During the reign of Mauricio Pochettino, Tottenham wingers have taken an overhaul. Compared to the flying wingers of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, Spurs now opt for “inverted” wingers. Even the traditional sense of a wideman is lost, as players like Christian Eriksen simply play a wider attacking midfield role.
The club is sorely in the need of some traditional wingers. This is primarily because of how they provide more service for the striker. In addition, it widens Tottenham’s play, which is often all too central, and stretches the opposition.
Whether it is Harry Kane or Vincent Janssen, the Spurs strikers are often deprived by a lack of service. This is often because they have to drop back or deploy wide to find space. Whilst this is beneficial in retaining possession, it removes the attacking threat in the box. Instead, it relies on clever, inch-perfect passes to unlock a defence. On top form, the likes of Eriksen or Dele Alli can achieve this. However, a recent string of draws has left supporters deflated. This is mainly due to the fact that the passes which penetrate the opposition defence have been missing.
A more effective way of supplying the striker is to deploy wingers in their favoured roles. Georges-Kévin NKoudou is a perfect fit, due to his electric pace and dribbling ability. During his recent cameos, he has shaken up matches with these attributes, beating defenders with ease and driving to the byline. Any of his crosses could have been spilt by the goalkeeper, deflected into the net by a defender or tapped home by the striker.
This is how the Spurs of yesteryear would play, with the likes of Bale, David Ginola and Chris Waddle causing havoc. Instead, Heung–Min Son and Erik Lamela usually cut inside, attempting to squeeze past a heavily congested centre, often lacking results.
Arguably, Tottenham’s only wingers are the full-backs. Danny Rose and Kyle Walker do surge forward to make vital contributions to attacking efforts, but against top class opponents, they are under high stress. This stress threatens to pin them in, which decimates any width in the side. As a result, it can be hard to retain possession and to push out of the opponents’ hold.If traditional wing-play were deployed, it would limit the freedom of Rose and Walker to an extent. It would allow them, however, to overlap the winger to deliver a cross.
It would also give an easier route to play out from the back. Whilst the inverted wingers can pull wide to provide a pass, there are points where there is no further option out wide to pass to. This either results in a sideways or backwards pass, or the need for Rose or Walker to advance down the line. Instead, with traditional wingers, there would always be a simple pass down the line. Pushing players out wide would allow more space for Alli or Eriksen to operate centrally. A less congested midfield means more space for dribbling, as well as time for picking a pass.
Overall, Spurs could benefit from at least ensuring that in the current system, the inverted wingers balance cutting inside with racing to the byline. This would ensure slightly more service to Janssen and Kane and ensures an element of unpredictability, but going back to a more traditional system could bolster the attack even more.