winks and Sissoko as his central midfielders but it’s time to move on and restructure the team. We need to put Dier back in there and replace Sissoko with someone who isn’t afraid to touch the football and play. We basically need to start playing with 3 midfielders all the time. Our team isn’t young and fresh enough to play pressing football and properly cover the massive spaces left when we play Winks and Sissoko in the diamond.
 
I’ve been saying it for a long time, the balance of the team is completely wrong and it’s mainly due to our midfield. Ever since the Dier/Dembele pairing disappeared we have been flimsy and struggled to play serious football.

I understand that Poch has been forced through injury to rely on Winks and Sissoko as his central midfielders but it’s time to move on and restructure the team. We need to put Dier back in there and replace Sissoko with someone who isn’t afraid to touch the football and play. We basically need to start playing with 3 midfielders all the time. Our team isn’t young and fresh enough to play pressing football and properly cover the massive spaces left when we play Winks and Sissoko in the diamond.

I’d probably rather see Dier anchoring a cm3 than Sissoko, but ultimately don't want Dier in a midfield either, especially a CM2, it was putting Dier into midfield that was the beginning of the problems. Dier cannot support the press, he’s not dynamic or mobile enough, is too easily turned, and also isn’t comfortable when pressed himself, and therefore hinders us playing out and through pressure ourselves.

His reaction to pressure in games was to drop 10 yards into the cb’s pockets and drag the game back with him, inviting more pressure.

We have some of the same issues now with Sissoko playing there. Can't press, lack of defensive dynamism, uncomfortable under pressure, can't pass etc etc..

Poch hasn’t been entirely forced, he’s had options from the academy and lacked the bollocks to use them, preferring to make poor choices or play players he paid 30m for who were bought for different remits.

We were so much better when Wanyama replaced Dier in midfield and he dropped back into the defence as a CB for much of the season. Wanyama would hunt down danger rapaciously for 90 minutes, would support the forward press, had the dynamism to cover laterally advancing FB’s wasn’t flustered under pressure and moved the ball more efficiently under pressure than Dier.

That’s why we need a proper footballing 6 - either bought or promoted in from the academy- and get back to having a midfield with some tenacity and vim again.
 
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How are we supposed to win the ball back when in 2 out of 4 games we've had it almost entirely for the whole match?
And in the other 2, we've been mostly outplayed by top 6 teams?

The problem with the games against both Villa and Newcastle is that we had 70-80% possession and played almost entirely in front of 10 men.

We need to play a deeper defense, give the ball away in the final 3rd and then, when they spread out, press hard and fast. If we don't start doing this very soon, we will become easy to play against for everyone.
 

Five

Master of Negotiations
That’s why we need a proper footballing 6 - either bought or promoted in from the academy- and get back to having a midfield with some tenacity and vim again.
I think nothing less than a change of manager will fix this. I don't think this group of players believes in Pochettino anymore.
 
I’d probably rather see Dier anchoring a cm3 than Sissoko, but ultimately don't want Dier in a midfield either, especially a CM2, it was putting Dier into midfield that was the beginning of the problems. Dier cannot support the press, he’s not dynamic or mobile enough, is too easily turned, and also isn’t comfortable when pressed himself, and therefore hinders us playing out and through pressure ourselves.

His reaction to pressure in games was to drop 10 yards into the cb’s pockets and drag the game back with him, inviting more pressure.

We have some of the same issues now with Sissoko playing there. Can't press, lack of defensive dynamism, uncomfortable under pressure, can't pass etc etc..

Poch hasn’t been entirely forced, he’s had options from the academy and lacked the bollocks to use them, preferring to make poor choices or play players he paid 30m for who were bought for different remits.

We were so much better when Wanyama replaced Dier in midfield and he dropped back into the defence as a CB for much of the season. Wanyama would hunt down danger rapaciously for 90 minutes, would support the forward press, had the dynamism to cover laterally advancing FB’s wasn’t flustered under pressure and moved the ball more efficiently under pressure than Dier.

That’s why we need a proper footballing 6 - either bought or promoted in from the academy- and get back to having a midfield with some tenacity and vim again.
I maintain Wanyama is the best DM we have ever had, such a shame he’s had such bad luck with injuries
 
How are we supposed to win the ball back when in 2 out of 4 games we've had it almost entirely for the whole match?
And in the other 2, we've been mostly outplayed by top 6 teams?

