Jose Mourinho has set the stage for a formidable three-pronged attack with a tactical shift this season. Tottenham Hotspur could end up being quite special.
There’s a pattern forming over Tottenham Hotspur’s last two games. It’s one that suggests Jose Mourinho is trying a tactical shift towards a devastating front-three for Spurs.
It’s as simple as this – in their last two games, only three starting players have had shots for the team. Against Burnley, it was Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Tanguy Ndombele. Against West Ham United, it was Kane, Son, and Steven Bergwijn.
Now, you can’t see the same pattern against Manchester United and Newcastle United. Spurs peppered over 20 shots at each of their opponents’ goals, with virtually everyone have an effort. But the pattern is back against Southampton – this time, two players had shots, with Kane and Son providing the output.
Spurs are quite blatantly prioritising their attack through two or three players in tough games. You can see it again in key passes.
The pattern isn’t there against Burnley but against West Ham, Spurs had nine key passes. Kane and Son had over half of those. Against Manchester United, they had 18, with the same duo providing eight of those. The team managed 14 v Newcastle, five of which came from that pairing.
Southampton saw Spurs create eight chances, six of which Kane and Son provided.
Spurs, then, do their attacking through two or three players – in some cases, almost entirely. If one of the two or three aren’t having the shot, they’re providing the pass, and often both.
The obvious reason is that Spurs’ greatest strength is in Gareth Bale joining up with Kane and Son. If Mourinho gets that trio to click, they’ll be a near-unstoppable force. Kane and Son practically are on their own, let alone with a fully-firing Bale in the mix.
That’s what you’d point to when looking at Spurs’ advantage over the rest of the Premier League, bar maybe Liverpool. They have a versatile, elite trio up top that virtually no one can match.
Another thing that points to this being the plan is how Kane is changing his game. He’s no longer just the primary goalscorer but is now far more of a creative player. He has eight assists already this season – twice as many as anyone else. With Kane splitting his output like that, it suggests there’s room for another goalscorer.
Bale, surely, is that player. He can create and score, just like Kane and Son, and with no one demanding priority in either regard, they can all play together. It would be different if Kane scored all of the goals, for instance. That would be a more rigid system and Bale would come in mainly as a provider.
By using Kane as a provider, Spurs can use a flexible front-three that can almost play on their own, to everyone’s strengths. And that could be key.
It may well be that Mourinho wants to effectively defend with seven and attack with three. Especially in some games where teams can be caught on the counter.
Having such an effective trio up top would mean Mourinho can be more pragmatic with the rest of the side. He can set them up however he deems best to stifle opponents, knowing the goals take care of themselves.
That could become a very effective way of going about this season. But it all depends on Bale getting back to his best, of course.