Football should be a simple game. Play your best players in their best positions and you will be in with a chance. To that end, it is frustrating to see Harry Redknapp keep playing players out of position. After the first two games of the season, Tottenham went on a long unbeaten run playing some of the best football in the league. This was achieved by playing a system that worked, with Bale providing width on the left, Lennon on the right (when fit) and Van Der Vaart playing just off Adebayor in the majority of games. In recent weeks, Redknapp has opted for a 4-4-2 formation after seeing this work to devastating effect in the 5-0 demolition of Newcastle. This formation was however their downfall in the North London derby where Arsenal were able to outnumber us in midfield and dominate the game. Redknapp continued to persist with the 4-4-2 against Manchester United and again in the weekend’s game against Everton. All 3 of these games have resulted in defeats and seen us lose our grip on 3rd place.
The line-up against Everton seemed surprised me. Although I would have argued that Defoe deserved to start after his recent goal scoring exploits, the team looked unbalanced. Going back to my opening of this article, you should play your best players in their best positions. For me this means that Modric has to play in the centre and Bale has to play on the left. Tottenham lined up with Bale playing on the right with Modric on the left. Sandro and Parker played central midfield.
Playing Modric on the left is a waste of his talent. From there he is unable to dictate play and we lose a great deal of creativity. Moving him from the centre left us with two defensive minded midfielders and lost a great deal of creativity and spark from central areas. Modric has been instrumental to the tempo that we play but having him wide on the left minimises his influence over the game. Similarly, playing Bale on the right negates his threat. There is no better sight for me than Bale running at full pace down the left hand side, terrorising right backs and whipping in inviting balls. Indeed, this is where he has been most effective for Spurs and when he moved to the left late in the game he looked a lot more dangerous. Playing Bale on the right means that he continually has to cut inside to get the ball on his left foot. Each time he did manage to get in advanced positions on the right he opted to cross with the outside of his left foot and not use his right foot. This led to Bale having a poor crossing accuracy. Of the 13 crosses that were attempted he only had 15% accuracy – his poorest crossing accuracy of the season.
In his post-match press conference Redknapp said that he played Bale right as he did not have an alternative whereas he has players at his disposal who are able to play on the left – Modric in this instance. I think we had the right personnel to be able to play a 4-2-3-1 formation on this occasion to allow avoid moving players unnecessarily out of position. Parker and Sandro would have been able to sit in front of the back four and bring their defensive qualities to the midfield battle with a well organised Everton side. Then Bale, Modric and VDV could have played in the more advanced three offering support to Adebayor. This would have allowed Bale to play on the left of the three where he is most dangerous and allow Modric to dictate play from a central position with VDV on the right of the three. This would also allow for the front three to change positions to mix up play and get forward to support the lone striker.
More on Page 2: Sandro, Parker, Modric & Adebayor passing comparison…
As it was, Adebayor looked isolated upfront, not working as a partnership with Defoe. Adebayor came in for a lot of criticism from Tottenham fans for a poor performance. This is something that is backed up by the stats. His 10 passes attempted in the Everton half at a success rate of only 60% is the worst that he has managed all season. Added to that, he only managed 29 touches of the ball – again the poorest performance of the season by far. Additionally he had no attempts at goal. I would argue that it is slightly unfair to criticise Adebayor’s performance as he was starved of service. No one was getting close enough to Adebayor to play off him and the passes that he was receiving were not short, incisive passes, they were often long balls that he was expected to compete for and do something with. The chalkboard from Stats Zone highlights the passes that Adebayor had received throughout the game.
Again, had the formation been different, Adebayor would have had a lot more support in advanced areas and with Modric playing centrally he would be able to play to Adebayor’s feet rather than hitting him long.
The stats below look at the passing performances of Parker, Sandro and Adebayor. Modric had the most passes but being on the left the majority of these passes weren’t in positions that could really hurt Everton. Sandro was the most defensive of the midfield pairing, and he only attempted 9 passes in the Everton half. Parker attempted a lot more in the opposition half (34) but his range of passing is not as quick and incisive as Modric so we lost a lot of creative intent from playing Modric out wide. Adebayor has been included in this table to demonstrate the points made above about his performance.
There is no doubting that Harry has done a fantastic job this season but some of his recent tactical decisions have been rather baffling. It is time to get back to basics and play to our strengths. For me this means that Bale HAS to play on the left and Modric HAS to play in the centre. With vital games coming up it is essential that we hold on to 3rd position and I am confident we can do this if we keep our best players in their best positions.