What Spurs fans can expect of Paulo Fonseca and his tactics

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After months of speculation, it appears that Tottenham Hotspur are now inching closer to selecting their next manager. With Paulo Fonseca out of a job this summer and replaced by former Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho at AS Roma, Daniel Levy and co. are seriously considering a bizarre move for the Portuguese manager. So with that, we take a look at what Paulo Fonseca could bring to Tottenham Hotspur and why the move may or may not be all that bizarre, tactically speaking.

fluid formations

Paulo Fonseca operated in both a 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-2-1 formation during his time in charge of Roma, which also happen to be the two most common formations used by Mourinho and Pocchettino during their spells at Spurs. Fonseca is similar to Pochettino in that he is fluid in changing systems on a match by match basis to suit the needs of his team, and also fluid in that his 4-2-3-1 looks very much like 3-4-2-1 in possession. That is, one central midfielder will often drop in between the centre-backs to help dictate play and form a diamond quartet with the goalkeeper to build out from the back. Hojbjerg is perfect for that deep role, and we spoke recently about how Jose Mourinho really didn’t make enough steps to get the Danish midfielder’s passing quality out after such a bright start to the season. Fonseca’s formations and style of play will naturally allow for more emphasis on building out from the back, and this should help to transform the quality of Hojbjerg in particular, as well as hopefully utilize Toby Alderweireld’s long-passing range before his career winds down for good. The fluidity will certainly help Spurs’ fans buy into Fonseca’s ideals a bit quicker, since they often looked at Jose Mourinho as a very stubborn manager who refused to go away from a supposedly boring, defensive style of football.


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Paulo Fonseca is known for playing functional football. It’s not quite like an orchestra designed by Antonio Conte, but it’s a very good band that you know what you’re going to get out of with each and every passing hit. That band can then adapt and keep up with the times by changing their style when needed, without compromising their talent.

Roma were very effective in a lot of ways during Fonseca’s two year spell, even making the semi-finals of the UEFA Europa League. His methodologies were built around intentional and meticulous build-up structures, high flying wing-backs, inverted wingers and goal-scoring central midfielders. He recognized the advantages of his players and often made positional tweaks to get the best out of their qualities, such as moving Bryan Cristante to a role as a sweeper, bringing out his expert passing range and vision. Lorenzo Pellegrini also moved from central midfield to attacking midfield / right wing, improving Roma’s dynamism in the final third by having one of their most electric dribblers and creators further forward.

Roma, like Tottenham, scored 68 goals in the Serie A last season. But unlike Tottenham, the functionality of their system meant that tally was spread out through a variety of players. Their top scorer was Mkhitaryan on 13, and seven total players scored more than three goals in the league, compared to three from Spurs.

Fonseca also has a proven track record of winning football matches during his time in Portugal with SC Braga, and in the Ukraine, where he managed Shakhtar Donetsk to a 74% win rate. He’s won nine trophies during his time as a manager so far, seven of which were with Shakhtar. While Tottenham would certainly be the biggest task of his career, this track record of winning does make him an interesting option ahead of some of the other rumored candidates, such as Graham Potter and Scott Parker.


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Paulo Fonseca is an attack-minded manager, who focuses on developing a functional possession-based system to get the best out of his players going forward. This is what Tottenham fans have been crying out for. However, this may be a double-edged sword for Spurs as they head into the 2020-21 season. Sure, it’s what Tottenham fans have been crying out for, and Daniel Levy will undoubtedly be listening to the cries. But Paulo Fonseca’s defensive record at Roma was woeful. Roma conceded 58 goals in last season’s Serie A season, putting them in the bottom half of the table for goals conceded, even if they ultimately landed in the top half on points. This is a worry for Spurs, since they too had a poor defensive record, and still have defenders who are incredibly error-prone. What Spurs really need right now is a manager who can sure up their defense, such as Graham Potter or Oliver Glasner (if he hadn’t just joined Frankfurt). Despite all the claims of boring football from the fans and probably Levy alike, Spurs scored a remarkable tally of 68 goals last season, joint-third in the league. Fonseca may be able to balance out their attack a bit more and decrease their reliance on Kane and Son. In fact he has a proven track record of improving goal tallies of central midfielders and finding ways to get them more involved in attacking areas of the field. But Spurs fans really need to get their priorities straight here. It’s not their attack, their entertainment or their ability to score goals that needs improving, it’s their defense. So while Fonseca will likely bring entertainment and an exciting brand of football, it might not be what they actually need.


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Paulo Fonseca is an incredibly interesting candidate to take over at Tottenham Hotspur, even if he would not have been Spurs’ first choice. While he will need to improve his defensive track record in the Premier League to bring Spurs to greater success, he is undoubtedly an exciting attacking coach that will bring excitement to White Hart Lane. Time will tell whether or not Fonseca really does take over at Tottenham, and if he does, fans can certainly expect functional football, fluid formations and entertainment.

So there it is! What Spurs fans can expect of Paulo Fonseca and his tactics. Be sure to check out more of our Managerial Analyses, and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

You might also enjoy…
-> Jose Mourinho – Tottenham Hotspur – Tactical Analysis (2020-21 Edition)
-> Paulo Fonseca – AS Roma – Tactical Analysis
-> Jose Mourinho – Tottenham Hotspur – Tactical Analysis (2020-21 Edition)

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