16/17 End of Season Q&A

I was surprised by both the quantity and quality of questions I received on a single tweet I only bumped once. Maybe that’s because this is a one-off but if it isn’t then maybe this can become a slightly more regular thing.

Sorry if your question hasn’t made it. I’ll try to tweet replies to those not included where less than 140 characters will give a decent answer.

3. Only if Eric plays as a CB. We beat both United and Arsenal with this midfield duo, sure. But I don’t think it’s unfair to say that they were both weak iterations of those sides. As resident tactics nerd I’m quickest to downplay the ‘intangibles’ but I truly believe they were the predominant factor in both those games. The energy and commitment we put in for the first 60 minutes v United, carried us through our creative shortcomings. It’s just not something we can expect to replicate on a weekly basis.

2. If he wants it then as squad player who can sometimes contribute to a 4-2-3-1, sometimes rotate with Eriksen (we do need this) in the 3-4-3 and could maybe even kinda do a job at WB from time to time. But having previously been a first XI regular it would be understandable if he was unwilling to accept a secondary role.

1. We should have already started. Our season only really got started after Christmas and I put a lot of that down to Mousa’s fitness and our inability to work around it. (Imagine if we’d been this good from the start!)

From January onwards our form improved with his. His fitness seemed to improve around this time but I think our three at the back shape eased the burden on him in several ways, so it’s a little hard to differentiate between the impacts of the two things. Especially with all the other factors at play.

Regardless, we’re still not a long way from “Tottenham do not exist without Dembele”. The problem is that he is not easily replaced with personnel or tactics…

Not really. I’m big on Winks; he’s an intelligent, hard-working, talented kid from the local area who plays my favourite role. He’s performed well, even very well, most of the time he’s been called upon.

But away to Gent and Burnley, when put into Dembele’s role against physical, pressing opponents, the gulf between everything he is and everything we need him to be was on display. It might come across as harsh to write off the abilities of a young player based on roughly 90 minutes of football but it was evident that Winks just isn’t in the same tier as Dembele for both pressing and resistance to opposition pressing.

That doesn’t mean that “Start Winks” was a terrible take at the time that I should now apologise for. We desperately needed to improve how we built the ball from the back for the first half of the season and my proposed method would have helped.

Instead the method we did arrive at, 3 at the back, worked better and didn’t have the shortcomings my suggestion would have had. I guess that’s why Pochettino is the world-class manager and I’m just some dickhead on twitter.

Winks is really good, it’s not his fault that the requisite skills for the job prompt the question:

This season I’ve banged on a lot about finding solutions to a world without Mousa and how his lack of fitness has caused us problems. But that shouldn’t be seen as a slight on him. If anything it’s a compliment to our reliance on him and by extension his brilliance.

In his pre-Leicester press conference Pochettino talked about how Dembele has been playing through the pain this season. The club announced that he will see a specialist regarding an ongoing foot problem that prevents him from being able to complete 90 minutes.

The fact that he’s carrying an injury that would see most players long-term sidelined and is still, in my opinion, the best central midfielder in the league is absolutely ridiculous.

Kane, Eriksen, Alderweireld, Lloris. These are incredible players that we are very lucky to have play for our club but there are other players in the world who are comparable. Mousa Dembele, for the extremities of his strengths and limitations, is not only unique in world football but in it’s lengthy history too.

Okay onto some lighter stuff for a while:

Waltz: Operates in a unique time signature, sometimes causes a dizzying effect, Erik Lamela.

Macarena: Silly, formulaic, well-known in multiple continents, Son Heung-Min.

Boddypopping: Huge for a while, not so popular nowadays: Kevin Wimmer.

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Make your account public, Jack.

Not given much listening to either of their solo projects but within the band I prefer’s Tanya’s contributions. I don’t think that’s really a songwriting thing though (Kristen is probably the better writer), I just find Tanya’s voice more, of the era, of the scene.

Sorry mate that’s a crap answer to a great question. Anyway check out some of my local bands GANG (early Sabbath + Pixies) and Inevitable Daydream (Dino Jr + Psych).


Got quite a few Walker questions, unsurprisingly.

Hopefully he sticks around but even with his seemingly heartfelt video tribute to White Hart Lane it doesn’t look great.

