How Mauricio Pochettino will change Spurs: Goalkeepers

Mauricio Pochettino will give our playing style a shake-up and there will be a fair few changes to our tactics this season.

Yesterday I looked at his overall system, which you can read all about here if you missed it. Today I’m going to start breaking down each position, starting with the goalkeeper and the assets he is required to have.


The man between the sticks has not only to be a shot stopper with quick reactions, but also an excellent distributor.

Moving the ball to the right targets is key to maintaining possession and getting play moving vertically – one of the objectives of the new manager’s system we looked at yesterday. Therefore, Mauricio Pochettino requires a keeper who is comfortable with the ball at his feet.

There are four zones that the goalkeeper needs to reliably hit:

1. The centre backs who split very wide.
2. The defensive midfielder who drops between the two centre backs.
3. The full backs who are pushed up extremely high
4. The centre forward either through the air or with a lower driven ball to feet when he comes short.

We can see a good cross section of this distribution from Southampton’s Premier League match with Manchester City at St. Mary’s.


Passes to (1) Centre Backs, (2) Def Mid, (3) FBs, (4) Striker

Split centre backs

In order to stretch and wear out the opposition’s front line, Mauricio Pochettino has his centre backs split extremely wide. This usually sees them moving to positions outside the widths of the penalty area when the goalkeeper has possession.

If we look further at the passes the Saints keeper plays to his centre backs, we can see how Dejan Lovren moves out very wide to the left.


Paulo Gazzaniga passes to Dejan Lovren.

Whilst Jose Fonte gets himself out to the right hand side of the penalty area to receive the ball.


Paulo Gazzaniga passes to Jose Fonte.

This should be the easiest distribution method for the goalie to reliably find his centre halves.

At least one of them should be free against teams that only have one striker or don’t adopt a heavy press. Even if the opposition does bring pressure, there is a lot of ground to cover with the two centre backs being located so wide and the opposition should tire over a 90-minute match.

Defensive midfielder dropping in

The next player the goalkeeper needs to be able to find is the defensive midfielder dropping between the split centre backs.

We can see from the Manchester City game, how Paulo Gazzaniga finds Jack Cork fulfilling this role by the passes to number 2 in the diagram above.

This option is useful if the opposition are covering the centre halves split wide, but is also fraught with danger as the ball is being played straight out and often short.

In Southampton’s home match with Hull, we can see how Loren and Fonte are split wide. Victor Wanyama drops in as the defensive midfielder to receive the ball from the goalkeeper.


Lovren and Fonte split wide as Wanyama drops in to receive the ball.

Hull were wise to this and with Wanyama looking to turn rather than play the ball to one of the centre backs to beat their press, he is dispossessed and they score.

This is often a high risk, high reward pass. If the player dropping in can turn, he can get the attack moving forward quickly. If he can’t and gets caught on the ball or his pass is intercepted, the centre halves are wildly out of position and the opposition are in on goal.

Finding the full backs

We looked yesterday at how high the full backs operate in our overview of the system of Mauricio Pochettino.

With the centre backs moving in to wider zones when the keeper has the ball, the full backs are required to get much higher up the park. Mauricio Pochettino’s 4-2-3-1 base formation goes from this.


Mauricio Pochettino’s base 4-2-3-1 with Southampton.

To then almost having more of a 3-3-1-3 look about it when the attack is being built.


Maurico Pochettino 3-3-1-3 in attacking phase.

We can see how the goalkeeper has to be able to direct longer passes out to his full backs, as they are much higher up, almost at the halfway line. We can see this from Paulo Gazzaniga’s passes to Luke Shaw if we go back to the Manchester City game.


Paulo Gazzaniga passes to Luke Shaw.

This pass is more difficult as it often has to go over opposition players. It requires a keeper who can put the ball accurately out to the full backs, also often when he is under pressure.

Hitting the centre forward

Mauricio Pochettino requires two types of passes from the goalkeeper to the centre forward.

The first is to hit him through the air with an accurate high ball. This pass can be as a release valve as the goalkeeper is under pressure and needs to clear his lines. It can also be to move the ball swiftly up-field as the centre forward has an aerial or size advantage on the defender. He can then hold play up for others to join in.

The second type of pass is a low-driven one over the ground to find the number nine as he comes short in to midfield.

We looked yesterday at how Mauricio Pochettino uses his centre forward to come short and make passes to the runners beyond him. This is one way of getting the ball quickly to this player, so that he can drag defenders out of position, allowing others in to good attacking zones.

