Following a rather comfortable-looking victory against Schalke, Pochettino and the entire Tottenham team are looking to continue their winning streak as they enter into their season opener at West Ham. Given that their new coach plays a very aggressive, high-press game, fitness will be of the essence, along with how the players performed in the preseason friendlies and their overall technical and tactical capabilities.
Tottenham have signed goalkeeper Michel Vorm from Swansea, but it’s quite obvious he has not yet been integrated into the team, nor had the chance to push out their number one. The apparent and correct choice would be to keep the man who has performed so well for Spurs, Hugo Lloris, in goal.
Just like Michel Vorm, Ben Davies has been signed from Swansea, and exactly like his companion, it looks as if he will not have had enough time to outperform either of Tottenham’s typical outside backs (although his preseason performances were quite decent). The good news for him is that one of their usual suspects, Kyle Walker, has gone MIA, and it doesn’t look as if he’ll be returning for the first game. But unfortunately for Davies, it looks as if Pochettino will be giving Walker’s normal replacement, Kyle Naughton, the chance to start at right back for Spurs ahead of him.
Contrary to the controversy over the right back position, filling the other three defensive spots seem like relatively simple decisions for Pochettino to make.
Jan Vertonghen, despite missing all preseason games, had a fabulous World Cup with Belgium, and looks set to fill his usual center back position.
The other center back will probably be Younes Kaboul, who given Pochettino’s coaching style, will most definitely beat out the slow and waning Michael Dawson.
At left back, last season standout Danny Rose seems to be the best, and frankly, only choice (Chiriches simply does not have the defensive capabilities Rose does).
The most important factor behind a player having success in midfield is consistency, and although Pochettino has many midfielders to choose from, he has few that have shown him said consistency over the course of last season and this summer. It will come as a surprise to some, but it may be in the best interest of Spurs to leave out young Schalke starters, Nabil Bentaleb and Lewis Holtby, and replace them with a more experienced, solid pairing of defensive midfielders, Sandro being one of them. He has always been a key holding midfielder for the team, and they could benefit from that, given that defense is their greatest weakness.
Beating out Sandro’s countryman, Paulinho, for the other more defensive midfield position is Moussa Dembele. It’s a hard call to make, seeing as Paulinho is generally better recognized, but their World Cup performances say it all. Paulinho, despite playing for Brazil, was nonexistent, and it could be said that he did more bad than good. Dembele, on the other hand, had a very solid stint with Belgium, and helped them get as far as they did. Looking back on last season as well, Dembele put in more consistent performances than Paulinho, which I ultimately believe will lead to Pochettino granting him a starting spot.
Leading the attack in the midfield will be Christian Eriksen, because face it, he really is that good.
Aaron Lennon will be another piece of the attacking midfield triangle for two reasons. One, he’s incredibly quick and skilled, and two, he has been a staple in Spurs’ diet for close to ten years, and they’re in need of his experience and leadership.
Completing the group of attacking midfielders will probably be Erik Lamela. He was left out of the starting eleven for the whole of last season, but his vivacious preseason performances have moved him up the ranks. It might also help that him and his coach share a home nation, but who can really say?
Tottenham have three real strikers: Roberto Soldado, Harry Kane, and Emmanuel Adebayor. When it comes to following Pochettino’s high pressure style of play, Soldado and Kane are much more fit for the position, but Adebayor at his best beats both of them with his ability to convert when he should (cough, cough Soldado), and that’s why he’ll be starting against West Ham.