Mauricio Pochettino sticks with 4-2-3-1 and faces a dilemma against Chelsea
Spurs were using a successful 3-4-2-1 system before Victor Wanyama was injured against Burnley, but his absence – coupled with that of Harry Winks – prompted a switch to 4-2-3-1.
Suddenly lacking central midfielders, Pochettino moved Eric Dier into that role – and instead of replacing the England man in a three-man rearguard, he opted to play with two centre-backs and change the formation.
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That allowed the manager to pick a third attacking midfielder, and the approach has worked equally well recently.
Spurs’ performance improved at Burnley after their switch to 4-2-3-1, with both of their goals in the 2-0 victory coming with that set-up.
A week later, Tottenham’s raft of attacking options proved too hot for Watford to handle as they thrashed their visitors 4-0 at White Hart Lane.
Notably, Heung-Min Son – who tends to be the one to miss out in the 3-4-2-1 system – struck two of the goals that day, while playing key roles in the other two.
The result was that, when Wanyama returned to the matchday squad against Bournemouth this afternoon, Pochettino opted to stick with 4-2-3-1 and pick Son again, rather than reverting to 3-4-2-1 and using wing-backs.
With Harry Kane returning to the starting line-up, Spurs had formidable front four – and both he and Son were on target, with the South Korean taking his impressive tally to eight goals in six games.
There has been an assumption that Pochettino will move back to 3-4-2-1 for next weekend’s FA Cup semi-final, virtually mirroring Chelsea’s 3-4-3 system – a tactic that worked effectively when Spurs beat their London rivals 2-0 in January.
However, he now has something of a dilemma. After Spurs’ latest performances, and Son’s role in them, can he really drop the in-form midfielder and change his tactics?
Dier keeps his place in midfield – but for how long?
Wanyama had started every league game for Tottenham before his back injury at Turf Moor. But, during his time on the sidelines, Dier has deputised brilliantly, even chipping in with goals against both Burnley and Watford.
The 23-year-old therefore got the nod again against Bournemouth today, leaving Wanyama in the unfamiliar position of watching the majority of a top-flight fixture from the bench.
Dier fully deserved to keep his place, and he put in another fine display. Indeed, his block when Jack Wilshere tried to pass the ball forward inside Bournemouth’s half resulted in Spurs’ second goal.
Could he possibly stay ahead of Wanyama in the pecking order against Chelsea?
Tottenham are unstoppable when they get ahead – especially at home
These days when Spurs’ first goal arrives, the next one invariably follows.
The Lilywhites memorably struck three times after the 88th minute at Swansea earlier this month, and last weekend the first two strikes against Watford came just six minutes apart. This time, against Bournemouth, Spurs registered in the 16th and 19th minutes.
They should have increased their advantage before the interval, missing a number of opportunities, and Pochettino was shaking his head as he headed towards the dressing room at half time.
However, Spurs have now scored 14 first-half goals in their last six games at White Hart Lane (an average of 2.3 per match).
And, just like against Watford last weekend, they struck again early in the second half, Kane netting in the 48th minute.
In the end Tottenham ran out 4-0 winners at home for the fourth time in 2017, with substitute Vincent Janssen adding a final flourish late on – and the Lilywhites have now secured their 15th straight victory at the Lane in all competitions.
The question is whether they can keep that magnificent run going in their final home games, against Arsenal and Manchester United.
Their last two opponents are rather tougher, of course, but even two draws would complete an unbeaten season at home, in what is expected to be the last ever season at the stadium.
Kane reaches another landmark but will rue his failure to get even closer to Lukaku
In finding the net on his return to the starting line-up, Kane became the first Spurs player to score at least 20 league goals in three successive seasons since the legendary Jimmy Greaves, who achieved the feat between 1967 and 1969.
The 23-year-old has also become only the fourth player to manage that achievement in the Premier League, following in the footsteps of Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistlerooy.
His only disappointment will be that he only managed to score once against Bournemouth today.
Spurs were utterly dominant and registered 24 shots on goal, with 14 of them on target.
Kane himself had numerous chances to add to his tally and close in on Romelu Lukaku at the top of the goalscoring chart – but the Everton man remains three clear in the race for the Golden Boot.
All eyes on Chelsea’s trip to Old Trafford tomorrow
Just like last weekend, Spurs have done their job and closed the gap to Chelsea in emphatic style, moving four points behind the leaders. Now, again, they must wait to see how their London rivals respond.
Last Saturday Chelsea promptly re-established their seven-point cushion, triumphing at Bournemouth.
But, this time, they face a rather tougher challenge – away against Manchester United, whose manager Jose Mourinho will doubtless be keen to halt his former club’s march towards the title and throw a spanner in the works.
It is an acid test of Chelsea’s credentials and, if they emerge victorious on Sunday, it will be that much harder to see them falling away before the end of the season.
While Spurs are yet to face Arsenal and United, Antonio Conte’s pacesetters would only have one more clash against a top-seven club – Everton – in addition to matches against Southampton, Middlesbrough, West Brom, Watford and Sunderland.
Now or never?
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