Mauricio Pochettino has a theory to explain why Tottenham Hotspur struggle at home: the pitch is too small.
Tottenham host Brighton & Hove Albion in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup, but they have already lost three home league games this season, to Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United.
Spurs’ struggles at White Hart Lane are not new – last year their former manager, Andre Villas-Boas, criticised the home fans for a “difficult atmosphere” after a narrow 1-0 win against Hull. But Pochettino does not believe the pitch, which is the third smallest in the Premier League, is big enough for his team to play expansive, attacking football.
“Our style means that we need a bigger space to play, because we play a positional game,” Pochettino said. “It is true that White Hart Lane is a little bit tight, no? It is better for the opponent to play deep.”
Pochettino said all three teams that have won at White Hart Lane this season had taken advantage of the lack of space by sitting deep.
“On Sunday, two shots from Newcastle [resulted in goals for Sammy Ameobi and Ayoze Perez],” he said. “They played deep, West Bromwich played deep, Liverpool played very deep, and it was difficult for us,” he said. “We need time to adapt in our new set-up and try to understand better our positions on the pitch.”
The evidence supports Pochettino’s claim. Tottenham have, with Stoke City and Queen’s Park Rangers, the joint-shortest pitch in the Premier League at 100 metres, with more than half the other teams’ pitches extending to 105m. QPR and Stoke are teams with pitches narrower than Spurs’ 67m, meaning that in terms of overall area – 6,700 metres squared – White Hart Lane is the third smallest.
Southampton, Pochettino’s old club, and nine others, all have 105m x 68m pitches. At 7,140 m/sq they are 7 per cent bigger than the White Hart Lane pitch, which could explain why Pochettino has struggled this season at Tottenham to replicate some of the expansive football his Southampton team played.
There is not much Pochettino can do about this now and his priority is to work on the mentality of his players, which he has criticised this season. For all his hard work on his players’ fitness and tactical shape, Pochettino said this was his hardest task.
“It is harder to work on [mentality],” Pochettino said. “The mental process is always more slow than the physical or tactical. This is maybe a difficult period, but it is the process we have to go through.
“We did a lot of work in groups, and as individuals. In the training ground, in meeting rooms, in my personal office. But you need more time to change the habits.”
Pochettino takes his responsibilities in this area seriously and wants his staff to change the feeling in the dressing room, creating a better atmosphere themselves rather than relying on a specialist sports psychologist.
“We are the psychologists,” Pochettino said. “The players want to hear the manager, the staff, the assistant manager. We can help them. Football is a collective sport and we need to help them because we are a family. When you are on the pitch you always need your team-mate. If I love my colleagues maybe my job is better, or I can help him in difficult moments.
“This is our challenge: to create something special in the changing room between 25 players so they can know each other, improve the togetherness and show that on the pitch.”
Pitch sizes: How the top flight measures up
Team/Length/Width/Area (metres squared)
West Brom 105/68/7,140
Man Utd 105/68/7,140
Man City 105/68/7,140
Aston Villa 105/68/7,140
C Palace 101/68/6,868
West Ham 100.6/68/6,839
All sizes in metresReuse content