Tottenham Hotspur in a 4-3-3 Formation Under Jose Mourinho

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Jose Mourinho, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Jose Mourinho, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images) /

Tottenham Hotspur have used several different formations under Jose Mourinho, but the second most common is the 4-3-3 and Spurs tend not to lose in this set-up.

Having addressed the overall variation in the formations used by Jose Mourinho, at Tottenham Hotspur, we want to dig a bit deeper into a couple of those formations here at HotspurHQ to understand why we may or may not see those formations in the future. As the second most used set-up since joining Spurs, the 4-3-3 was a great place to start.

Tottenham in a 4-3-3

Tottenham have used one version or another of a 4-3-3 formation on nine different occasions or 18 percent of the time under Jose Mourinho. Typically used in the Premier League – 8 of 9 instances – and typically on the road – 7 of 9 matches – Mourinho seems to use this formation against other pressing, attacking teams.

In terms of how the formation has been used in 8 of the 9 matches were in a 4-3-3 attack formation, as opposed to defense, according to The 4-3-3 is THE preferred formation by some teams in the League, including defending champions Liverpool. The 4-3-3 is in favor as it allows for a strong attacking line, held together by an industrious midfield, and a stout well positioned defense.

A 4-3-3 can work better when one of the strikers plays in more of a false 9 role and drops deeper in the formation to help link-up the midfield and attack. This is an area of the pitch Firmino dominates for Liverpool and we have seen Harry Kane do wonders in for Spurs as well. When the striker drops it allows others to go over the top and the Premier League has seen a lot of that for both Mo Salah and Heung Min Son the last couple seasons, so we know this works. This was the formation Spurs unleashed on both Southampton and Manchester United, trying to attack possession-oriented teams with a high back line.

Tottenham have been mostly successful in the formation winning five of the nine, including the only time in the defense approach, Newcastle last season. Further Spurs have drawn 3 and only lost 1 time in the formation, giving Spurs a loss rate of only 11%, the December 2019 loss to Chelsea. Despite the overall success, the line-up really does not get the most out of the midfielders that Tottenham currently have on the roster, which is stocked with more creativity, guile, and craft than it is with the graft and industry needed to consistently run a 4-3-3.

With a much more creative group overall, compared to the industry found in the Liverpool midfield, Tottenham tend to pick and choose when to deploy this formation. With seven behind the ball rather than the usual six, this is slightly more defensive than the traditional 4-2-3-1 but does provide for quick strike capability.

Given the success, we will certainly see more of this formation over the rest of the season, but only on certain occasions, when Mourinho wants to leverage the oppositions aggressiveness and high press to strike quick on the counter. That said, you can envision this being the formation used against teams like Wolves or Leeds, who play an aggressive, pressing, attacking brand of football, particularly when Spurs are on the road.