Paulo Fonseca promotes a fluid, enterprising and attacking brand of football, precisely the reasons Tottenham selected him as the club’s next manager.
Basically, he’s the polar opposite of Jose Mourinho. Fonseca prioritizes youth development while ensuring a core group of experienced players provide balance to the side.
While Fonseca and Mourinho are entirely dissimilar, both espoused Tactical Periodization, which underpins the importance of balancing physically rigorous training sessions with an equal measure of tactical preparation.
Fonseca places a high importance on possession and reinforces it ad nauseam in training. He believes ardently in having every player on the pitch confident with the ball at his feet, especially from members of his rearguard. His centre backs are renowned for their ability to remain composed and play out from the back.
The 48-year-old is so adamant about having his centre backs play out from the back that he transitioned Bryan Cristante, a seasoned central midfielder, into the heart of central defence. Cristante could then use his deft touch and ability on the ball to thread the needle from deep in his own half. It also allowed Cristante to push up and play a high line, even acting as a quasi defensive midfielder while the wing backs tucked in to provide cover.
Fonseca’s preferred formation
The Portuguese gaffer prefers playing with three at the back, a formation he adopted early in his tenure at Roma. Beforehand, while in charge of Shakhtar Donetsk, he utilized a 4-3-3 system.
His preferred 3-4-3 relies on a keeper who is adept at fulfilling an almost-sweeper role, akin to Ederson at Manchester City. The backline is then able to part like the Red Sea to widen the pitch, offering numerous outlets.
The defensive central midfielder would offer a quick outlet in the centre of the park. Fonseca’s 3-4-3 demands quick, short and incisive passing. Unless Roma was up against a Goliath like Juventus or Inter, they rarely knocked it long. For this to work, each player must be confident on the ball, a side of the game that Fonseca works tirelessly on in training.
Fonseca’s dynamic attacking methodology
Fonseca’s puts a heavy reliance on his wing backs doing tireless, industrious work. They must unrelentingly overlap the attacking wingers, who slide into the middle to overwhelm the opposition in the centre of the park. His system is reliant on wing backs bombing forward and consistently playing on the front foot. Sergio Reguilon, if he stays put, will have an integral role to play in Fonseca’s set up. Tottenham will need to source a right back of a similar skill set in order to optimally execute Fonseca’s fluid system.
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While Reguilon bombs forward, it would be incumbent on Son Heung-Min to dart in field in support of the lone forward (hopefully Harry), who would act as the focal point. The right sided attacking midfielder would complete the in-field triangle, facilitating numerous incisive options via its compact structure. The key takeaway in Fonseca’s offensive setup is its fluidity and interchanging of the front three.
Overloading the centre of the park puts added pressure on the wing backs. The wing backs in Fonseca’s system are arguably the most important individuals on the pitch. This system yielded impressive offensive numbers from Roma, though Fonseca’s side struggled without the ball, on the defensive side of things.
You can see why Daniel Levy was keen on giving Fabio Paratici the all clear to pursue Fonseca. His exciting, possession-based brand of football completely contrasts the dogged counter-attacking system Mourinho employed.
We’ll have to wait and see whether he can execute his preferred system with the personnel at his disposal in north London.
Though it’s clear Fonseca will need to sign a few players to complement his expansive style of play.
Like a girl dating a dude who is the complete opposite of her ex, Levy has made clear what he desires of his new Tottenham Hotspur. And that should provide some solace, even excitement, to supporters who lost faith after watching Jose instil an archaic, dogged and risk-averse style of football.