[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Premier League season returned for 2015-16 at the weekend, with the first game of the new campaign seeing Manchester United host Tottenham at Old Trafford.
A Kyle Walker own goal, somewhat against the run of play in the first half, decided the game in the hosts’ favour – but there certainly was reason for optimism for the travelling support.
Here are three reasons why Mauricio Pochettino and his men should be buoyed by their first showing of the season.
Eric Dier’s use in midfield
With the addition of Toby Alderweireld to Spurs’ options at the back and the likelihood that the Belgian will partner compatriot Jan Vertonghen at centre-half this season, Eric Dier’s role was seemingly up in the air.
However, after being used in midfield during pre-season, Pochettino opted to play the defender in the boiler room against United and the former Sporting Lisbon youngster put in an able and encouraging showing.
Unlike Nabil Bentaleb, who coughed up possession carelessly to facilitate United’s goal, Dier looked assured on the ball and made a number of telling tackles against gifted opposition.
His positional play and work-rate should also be commended and all-in-all the England under-21 star acquitted himself well.
The versatility Dier offers will give Pochettino options in both defence and midfield, with an extra player in the boiler room no bad thing after a number of departures in that position over the summer months.
For Dier, it could well be another string to the bow of a player that has all the raw talent to be a star.
The inclusion of Moussa Dembele
Arguably one of the most technically gifted players in the Tottenham squad, Dembele has had a hot-and-cold time of it since swapping Fulham for Tottenham.
One of the main issues that the Belgian has had in the Pochettino era has been that fact that he has not had an established and retained position.
In central midfield he has been guilty of overplaying in dangerous areas, while he has Christian Eriksen as competition for the number ten berth.
The gifted midfielder started in a wide right role against United – a position that Spurs have had issues in over the last 12 months.
Tim Sherwood experimented with playing Dembele in this role briefly and although not blessed with blistering pace, his trickery and movement off the ball are assets to Tottenham when he is in the team.
Whether this will be a long-term switch of position for Dembele remains to be seen, with Alex Pritchard to return from injury and stake a claim for the right-wing position.
That said, Dembele is a talent that Spurs need to make the most of instead of reducing to fringe status.
Pochettino’s methods starting to take hold
Of the Tottenham starting XI, Alderweireld was the only new face and as such the rest of the players have had time to adapt to Pochettino’s high-pressing, possession-focussed style of play.
This was the most promising facet of the team’s performance at Old Trafford, with the players seemingly starting to get the message.
In the first-half in particular, Spurs dominated possession and instead of clearing their lines aimlessly, looked to get the ball down and play. If silly errors can be removed, this tactic will make Tottenham a better footballing side and more difficult and dangerous opponent.
The team’s attackers also forced a number of turnovers in the United half which could and should have resulted in a goal. This ploy was synonymous with the Argentine trainer’s Southampton team, with Spurs needing to fully buy into the system.
With this group of young players growing together and Pochettino staying true to his ideals, there is hope that a long-term vision is in place for the White Hart Lane club.
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