In Tottenham’s first two games of the season Pochettino fielded a creative but lightweight midfield. In the opening 45 minutes Spurs created enough chances to gain a lead and in the second half the opposition realised they should take advantage of Spurs’ somewhat soft midfield and press back. On both occasions Pochettino brought Mousa Dembele off the bench to calm the game down and see out the win.
Saturday’s victory over West Ham was much the same affair, only with Harry Winks and Mousa Sissoko in place of Eriksen and Dele to form the initial midfield trio with Eric Dier.
This game-of-two-halves has left Winks with some extremely mixed reviews. The match showcased his strengths while he was able to dictate the play with his slick passing game and weaknesses as an increased tempo and physicality meant it slipped away from him later on.
This marks one of the few occasions in which Winks has started in place of Mousa Dembele despite the Belgian being declared fit for a league game. The passing of the baton between these two players has been glacial, with the 22 year old’s debut occurring back in 2016. It will be interesting to see whether Winks starts again midweek and/or the following weekend, signalling a milestone moment in this process.
Ajax, with their young super-talents and dedication to passing football, remain the darlings of the Eredivisie but it’s PSV Eindhoven who have proven themselves the dominant force in modern football with three of the last four league titles.
PSV often boast a high share of the possession percentage in the Dutch league but they have a much more pragmatic, or at least significantly less dogmatic, attitude towards the game. It has seen their maturer squad, and more direct approach, return a flawless nine wins out of nine so far this domestic season.
PSV utilise a 4-2-3-1 leaning into a 4-3-3 shape but regardless of shape they always focus their attacks through their wing play thanks to the powerful partnership of Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano and Steven Bergwijn.
Unfortunately Twelve don’t have Eredivisie data, at least not yet. Although that only leaves us with a sample of two Champions League games we can still begin to get an idea of the dynamic, side-swapping, threat PSV offer here.
As against Barcelona and Inter Milan we can expect PSV to switch to their B game, drop back into their own half and muddy up the midfield before picking their moments to press Tottenham high.
Both Barca and Inter had some trouble suffocating PSV’s counter-attacks but both were also able to find the pockets of space in front of Eindhoven’s defence with a little time, especially after drawing them forward.
Aside from the aforementioned central midfield debate Tottenham will be boosted by the return to fitness of Christian Eriksen. The ex-Eredivise player’s abdominal issues prompted some fairly grave words from his international manager, Age Hareide, as he warned of chronic issues. As a result Pochettino may be reluctant to play him for the full 90 straight away.