The new role of Nacer Chadli

Nacer Chadli scored twice on his Premier League debut for Mauricio Pochettino, as he appears to have settled in to his new role.

In just his second season, Nacer Chadli finds himself with his third manager and a third different role on the team.

In infrequent starts due to injury, Andre Villas-Boas employed the Belgian as a wide forward. He wanted him to cut inside on his favoured right foot to shoot or use his speed to get beyond the full back so that he could pull back short crosses.

His second role arrived as Tim Sherwood took over. To begin with, Chadli was once more on the treatment table, but was also out of favour.

When he did get his chance, Sherwood employed him as a central winger. Someone who starts in the middle, but floats to either side in order to create overloads on each flank. A good example of this was in our home match with Southampton.


Nacer Chadli passes received, Spurs 3 Southampton 2.

Sherwood was focussed on crossing and Chadli was part of the process to work the ball in to areas from where it could be delivered in to the box from both flanks.

With the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino, Nacer Chadli now has his third different role, as he has become part of an interchangeable trio of advanced midfielders.

This new position gives him a lot more freedom to make decisions about where he locates himself, but has two distinct phases. Firstly out wide and then secondly roaming in to central areas.

Nacer Chadli staying wide

Although the trio of advanced midfielders change positions, Nacer Chadli was invariably the most left sided of the three in the attacking phase against QPR.

When the Belgian is wide on this side it is usually when Emmanuel Adebayor has drifted out here and they can form a nice triangle with Danny Rose.

We can see from Chadli’s passes received against QPR how he spends a lot of time out on the left in order to gain the ball.


Nacer Chadli passes received, Spurs 4 QPR 0.

We can also see how Emmanuel Adebayor comes short for the ball across the pitch, but also how heavily focused he was on the left flank also.


Emmanuel Adebayor passes received, Spurs 4 QPR 0.

The pair linked up nicely, but were also helped by Danny Rose who often shot past them, but on the under lap.

We can see that here, as Adebayor has the ball out on the left, forming a nice triangle with Chadli and Rose who is in-field from him. The Togolese striker has the option to play either of them with a through pass to send them running towards the by-line.


Adebayor with options.

Rose’s inside movement on the under lap can also be seen here. Chadli and Adebayor again are involved out on the left flank, as the full back looks to dart in-field from them both through the channel.


Rose goes on the under lap.

This provides a through ball passing option so Rose can get in to a crossing situation or at the very least it takes defenders with him.

It was an effective tactic and a major part in our fourth goal as Nacer Chadli had the ball out on the left touchline. He then flicked it round the corner for Rose to shoot by inside him on the under lap and square for Emmanuel Adebayor to make it Spurs 4 QPR 0.

This three man game of Nacer Chadli out wide, joined by Emmanuel Adebayor, whilst Danny Rose shot through on the under lap, was prevalent all match.

What it does is keep the defence honest, as Chadli stays wide and is not just running inside all the time. Constantly moving in field would make him easier to mark, as the defence could just have an extra man in central midfield.

Nacer Chadli moving inside

Whilst Chadli spent a good deal of time on the left, he also drifted inside and switched positions with Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen.

This is the second part of his new role, in that he now can go inside and locate himself in central areas more regularly.

He does this for three main reasons.

Firstly, to provide an extra body in central midfield to outnumber the opposition. I’ve often talked about how Mauricio Pochettino likes to get four men in central midfield and this inside movement provides that.

Secondly, it then gives us extra runners in central areas on fast break situations and therefore passing options.

Thirdly, it adds an extra body, and someone with height in the box, on crossing situations.

All of these factors came together on our, and Nacer Chadli’s, first goal of the game against QPR on Sunday.

A swarm in central midfield tackled Loic Remy, as we had four men in the area with Bentaleb, Lamela, Eriksen and Nacer Chadli present.


Spurs’ quartet swarm and break.

With Chadli and Lamela in the central area, we had two fast runners that could break in to dangerous positions as we swept forward.

A cross to Chadli, who was moving to the back post, finished the move as Emmanuel Adebayor found him.


Adebayor crosses for Chadli to score.

Being in the box to get on the end of a cross is now going to be a major part of his role. This was also how his second goal of the game arrived. The passage of play once more highlighted his movement to break forward from a central area as we had four men in the middle of the park. Quite often, Chadli was looking to get in between the lines to receive the ball or start his run.

What the move for the goal also highlighted was that of Danny Rose to get forward on the overlap this time.

Although he didn’t touch the ball in this part of the move, the full back was looking to jet in to the large amount of vacant space caused by Nacer Chadli moving in-field.


Rose on the overlap.

Whilst under lapping when Chadli was out wide, Rose’s overlapping in to the space caused by the Belgian’s in-field movement is another part of the role.