The problem with the games against both Villa and Newcastle is that we had 70-80% possession and played almost entirely in front of 10 men.

We need to play a deeper defense, give the ball away in the final 3rd and then, when they spread out, press hard and fast. If we don't start doing this very soon, we will become easy to play against for everyone.

This isn't just talking about this season, this has been gradually deteriorating for the last three seasons.

The high/medium press is best used against the deep block to catch these teams before they get set into to banks of bus park.

You can't play a deep defence and press high up at the same time, because that means if they beat your press (which they can do by just knocking it long) the pitch is now stretched and open and is easier for them to counter or create overloads on your defence. To press high up you need to compress the pitch vertically, this denies the opposition options to break that press.
 

Tottenham's pressing has been a feature of their progress under Mauricio Pochettino, but they have done things differently lately.

UEFA's newly-published technical report is full of interesting insights into last season's Champions League, but there is one statistic that stands out particularly strongly.

According to its findings, more than half of the goals scored in the competition - 185 out of 366, to be exact - came from possession regained in the opposition's final third.


It is an eye-catching detail which reflects the growing prevalence of pressing at the highest level of the game. The report specifically highlights the "extraordinary intensity" of Liverpool's press in their semi-final second-leg win over Barcelona. But Jurgen Klopp's men were not the only ones to profit from forcing mistakes high up the pitch.

The final, when Liverpool faced Tottenham, was billed as a meeting between two of the best exponents of high pressing. Curiously, though, Spurs went on to record their lowest number of pressures in any Champions League game all season, with 64. By way of contrast, Liverpool's Mohamed Salah accounted for 34 pressures on his own.

An anomaly or a trend?

What felt like an anomaly at the time - Spurs had recorded more than twice as many pressures in their semi-final second leg against Ajax a few weeks earlier - now feels like the beginning of a trend. At a time when high pressing is becoming increasingly prominent elsewhere, recent evidence suggests Spurs are moving in the opposite direction.


So far this season, the high press simply hasn't been there. Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville described Spurs as "lethargic" during their 2-2 draw with Manchester City last month. They were similarly flat in the 1-0 loss to Newcastle a week later. And while they did counter-attack at speed against Woolwich last Sunday, their pressing game was still oddly absent.

Unai Emery's side were able to build from the back more-or-less unchallenged at the Emirates Stadium, which was especially surprising given the obvious problems Liverpool's high press had caused them in their previous game. Klopp's side won possession in the final third 13 times at Anfield. At the Emirates, Spurs only managed it twice.


skysports-tottenham-stats-pressing_4771593.jpg


In fact, Spurs have only won possession in the final third nine times in four games all season, putting them 16th among Premier League sides. Their average of 2.3 per game represents a considerable drop-off on their usual numbers. Last season, they averaged 4.2 per game, putting them fifth. In 2017/18, their average of 4.4 per game put them third.

Opta's data for pressed sequences is even more revealing. Pressed sequences are defined as opposition passing sequences of three or fewer passes which end within 40 meters of their own goal. This season, Spurs have forced fewer pressed sequences (31) than any other Premier League side, averaging 7.8 per game compared to 13.2 last season.

skysports-tottenham-pressing_4771608.jpg



It is a small sample size, of course, but it is still alarmingly out of character for a side whose aggressive pressing was once a hallmark. It is not so long ago that returning Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores was comparing Mauricio Pochettino's players to "animals" for the speed and determination with which they hunted down possession.

Concern for Pochettino

So what's happened? If it is a deliberate strategy, then it is not working. Spurs have survived away trips to Manchester City and Woolwich this season, taking five points from their first four games, but the lack of off-the-ball urgency has seen them give up a worrying number of chances. Only Aston Villa have faced more shots. Only Norwich have faced more shots on target.

It is also clear that the issues have been a source of frustration to Pochettino. He has cut a disgruntled figure since the Champions League final, complaining that his squad is the most "unsettled" it has ever been since his arrival at the club and alluding to its impact on the team's performances - specifically their pressing - after the Woolwich game.

"We need togetherness," he said. "The team wasn't settled and I told you from day one of pre-season that I wasn't happy. The most important thing is to all be on the same page and that the players have a clear idea of how we need to move."

