Football

Lewis Holtby set for a breakthrough year at Tottenham

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Lewis Holtby joined Tottenham from FC Schalke in the closing stages of the January 2013 transfer window. At the time, the £1.5 million move that Daniel Levy engineered looked like a bargain for a highly valued player.

However, Holtby has appeared worthy of no greater price thus far in his disappointing Spurs career.

Although he appeared to be liked by ex-manager Andre Villas-Boas, he could never find regular, consistent minutes. Afterward AVB's departure, it only got worse for the German youth international, who was sent on loan by temporary replacement boss Tim Sherwood after just three appearances under the new man in charge.

So why should a new manager be any different? The midfield is as crowded as ever and Holtby is arguably the sixth best central midfielder. S-I-X-T-H.

With the likes of Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen, Paulinho, Sandro, Etienne Capoue ahead of him in the past and former development players like Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll brimming with potential, the midfield is swarming with options.

Why should Holtby see playing time now when he could not before?

The reason for optimism is that the new manager, Mauricio Pochettino, has a very refreshing approach to the game. Although he is very tactile, Pochettino also values work ethic in games as much as or more than any other manager in the Premier League.

At Southampton, he would have training sessions full of running in order to prepare them to chase down the man with the ball. Defensive problems at White Hart Lane have recently arisen from a lack of ball pressure coupled with a slow defense.

The Argentinian manager will look to sort this out using his high pressure system that involves constant ball pressure all of over the pitch. Whatever Holtby lacks in skill and size, he makes up for it with effort. This could get him some well-deserved attention.

Against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, the 23-year-old was brilliant before being taken off in the second half. He had a nicely-cushioned headed goal to kick off the scoring but it was his nonstop running that reminded the north London faithful why he is such a fan favourite.

Every time he had the ball stolen, he would chase after his thief until the ball was passed or he regained possession for Spurs. That effort, when added to the goal and some nicely weighted passes, made an excellent first impression. 

Still, Holtby will not be an everyday starter for the Lilywhites. He is simply not good enough. Not yet. He is a perfect fit in the new system in several situations though, and could single-handedly prevent a counter attack or create one for his side.

First, Holtby could become the Spurs' "Super Sub". He is versatile and will inject energy into a tired Spurs lineup late in games. Dembele, Capoue, and Eriksen, all players who could start over Holtby, are not always engaged in the game.

Holtby might not be the dribbler Dembele is, the defender Capoue is, or the game changer Eriksen is but he would definitely get himself, and hopefully the team, involved.

Also, the nightmare of a fresh Holtby coming on against defenders and midfielders who have already put in 60 or 70 minutes of hard work is frightening for opposing outfits.

Holtby's vivacious pursuit of the ball or willingness to run at the goal could eventually prove too much for tired legs to handle.

The next situation is against poor defensive teams, and here Holtby could get starts. In games where Tottenham will look to control possession and stay in attack, Holtby's optimism and exuberance could win the team some more possessions by forcing defensive mishaps and prevent counterattacks with good chasing back. In these games, Holtby would go a long way to assuring that no goals will be conceded on a counter.

Holtby seems to have finally found a manager and system he can thrive in. Just ask Morgan Schneiderlin (who could potentially follow his ex-manager to Spurs), Jack Cork, Calum Chambers, and Co. whether Pochettino values hard work and antagonising opponents on the ball.

Holtby could be yet another young player the former Southampton manager gets the most out of. As long as Pochettino is boss, hard work will not go unnoticed and neither will Lewis Holtby.

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Topics:
Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League
Football

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