Analysis: The significance of the Spurs fullbacks

The Tottenham Hotspur fullbacks have been crucial to the team’s success this season, our very own Tom Hackett casts a critical eye on just how Pochettino has implemented this system.

Mauricio Pochettino has rotated his full-backs to great effect this season, and as per the Telegraph, this is a policy that’s set to continue. In this piece, I analyse the impact full backs have on Pochettino system, the importance of rotation and the strengths of each full back.

Pochettino likes to play a high pressing game with inverted wingers who come inside to affect the game. This can cause a lack a width so it relies on the full backs to push forward and offer width to open up the opposition. This means our full backs play as wing backs when we attack and are the ones we look too to put crosses into the box and stretch the opposition. We can see that from the heat map of Sundays game against City (below) that both Rose and Walker spent most of the game in City’s half. The issue for the opposition is that the two wingers have to track both of Tottenham’s full backs.


This can cause the wide midfielders to be ineffective as they are pressed back by the full backs offensive runs as it causes an overload on the opposition’s defence especially when Spurs break quickly and attack in numbers. While defensively Pochettino likes to see the full backs form a back four as quickly as possible as the team presses high up the pitch to win the ball back quickly. It is common to see the full back on the opposite side to the wing we are attacking to cover and track back to stop Spurs being hit on the break.

The need for rotation can be linked to Pochettino’s high pressing system which can take it out of the players. This can especially be the case for the full backs with the reliance on getting forward to offer width means they have to do longer distance runs to offer an offensive option. By rotating it allows our full backs to remain fresh and offer that attacking option. This could also stop any of these players from suffering burn out later on the season especially with games in the league, F.A cup and Europa League still left to play. The use of rotation can mean Pochettino can implement different tactics dependent on the opposition. This can see this from the way Spurs set up against Watford away, where Trippier and Rose were set up as wing backs as part of a back five to offer width while combatting Deeney and Ighalo.

St Albans v Watford - Pre Season Friendly

There were no smiles for Deeney and Ighalo against Spurs, having been foiled twice by Pochettino’s men

Tottenham have strength in depth in both the right back and left back positions. On Sunday, we saw the best of Danny Rose. He was the best player on the pitch in the first half and enforced Manuel Pellegrini to make the tactical change of switching David Silva to the other wing due to him being forced back by Rose’s attacking runs.

That is Danny Rose’s strength of being able to get forward a put crosses in; against City he put in eight crosses. He has got 2 assists this season in the premier league and averages 0.79 chances per game. Rose is also effective at winning free kicks in wide areas where he’s fouled 1.79 times per game; this is far more than Monreal, Clichy and Fuchs. Rose’s defensive contribution is also a strength; he wins more tackles per game (2.36) which is more than any other left back in the top four.

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Rose continues to develop into a crucial player for Spurs

Ben Davies could be seen as the better defensive left back- He makes the most blocks per game (0.38) and loses the least tackles per game (1.38) when compared to any of the other top four full backs.

Davies has made 0 defensive errors this season in the premier league. Davies attacking abilities can also be seen under Pochettino’s system and can be seen to be just effective as Rose with 2 assists this season, while bettering Rose in chances created per game where Davies averages 1. Key passes is also a strength of Davies’s attacking play with 0.85 per game which is the second best out of the top four left backs with only Fuchs (0.9) bettering.

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In the right back area, we have Kyle Walker who could be seen as the better defensive right back that Spurs have. This can be seen by the fact he wins the most tackles per game (2.14) when compared with the other top four right backs (Bellerin, Simpson and Sagna). Walker also makes a larger number of interceptions with 2.68 per game, which is only bettered by Simpson. Walker has a shot accuracy of 80% which is far greater than right backs in the top and shows he is able to test the keeper from range. Walker plays a number of key passes in the lead up to goals at 0.77 per game which is second best to Sagna (0.82). This shows that while Walker may not be getting the assists he is playing a key role in the lead up to goals.

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Trippier’s biggest strength is his ability to cross the ball, especially from deep. His most important cross this season came against Watford, supplying the assist for Son to score the winner. Trippier averages the best assist per game (0.2) and the most chances per game (1) when compared to the other right backs from the top four clubs in the division.

Trippier is also yet to make a defensive error in the Premier league. Walker and Trippier are the only right backs from the top four to have scored this season which highlights their ability to get forward.

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Trippier arrived from Burnley in the summer transfer window

It can be seen that the full backs are an important position for the Pochettino system to work and Spurs have a number of them who are delivering when called upon this season, this has enabled rotation to be used effectively and not affected the team’s results.

Written by Tom Hackett

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