An effective press requires total commitment from every player, it requires team spirit and focus. But with Christian Eriksen's mind elsewhere, with Jan Vertonghen mysteriously losing his place in the side and with new signings still bedding in, those factors have not been there. Tottenham's cohesion has taken a hit and recent evidence suggests their pressing has too.

Kane conundrum

Pochettino hopes the closure of the transfer window - coupled with a pause for the international break - will allow Spurs to get their rhythm back. But a high-pressing approach requires a striker to set the tone. Is Harry Kane still that striker? Is he still suited to playing in a high-pressing system?

It is a conundrum for Pochettino. There can be no questioning Kane's attacking contribution. He has scored seven times for club and country in the opening month of the season alone. But in the last few years he has suffered a string of ankle injuries and his game is evolving as a result.

Kane is still at his most dangerous in the opposition's penalty box, but these days he is just as likely to be seen dropping deep as he is playing on the shoulder of the last defender. Instead of running in behind himself, he now prefers to vacate the space for his team-mates to take advantage.

Kane's evolution has impacted his off-the-ball work, too. This season, he is averaging fewer ball recoveries and fewer attempted tackles than in any of his previous six campaigns with Spurs. So far this season, he has only won possession in the final third twice in 360 minutes on the pitch.

A player who once led the press for Pochettino is no longer playing with the same intensity, and it is perhaps no coincidence that, the last time Spurs produced the kind of breathless pressing they have become known for under Pochettino - in that Champions League semi-final second leg against Ajax in May - Kane did not feature at all.

His return to the starting line-up for the final was a welcome boost for Spurs, but as UEFA's technical report tells us, their intensity suffered.

What now for Tottenham?

Perhaps Pochettino is still hoping that Kane will get back to his old intensity levels. There was encouragement in how he won possession in the opposition half in the build-up to England's third goal against Bulgaria on Saturday. He then created another opening for Raheem Sterling in similar circumstances against Kosovo on Tuesday.

But the Premier League is an altogether more taxing environment. Kane's evolution suggests he knows his attributes are changing and Tottenham's adjusted approach this season suggests Pochettino knows it too. A side whose progress has been driven by high-pressing tactics must find a new way forward. For now, it remains a work in progress.



Really good article and well worth a read.

I think nothing less than a change of manager will fix this. I don't think this group of players believes in Pochettino anymore.


For what it's worth, as a contrast to this article, I wrote a piece for my (now defunct) blog in 2015 extolling the virtues of our high press, analysing the tackle/intercept metrics for our players (specifically the front 4) vs the PL and our previous season

I didn't have access then to any pressure data (that's become more available in the last couple of years) but it's startling the contrast in drop off.



When I think back, I think Poch's indulgence of two players in particular probably symbolises Poch's dilution of philosophy. Dier & Alli.

When we bought Alli I watched him play for MK Dons about 3/4 times, and questioned the logic of fitting him into Poch's preferred format and application (ie dynamic high intensity). He was clearly a talented boy, but he lacked the true energy and dynamism to play CM in Poch's 4231 nor the composure and sure footedness to play as the 10 (and we already had Eriksen). Alli was capable of great moments, but we watched as Poch allowed him fumble and bumble his way through big chunks of seasons - whilst players like Son and Lamela (neither perfect either but both fit the dynamics of Poch better - sat twiddling their thumbs) and Eriksen was shunted about the pitch to accommodate him often.

Then we had Dier pushed into midfield. I don't think this was the reason for our improvement in 15/16. As my piece above suggested, I don't think this was the panacea that many thought it was, it was a combination of the massive upturn in forward press, combined with the collective cohesiveness that 1 years and a pre season of Poch's coaching had brought.

Dier, like Alli, was a big personality on and off the pitch and I think Poch pandered to them. He even said as much in his book when he talked about how his treatment of certain players had to change because they'd become "stars" and also how he and Dier disagreed about where Dier's future lay, Poch believing he should concentrate on being a CB but Dier wanting to be a midfielder - and then we had the whole Mourinho/Utd bollocks which gave Dier even more dressing room "kudos" and weekend Poch's resolve (if there was any left by now).

There are many other examples of Poch losing his way and compromising his fabled "ethics" on players (Rose, Sissoko, Aurier, TA, JV even Kane at times etc etc) and the whole "paid to train" bullshit.

