Analyzing the changes Jose Mourinho has made at Tottenham in 2019

The Special One has made several significant changes and tweaks to the Spurs formula, starting with the formation. It’s a 4-2-3-1 like Mauricio Pochettino would use, but in possession, it transforms into an unbalanced 3-2-5, as right back Serge Aurier is given license to push forward and join the attacking front line.

This means, in possession, five players are dedicated to attack and five to defense. And it also means striker Harry Kane has plenty of support up top—in contrast to Romelu Lukaku at Mourinho’s Manchester United, who was often left isolated.

This leads us to Dele Alli, who is being given the freedom to play as a roaming number ten and second striker. Previously, he sat deeper with more defensive duties. Alli and the in-favor Lucas Moura are now afforded protection by the double pivot of Eric Dier and either Harry Winks or Tanguy Ndombele.

One central midfielder sits back and screens for the back four, while the other has more license to act as a playmaker. This was particularly evident when Christian Eriksen replaced Dier in the first half against Olympiakos.

There have also been some surprising changes in the way the ball is moved upfield. The Pochettino Spurs side would typically try and move the ball with as few touches as possible, but Mourinho has ramped this idea up, with some very direct, and old-fashioned route one play.

Toby Alderweireld quarterbacking a long ball to the front line for two of the goals against Bournemouth is an example of this, and Cherries manager Eddie Howe admitted his side didn’t know how to deal with it. So when top teams try to play it on the floor out wide, Spurs are hoofing it down the middle. In other words, when other managers are zigging, Mourinho is zagging!

Mourinho’s Spurs are fun to watch, they still counter attack rapidly and the players look confident again. But they are not quite perfect: they are still susceptible to conceding late goals and the defending leaves much to be desired. But with a coach whose reputation was built on an ability to create a disciplined back line—and a tendency to “park the bus: when necessary, conceding late goals should soon be a thing of the past.

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