England fans know all too well how devastating a Germany side can be on the counter attack, and how being too overzealous in your approach can lead to disastrous consequences. On that cruel and eventful day in South Africa – when England were dumped out of the World Cup 4-1 by a rampant Germany, England paid the price for attacking far too much and sending too many players forward. Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp watched that game with despair just like many others and learnt a lot from the game. The Spurs boss will not want to make the same mistakes as Fabio Capello did that day and will hope for a good performance in Bremen tonight.
Redknapp knows how spectacularly wrong things can go with an incorrect system and formation employed. Tottenham were given a rude awaking in their first half an hour of Champions League football for nearly 50 years when they found themselves three goals down away at Young Boys. Spurs lined up 4-4-2 in Berne and could only watch helplessly as they were torn apart. Redknapp acknowledged that 4-4-2 is not always the most appropriate formation to use, particularly in continental action: “At times, especially in Europe, it’s difficult to go away from home and play 4-4-2.”
It was noticeable against Young Boys that Tottenham lacked numbers in the centre of midfield and Redknapp felt this was the same problem for England when they were dumped out of the World Cup. “If you play 4-4-2, you’ve got a problem in the middle of the park. It’ll be difficult – you’ll get overrun, a little bit like England did against Germany.” In recent weeks, Tottenham have experimented with 4-5-1 – in the win at Stoke City two weeks ago and the 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. And as mentioned in the previous Spurs Club Focus on A Different League, Rafael van der Vaart was played just off the lone striker. However, Redknapp is unlikely to play the Dutchman and fellow debutant William Gallas in the match with Werder Bremen: “I think that was van der Vaart’s first 90 minutes since before the World Cup and William Gallas’ first 90 minutes since the World Cup,” he said. “I think they were both completely wiped out almost by the end of the game on Saturday. It was tough for them. It’s whether I feel they’re ready to play a game so quickly.”
Redknapp has also been bolstered by the news Luka Modric may be fit for the game despite being stretchered off during the match at West Brom. “He’s still got pain in his leg, so we’ll have to see how he is in the evening,” Redknapp said on Monday. “I couldn’t take a chance on him unless he feels he’s right. To go out there and break him down and then lose him for long term – it just wouldn’t be right.”
The Spurs manager will have lots to think about during the day and right up until the kick-off. Tottenham were disappointing against West Brom on Saturday and were lucky to come away from the game with a point. Great saves from Carlo Cudicini and some help from lady luck ensured at least a point for the North Londoners. Good news for Tottenham is that Bremen will be hampered by injuries to German international Per Mertesacker and teammates Naldo and former Chelsea player Claudio Pizarro. Bayern Munich were held at the weekend by a patched up Bremen side who may even start former Arsenal defender Mikael Silvestre. As said throughout, Spurs must get it right tonight and must start well in what is a very tough group. Losing tonight would not be disastrous, but losing badly could damage confidence in the second round of fixtures. This does not look likely, but Redknapp will not be taking any chances. He will select a formation and style that will hurt Bremen and limit their chances of defeating his side.