No fewer than nine players through to the semi-finals of the World Cup are signed to Tottenham Hotspur; more than any other club. The Telegraph’s Jeremy Wilson proposes that Mauricio Pochettino is the ‘most influential coach’ at the tournament.
It’s certainly nice to view his coaching through that lens and to also look at this as a mark of Spurs’ academy production and focus on smart recruitment of young, often domestic, talent paying off.
Another element is Pochettino’s clear influence on England’s play-style. Bielsa style counter-pressing and use of a three man defence to facilitate a Positional Play model are two major principles shared by both the club and the national team – though similar traits are also shared by Conte’s Chelsea and Pep’s City.
There can be little doubt that Pochettino is at the forefront of tactical and coaching development, a spearhead of effective, proactive football. The reality of the situation, though, is that it’s simply quite a lot down to chance that Tottenham boast such an impressive nine man ‘Company of the Cup’.
Football is chaotic, tournament football is chaos magnified by a thousand and international tournament football is essentially a globally shared fever dream. That’s a large part of why it’s so much fun – this summer’s one especially.
Statistics can help provide a touch of clarity among that chaos. Twelve offers us the opportunity to compare the tournaments of those remaining nine.
Ranking the players on a points per minute basis, there’s not much surprise who is top. Chingford’s own Harry Kane is a strong bet for the Golden Boot and although he looks to arrive there in the most opposition-fan-enraging method – a slew of penalties, set-pieces and a comically unintentional deflection – there can be absolutely no doubt over Kane’s ability to take whatever whiff of a chance, beautiful or brutal, is given to him.
It’s not just goals though. Despite starting the summer still building fitness following injury Kane’s all round contribution has dramatically grown as the round progressed, often dropping all the way deep to sit alongside Henderson and do his bit towards build-up play. Notice the wide, deep location of some of Harry’s ‘important actions’ as well as the number of defensive ones (which are marked in red):
At the opposite end of the table sits club captain Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman has probably ended his worst season to date for Tottenham, seeing him finally pick up some criticism after five years of not just praise, but utter adoration.
By the eye test he’d seemed to have picked things up with Les Bleus but the stats are less positive. Perhaps his side’s own defensive quality is the reason here. France have only allowed 13 shots on target on their route to the semi-final. That’s so few. An Umtiti – Varane partnership, Kante shielding them and a controversially pragmatic manager in Deschamps has made France into defensive titans and simply left Lloris with very little goalkeeping to do.
The Spurs links continue. With Alderweireld sticking one foot out the door we may as well drop in the former-Tottenham players who enter the round of four.
Depending on whether you view the list as totals or on a points per minute basis Harry Kane will jostle for first place with Luka Modric. In competition for then golden ball Modric is probably edging it right now, but Wednesday night will likely draw a line between them.