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Tottenham: An Embarrassment of Riches?

Gareth BaleLuka ModricRafael van der VaartTommy HuddlestoneAaron Lennon

One thing us Spurs fans have had over the past two decades is the knowledge we can improve and improve immensely. Whether we could actually do it, is another matter. Looking back we’ve had players that were nowhere near the calibre we came to expect at White Hart Lane in the glory years and the 1980′s. Some were so bad there’s no need to look back, we all knew it while they were still playing! They still got our support week in, week out, win, lose or draw and if you were unfortunate enough to be young at the time you might’ve had players like Stuart Nethercott adorning your bedroom wall.

I remember having countless discussions with fans about why our team really should be beating the likes of Charlton at home and wondering how in yet another disappointing season we’d only managed to finish mid-table and 40 points behind the champions. Surely the team we’ve got should be finishing higher than that? There are  some weak links but we’re not that bad are we? Then with the beauty of hindsight you look back and realise just how bad those sides were.

More recently we’ve had decent seasons, namely 05/06 and 06/07 when we finished 5th both seasons with Martin Jol at the helm. We all thought we were on the up and things couldn’t get much better than that, other than managing to claim the much heralded top 4 position. Then last season happened. Not only did we manage to get into that top 4 for the first time but we did so with a certain swagger. We still had the occasional “spurs blip” which I’m sure will always happen but we did it the Spurs way with Spurs players.

This past summer was spent arguing over where we needed to be strengthened and who we should sign so we could cement our position in England’s and Europe’s elite. A central defender here, a world class striker there and we’d be golden. Unfortunately, for reasons we’ll probably never be party to we didn’t manage to get those players in, instead getting William Gallas on a free (not meant as a slight on the fast improving Frenchman) and keeping the same four strikers we had last season. That was until the last minute when Daniel Levy snapped Real’s hands off when they offered us van der Vaart, and what a signing he’s been.

With the winter transfer window only a month away the same discussions of who we should sign are resurfacing again. I’m not going to go into that in this article, instead I’m going to focus on our midfield and what we’ve already got.

A midfield of such majesty and artistry it’s what makes us Spurs. A little soft at times possibly but players you’ll happily pay the entrance fee to watch. Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Tommy Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon and the aforementioned vdV. We have in three of them, players who would get into any premier league team as well as most European one’s and alongside them we’ve got one of the best English passers of the ball and Lennon, who lets not forget was tearing every opposition a new one this time last year. Five players who our team is based around, creativity and flare. They’re the reason we’re being regarded as the entertainers this season, that and our inability to keep a clean sheet. You can keep your little one-two’s in and around the box with no end product, this is fast paced, pass and move football. Long, short, quick, slow, they can do it all and it’s great to watch.

However, what do we do when they’re all fit? It’s happened on a number of occasions so far this season and when it has we’ve played 4-4-1-1 with vdV just behind a lone striker. I’ve said before how much I don’t like this formation and that it makes room for the Dutchman’s talent but seems to hinder the others to the detriment of the team. The other thing to note is if we’re destined to play 4-4-1-1 to enable all 5 of them to play in the same team, why do we need to buy a new striker? It’s the one position I think most fans feel the most passionate about. It’s more interesting to discuss a new striker than a new defender at any rate. If we were to buy one he’d need to be of the “world class” variety to be worth it and those type of players just don’t move in January. I digress, January isn’t the subject matter here. If at any point in the future we buy a new striker, still have all 5 of the midfield at the club and play 4-4-1-1 where does JD play?

For the first time in 20 years we’re at a crossroads, both tactically and with regards to personnel. Before now it’s been easy, play 4-4-2 because we’re English and play your best 11 players in those position hoping they’ll be good enough to outplay the oppositions 4-4-2. Five excellent midfielder players who at first glance must play when all fit, but how do we fit them all into the team?

If you’re happy with what you’ve seen so far when we’ve played with vdV supporting a lone striker then it’s an easy decision and that’s continue with 4-4-1-1. A formation that I believe we’ve struggled in and we don’t look as comfortable as we currently do playing in the more traditional 4-4-2. If, like me you think 4-4-2 suits us as a team better and is more adaptable into a 4-3-3 with the likes of Bale pushing into an inside forward role when we have the ball there’s a massive decision to make because not all 5 of those midfielders can play in that formation. Even if you’d like the team to play in a new formation you’ve concocted in Football Manager 2011, that formation still needs to have 5 positions in midfield or play one of them to play as a “half” striker.

It’s something Redknapp’s going to have to consider very carefully. None of them will be happy sitting on the bench and if we persist with the lone striker, which over time could possibly work do we need the 4 we’ve got on the payroll? We certainly wouldn’t need to buy another striker, at least not without getting rid of 2 or even 3 of the others. If the two striker option is the way forward then who sits out? The obvious would be Lennon but then with him coming back into form, being English and young do we want to lose him or have him sitting on the bench for long periods of time?

Not in my spurs supporting memory have we had a situation where such an important part of our team doesn’t need improving a large degree. To such an extent we’ve actually got too many quality players in our midfield. A mad statement to make, but when all fit, it’s exactly what we’ve got. Over to you Harry.

Submitted by THFC



  1. nate

    December 2, 2010 at 9:24 am

    very true… we play much better 4 4 2.
    you’ve forgotten kranjcar who is absolute quality and you could see that last season and in his international games this season.
    bentley looks pretty good in his games aswell hes still quality and again showed that last season when lennon missed half of it.

  2. Alex

    December 2, 2010 at 9:28 am

    4-4-1-1 suits us perfectly when VDV is in the side, because he doesnt play as an out and out forward, sometimes dropping deep to get the ball. Luka isnt as effective in that role, as he prefers to play deeper and break into space, rather than playing up top and dropping deep. Tactically, it works…especially when Huddlestone’s playing because we keep the ball so well. Would be nice if Huddlestone was a bit more of a ball-winner, but you can’t be everything, and he’s certainly improved that part of his game, All in all, we’re pretty awesome, just a shame we’ve let points slip at Wet Spam and home to Wigan…..

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  4. fesoj

    December 2, 2010 at 10:28 am

    lennon is the obvious to sit out??
    jesus…no way

  5. ToppinHam

    December 2, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Regardless of what formation spurs decide- a top striker is a MUST- imagine if we did not get VDV? I have always stated the Defoe, Crouch, Pav, Keane combination of strikers WILL let us down over a season. It is time to shake things up! Pav & Keane shipped out & two in: Carroll & Wickham, or Cole & Adebayor(loan).

  6. hellwelovespurs

    December 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    good article but the like of Keane will need to move on because he’s not quick enough same could be said about Bentley very good crosser of the ball but again not quick I’m not really sure getting ex arsenal striker i think he’ll cause more problem but maybe wrong , unfortunately football has more to do with money and revenge Adebayor may give 15 goals need to secure another top four if we can get 4 point from next two games push for top two spot’s a must – spurs to win 3-1 on Saturday with Birmingham having player sent off

  7. SpurredoninDublin

    December 2, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Now that Lennon is coming back to form, the missing link is the THUD. One of these days we will have all three of them firing on all cylinders and then watch the goalds go in.

    Can’t agree with Nate about Bentley. I wwatched him recently with Hutton supporting him, and virtually every pass he got, he wasted. Hutton and Lennon works well.

    Have to agree with the general sentiment of the piece. We don’t really need another striker, especially if Aaron, Gareth and the Thud play to their best. With the exception of Keane, all our strikers will be getting goals by the bucketful with the support of the other three, and then we have the contributionthat VDV and Modric will make

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