Saturday 18 August 2018

Pochettino praises Sissoko as Spurs start to shape up

Moussa Sissoko will be playing alongside Christian Eriksen in the middle, making the most of his power and running with the ball. Photo credit: Getty Images
Moussa Sissoko will be playing alongside Christian Eriksen in the middle, making the most of his power and running with the ball. Photo credit: Getty Images

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Mousa Dembele has been Tottenham Hotspur's engine for the last few seasons, but they have found a way to win without him.

Their football does not have the same flow - how could it? - but it is more direct, more powerful and, at least away from Wembley, just as effective.

Without Dembele they have a new system, effectively a 3-6-1 with wing-backs either side of a diamond midfield.

They have even found a role for Moussa Sissoko (pictured), playing alongside Christian Eriksen in the middle, making the most of his power and running with the ball. It is almost a new-look Spurs.

"Sissoko and Dembele have different characteristics," Pochettino explained after their 3-2 win at West Ham, where Harry Kane scored twice and Eriksen chipped in with a sublime effort before the Hammers launched a comeback.

"We had Christian and Sissoko, who can go forward on the right side to stretch the opponents. I feel happy in the way we changed. Sissoko was fantastic today. He is doing very well, I am so happy with him this season."

It is quite the turnaround for a player who described his first season at Spurs as one of the hardest in his career.

But he has another important role at Spurs too, helping to integrate his good friend Serge Aurier - they played together for Toulouse - into the first team.

Aurier made his first Premier League start against the Hammers, although it ended prematurely as he was sent off after committing two yellow-card offences within five minutes.

It was not very smart, but he played well before then, giving Spurs the explosive power wide on the right they have lacked since selling Kyle Walker to Manchester City in the summer.

Pochettino took a risk signing Aurier, but he is pleased with what he has seen so far, and there was no criticism for the red card, even though it nearly cost Spurs the win.

"For me, it's not a big issue," Pochettino said. "I am happy with him. He made a mistake, but I cannot blame him. When you play football sometimes, that happens. It is not easy to keep calm."

With Aurier, Sissoko and new signing Davinson Sanchez at centre-back, there is a slightly different feel to Tottenham this season.

Saturday's win was their first away at West Ham since August 2014 - in Pochettino's very first game in charge.

Eric Dier scored the winner that day, on his Tottenham debut. Three years on he has evolved, like the team itself, into a powerful, intelligent, adaptable player.

Wembley is another matter, but away from home, this is a strong powerful Spurs side, a team that stands up for itself and should back itself to go almost anywhere in the Premier League this season and win.

The days of soft-touch Tottenham, who wilt on the road, or when things are against them, have been left behind.

"That is something that has been with Tottenham for a long time, but I think this team has been changing that image," Dier said. (© Independent News Service)

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