Tottenham Club Focus – Can Redknapp strike the right balance?

In defining their summer transfer policy, clubs will be reviewing team and players’ performances from last season, looking at the good and bad points and where improvement can be made. Amongst these will be Tottenham Hotspur, after a roller coaster season, with the highs of beating the Milan duo in getting to a Champions League quarter final, four points taken off their North London rivals and the disappointment of finishing outside the top four.

One of Tottenham’s main problems in the Premier League last season was inconsistency, where their longest winning sequence was only three games. Part of the reason for this could be Harry Redknapp appearing uncertain of his best starting eleven, and of the 28 players used in the Premier League only eight made over 20 appearances.

The Spurs manager opted for a rotational policy regarding players as well as the formation, with 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1, 4-5-1, 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 all being used. Injuries and Champions League games are accepted, but these rotations were not just restricted to after a European midweek game. The adage that “either keep the formation and change the players or keep the players and change formation, but not both” may be true here. This changing of both on a regular basis, particular in the effect on their forward line, may have ultimately cost Spurs the prize of a second consecutive season in the Europe’s premier competition.

There has been criticism of their forward line – with only 17 premier league goals between them compared to 37 goals in 2009/10. However, the previous season, playing two up front in a mainly 4-4-2 formation, the forwards started 75 games between them, compared to 56 this season. Strikers tend to be confidence players and none of them may have been helped by the lack of consistent runs in the first team.

Redknapp has tended to play Rafael Van der Vaart with a lone striker in all formations. The excellent Dutchman has scored 13 goals, but his selection has been mainly at the expense of Jermaine Defoe who scored 18 league goals in 2009/10. The lone striker role has been mainly filled by Peter Crouch but Crouch, like Spurs’ other forwards, do not conform to lone striker stereotype, e.g. a physical presence, ability to intimidate defenders, hold up the ball and of course score goals. This imbalance in the attack in order to incorporate Van deer Vaart into an already attacking midfield may be a contributing factor to the poor performance of the Spurs forward line.

The forward quartet all expressed dissatisfaction at being on the bench last season, and if the decision is to play one up front next season, this summer could see striking changes at the Lane with perhaps up to three forwards moving on. If Harry plans to revert to the previously successful 4-4-2 then can Van der Vaart and the exceptional Luka Modric – if he stays – be accommodated in midfield?

In finalising the transfer targets, perhaps the manager has to determine his best formation.

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