As £60 million worth of post-Gareth Bale signings shuffle quietly out of north London, a subdued summer at White Hart Lane has reopened the wounds of failed transfer splurges, and produced an atmosphere of pessimism among fans. With fresh tactical innovations for 2015/16 unlikely to be unveiled by Mauricio Pochettino, Manchester United’s new midfield pairing should sweep up Tottenham’s centrally focused attacks.
Spurs' primary tactical strategy involves using inverted wingers to swarm the centre of the pitch. This helps create multiple short passing options to build slowly towards goal, while compressing the field in order to utilise a high-pressing system when out of possession.
Attacking overloads revolving around Christian Eriksen are common, but prove largely unsuccessful against compact opposition and gifted defensive midfielders; Spurs failed to score last season against Stoke, Burnley, West Brom, Man City and Crystal Palace – all teams that play in narrow formation with strong and densely packed central midfields.
Spurs also failed to score in either fixture against Manchester United. These Stats Zone screens show how centrally focused they were.
Since 63.5% of their chances created came from central areas last season (more than any other top-10 club), predicting their tactics could be straightforward for Louis van Gaal, a manager who now boasts a central midfield partnership as good as any in the division.
Morgan Schneiderlin, a roaming regista who shields the defence (3.7 tackles, 2.6 interceptions per game – the best in league last season) will drift effortlessly behind his partner Bastian Schweinsteiger, whose slalom runs and see-sawing movement will provide the engine that moves the ball quickly from defence to attack. On the opening day, their combined defensive clout and positional dominance at the base of midfield should stunt Tottenham’s attacks without much trouble.
Schneiderlin is a phenomenal destroyer, and Schweinsteiger’s passing range is terrific.
If Van Gaal’s second season is to be considered a success, then these two must develop a symbiosis very quickly; the narrow attacks and intricately worked interplay of Tottenham offers the opportunity to make an ideal start at Old Trafford.
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