Tottenham Club Focus – Change of formation should clip Canaries wings

Two games in three days and an FA Cup semi-final at the weekend should see Harry Redknapp rotate his Tottenham Hotspur team for the home match to Norwich. Following a drab draw against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light in which Spurs were unable to breakdown a home team that appeared sent out to defend at all costs, Spurs will look to claim three points to maintain their challenge for third.

Paul Lambert may adopt the 4-5-1 formation that has been used away from Carrow Road this season; the intention to pack the midfield and stop Spurs playing their normal possession and passing game. Norwich will have to make one enforced change with Kyle Naughton being ineligible against his parent club. Naughton’s absence will be a big miss for the Canaries, the young Englishman being in the top three for tackles won by defenders this season [Kyle Walker is 1st]. Norwich should be well organized and if play five across the middle may be tough to break down, the onus being on Spurs to force the game.

How they do this will depend on the players and formation Redknapp selects. In the reverse fixture earlier in the season, Spurs, in a 4-1-4-1 formation played some scintillating football, Gareth Bale particularly on song, in winning 2-0. In recent games, Spurs have adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation that has brought them back from their losing streak and helped re-established confidence and points. Redknapp could continue with this formation for several reasons. This would counter the Norwich midfield and ensure the Spurs midfield is not outnumbered. With Bale struggling to be fit after picking up a knock against Sunderland, switching Rafael van der Vaart to the left and bringing in Aaron Lennon on the right of the three forward midfielders would allow the formation shape to be maintained. Also the players are growing into the formation that may well be used against Chelsea in semi-final at the weekend and there is a case for continuity before such a vital game.

However, there may be a stronger argument for reverting to the 4-4-1-1 formation that served Spurs so well earlier in the season even if Bale is injured and, most importantly as long as Luka Modric is not played out of position on the left. Spurs need three points and will have to force the pace; importantly the team appears more comfortable doing so in this formation.

As was seen during Lennon’s injury period, rather than replace the winger with a similar if not like for like player, Redknapp ended moving other players out of position to compensate resulting in an unbalanced team. Redknapp should keep players in their best positions. Therefore, if Bale is unfit then perhaps Danny Rose should start on the left wing. This will allow van der Vaart to remain in the hole off the front man, dropping deep into midfield defensively when needed and to act as attacking midfielder or support striker going forward. Despite a poor performance against Sunderland, the formation perhaps work best with Emmanuel Adebayor as the lone striker, neither Jermain Defoe or Louis Saha being overly effective in the role. There may also be scope for Scott Parker to be rested before the semi-final with Sandro or Jake Livermore coming alongside Modric.

With Bale or Rose on the left and the other players in their best positions, Spurs should have the quality and ability to take all three points.

Possible team in a 4-4-1-1 formation

Friedel, Walker, Kaboul, Gallas, Assou-Ekoto, Lennon, Livermore, Modric, Rose, van der Vaart, Adebayor

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