The signing of Tanguy Ndombele opens up a lot of new tactical possibilities for Tottenham and it will be exciting to see which approach is taken by Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine coach has been known to change formations to find the best set-up for the players he has at his disposal. Since taking over in North London, he has favoured a 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-2-1 formation. It could be that the latter is preferred after the signing of the powerful French central midfielder, as he provides the tenacity and technical ability to thrive in a two-man midfield.
The reason why Pochettino may be looking to get back to a three-man defence is that it will allow him to field all three of his centre-backs at once. Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are at their peak, while Davison Sanchez needs regular game-time to fulfil his undoubted potential. Each centre-back has different qualities and they should be able to develop into an excellent trio given a run of successive games as a three. Last season, they conceded 39 goals, which is fractionally over a goal per game. This is an area that they will be looking to improve on during the 2019/20 campaign, as they did concede several silly goals during the run-in.
It remains to be seen which full backs are still at the club come the first game of the season, but the 3-4-2-1 formation suits them better, as it reduces the defensive role they are expected to play. On several occasions last season, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose were found wanting in their own half of the pitch. They are much better suited to playing the wing-back role.
The key player to making that formation work before was Moussa Dembele, as he regularly dominated the midfield areas. Although Ndombele is a slightly different profile of player, he can play a similar role in the system. Last season, he averaged 2.8 ball recoveries per match in Ligue 1. Meanwhile, he contributed seven assists, which underlines the quality he has on the ball. This is something that Dembele didn’t have and it could even be argued that the new signing could do even better in this formation.
Last season, the central midfield was a problem area for Spurs, but in Ndombele, they have a player capable of playing several different roles. His tactical versatility will make the 3-4-2-1 formation work, with potential to partner him with Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko, Victor Wanyama or Christian Eriksen based on the opposition. The Frenchman may have to change his own role slightly, but the rest of the team wouldn’t have to.
If Pochettino did choose to use this formation more often, he could field Dele Alli, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane in attack, which is a tantalising prospect for Tottenham supporters. Eriksen and Lucas Moura offer different options in attack.
Although Ndombele is only one signing, Pochettino now have a lot of different avenues open to him and it will be fascinating to see how he chooses to line-up in the first game of the season.