It is most certainly the case that when people in the footballing world saw Tottenham Hotspur sign Matt Doherty from Wolverhampton Wanderers for only £15 million, eyebrows were raised. The Republic of Ireland international had been an amazing servant for Wolves and had been with the club since their days in League One. He established himself as one of the best right-backs in the league and has been an integral part of their success not only in the lower leagues but in the Premier League itself. £15 million is an absolute steal to put it very bluntly and Spurs have found themselves an amazing deal.
José Mourinho has certainly been looking for stability In the full-back areas. Ben Davies is a standout professional and an excellent player who is capable of being the first choice left-back. There is also the likes of Danny Rose who can also play this position. Serge Aurier, on the other hand, is the clubs only out and out right-back and has proved that some competition will do him no harm. As will be discussed later, Doherty fits the system that Mourinho is creating at Spurs and will prove to be a smart signing, if not one of the best signings that have been made during this transfer window. He will bring out the best in other attacking players, as well as giving Mourinho many different options when setting up his team.
This tactical analysis will examine Doherty’s transfer to Tottenham Hotspur and the impact that this will have on the team. This scout report will also examine the ways that Mourinho can adapt his tactics with the introduction of Doherty into the squad. The analysis will further examine Doherty’s previous experience at Wolves and how this can help Spurs going forward.
One of the biggest benefits that Doherty’s arrival at Spurs brings is that he is familiar with the principles of play which Mourinho has looked to adapt at Spurs during his reign at the club. Spurs do not play with a back three like Wolves do, however, they have a tactical system in place which means often they will have three central based defenders which allows the right sides full-back to get forward. The left-back, and two centre-backs all shift across to form a back three, which allows the right-sided full-back who is usually Aurier, to get forward and support the attack. This means the right-sided winger will go to the inside to provide more support for the central striker which almost allows Spurs to operate with two up front. Doherty has played this sort of system at Wolves for a long time and will be extremely well suited to this systematic approach from Mourinho. He, at Wolves, played in a back five as the right-sided wing-back with the freedom to get forward knowing that there was substantial protection behind him.
Below is an example of this system that Spurs have looked to operate with. We can see the three centre-backs as highlighted by the yellow circles in a back three. Notice Davies, who is the left-back, tucked in to form this back three as he is much better defensively than Aurier who has substantial attacking threats in comparison to Davies. This also allows protection from counter-attacking situations which Mourinho has been key to bring out of this Spurs team. Also notice Aurier’s position on the right-hand side which Doherty will fill in.
As mentioned, Doherty is a player who fits this system perfectly due to his previous time at Wolves. Wolves always operate with a back three, with the wing-backs being pushed forward and encouraged to be a main source of creativity. Doherty has been a key player for Wolves over the years and his adaptation from a right-sided full-back to a right wing-back has been phenomenal. Mourinho will love his attitude and desire to get forward and be a key part of the Spurs attacking setup. Of course, he will be required to be defensively solid as Spurs are still technically playing with a back four. However, his attacking threat is what Spurs have paid the money for and they will certainly reap the benefits of this signing in attacking areas. We should also acknowledge the way that Aurier has been situated very wide on the right-hand side often hugging the touchline. This is something Doherty will also certainly have to do regularly which should be suited to his skill set.
Below is an example of Doherty taking up a wide right position for Wolves. We can see the back three behind him, which provides him with space and attacking freedom that he can thrive from. The principles of play that Wolves have using this system means that Doherty will fit in very well at Spurs.
Another aspect of Doherty’s game which will benefit the Spurs team is his ability to find space slightly more on the inside when the ball is on the other side of the pitch. When the play is on the left side or in the middle and there is space on the right-hand side to run into, there are not many better than Doherty at finding this space. Spurs’ system, as has been discussed, also means that Aurier has found this space very often in the season, which means that when Doherty comes into the squad he is likely to be able to find the same spaces.
