Tottenham Hotspur lost to 1-3 on Sunday to a clinical Manchester United. Despite the loss, manager Harry Redknapp should be pleased with aspects of the performance. After last week’s loss to Arsenal, the manager and the fans will have been looking for a reaction. The players produced one, looking the better team for large parts of the game, even though the Lilywhites were missing the key trio of Scott Parker, Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart.
There were several plus points for Spurs. After an open first ten minutes, Spurs settled and controlled the first half. Livermore and Sandro played well, and complimented each other [similar to Modric and Parker], both constantly open for the ball. With Livermore’s passing and Sandro’s pressing, they controlled the midfield, disrupting United’s centre axis of Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes to the extent that this was perhaps Scholes’ least effective performance since his return – it may be interesting to see the two continue their partnership against Stevenage on Wednesday.
On the right Lennon looked in scintillating form and back to his best, was giving Patrice Evra a difficult time and both forwards worked hard, their movement making life awkward for United’s defence. Spurs enjoyed possession and as usual showed composure on the ball going forward and would have taken the lead but for a seemingly debatable decision by the referee to disallow Adebayor’s goal.
However, there may also be several negatives for Redknapp to consider. Tactically 4-4-2 with these players may have been the wrong option. Arguably Spurs have their own version of Xavi in Luka Modric. The Croatian is the heartbeat of the team, controlling the rhythm of the play. However, this is done from centre midfield not from the left flank. Modric, less influential from this position, tended to drift inside leaving Benoit Assou-Ekoto isolated; the majority of United attacks, whilst not particularly effective came down their right. Also Modric does not have the pace on the wing, so dropped deeper [as well as inside]. This created an imbalance.
On the right, Lennon played much further forward than Modric. Consequently United knew that the attacks should come mainly from the right whereas with two wingers this creates uncertainty from which flank an attack may come. This could have been negated by Lennon switching flanks particularly after Phil Jones was booked, though this rarely happened despite being successful when he did. Or perhaps Redknapp should have lined the team up in a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation with Modric ahead of Livermore and Sandro. With United lined up 4-4-2 and Redknapp seeing last week the control the extra midfielder in the centre can exert, it was may be surprising this was not tried.
Another area of concern maybe in defence. Solid for so long this season, each of United’s goals resulted from individual errors. This maybe from a combination of players carrying injuries and tiredness that could be combatted by more rotation.
Overall though this is perhaps more about small changes that can make the difference. Spurs played well, deserving to take something from the game. With key players due to return, the outlook for Tottenham should be positive and momentum can be rebuilt. If they can repeat the run they enjoyed after their consecutive losses at the beginning of the season, Spurs should comfortably claim third place.
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