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Andre Villas-Boas and Tottenham’s Formation Dilemma
After Spurs’ 1-0 home defeat to Wigan last weekend, it was evident that something had to change in AVB’s tactics and team selection. Playing 4-2-3-1 with a player ‘in the hole’ has its advantages away from home (notably with a victory at Old Trafford), but Spurs were criticised by fans and media alike for lacking any sort of creativity against the Latics. With all due respect to Wigan, Tottenham’s advanced four of Bale, Lennon, Dempsey and Defoe on their day are enough to trouble any defence in the league, but they lacked that creative spark in the formation that AVB prefers.
Fans called to change to the old style of Redknapp’s rigid 4-4-2, and this alteration was made in the week against Maribor. Although Maribor were labelled by the ITV commentary team as a ‘poor championship side’, Spurs looked a completely different team, and they earned a deserved 3-1 win. Jermain Defoe’s third goal was a striking similarity of Pavlyuchenko’s goal against Inter Milan in 2010. Released down the left, Bale burst into life and crossed for Defoe to slot home, and fans were reminded of a golden victory at White Hart Lane two years prior in this one magic moment.
If Spurs lost to Maribor at White Hart Lane, AVB would think right to stay faithful to 4-2-3-1 in which the striker looks to bring in pacey Bale and Lennon down the flanks. However, Spurs won the match in a more rigid 4-4-2, and AVB has been praised for adapting stuttering tactics, resulting in a formation dilemma.
Since an opening day defeat to Newcastle, Tottenham were unbeaten away from home in the Premier League until a recent 2-1 loss at Manchester City. AVB would have been committing football suicide playing 4-4-2 away at the Etihad with Bale and Lennon in such advanced positions, yet throughout the match Sandro and Huddlestone were still often overrun in midfield.
Unfortunately for Spurs, the players vastly under-performed in the second half, and AVB made some strange substitutions, opting to leave Dempsey on and swap Defoe for Adebayor. Despite a poor second half performance and a loss to the Premier League champions, it is hard to see AVB changing to a 4-4-2 away from White Hart Lane anytime soon.
AVB made a tough decision to remove Defoe from the starting team after a midweek hat-trick, but Adebayor used his strength and close control to hold up the ball and try to bring in Bale, Lennon and Dempsey whenever possible for a counter-attack. Knowing Manchester City would have the majority of possession, Adebayor brilliantly dropped off into the Dempsey role, held up the ball, won free kicks, and brought in advancing midfielders and wing backs. Unfortunately, Tottenham struggled to keep possession in the second half, and there was an unusual lack of pace in their counter attacks and a questionable amount of desire.
It is inevitable that five midfielders will again be chosen when Tottenham face a huge trip to Arsenal next Saturday at Noon, and after a 2-1 loss at the Etihad with little high notes, Adebayor did have a strong performance and will more than likely be again preferred to Defoe. Although AVB has come under fire for his formation selections, he is unlikely to select an attacking 4-4-2 at the Emirates.
Taking nothing away from Manchester City’s comeback, they are unbeaten this season and Tottenham have had a severe dip of form since the injury of Dembele. Huddlestone and Dempsey in particular struggled with the pace of Manchester City’s midfield, particularly Yaya Toure. However, the dilemma arises for Tottenham’s following two home games against West Ham and Liverpool, and whether AVB can conjure a winning formation, and possibility of returning to the attacking 4-4-2 that beat Maribor. The Portuguese manager’s stubbornness in his tactics has been cited as the reason for his Chelsea departure, and when Spurs have often taken a lead this season he has opted for Huddlestone or Livermore to come on and help defend a lead.
In charge of a team desperate for Champions League, AVB often struggles to adapt to the unpredictability of football, and makes some unusual substitutions. After their recent defeat to Manchester City, he is likely to come under more pressure about his team selection and formation. Spurs fans know their team’s attacking prowess and if AVB opts for 4-2-3-1 and they do not get two wins against West Ham and Liverpool, questions will once more be asked.
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