Mauricio Pochettino lives with goalkeeper errors

With the goalkeeper being an important distributor to get the attack moving and required to be good on the ball, there is sometimes the occasional blunder. We saw above how Victor Wanyama was caught out against Hull after receiving a pass he shouldn’t really have got against three Hull pressers. However, there were other high-profile errors last season.

Artur Boruc’s hesitation on the ball and subsequent attempt to take on Olivier Giroud had disastrous repercussions at the Emirates.


Artur Boruc is caught on the ball at Arsenal.

Boruc did flounder on the ball, but Jos Hooiveld, who was standing in at centre back that day, was slow to got himself out wide to the left.

Another error was Paulo Gazzaniga’s miscue when he was looking to chip the ball out to full back Luke Shaw at St. James’s Park.

The ball was sliced up in the air as he attempted to go over Loic Remy. The Frenchman gathered up the gift, but could only fire against the post.


Paulo Gazzaniga slices an attempted pass to Luke Shaw up in the air.

Overall, Southampton conceded 12 goals from errors last season, the third most in the Premier League.

There is often a risk-reward balance, but Mauricio Pochettino knows this and is dedicated to his system. After the Boruc blunder at the Emirates, he said:

“When it goes well we receive compliments, when it doesn’t – as today – we get negative comments. But that’s how we play and we want to continue because it brings us results.”

In Hugo Lloris he will have a goalkeeper that is not only good at distributing the ball, but also has a dimension that neither Artur Boruc nor Paulo Gazzaniga had at Southampton. The ability to race from his line and clean up anything played in-behind the defence.

This will be highly beneficial with Pochettino also playing a high line, something we will look at tomorrow when covering the defence. Be sure to check back then or look for the article link on Twitter or Facebook.

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15 Responses to How Mauricio Pochettino will change Spurs: Goalkeepers

  1. Dangerzone 22nd July 2014 at 4:57 pm #

    This is good and all but with Dawson and Naughton at the back, no matter how impressive Lloris is to cover and react we’ll still concede a lot of goals. Especially playing a high line when Dawson moves like a ageing truck. Naughton… I’m not too sure if he knows what he’s doing on the pitch most the time. Seems like a player from league 2 that is somehow playing in the PL, and with Spurs.

    • SP 22nd July 2014 at 5:44 pm #

      Is Naughton likely to be anything but back-up this season – or off? Is Dawson likely to be at the club?

      If you answer ‘no’ to both these questions, then I’m afraid you post is meaningless and just seems like nit-picking, TBH.

      An excellent, very informative article.

      • Dangerzone 22nd July 2014 at 7:46 pm #

        Is Naughton likely to be anything but back-up this season – or off?

        I’d hope so. But with our injuries, he’ll likely be playing more than ever.

        Is Dawson likely to be at the club?

        He rejected a move away, and remains loyal to the club. I don’t see us losing him. Love him, but if he knows what’s best for the club then he should move on.

        Everyone has an opinion, and my opinion was on the basis of those 2 players holding us back, and unfortunately doesn’t go well with this article.

        How much I enjoyed reading this article, I just pointed out two little points and see you get all flustered.

        • SP 23rd July 2014 at 2:44 am #

          Not in the least bit flustered :)

          Just seems like totally the wrong place to voice relatively minor concerns IMHO.

          Naughton is not ‘that’ bad at right back – I suspect that a lot of the hostility to him is based on his being willing to be played out of position at left-back. And no, of course he wasn’t great at right-back either, but how many clubs have so much a better squad player for that position (and, indeed, how many full-backs considerably better would even be willing to be 2nd choice)? In any case, I would be quite happy to see Ryan Fredericks given his opportunity as cover to Walker. And I am not sure that you should be basing your whole argument on Walker being out, anyway. Hence, I don’t see why you should be finding fault (which is how it seemed) with an excellent article because a squad player who isn’t ‘that’ bad in his chosen position, and we couldn’t get much better as back-up in that position, and may not even be here, isn’t quite as good as anyone would wish (because that is all it is, wishing).

          Likewise, with Dawson. I defended him for years, as he is personable and plays with a smile on his face. But primarily because he wasn’t bad as 3rd/4th choice. That was before AVB took over and introduced a high defensive line – that is just not suited in the slightest little bit to Dawson’s game (IMHO, allowing himself to be talked out of selling Dawson was one of AVB’s biggest mistakes). Pochettino plays a high line too. So I can’t even see a squad place for him. That said, he has also been linked to more than one club and I really don’t think it is so simple as him turning a move down and so staying and being played. Again, a player I doubt will be here, and so hardly grounds for putting a sour note to an excellent article.

