Pitchside

Why Tottenham want to break the bank for Schneiderlin

Pitchside

View gallery

.
In a transfer window which has so far mercifully lacked a long, drawn-out dispute, the situation developing between Southampton, Tottenham and Morgan Schneiderlin seems to be as close as we'll get to a saga.

Reports circulated on Monday that the French midfielder - along with fellow Saint Jay Rodriguez - were imminently heading for Tottenham and that they would be the latest players to depart St Mary's.

Twenty four hours later, though, the situation would lose some of its clarity. Club chairman Ralph Krueger gave a lengthy interview on BBC Radio Solent and denied that either player would be leaving and that any claims to the contrary were false.

Schneiderlin didn't take that particularly well and, between a brief rage on Twitter on Tuesday night and a transfer request on Wednesday afternoon (though that aspect of the narrative is subject to conflicting reports), it became apparent that his interpretation of the situation differed from Krueger's.

Evidently, Schneiderlin wants to move to Tottenham.

In recent weeks, it's been reported that Southampton value their midfielder at around the £27 million mark and, given the depth in that area of Mauricio Pochettino's squad, it's maybe surprising that Daniel Levy is willing to meet that asking price. On top of regular first-teamers Sandro, Paulinho, and Mousa Dembele, Pochettino has also inherited Nabil Bentaleb and Etienne Capoue, who are both capable - to varying degrees - of playing in the deeper areas of midfield.

View gallery

.
So why is Schneiderlin being prioritised?

On a basic level, because he is a stylistic match for Pochettino's brand of football.

The Argentine may just be three pre-season games into his time at White Hart Lane, but even just through those games it's become apparent that he wants the ball transitioned from midfield into the attacking areas quickly.

View gallery

.
So what does a side need to do that? Players who are not only reliable and accurate passers of the ball, but who are also comfortable distributing it forward instead of just sideways.

Schneiderlin ticks both of those boxes and that would make him relatively unique within the Spurs squad. Significantly flawed as a manager though he was, Tim Sherwood actually identified this problem before the end of last season and he clearly saw it as a major obstacle to the side playing with any kind of attacking temperament - so it's of little surprise to see Pochettino attempt to correct it early in reign.

Ultimately, the quicker and more accurately a team is able to move the ball up the pitch, the easier they will find space, the more likely they are to isolate defenders, and the more effective their creative players can ultimately become.

Pochettino - understandably - wants to avoid a situation where Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and the rest of his attacking unit has to constantly play into the teeth of a crowded defence. In a slow-paced game, the impact of those kinds of players can be minimised, but allow them to play in a more fractured environment and they become exponentially more dangerous.

View gallery

.
Schneiderlin's value is two sided, though, and like any elite defensive midfielder he's equipped with a really impressive ability to retrieve the ball. In 2012/13, he ranked second amongst all Premier League players in successful tackles per game and ranked first overall in terms of interceptions.

Last season, those rankings may have dropped (5th and 27th respectively), but that's partly mitigated by Southampton's growing strength within the division and their subsequently declining reliance on ball-winning.

By themselves, those numbers don't mean that much, but when watching Schneiderlin's defensive work it's impossible to ignore the cerebral quality to that part of his game. Some holding-players are very combative and rely on their athleticism more than their ability to actually read the play - Sandro is very much like that, for example.

In Schneiderlin's case, though, that ratio is the other way around: his anticipation is very good, his understanding of how an opponent's attack will develop is very astute, and he just seems to possess a lot of game intelligence. It's almost a contradiction in terms to say this, but as defensive midfielders go he's very stylish and he plays with a lot of finesse.

Whether Tottenham actually get this transfer done or not, their basis for pursuing it is very sound.

Clearly they will have to overpay to sign Schneiderlin, but he does offer a genuine variation on what already exists at White Hart Lane and he will help Mauricio Pochettino to implement his style of football - and that's an opportunity Daniel Levy is obliged to provide.

View comments (10)