This allowed Rose to get in to crossing situations as he was now left 1v1, as we can see here.


Rose gets a 1v1 as he overlaps Chadli.

He was also looking to burst forwards in order to support from out wide, as we can see here. Nacer Chadli is looking to start his run from a central position between the lines as Nabil Bentaleb travels forward. Rose is sprinting up the pitch to provide width on the overlap.


Rose looks to get up in support.

Chadli’s in-field movement compliments Rose’s zest for getting forwards as he has defensive cover from Nabil Bentaleb who fills in for him.

The new role of Nacer Chadli

After differing roles for AVB and Tim Sherwood, Nacer Chadli has made an excellent start to the one given to him by Mauricio Pochettino.

In this system, Chadli has more freedom to make choices about where he moves. Those decisions are affected by the movement of Emmanuel Adebayor, but they also have a knock-on as to whether Danny Rose under or overlaps him.

When out wide, he can form a three-man game with Adebayor and Rose. When he moves in to the middle, his speed becomes a factor on fast break situations and his height on crosses, as he showed to devastating effect against QPR.

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19 Responses to The new role of Nacer Chadli

  1. reptilezz1 26th August 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    I like the way MP set out the squad against QPR. I am hoping we get a striker this transfer market and defender, though we are close of signing Fazio, but more additions means more competition to the squad. Therefore striker is essential, because we cannot always rely on Adebayor, Soldado or Kane.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th August 2014 at 6:01 pm #

      I think we are fine with those three. If we buy, one of them would have to go.

  2. Lbanu 26th August 2014 at 5:24 pm #

    Chadli is the only real left sided player in the squad to play with Rose left side and he works very hard for the team helping Rose out a lot both in defense and in attack. He has good stamina, strong pace and a fine shot besides being a potent threat in the air. He’s an intelligent footballer, disciplined and a good all round athlete. He is a strong player physically and he is versatile too being suited to number ten and even playing right side well.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 26th August 2014 at 6:02 pm #

      Great comment Lbanu, agree with all of this.

  3. The v 26th August 2014 at 7:22 pm #

    Lamela is left footed left sided when necessary.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th August 2014 at 3:35 pm #

      He is very left footed, but whenever i’ve seen him on the left he looks uncomfortable. He always seems much happier cutting in from the right.

  4. Whitehotspurs 26th August 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Many thanks for yet another intelligent and insightful article, Mark. Lbanu has also provided an impressive list of Chadli’s qualities, which begs the question why so many so-called “supporters” labelled him as a flop and wanted him out of the club. Etienne Capoue was another of the “flops” we bought and as for Erik Lamela, wasn’t he the biggest waste of money ever?

    I’ve said many times before that it’s impossible to gauge a player’s true standard if external factors (being unfit, injured, dropped, played out of position, unsure of what’s required of him, not appreciated by the manager etc etc) prevent him from enjoying his football and showing the full range of his capabilities. Chadli’s a perfect example of this, and it’s to Mauricio Pochettino’s credit that he’s been able to get more out of the player in one game than AVB and TS could manage all last season.

    MP’s reputation for dramatically improving “ordinary” players seems to be well deserved and, if he can continue to do that with the rest of our squad, we’ll be well on the way to a very good season. We must give him (and his coaching team) the time and the players he requires to fully implement his methods. Let’s hope that the fickle “supporters” don’t start baying for Daniel Levy to sack him if we hit a few sticky spots along the way.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th August 2014 at 3:47 pm #

      Good points Whitehotspurs. I’m not really sure you can label any of our signings from last summer a flop just yet. It irritates me to hear TV pundits/commentators label Lamela as a a flop or that last season he was hugely disappointing or a bust, as he just simply didn’t play. My only small concern with him is that maybe he is a year behind, as he hasn’t been logging minutes on the pitch to get up to speed with the pace and power of the English game.

      The same is true of Chadli as he was also often out injured, but its good to see him doing well – it is only one game though. Next week against Liverpool will be a real test!

      I think Pochettino will get a longer rope than AVB as he did so well at Southampton and their team was well liked for the way they played, so our fans should give him more time as they know what his potential is. AVB was coming form a torrid time at Chelsea and was seen as damaged goods and Sherwood was deemed as ‘clueless’ right off the bat due to his inexpereince and lack of coaching qualifications, whilst he also had been sticking the knife in behind the scenes. Therefore i think Pochettino will be given much more time than usual (Levy would also have to pay off the 5 year deal he gave him), also result like the QPR one will live in the memory as to what is possible when everything clicks.

  5. Chris 26th August 2014 at 9:43 pm #

    What does this mean for Ben Davies?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th August 2014 at 3:52 pm #

      Good question. Competition for a place is my answer. Many of us, myself included, thought he would be first choice, but it’s good to see us with strength in depth in that area now. I did write last season that Danny Rose needed some help as he had no cover with Eriksen drifting inside in Sherwood’s 4-4-2, but his progress so far this season has been better than even i expected.

