Just when it looked like Tottenham Hotspur might have turned the corner, they were plunged into crisis once again by a brutal Bayern Munich side in the Champions League.
A battling victory over Southampton where Spurs had 10 men for 60 minutes was followed by a stunning opening 35 against the Bundesliga behemoths.
The all-white Tottenham were looking back to their high-pressing, pin-point passing best with Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son causing havoc for the Bayern defence and Tanguy Ndombele threading sensational throughball.
It was a Spurs some fans believe hasn’t been seen for around two years.
However, things quickly came tumbling down.
Context should be given into the collapse which, as horrific as it was, only saw Spurs hit their worst in the final eight minutes.
Several of Bayern Munich’s goals were individual mistakes compounded by some astounding finishing.
As data analyst Michael Caley showed in his excellent shot maps, Tottenham had some excellent chances and were unlucky not to level going into the break at their new stadium.
Even at the final whistle, the expected goals metric suggested Spurs had been cruelly put to the sword by some other worldly finishing after several individual errors.
With pretty much every goal finding the side-netting after lasering beyond the gloves of Hugo Lloris, who seemed fairly helpless between the sticks.
Spurs ultimately lost their shape and any substance when Pochettino began to ring the changes and chase a game which, perhaps, should have been accepted as a loss and instead seen them shore up the defence to protect the goal difference being damaged in the way it was.
Christian Eriksen took to the field for Ndombele, who had excelled in the first-half before fading, and during his 26 minutes on the turf he ended having spells at right-wing, left-wing and central midfield – hardly offering the solidity and game plan which might have allowed Spurs to grab a further goal. He did, however, have one shot expertly swatted over the bar by the brilliant Manuel Neuer.
But this isn’t just about the game against Munich.
Pochettino’s inclination for a midfield diamond and a front-two has long been considered by supporters to be the side’s failing – and could be again as they face Brighton on Saturday LIVE on talkSPORT.
Since the diamond came into full scale operation last season, Spurs have looked a shadow of themselves, with wins over Chelsea (3-1) and Everton (6-2) last term being exceptions as it briefly clicked into gear.
More often than not, the midfield has, rather than protect the centre-backs, left them open for exploiting.
The trio in the middle of the pitch have to help their full-backs and cover central areas – Joshua Kimmich’s strike on Tuesday was a perfect example.
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With the ball on the right flank with Bayern, Harry Winks took up the role of dealing with Serge Gnabry, who had come inside from the left, Moussa Sissoko was attempting to help Danny Rose deal with Kingsley Coman and Ndombele was covering the central and right side of the pitch.
Kimmich’s lob over the top took Sissoko out of the game, while a darting run from Gnabry took Winks into the box taking him out too, leaving only Ndombele on the edge of the area.
A half clearance from Jan Vertonghen served the ball for Kimmich, who had Corentin Tolisso by his side, leaving Ndomble with two men to handle.
The numbers were never on his side, despite his excellent performance, and this allowed Kimmich to side-step him and rifle the ball home.
Against Leicester City a similar issue arose this time on the opposite flank.
Victor Wanyama, the central of the three, and Serge Aurier were drawn to the ball, fielded by Hamza Choudhury, with Sissoko covering the left side unable to make up the ground, while Winks, playing higher up on the right following a role change couldn’t get back either.
Once the ball found James Maddison all he had to do was shift the ball to the right of Wanyama and he had a huge expanse of free space ahead of him.
The England international shot from range and Paulo Gazzaniga was beaten far too easily.
So how can Spurs rectify the issue? Well, an option, certainly in the short-term, is going back to the formations used to power their recent title tilts.
Ask a Spurs fan the best XI from recent years and they will give you two options.
1. Tottenham 2-0 Chelsea – January 4, 2017
A mix of destruction, domination, delightful switches of play and darting wing-backs.
The axis of a healthy Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele allowed Kyle Walker and Danny Rose to fly down the wings and stretch defences knowing Spurs had, in effect, a front five.
Three centre-backs all capable with the ball meant one could drive out too, making a midfield three and allowing them to smother opponents, especially as counter attacks were starting.
It got the best out of Dele Alli, allowing him to roam free, while Christian Eriksen pulled the strings, crossing twice for Alli to score in the above match.
Spurs could possibly go back to this with the Dier now returning from injury and illness, although Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth could also be knocking on the door.
With Serge Aurier now looking a real bust at full-back, we could see Sissoko move into right wing-back, a freer role which could also see him come narrow to help out in midfield if needed.
Tanguy Ndombele and Dier may, until Giovani Lo Celso returns, offer a more solid centre than a Winks-Ndombele partnership.
The front three could remain fairly fluid with Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura, and Erik Lamela all able to drop in when needed.
How it could look this season
2. Tottenham 4-0 Bournemouth – April 15, 2017
After a rampant victory over Watford the week earlier at White Hart Lane, Spurs, who were intent on leaving their old ground with a bang, did a similar job on the Cherries.
Vincent Janssen even came off the bench to slam home a goal from open play such was their relentlessness at this point of the campaign.
During the game Son, Eriksen and Alli wreaked havoc across the frontline, switching roles as and when needed, giving Bournemouth defenders little time to settle on who they were picking up.
Dier and Dembele gave the strength and the structure in the middle of the pitch allowing a slightly more conservative full-back duo to get forward if possible.
The former also dropped in defensively, either to right-back to get Walker further forward or to centre-back to allow Vertonghen and Alderweield to move the ball upfield with their progressive passing.
How it could look this season
Once again, having Sissoko at right-back seems the sensible option with Aurier in such dreadful form and Kyle Walker-Peter struggling to make a big impact.
Dier in central midfield, could reprise his role slipping between right-back, centre-back, and central midfield to give versatility to the XI, with Ndombele able to push up when he’s sitting deep between Vertonghen and Alderweireld.
The front four, as previous, would be fluid and able to rotate to keep things fresh.
But will Pochettino really change his team when he’s been so stuck on his 4-3-1-2? We’ll have to wait and see against Brighton – live on talkSPORT.
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