          And your original post doesn’t in any way sound as though you are talking in terms of them being back-ups. It just sounds as though you are assuming they will both be first choice – which is cause not the case. And that was my main issue with your post – estimations of player’s qualities often vary, so it is not a matter of just having a different estimation of the players (where and when I do). I just don’t see the point of you, or anyone else for that matter, making a negative post based on the false premise that Naughton and Dawson will be our ‘disastrous’ first choices and woe is us and the squad is crap (which is nonsense I have heard a lot of, even if that wasn’t your meaning). Is all :)

          • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd July 2014 at 11:03 am #

            Great post SP. Agree with you 100%.

          • Dangerzone 23rd July 2014 at 4:46 pm #

            “Naughton is not ‘that’ bad at right back”

            No. He really is that bad. Regardless of correct position, he’s still woeful. Have you seen the rookie mistakes he makes every match? Always caught lapsing, and every time up against a half decent opponent he ALWAYS gets done in. What club that aspires to challenge for top 4 has a RB that is mediocre – and that’s being nice.

            Dawson? Loveable, yes. Third/Forth choice? No. He plays almost every game. Like Naughton, Dawson has terrible positional sense, extremely slow, error-prone but put his heart on the line. I admire that he throws his body in front of rocket shots, but he contributed a lot to our number 1 place of errors that lead to a goal last season.

            Dawson is looking for a severance package, and knowing Levy this won’t happen. So we’ll be left with Dawson. Kaboul is error prone, and perhaps Vlad and Vertonghen will lead the back but Dawson always make it to the first team. This has been happening for many years, you simply cannot get rid of Dawson.

            I do not understand why you rate Dawson so highly. Even though you say he’ll not play, but then you make a statement saying “it won’t be a disastrous choice”. It is a disastrous choice, have you seen how terrible they are? If you watched the matches you know how poor they are.

            Hell, even the preseason game against Seattle Sounders, Dawson was woeful. Poor touches, poor passes and gave away a penalty. It’s only a pre-season and he’s already that crap, how on Earth can you come up with excuses backing Dawson up?

            Even as a backup, he’s terrible, and Naughton is worst. If Spurs ever want champions league, they’ll never get it with those two playing for us. If you disagree on this then you’re deluded.

  2. YouShubes 23rd July 2014 at 1:31 pm #

    Excellent work Mark. My only fear is the lack of squad depth as this kind of football is very demanding physically.

    Sandro, Walker and Kaboul have had injury woes, as have Lamela and Vlad. Lennon for me has never recovered that agility he had prior to his groin injury.

    I know if press carbon hard enough you can get gems, but I am not sure whether physically or more importantly mentally our players are up to the challenge.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd July 2014 at 2:51 pm #

      A good point Shubes and i guess we will see how the players respond.

  3. Soulchan 23rd July 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    Thanks for the great article mike:)

    I’m spurs fan from South Korea and I translated your articles to Korean at korean spurs fan page. Well, I’m just letting you know that hundreds of Korean spurs fans read your article and loved it.

    I’m really looking forward to your next article. Hope I can see you soon.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd July 2014 at 2:54 pm #

      Thanks Soulchan, very much appreciate you translating for me. Do you have a link to your fan page and i’ll send some Korean friends your way?

      • Soulchan 23rd July 2014 at 3:02 pm #

        This is our fan page but unfortunately, you can’t write or comment unless you sign up. It has quite different and difficult system. If you write for me I’ll translate and show it to them lol

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 23rd July 2014 at 3:44 pm #

          Thanks for the link Soulchan, nice site you have going. I’ve forwarded to my friends and will be sure to send any Korean Spurs fans your way.

          • Soulchan 23rd July 2014 at 3:53 pm #

            Thanks Mark. Hope I can meet more Korean spurs fans through you

        • YouShubes 23rd July 2014 at 4:34 pm #


          Never ceases to amaze me who is a fan of ours. Have you been a fan since before the Peace Cup and Yippee Lee days Soulchan?

          • Soulchan 23rd July 2014 at 5:00 pm #

            Haha hello YouShubes.

            Well most of my fellow spurs fans are from that period. When Youngpyo Lee became a spurs man. At least spurs became well-known because he was the most famous footballer along with Jisung Park.

            But for me, I’m quite a new fan to spurs. I started to support spurs in the middle of 12/13 season. I recall the Man City game at Lane. It was the game that made me a spurs fan. Which we won 3-1 by goals from Dempsey, Defoe and Bale