      They provide two different things and whilst Rose has pace and agility, Davies is better positionally and a slightly better crosser. It gives Pochettino options as to who he plays depending on the opponent. Davies will get plenty of opportunities, once he has settled in to the club and knows the system.

  6. SomeDude 26th August 2014 at 10:36 pm #

    I love the idea of having interchangeable players. It seems the best strategy to be fluid at all times especially because we will (hopefully) be playing against a wide variety of European teams now and, as I think the world cup showed, style can be as important as substance (except for Germany winning, that was mad boring). I think if this season is a hit then we could really be nailing our colors to the mast as European contenders for a long time .

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th August 2014 at 3:59 pm #

      I’ll be interested to see how it works against European sides that tend to play at a slower pace, but with more structure, especially in the defensive phase.

  7. FotbalFan 26th August 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    Spurs played a great game. It’s too early to raise our hopes though – teams will start formulating tactics against Spurs and the true test of how well we’re going will be against Arsenal, Chelsea and City as they have some very skilled and fast mid fielders. It’s a high energy style and it could mean a high rate of attrition.

    If we keep playing this style of football I’ll be happy with top 6 again this year and look forward to a definite top 4 next year as the style becomes second nature to the players.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 27th August 2014 at 4:04 pm #

      Some good points FotbalFan. Attrition could be a problem and possibly why Pochettino is holding on to an abundance of central midfielders as well as four central defenders.

      The better sides will figure out a plan of how to play against us. The most impresive side i saw against Pochettino’s Southampton was Liverpool at St. Mary’s. After losing at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers switched to a 4-4-2 diamond and domnated the midfield, which lead to quick and devastating counter attacks as Liverpool often had 2v2 up front. Sunday will be interesting to see if Liverpool go that way again.

      • Zack 27th August 2014 at 6:36 pm #

        Hey mark, what do you think Poch will do to address Rodger’s tactical switch if he does go for the 442 diamond? I’m wondering if you know exactly what Poch did last season to counter the 2 strikers system. With Balotelli coming in, the rumoured strikeforce of Sturridge and Balotelli strikes a little bit of fear into my heart I’m not gonna lie…

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 28th August 2014 at 3:58 pm #

          I wonder that too Zack, his Saints side did not cope at all well with it at St. Mary’s. They pressed too high and got caught out often by the speed of Liverpool’s balls forward to Sturridge and Suarez.

          To beat a diamond requires width, so i would expect plenty of that. It also might be better to play with some restraint and not play with such a high defensive line. Lovren and Fonte were caught in a pace mismatch and often 2v2 against Suarez and Sturridge and i’m not sure how Vertonghen and Kaboul would cope with Sturridge and Balotelli in a foot race.

          Poch will remeber that game and i’m sure will have something in mind. 3-5-2 would be a real option for me. It counters thr four in thr middle of the diamond, provides width through wingbacks and has 3v2 at the back as well as two upfront… but i don’t think we’ll switch the formation that drastically!

      • FotbalFan 29th August 2014 at 6:50 am #

        I agree with your Liverpool assessment – I’m glad we’re playing them sooner rather than later though. New faces take time to get into the swing of things. They’ll be fired up for Sunday I suspect… try and emulate last season’s wins.

  8. Lbanu 30th August 2014 at 2:39 pm #

    Pochittino is in a process of transforming Tottenham. He’s right to express the view that it may take time. I feel he unlikely to alter course and will play the same sort of system he used against QPR and I think that because Tottenham are at home and because I suspect he will stick with the same players in a fast tempo mode. Personally I would prefer to see Sandro on the pitch at the start. That said Bentaleb has been good enough and complements Capoue well.

    It’s most likely to be such a hectic pace and tempo that my major concern in such an atmosphere lies in bookings. Tottenham players must seek to avoid getting booked when facing the likely speed of Liverpool’s attackers. The longer they can keep clean from being next to a red card the better. Intelligent use of the bench and altered tactics when required are may well be seen to have been as important as the starting eleven when all comes to be said and done. Who would like to be a manager?

    It’s only a game after all. It’s only one game in The Premiership. Yes, it is a huge game! I like to look at it as a gambling man. Whatever happens effort and team work are the most productive ingredients. Tottenham have some very fine players who if they give their all and follow this managers instructions as best they can, will have every chance of success.
    This is a highly talented and very dangerous Liverpool side coming to The Lane.
    May all supporters enjoy the occasion and thanks to all for useful and interesting comments. Good luck Tottenham.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 30th August 2014 at 3:58 pm #

      You are right Lbanu, bookings may well play a part in what should be a fast paced game, especially as both teams will try to stretch the opposition centre backs.