Judging by Tottenham Hotspurs’ signings so far this summer, André Villas-Boas is trying to assemble a powerhouse of a squad, where speed, power, athleticism and technique rules. The main reason for this is André wanting Spurs to roll with the natural nature of the Premier League as opposed to going against it. That being said, three of the four signings AVB has made (Paulinho, Chadli and Capoue) all stand at 6ft or taller – physically big players, which will allow extreme vertical penetration from all areas of the pitch via long transition passes.
The team is also designed to be very comfortable on the ball, able to cover large distances of the pitch via dribbling. AVB’s intention is to not necessarily boost Tottenham’s average ball possession per match, instead he is looking to increase the speed of the teams’ attacking transitions which should culminate in two major things:
1, A greater number of chances created per match (last seasons’ total of 511 was 2nd in the league)
2, A greater overload of players in the box to finish off moves. Defensively, Spurs athleticism should see ball retention a key facet of the teams’ play being able to press and hound the opposition into mistakes and turnovers. I want to focus on the new signings and what they’ll bring to the team.
Best deployed as a defensive midfielder, the former Toulouse maestro is a physical presence who protects the back line through expert tackling, intercepting and closing down. He is also a very good deep-lying playmaker and looks to initiate attacks quickly, if there is not a pass on then Étienne Capoue is also great at holding onto possession and dribbling past players.
Looking at how it could work in the Tottenham team, I see the forward players greatly benefiting from this range of passing. The players will feel comfortable to make surging runs into the box knowing they could be picked out with direct vertical passes.
A classic number 9 type of striker, Soldado is a master at breaking through defensive lines with excellent movement on the shoulder of the defender. He is quick over the first 5-6 yards and this is usually enough for him to latch onto through passes and finish them off in clinical fashion, so much so that Soldado boasted the third best conversion rate in Europe’s top 5 leagues last season (24%) bettered only by Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi. Clipped through balls and crosses could also become a more dominant feature of Tottenham’s play as Soldado is a Volley-master striker, who often finishes chances with his first touch.
Soldado’s movement in behind defences coincides with the increased verticality of the team as a whole. He could find himself latching onto numerous through passes per game without necessarily playing directly in front of a number 10 type of player if the team mainly plays in a 4-3-3 formation as expected.
The Belgian possesses silky smooth technique, great pace and flair. He is usually deployed as a left winger but is also effective in the number 10 role or on the right. Chadli is a direct winger, a real inside forward who will cut inside onto his favourite right foot and unleash thunderous strikes. He did this to great effect last season, scoring 19 goals for FC Twente last term. He is also a great link-up player and a wide playmaker who will look to play short vertical through passes for the striker.
I noticed whilst watching Spurs’ recent pre-season friendly against Espanyol that Nacer was a target for the majority of Hugo Lloris’ goal kicks. Standing at 6ft 2 inches, Chadli is big enough to win the majority of these aerial duels high in the opposition’s half; essentially 1 vertical kick which gets Tottenham right up the pitch in an instant. A huge benefit of AVB’s power system.
The Brazilian international is a box-to-box dynamo. He possesses great athleticism and power which he uses to great avail to arrive in the box late and power headers and shots at goal. Paulinho also has great technical ability; he is a powerful dribbler and due to his strength is hard to push off the ball, he is also an extremely accurate passer who can keep the general flow of play ticking over well, whilst being able to also execute key passes.
Paulinho is also a big threat from set pieces as seen in the pre-season friendly vs Espanyol. He scored a well-placed header that was eventually chalked off as offside, but it showcased his great aerial prowess from set-pieces which last season was a problem area for the Spurs team.
(Video of Paulinho’s disallowed headed goal vs Espanyol)
The signings AVB has made thus far signify his intent of this unique brand of football and it will be interesting to see how it turns out in the Premier League this season. The main aim this year is to yet again cement a place in the top 4 and these signings have surely given Tottenham a better chance of doing just that, with more transfer targets still yet to come in. Physicality, power, pace, technique and extreme verticality are the keys to watch out for this season, let’s see how the Spurs do.