We earlier looked at how the systematic setup of both teams means that the right-sided full-back hugs the touchline when the team is building from the right-hand side. However, when the ball is on the left-hand side, space is there on the right for the wing-back to run into. This space is created by the right-sided forward coming more inside which creates the space behind him. We have seen Doherty do this numerous times at Wolves and Aurier the same at Spurs. The move for Doherty seems like a match made in heaven from a player perspective, as the system is similar to his previous work.
Below is an example of this from the Spurs’ perspective. We can see the space that Aurier has on the right side, which allows him to cross the ball home for Harry Kane to score from. This sort of play is commonplace for Spurs, which Doherty should benefit from in many ways. The space that is available in these areas with his quality of play will result in more goals for Spurs.
Doherty’s role in the Wolves team does not simply stand with his positional sense, it’s his big-game know-how and performances that make him perfect for this Spurs team. He has scored goals against Manchester City, played a huge part in key victories against Manchester United and Chelsea and has even scored against Spurs themselves. The way he has done this is finding these keyspaces and attacking them with aggression and desire to help out his team in these areas. We find this to be the case with a lot of Mourinho teams in the past which makes him perfectly suited to this manager and project he is trying to create. By being able to find these spaces in attacking areas Spurs have multiple numbers of options they could play with that could allow them to score more goals, which was a problem they faced last season. He managed three assists and four goals last season which he will be looking to build upon in this Spurs team.
Below is an example of Doherty finding spaces in the inside areas of the right-hand side which allows him to score a goal. The ball Is originally on the left side of the field which allows him to make a great run through the middle and score a goal as a result. These sorts of situations have meant he has been a key part of Wolves’ setup in terms of attacking oppositions and he will be hoping to continue this going into the Spurs team next season.
In the box
The end product in the box has become vital for full-backs and wing-backs in the modern game. It is what makes their game to the next level in terms of providing quality in key areas of the pitch. A full-back that can score between one to five goals is providing his team with a key threat going forward which is key come to the end of the season. As mentioned, Doherty scored four goals and assisted three. If we look back at the 2018/2019 season, we can see him with four goals and five assists. These statistics are evidence that Doherty Can get forward and provide an attacking threat. Aurier also managed to get five assists this season but with only one goal. This highlights that Spurs are bringing someone in who can get forward and score goals when it counts. He and Aurier will, therefore, be able to provide an element of attacking stability to Spurs’ frontline which will allow more goals and success. The right-sided full-back in this Spurs team is encouraged to get into the box, which is, therefore, suiting of Doherty’s attacking ability.
Below is an example of a position Aurier took up in a Champions League game which resulted in a goal. We can see him in the box awaiting the ball which he strikes very well which gives Spurs the lead. Doherty must be able to continue this when he starts next season.
Doherty is a player that is very effective in the final third. It seems that when he gets into the right spaces at key times he can provide a real goal threat whether it be through goals from the right-hand side or through him making a run through the middle. It is a valuable skill to possess when in this position and it provides his team with an incentive to score goals. Not only does his presence add a dimension of goal scoring, it means that other teams will have to pick him up which will free up other players who can try to score goals. The signing of Doherty, as mentioned, frees up several options which Spurs can use to score goals from. This is not to say that he is weak in defensive areas, it is the complete opposite, however, having a full-back who is competent at getting forward and scoring goals is what will push Spurs to the next level.
Below is an example of his ability to be threatening in the box. He can pick up the ball in these areas which results in goals. In this image, he can get through the Palace defence and score a key goal. As mentioned, he has scored some key goals for Wolves and will be looking to continue this at Spurs.
To conclude, it is clear to see why Spurs have reached an absolute bargain with the signing of Doherty from Wolves. With the upcoming season on the horizon, Doherty will be looking to find himself amongst the first names on the team sheet when Spurs play their opening game against Everton. With the systematic changes that Spurs have made under Mourinho, he will fit in very well with the other attacking players and he will be looking to help them achieve his objectives going forward.