But once he started pandering to egos, he lost some of that Poch "magic".
 
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Maybe Poch is trying to implement a different style to the pressing game that Liverpool and City are using.?Maybe we don't have the players to fit that pressing style anymore and to beat them we might need to choose a different method.

Changing a team's style of play takes time and it took him a while to be able to create the pressing style that HE implemented.

Give the guy some credit.
 

Five

Master of Negotiations
For what it's worth, as a contrast to this article, I wrote a piece for my (now defunct) blog in 2015 extolling the virtues of our high press, analysing the tackle/intercept metrics for our players (specifically the front 4) vs the PL and our previous season

I didn't have access then to any pressure data (that's become more available in the last couple of years) but it's startling the contrast in drop off.



When I think back, I think Poch's indulgence of two players in particular are probably instrumental to our downward slide. Dier & Alli.

When we bought Alli I watched him play for MK Dons about 3/4 times, and questioned the logic of fitting him into Poch's preferred format and application (ie dynamic high intensity). He was clearly a talented boy, but he lacked the true energy and dynamism to play CM in Poch's 4231 nor the composure and sure footedness to play as the 10 (and we already had Eriksen). Alli was capable of great moments, but we watched as Poch allowed him fumble and bumble his way through big chunks of seasons - whilst players like Son and Lamela (neither perfect either but both fit the dynamics of Poch better - sat twiddling their thumbs) and Eriksen was shunted about the pitch to accommodate him often.

Then we had Dier pushed into midfield. I don't think this was the reason for our improvement in 15/16, as my piece above suggested, I don't think this was the panacea that many thought it was, it was a combination of the massive upturn in forward press, combined with the collective cohesiveness that 1 years and a pre season of Poch's coaching had brought.

Dier, like Alli, was a big personality on and off the pitch and I think Poch pandered to them. He even said as much in his book when he talked about how his treatment of certain players had to change because they'd become "stars" and also how he and Dier disagreed about where Dier's future lay, Poch believing he should concentrate on being a CB but Dier wanting to be a midfielder - and then we had the whole Mourinho/Utd bollocks which gave Dier even more dressing room "kudos" and weekend Poch's resolve (if there was any left by now).

There are many other examples of Poch losing his way and compromising his fabled "ethics" on players (Rose, Sissoko, Aurier, TA, JV even Kane at times etc etc) and the whole "paid to train" bullshit.

But once he started pandering to egos, he lost some of that Poch "magic".
The reason we are playing utter garbage is not because of who we do or don't have in our playing squad. I believe we are seeing the fallout of Poch's unmeritocratic approach to management. Any shower of donkeys can be coached to look vaguely organised if they are motivated.

I think he'll be gone by the end of October.


Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is only 30 per cent interested in tactics - with 70 per cent of his focus on team building, the German’s Dutch assistant Pepijn Lijnders has revealed in an interview which sheds light on a philosophy which has taken the side to third in the Premier League table.

Though the intense focus on Klopp’s success in the Premier League has centred on his strategic ideas, including the double press which was effective in the 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, 33-year-old Lijnders said the tactical element was a relatively small part of the strategy. "Jürgen creates a family. We always say: 30 per cent tactic, 70 per cent teambuilding,” he said in an interview with the Dutch paper De Volksrant.
 

EighteenEightyTwo

We are so calm
Winks and Sissoko they are not good at pressing in my opinion
Do we want them pressing much? It leaves space between the defence and midfield which means we need a really high line.

I do think the front 4 should press more though as winning the ball high is our best way of creating chances. We really struggle with slow build up, it’s just not an effective tactic for us.
 
I’ve been saying it for a long time, the balance of the team is completely wrong and it’s mainly due to our midfield. Ever since the Dier/Dembele pairing disappeared we have been flimsy and struggled to play serious football.

I understand that Poch has been forced through injury to rely on Winks and Sissoko as his central midfielders but it’s time to move on and restructure the team. We need to put Dier back in there and replace Sissoko with someone who isn’t afraid to touch the football and play. We basically need to start playing with 3 midfielders all the time. Our team isn’t young and fresh enough to play pressing football and properly cover the massive spaces left when we play Winks and Sissoko in the diamond.

Dier, Ndombele and Dele. Easy
 
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