Trippier has done okay in Walker’s absence. But is okay good enough for first choice? The full-back/wing-back role under Pochettino is an immensely physical one. And athleticism isn’t Trippier’s greatest strength, neither is it Walker-Peters’. So really we need to get looking for someone who is more in the Danny Rose/Kyle Walker mould. I don’t watch enough international football to tell you who that might be. Serge Aurier is the only name that comes to mind but he’s a more than questionable character.

Instead Trippier’s strength is in his crossing. Which is good, obviously. It’s good to have that in the squad because but it’s an added bonus. It isn’t the main focus of what Pochettino wants our full-backs to do.


He kinda just wants them to be there. That’s an oversimplification but you’re right to point out that it’s not really about end product for them.

Instead, Pochettino wants to use the threat of end product to hurt the opposition in other areas. He wants them high, wide, moving the ball with tempo and precision and carrying it into the final third when necessary. All so that the opposition are stretched across the pitch to create more space in the middle where the real danger is.

Obviously they aren’t completely removed from attacks. Both will still occasionally get to the by-line to play a floor cross and, more uniquely under Pochettino, both will underlap into attacking midfield areas to combine there.

Pace, technical reliability and (coached) positional intelligence are the attacking attributes of a Pochettino full-back.


Playmaking CBs work. They’re cool and fun and somewhat unique.

Essentially we need creativity from somewhere deep and it doesn’t really matter if it comes from deep midfield or all the way at the back. Intentionally or otherwise we’re in a situation where we have three quality, creative CBs and a midfield of creatively limited man mountains.

The question becomes how can we provide depth to these areas? Quality, creative CBs are rare. Rarer still are ones prepared to sit on the bench and wait their turn. Creative CMs are more common and we have one in Winks, but as we’ve already explored the system places too much physical responsibility on the CMs for Winks to reliably fill in if there was to be a long-term injury.

First team CB creativity is a feature. Needing CB creativity depth is a bug.


Davies hasn’t played LCB (except for a few minutes v West Brom) because he’s been needed out wide, because CBs require less rotation, because Davies is short and, lastly, because Wimmer is still on the books.

I like Wimmer but it looks like Poch doesn’t. I like Wimmer based on how he’s been on the pitch (I appreciate there’s been a drop off this season) it strikes me that Pochettino’s lack of love for Wimmer probably comes from something off it.

CCV is a good young defender but my suspicion that he’s not up to the job of a Pochettino RCB in terms of creativity was confirmed by the lads on the 2nd Fighting Cock youth special. Additionally Wimmer is a lefty, CCV is a righty. We need cover for both and footedness is even more of a big deal in a 3 than it is in a 2.

Yes and I think we’re seeing it with Pochettino. Spurs’ attacking shape can often resemble the old-school WM formation and our ability to sustain attacks through our counter-pressing allows us to commit so many players forward.


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Pep too can be accused of playing a 2-3-5 shape with a similar pressing scheme that allows him to throw the kitchen sink. Talking of…

1. I think there’s been some Englishness about his City team this year. A bit more direct, and a bit more physical in his pressing (though both those things had already happened to a degree at Bayern – as had the wide wingers thing).

Now that can be seen as both “Ah look, Pep’s had to change his game for the great and mighty Premier League” and “Pep’s so clever he’s adjusted his game to his surroundings.” Whatever, forge your own narratives.

2. Had quite a few Zaha/winger questions. For me, there are bigger priorities in replacing/keeping Walker, keeping all our key players and somehow finding depth for Dembele, Eriksen and our CBs.

We have a system that’s really good. That turns over team after team (that aren’t Liverpool). The reason we haven’t won a title is because we haven’t been able to consistently start the required players to make that system work of the length of a season.

I’d like to see us work on making what we’ve got repeatable for a whole season. But I can see the argument in looking for a pure winger. It gives us something different which means we have alternate routes to goal if our normal method isn’t working and we can make slight alterations to our normal system so that we continue to be difficult to predict and suss out.

I actually quite like Zaha. I like the way he dribbles, it’s fairly unique. He’s slightly crouched and he gets a lot of width between his feet. I like the way he can dig out the necessary power and swerve when the ball is under him/away from him.

But I don’t think he’s what Spurs need. His end product has improved but it’s still not up to par and I have some questions on his ability to run on to through-balls.


Alright, that’s your lot for now. In a couple of weeks I’m planning my analytics debut. A piece on Spurs and xG so stay tuned/mad for that.


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