There have been rumblings of a 3-5-2 from the Tottenham fan base for weeks now, with Spurs struggling to kickstart any form with the tried-and-tested 3-4-3 under Conte this season.
Even Conte himself has referenced the concept of a switch, stating that Bissouma could come into midfield and a front two of either Kane/Son or Kane/Richarlison could lead the line for the Lilywhites.
He said (Football London): “With this type of players and this squad we can play with these two systems, 3-4-3 and a 3-5-2. Also, Bissouma is a good player who can play with the two midfielders and the two strikers can be Sonny and Kane or Richarlison and Kane.”
The Italian has also given glimpses of the formation in-game. In the recent big win over Leicester, Conte moved to a 3-5-2 in the second half and Spurs looked far more in control of the match with an extra body in the engine room.
Of course, as Conte has made clear in recent press conferences, he is an expert at playing the wing-back system and he knows his players better than us, so this is definitely not a hit job on his tactics. I can see the merit of 3-4-3 and it did wonders for Spurs last season.
However, with the current injuries and the form of the players in the starting XI, plus the opposition coming up this weekend, 3-5-2 just feels like the only sensible choice. Conte has often hinted he intends to switch between the two formations depending on the game.
So who is coming up next? Brighton. Under new management too. They started very brightly under De Zerbi against Liverpool, scoring three goals and earning a point at Anfield. In short, if you let Brighton play football, you will be in big trouble.
Tottenham have so often sat back and let the opposition take control of the ball this season, especially in the first 45 and even more so away from home. But Brighton absolutely thrive under those conditions.
Yes, historically they have struggled to break down low blocks and consistently find the back of the net, but if you give a top-quality team enough possession in your final third, all it takes is one moment of skill or luck to send you behind.
Against Liverpool, Brighton lined up with a 3-4-2-1 of sorts, with two wing-backs, Welbeck leading the line, and Trossard and Groß in the pockets. It’s actually pretty similar to what Spurs have been playing with Kane, Son and Richarlison of late.
I can already see the start of the game now. Brighton push the wing-backs high, pinning Tottenham into a flat back five. Then the creative players like Groß, Trossard and Mac Allister swarm the box until an inevitable breakthrough.
For me, Spurs should take the initiative and at least win the midfield battle for the first time this season. Play with a three and instantly outnumber them in the engine room, sacrificing Richarlison to the bench.
Not only does this allow you to control the ball more from the start, but it also gives Bissouma a chance to come in against a team he is very very familiar with. Richarlison then also provides a legitimate forward option from the bench, with Skipp backing up the midfield.
With injuries to Moura and Kulusevski, it makes sense to use more of the squad and for Conte to leave himself with game changes in all areas of the pitch on the bench. Of course, he will also have to name a new right-wing-back, although I suspect it could be Perisic/Sess again.
Playing with a two up front also gives Son a chance to play himself back into form. We all know that playing in the pocket is not his bread and butter. It puts a lot of emphasis on first touch, back-to-goal, tidy passing… which aren’t the best areas of his game.
Playing in a two will allow him to get right back on the shoulder, exploiting the space that Brighton do sometimes leave in behind, and allowing Kane to drop into a number ten role to pick him out. Yes, you have less manpower up front, but those two are more than capable alone.
I have a nasty feeling that if you sit back and allow Brighton to dominate or go toe-to-toe with their formation, it may become a very difficult game for Spurs (of course, it will either way). But a switch to a 3-5-2 would at the very least represent an effort to adapt.
Take control of midfield, keep the ball for longer, push the wing-backs up into their natural positions instead of a flat back five, and let Son and Kane play with a little more freedom than they get in the 3-4-3. Without Kulusevski, Spurs are struggling to make 3-4-3 work.
The same formation that picked up so many wins in the second half of last season is looking clunky at the moment. The consistent transitions from defence into creative areas just isn’t there, and the front three are struggling to put the ball in the back of the net.
I think it’s a mixture of Kulusevski being injured, Son being out of form, not having an in-form Doherty creating at RWB, and I guess teams having more time to work out games plans against the new Conte style. Whatever the case, the team feels like it needs a subtle change.
For me, I would like to see:
Lenglet, Dier, Romero;
Perisic, Hojbjerg, Bissouma, Bentancur, Doherty;
Of course, certain games moving forward will suit the 3-4-3 and others the 3-5-2, but adaptability is going to be a big part of success this season and Conte surely needs to start using his squad more to avoid burnout for the 11/12/13 most senior players.
Have something to tell us about this article?