The Tottenham Hotspur formation conundrum
No Premier League season is a smooth ride, and we have the highest profile sacking of the EPL season even before Christmas! Andre Villas-Boas is out and mostly will not be seen in the EPL any time soon. Tim Sherwood now has the coveted job and apparently for a year-and-a-half. Like many (including me) have written before, Spurs have some serious problems to deal with this season. Changing the manager was a necessary move, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee anything really. So, what can Sherwood do to change things at Spurs?
To start with, we can already see that Sherwood is trying to please the Spurs fans. He played two strikers against Southampton – Soldado and Adebayor – which was a first this season. He played Lamela and Sigurdsson wide with Dembele and Eriksen in the middle. A renewed energy in the line-up, some fresh faces and most importantly they won the match! Before we start thinking that Sherwood has it all figured out, a reality check is needed. This Southampton team is on the way down after a great start to the season. The most impressive part of their game early season was defence, and they were playing a second string defensive line in this match. In spite of all this, Spurs needed an own goal to win the match! Not so great a win now, is it?
In my opinion, Spurs have to make a strategic shift in formation to make best use of the team they have. At the same time, they need the crowd to be behind them, and they need to take care of that too. So, why is the Bale-sale squad unable to win? To me, they got their formation wrong. It is traditional Spurs now under Sherwood and was traditional AVB before, but neither of them is the right fit for this squad of players. Sure, chop and change next season, but if this season needs to be saved, something radical needs to be done. And hence my suggestion; Spurs need to play a 3-5-2 formation!
Let me do a deep dive and explain a bit more. Dawson, the captain, has had a pretty bad season up to now and seems out of sorts. But he has the experience to turn things around. Vertonghen has been pretty good since he moved from Ajax, and I expect him to be just as good going forward. Walker, for all his adventurous runs is missing in defence and to me is a liability. Chiriches or Rose – both to me are defensively weak.
The centre forwards and forward midfield need attacking skills, not your back four! They’ve got one job to do and as long as they do their job, any extra curricular skills can be lived without. To me, Kaboul is crucial as he makes his way back from injury. He is strong, he is good in the air and has been around long enough to know how to play in this league. I would have Kaboul, Dawson and Vertonghen in defence.
The best Spurs player this season, at least for me, has been Sandro. He is nicknamed ‘The Beast’ for a reason, because he is defensively very effective. He should be the holding midfielder and always willing to slot into the back 3 when the need arises. Getting rid of the left and right backs and having wing backs will help the attacking side of their game, and if we choose the right personnel who don’t mind putting in the extra shift, it would work defensively too.
Townsend can play the inverse wing back on the right or the Bale-like role on the left – either role is fine. He needs to be more disciplined in general, and a role of this nature will force him to do just that. Lamela has been an out-and-out winger for Roma; that is what he likes to do and that is what he is good at. Playing him through the middle is a waste of his pace and skills in my opinion. So, he takes the other wingback role, though defensively I have my doubts. Maybe Lennon or Sigurdsson are also a good fit if they don’t mind running back.
This position is a bit open, but I would like to see the talent that people say Lamela is and needs a long enough run in the team to prove it, so I prefer Lamela. Paulinho is your typical box-to-box midfielder, and he is pretty good at it. AVB played him behind Soldado most times and expected goals from him. I think this is an unfair expectation. I would expect him to assist in attacks and give the solidity to midfield. Dembele to me is a very gifted player. He is not much in the defensive mould, but has the physical presence to improve on it. But in attack, he is one of the best midfield penetrators/drifters in the league. So, my midfield has Townsend, Dembele, Sandro, Paulinho and Lamela forming the “V”.
In attack, Spurs have a real problem. The midfield needs to adapt to Soldado to make him successful at the club. He is Spanish and can only do things when the ball is fed well to him and along the ground. And going with the two forwards approach to keep the Spurs fans happy, Adebayor is the second forward. He can be an aerial threat and a more traditional Premier League forward. Defoe is just too inconsistent a player to be considered in the starting lineup, but he could slot in for Soldado when needed. This isn’t the best forward line in the league, but is the best than this Spurs side has to offer.
So, if Sherwood has the guts (and Levy approval) to do “anything” to save this season for the Spurs, he has got to consider this formation.