The season’s first international break is over and the Premier League kicks back into high gear this weekend. The Champions League group stage will also begin next week as European football comes back in full force. Tottenham Hotspur return to action at the weekend with Liverpool visiting Wembley Stadium. Spurs will then open group play the following Tuesday as they travel to Inter. Playing in multiple competitions will mean the games add up quickly as the season begins to evolve. Mauricio Pochettino will have his full complement of players for the first time this season, with Son Heung-Min returning from his Asian Games triumph with South Korea. Managing Tottenham’s player rotation as the fixtures pile up will be key as to how well they can fare across multiple competitions.
Tottenham’s Player Rotation
Pochettino and this group of Spurs players are still in search of their first trophy together. They will have four opportunities to grab silverware this season. Finding a balance between Tottenham’s player rotation and team rhythm will play a huge factor in how much they can challenge in each competition. This squad had a large presence at the World Cup over the summer, so many of the regulars didn’t get the normal off-season time to recoup and recharge. The Champions League draw saw Spurs get matched with Inter, Barcelona and PSV. A tough group means there will be no days off in the midweek. It will be important that Tottenham’s player rotation is such that guys don’t get worn down too quickly at the start of a long season.
One is the problems a team faces when rotating the squad too much is a disruption in chemistry. As the season progresses, each team develops a rhythm with its starting 11. Moving players in and out of the lineup can affect that chemistry, sometimes negating a team’s rhythm of play. This shouldn’t be an issue for Spurs. They have a large and talented enough squad that they can swap players in and out of the lineup. The core of this squad has also been together for a few seasons, so they should be able to keep the chemistry at a high level even when rotating players. Finding a balance between rest and rhythm will be at the forefront of Pochettino’s managerial efforts this season.
Regardless of how Tottenham’s player rotation goes, there are a few names who will be on the team sheet without fail. The likes of Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris will be involved in most, if not all, Premier League and Champions League contests. Those four players are the backbone of this squad.
Kane finally broke his August goal drought this season with a beautiful header against Manchester United. Spurs are hopeful he can come back from the England camp in one of his blistering runs of goal-scoring form. Slow starts have come back to bite Spurs over the last few seasons. They need to capitalize on the nine points the accrued in August. Eriksen has been a casualty of those slow starts as well. He scored and assisted in Denmark’s UEFA Nations League win on Sunday. That could get him going as he returns to Spurs this week.
Vertonghen has been a mainstay in the Tottenham back four for the last few seasons. While they also have Davison Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld at centre-back, the two of them have not played as a defensive partnership very often. They have both played in tandem with Vertonghen, and that should continue as the main rotation. Lloris missed the Watford game due to an injury but should return for the clash with Liverpool. Michel Vorm is a capable back-up, but this is Lloris’ team and he will play when fit.
Adjust and Attack
Up front, there are multiple options for Pochettino to choose from. The aforementioned Son is back in the side. Although, he may need to fight to get his spot back due to Lucas Moura’s brilliant form to begin the season. The Brazillian arrived last January but was not fully integrated into Tottenham’s player rotation until this pre-season. He now knows what the manager wants from him, and has made an instant impact. His skill, scoring, and pace have all been on display through the first four games.
The combination of Moura and Son could give Spurs a different look in attack. They both possess exceptional pace and 1v1 ability. The pair also bring the work-rate and relentlessness that Pochettino demands from his attackers when they don’t have the ball. Contrast that with the positioning and finishing abilities of Kane and Dele Alli, and Tottenham can be more varied in the way they attack opponents. Winger Erik Lamela is also fit again and will provide his unique brand of energy, speed, and flair.
This could be the most intriguing of the position battles. Spurs currently have four players that have earned the manager’s trust in the centre of the park. Moussa Dembele, Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks have all contributed over the past few seasons. How Pochettino mixes and matches these four will be interesting to watch. He could settle on two separate pairings that rotate depending on the opponent or swap out players individually based on the situation. All four have proven their worth at certain times, and each bring something different to the pitch. Moussa Sissoko and youngster Luke Amos could also factor in during cup ties, or as useful options off the bench.
Full of Backs
The fullback position is another spot where Tottenham’s player rotation will be a factor. Kieran Trippier has solidified himself as the starting right-back. His excellent World Cup showing has seen his stock rise. Trippier’s crosses on overlapping runs have become a key part of Spurs’ attack. He has also taken over some of the free-kick and corner taking duties. Serge Aurier provides a talented, albeit frustrating, option at that position when needed. Ben Davies and Danny Rose will rotate in the left-back spot. Davies is the better defensive option, but can also contribute a solid cross from time to time. Rose brings pace to the team and has worked himself out of Pochettino’s doghouse since coming back from injury last season.
Empty the Cupboard
The last four seasons have warranted the best results Spurs have had in the Premier League era. Despite the success, they have yet to lift any silverware. The players have spoken in the early parts of the season that this team needs to transition from a young squad building together to a team that wins trophies. They currently have four competitions to compete in. Tottenham’s player rotation will be key to keeping the squad strong, rested and in rhythm. Despite not adding anyone over the summer, Spurs still have a deep roster of talent. As a busy run of fixtures begins, utilizing the entirety of the squad is key.