Tottenham XI for the Blues in Preseason
A good portion of the Tottenham line-up should be familiar to folks, as new Head Coach Nuno Espirito Santo has played the same front three for the last two matches and we can expect that to continue. Even without Kane in the squad, it is the defense, not the offense, where there are still a lot of question marks for this team, so who will Santo choose in the back and what kind of line-up will we see.
Do we see four or three in the back for the Spurs?
The biggest question for most fans and maybe for the players defensively is who will Spurs set up under Santo. The coach was known for often using three players in the back with wing-backs rather than your more traditional fullbacks. This was not always the case and up-to-this point in the preseason we have seen mostly a standard four in the back, but that does not mean we will continue to do so.
The real mitigating factors here are the lack of depth at the center-half position at this point in camp. Davinson Sanchez and Joe Rodon have not been back for long from the summer and Alderweireld and Foyth have both been sold. The point is until the Spurs have all their centrebacks in and ready it will be difficult to play a back three, as the depth across the unit just is not there.
We should expect to see a back four continue until the team is fully settled and all the backs are available. Against Chelsea, this means a very familiar back four with Sergio Reguilon, Eric Dier, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Matt Doherty in the back.
One line or two in the midfield for Tottenham?
Whether or not Tottenham plays three or four in the back may have a bearing on the midfield. To this point, we have seen both a three-man midfield – used against MK Dons – as well as the Spurs’ more familiar two-deep midfield with a line of three in front of them. Just as Santo often prefers to play with a back three, he has often run out a 4-3-3 line-up at Wolves, which we saw last week.
With Pierre-Emile Højbjerg likely still out from his summer work, regardless of formation and shape, this is likely not the same unit that will start against Manchester City. Given the need to see if some players are capable of playing in certain places, expect to see a midfield three again, with Dele Alli, Oliver Skipp, and Harry Winks getting the call.
For both Dele and Winks, this is about showing you can play in the system or shining to get a move for Skipp, let’s hope he can settle in.
Front three we recognize
How Santo establishes the team against a good side like Chelsea will tell us a lot about how he wants to play. Last season, there was no doubt this was a game for Spurs to counter-attack under Mourinho, that may not be the case this season under Santo. Expect to see more of the open, movement-based offense we have seen over the first few weeks.
Whether or not the diagonal runs and through balls will be as successful against a team that will be as well organized as Chelsea remains to be seen but we can expect more of the same. With Steven Bergwijn, Son Heung-Min, and Lucas Moura across the attacking band, we know what to expect.
The real question is if these three can be as effective as they have been in the last couple of weeks against a top-tier defense. Chelsea may not be playing all of their starters but it is still a Thomas Tuchel team, which will be well organized and hard to break down. Seeing someone like Lucas have the same kind of impact against Chelsea as he has against the lesser competition can go a long way toward building the confidence this team needs to be successful.