Mauricio Pochettino prepared to mix it up at Spurs
Published 14/10/2016 | 22:36
Mauricio Pochettino claims Tottenham are an even stronger force this season because opponents can no longer predict their formation.
Pochettino's preferred line-up is a 4-2-3-1 but Spurs have switched to a 4-1-4-1 for their last two matches and won both, with dominant displays against CSKA Moscow and Manchester City.
The Argentinian also briefly experimented with a 3-5-2 last season in a win over Watford and he started with two strikers against Crystal Palace in August, albeit with Harry Kane playing predominantly behind Vincent Janssen rather than alongside him.
It means Tottenham are harder to prepare for these days and that could prove valuable against deep and defensively-minded opponents, who have often caused them problems in the past.
West Brom are likely to offer such a test on Saturday, proving in two 1-1 draws last season, the second of which sparked Spurs' late title collapse, that they can be a tough nut to crack.
Asked what was behind his recent move to a single holding midfielder, Pochettino said: "Plan B! When I was in Espanyol and Southampton and from the beginning here when we didn't take a good result there was some comment that it was because we play like this or we don't have a plan B. Now we have a plan B, plan C and plan H.
"It is important when we are in a project after two years to try to improve the values and concepts and to try to play in different ways in different games.
"Always with the same concept and values but with different positions on the pitch. Always it is important. It is good for us and sometimes very complicated for the opponent."
The make-up of Tottenham's midfield is now just as flexible as its shape. Victor Wanyama has arguably been the team's strongest player this season and is providing genuine competition for Eric Dier.
Pochettino could play both, but he appears happier with the more adventurous option of one on their own or at least partnering either with the more offensive Mousa Dembele, currently out with a foot injury, or Dele Alli.
"It depends on the characteristic of the players that we have on the pitch. We can use one or another on a different system. Both are good," Pochettino said.
"In football every system, if you believe, you can use. We have players that can play in that way to keep possession and play more in the opposition half when they are very deep.
"You have more control and capacity to create a chance."
Dier's place is perhaps most under threat, particularly given a slightly sluggish start to the season, with former Spurs and national team boss Glenn Hoddle branding his misjudged back-pass as "laziness" during England's draw with Slovenia on Tuesday.
The midfielder, however, was only just returning from a hamstring injury and even if currently below-par, remains one of Pochettino's most trusted lieutenants.
"Eric played 90 (minutes for England) which was good after his injury. Now he needs to stop the ball and build his confidence, improve his belief," Pochettino said.
"It's difficult for a player coming from injury but there's no doubt about his quality and he's an important player for us."
He later added: "We cannot create issues where the issue is not here. When he was fit, he always played.
"We'll see what happens but football is about 25 (players). Maybe last season there was only him, this season we want to improve our squad. It's not a problem.
"Now the players need to feel the competition. There is Wanyama in his position too and don't forget Harry Winks, who is coming and pushing a lot from behind. You have to look forward and carry on working."