Talking Tactics, amongst other things.
I still get a terrific buzz from simply tapping out our fixtures onto a blank piece of paper because it is pleasurable to be in exalted, quality company.
On Saturday, Harry Redknapp brings another of the genuinely iconic Clubs in English football to our Home patch, and that feels good in itself.
First club to do the double in the 20th Century, first club to win a UEFA sponsored trophy etc..Another Club with a justifiably proud history.
Nowadays managed by the ostensibly geezerish ‘Arry, with his wheeler-dealer East Enders schtick, they sit excitingly 3rd in the Table and to all of us who saw them comfortably outplay Norwich on Sky on Tuesday evening for a 2-0 win at Carrow Rd., are sure to provide a stern test, albeit of the sort that both we and our Club crave more of – a top quality, top class, exciting football match with players on show that make the Premier League what it is.
Anyone who’s seen them this season too will have noticed that HR’s media-savvy, good man manger cloak conceals an astute tactical brain, capable of shaping and imposing his team’s myriad skills into a tactical game plan that has seen them kick on from their Champions League qualifying season of 2 years ago and into a team that this year leads their fans to dare to dream of challenging the Manchester giants at the very top.
No one within Tottenham’s ranks has yet mentioned the word Champions? without the question mark, but their performances since losing their two opening games to City and United have been truly excellent, confirming the fact that it’s not JUST a fanciful dream.
It’s come about of course because they have been able to augment an already stellar cast of players by both retention/development and addition, and a refreshing tactical acumen that ‘Arry and his staff have used to brilliant effect, matching games to personnel and fitness, styles to occasions, and shrewd practical performances.
Witness that very recent game at Carrow Rd., and the feeling you got that they were always in total control.
Let’s have a little look more closely and see if we can get a guide to what may have helped them advance.
Harry Redknapp, over his years in Management, has developed his immediate close knit assistants into a formidable set.
Both Kevin Bond (son of John) as Assistant Manager and Joe Jordan, First Team Coach, have followed “H” from Club to Club. Les Ferdinand (Strikers), Tony Parks (GK coach) and Tim Sherwood (Asst 1st team) – very well known ex players all – are also key. But, most importantly, Damien Comolli, the Executive Chairman has been arguably as influential as any, with both retention and recruitment of players, and balancing and juggling the Club’s finances to their advantage. This is both ongoing and crucial some would argue, particularly with regard to any Stadium development.
In goal, nowadays, Brad Friedel, the long serving 40yr old Yank, continues to astound, having brought stability in replacing the benched Brazilian Heurelho Gomes (no more bloopers then). The Yoga practicing , record breaking American is better trusted. They also have Carlo Cudicini signed. Fair depth there, then.
At RB, Kyle Walker has replaced the departed Scotsman Alan(I’ll kick you if I can)Hutton , to far more threatening effect. Blisteringly fast, selected by Capello nowadays too, some will remember him from last year’s loan spell at QPR. Very, very good.
At LB, Benoit Assou-Ekotto has won round both fans and staff alike. Earlier seen as a weaker link, he has refined his game and is nowadays skillful and flexible in attack and defence. Both FB’s can, and do, bomb on rather well.
CB’s are generally chosen from William Gallas, Younes Kaboul, Ledley King and Sebastian Bassong. Michael Dawson, the highly rated England player is an achilles absentee. Gallas and Kaboul, the French Internationals started the game at Norwich. Both are top quality.
Ledley King is a wonder- only able to train by swimming and light workouts due to a degenerative knee condition, he continues to be Redknapp’s first choice if available- that tells you about his quality. Bassong plays less, but is excellent cover.
At Carrow Rd, sitting in front of the back 4 as two holders, Scott Parker and Sandro were the gel that helped the side play with a tactical freedom that allowed the 4 ahead to consistently and constantly switch, to Paul Lambert’s consternation.
Parker was an unbelievable steal by Redknapp/Commolli from West Ham. Known to be moving after WHU’s demotion, £5m secured the FW 2011 Player of the Year and England’s No1 defensive midfielder. Nowadays fulfilling all his prominence into regular game changing performances, he complements perfectly the Brazilian’s box to box vigour. Like Chelsea’s Ramires, Sandro has grown into the English game, and now relishes the physicality.
The four remaining places likely to be chosen on Saturday illustrate perfectly the team’s tactical flexibility.
Earlier games saw them start with Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale wide and Luka Modric or Rafael van der Vaart tucked in behind Emmanuel Adebayor. Lennon’s recent injury has seen ‘Arry use Modric or Van der Vaart wide but the key is that they appear to play with both Modric and Van der Vaart with the license to go anywhere.
Similarly, Bale,(does he have three lungs?) , in imperious form, also has a license to roam. Oh, and Adebayor, his Arsenal and Man City languid days long behind him, nowadays works his socks off for the team. They all do, really. And they score goals too, regularly, often of the “great goals” variety.
You really don’t need me to try to describe the level of skill that these forwards can provide.This year, when I’ve seen Tottenham on TV, I can honestly say that only Man City at their very best have provided entertainment of the same quality. It really is a pleasure to watch.
Mind you, ‘Arry will still tell you that his squad lacks a little depth, and he’ll be looking to add in January.
I’ll list the remainder of the squad here……. Tom Huddlestone MF, Roman Pavlyuchenko Stk, Giovani Dos Santos MF, Jermain Defoe Stk, Niko Kranjcar MF, Vedran Corluka Def, Danny Rose MF, Yago Falqué MF, Jake Livermore MF, Andros Townsend MF, Harry Kane Str, Steven Pienaar MF, Ryan Fredericks MF,Thomas Carroll MF.
One or two tasty names in there by the way. Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko anyone?
So, to get back to their tactical shape. The outline appears to be a 4-2-3-1 that bends to a 4-3-3 as they will.
But, as I’ve already suggested, both full backs will augment going forward, allowing that side’s wide man to wander infield or out, literally where he will. Rapidly changing angled runs from one of the front 4 always changes the space for another to run into. The defensive holders also press and tackle rapidly, always seeking to win back the ball as high as possible toward an opponents goal.
Pace, and tempo, is key. By this I mean that when breaking from defense to attack they will often try to do it at top speed. Conversely, when facing an already organised back unit, they will, like us, go back if need be, go around when they can, and try to commit an opponent to be drawn toward the ball, varying and slowing in order to exploit any vacated space.
For us then I would suggest it’s important to keep shape, with a more rigorous and defined defensive shape – something that Roy Hodgson does so well at any of his clubs. Even though he has often worked with a 4-4-2, at West Bromwich Albion he has been clever enough to vary the strict lines it imposes so that it evolves into something more akin to our signature style.
Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair, if it’s them, will tuck in and squeeze, hopefully. Kemy Agustien last week provided good screening and I think Gower for Joey might aid us too.
Steven Caulker, as he’s on loan to us from them, will be replaced by Gary Monk, and the Club Skipper has never let us down.
I’m assuming that much the same as she goes for the remainder.
High energy, high competition and a pride in hosting a prestigious fixture that many Nationwide would love to see and show will go a long way toward confirming that we really have come a long, long way. I’d love to see us go further.
Onward, Swansea City.
#Oh, and here’s a little good will and good cheer to ALL readers. Viva Guardianistas.
This article was written by Peter Thomas