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Friday, 19 February 2016

Pochettino learning as he goes

Pochettino learning as he goes

Football is no longer a game of a first team and a second eleven who play when someone is injured, it is a squad game and Mauricio Pochettino has demonstrated he is better than most at using it.

I remember when he arrived at the club there were questions asked about how he was going to handle the UEFA Europa League. Fans would want Spurs to simply forget about it and put all their eggs in one basket, to the club that is unacceptable.

He has used his first years experience to learn and, as he had to, has developed a system that everyone has to play their role within. By not adapting the system to the players, fine until a player or two leaves, but adapting the players to the system, he has created a squad that can be mixed and matched. The beauty of this approach is that it allows seamless squad rotation.

Seamless squad rotation then allows you to rest players and avoid fatigue injuries which are often muscle related. We are seeing it with the full-backs, one game Kyle Walker has a superb game, then Kieran Trippier is Man of the Match, the same is happening between Danny Rose and Ben Davies. It is something Ray Parlour has noticed too and spoke about it on talkSPORT.

“How he [Pochettino] changes the full-backs, is amazing to see. At most top sides, they have a flat back four and know the players are going to play if they are fit - they’ll play week-in-week-out. But with Pochettino, he’s got [Kieran] Trippier and [Ben] Davies - in the game against Watford they played are were excellent - and against Man City it was [Danny] Rose and [Kyle] Walker. It’s amazing how he can chop and change the full-backs, and how it’s worked for them.”

The same is happening in midfield where whoever comes in knows their role and the role of others around them. With everyone continuing to play their role within a system the team unit maintains its strength.

The Northern Hemisphere generally relies on individual talent to make a difference. Barcelona showed how a team system, albeit with brilliant individual players, can work wonders. Pochettino is recreating that mentality at Spurs, no matter how talented you are you work for the system and excel within it. If that isn't good enough for your ego you leave. It is no surprise that players that players like Adebayor, who has to be the main man for his ego, and Andros Townsend, who only plays for Andros Townsend, have left the club.

A player with talent but who wasn't good enough to force his way into the side, Tom Carroll, has found a home within the system. The system has probably saved his Spurs career, which was going nowhere. We will see rotation again in the FA Cup against Crystal Palace and we fans now expect a level of performance despite rotation. 

If you think back to the last couple of years in the UEFA Europa League and think Paulinho and co, the performances were poor. They often looked like a team who had never played before. That isn't the case now. The bad eggs have gone and everyone plays the system. The result is we now have strength in depth without having to spend a fortune in the transfer market and send the wage bill spiralling. 

Pochettino has learnt from his experiences then and now you don't hear any questions about how he is going to balance domestic and European ambitions. he has nailed squad rotation better than most and that gives us an advantage. As a coach you don't know everything, you are continually learning. Just as you expect your players to improve so you must improve as well, you must learn from what you do and the actions it creates. Pochettino is managing the whole club admirably, no easy task.

When I first started suggesting a young team playing a system was the way to go it was with how we are performing now in mind. We are not and the players are not the finished article, there is improvement to make, things can always and should always be improved.

I have written many times about the Kaizen approach, tiny little improvements all the time that add up to big improvements over time. Everything is not available now and the chequebook solution is fraught with danger as we have witnessed with the Bale money, still some want us to make the same mistake again though. If you improve how each player performs his role in just a small way then you increase the strength and efficiency of the team in eleven areas. You can see the difference.

One such area was highlighted when Fiorentina scores their deflected equaliser. Players defending today don't always defend with heart and soul, by that I mean they don't put everything into it. Ryan Mason in this incidence was an example of it, he simply stuck out a leg and turned his back. Yes he wanted to block the shot, yes he tried to block the shot, but there is a small difference between that and a whole hearted a must block the shot effort. 

It takes that little bit more and is what separates players. The difference might seem tiny, a real lunge, stretch with total commitment to get a strong foot or even more in the way of a shot or a stretched out leg hoping to block a while keeping the body out the way. You see this from players all the time, you see defenders from all clubs turn their back when sticking out a leg to stop the ball and a supposedly unlucky deflection goes into the net. It isn't luck, it is a defending error and one that is easy to eradicate with the right mindset.

Remember how Danny Rose blocked Sterling's shot against Manchester City, he put his heart and soul into making a last ditch stop. He threw everything into it, put his body in the way, no sticking out a leg with him. That commitment has to be shown by anyone defending shots outside the box. These little things all add up to make a difference, greater commitment would have meant a win. 

I don't blame Ryan Mason, I merely point out there is still little improvements to make that can improve us further. It doesn't mean you have to spend money, only to change the mentality slightly of what you have. Mason has shown against Arsenal his commitment and that he can and does use total commitment so just a reminder to everyone would keep them on their toes.


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