The Chalkboard: Pochettino’s tactical switch pays dividends in new stadium bow

Tottenham Hotspur beat Crystal Palace in their first game at the new stadium on Wednesday.

On a momentous evening for the football club, goals from Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen ultimately proved decisive against Roy Hodgson’s men, and came about after a major tactical decision from manager Mauricio Pochettino.

On the chalkboard

Pochettino began the game with Son partnering Harry Kane up front.

The South Korea international has played in that position many times before but the fact remains that it very rarely works.

Son is always starved of space and service when alongside the England captain because of Kane’s desire to drop deep and dictate the play.

A pacey, direct winger, Son is better used when deployed on the flank as he has the freedom to run at defenders and affect the game in a manner more befitting to his playing style.

Nevertheless, Danny Rose, normally a left-back, started the game on the wing, with Ben Davies in a full-back role. Throughout the first half, it limited Spurs’ threat and allowed Palace to sit deep and pick off any attempted through balls or chipped passes over the top.

In the second half, however, Pochettino made a positive change and shifted Son to the flank.

And his goal came about as a direct result of him cutting inside from the right and firing an effort at goal. It found its way in after a heavy deflection but history, all of a sudden, was his – the first competitive goalscorer at the new stadium.

The switch also influenced the second goal. Without Son occupying the space on the left, Kane charged into the box and was perhaps fouled, but the ball broke to Christian Eriksen, who lashed home.

A handful

Son is, of course, a handful wherever he plays.

A genuinely superb forward, Son’s strengths lie in his versatility.

He is equally adept at playing on the flanks as he is through the middle but Pochettino has been faced with a tricky decision with the star since Kane’s return to fitness.

Son scored in every Premier League game that his team-mate missed but has not performed anywhere near as well as a central striker since his return.

Pochettino, then, appears to have finally found the solution; let Kane do his thing through the middle, with Son floating in off the flanks, weighing in with his own significant contribution.