Two games, six points, six goals and two clean-sheets to go with it. A stark comparison to the opening two fixtures against both Manchester sides, with both games ending in capitulation for the North London side. However, the back-to-back victories saw manager Harry Redknapp revert back to the critically acclaimed 4-4-2, having been forced to utilise a 4-4-1-1 last year to no great avail.
The signing of Rafael Van der Vaart was initially seen as a superb one but underneath the glitz and glamour of his arrival, an underlying curse was beginning to rear its ugly head. The Dutchman is a luxury player, let’s face it, and as good as he is, his arrival forced Spurs to play a formation that the players aren’t accustomed to. 4-4-1-1 is a system that has to be played with the right players and Redknapp had said players to utilise in every position bar one; up front.
Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko were all tried and tested but for all their individual strengths, the weaknesses shone through brighter. Of all the three, Crouch was the one that bought about the majority of the success as he and Van der Vaart formed a decent partnership between September and November last year.
However, once teams figured out how to prevent either the lanky forward or the diminutive schemer from playing their game, the goals dried up. Redknapp attempted to pair Van der Vaart with Pavlyuchenko and, once he had returned from injury, Defoe but to not avail and Spurs struggled to break down teams that packed the midfield meaning no service to the strikers which, ultimately, led to the North London side missing out on Champions League football this season.
The club were linked with a host of strikers throughout the summer but the rumours of Fernando Llorente, Diego Forlan and Mirko Vucinic joining came and went and with options seemingly running thin, Emmanuel Adebayor joined on loan from Manchester City. Some praised the signing; others cursed their luck following his arrival courtesy of his Arsenal history while a fair few reserved judgement until they saw him perform in the shirt.
Those who questioned the move quickly agreed his signing was a shrewd bit of business by Daniel Levy. Three goals in two games has helped lift the glum mood around White Hart Lane that seemed to surround the place following the defeats to the blue and red halves of Manchester. But, in both games Redknapp has opted to play a 4-4-2, partnering the Togolese forward with Defoe up-front and his decision appears to be reaping rewards. Five goals between them in their initial outings together has seen a promising partnership begin to blossom and it’s no surprise that Defoe has begun to find the net now that he has a brand new strike-partner.
Let’s face it, Spurs are a 4-4-2 team and have been for as long as I can remember. The 4-4-1-1 wasn’t as effective as it perhaps could have been due to the change in system. However, a lack of a striker that can lay the role as efficiently didn’t help matters. In Adebayor, Spurs have a front-man that can play to role, and to detrimental effect. With Van der Vaart behind him, some fans believe that Redknapp should revert back to the 4-4-1-1.
I beg to differ, 4-4-2 is the formations that got Spurs into the top four in the first place and it isn’t a coincidence that Defoe has found his shooting boots once again now that he has a strike partner instead of relying on Van der Vaart to support, who at times last season, would more often than not drop back into the midfield leaving the lone front-man completely isolated against the opponents back four.
Furthermore, the gameplay has improved significantly now that the players are back playing in the familiar structure. The worrying aspect of Van der Vaart joining was the fact that Redknapp would be forced to alter his system to accommodate the former Real Madrid midfielder. His injury may have been a blessing in disguise, especially with the positive results coinciding with the Dutchman’s absence.
If Spurs are to achieve success again this year, the 4-4-2 is the way forward. However, the beauty of having Adebayor available means that against tougher opponents, Redknapp is confident he can use the 27-year-old as the lone striker and not have to worry about which striker would be best suited for the system.
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