Jermain Defoe

The renaissance of the rigid 4-4-2 structure has begun following the English annihilation of Bulgaria last week. This time around there were no ancient Athenian scriptures rediscovered in a far-away fallen capital, no sweeping new devices of mass communication invented; quite the opposite. What spurred on this Cultural Revolution was not remembering but a refusal to forget. Our dear leader has hung on to 4-4-2 like paisley shirts in the bitter hope it will one day become vogue again (this winter, I hear).

First points first. I know fluidity has become a hallmark of modern football, but when did the 4-4-2 become so archaic? Perhaps my memory serves me wrong, but it wasn’t that long ago – but we talk about it as if has been an age, in a vain effort to sound on the ball.  Now I’m not arguing against the Gerrard-Torres, Ozil-Klose connections in 4-5-1, but there are other ways to play.

Which is, essentially, a pretty odd way to set up the following argument: we (the mighty, mighty Tottenham Hotspur) should opt for a 4-5-1 when we can. Our acquisition of the supremely talented Van der Vaart has forced our hand somewhat, but I’d like to dispel – or at least challenge – some myths associated with 4-5-1 at Spurs.

We can get away with one defensive midfielder

The capitulation against the Young Boys says otherwise. Yes, that plastic pitch had a lot to answer for, but so too did naïve tactics. We can’t play one holding midfielder away from home – particularly one that can’t pass and particularly with such an attacking line-up elsewhere. If we had Modric, Van de Vaart, Lennon and Bale in the side, I’d argue most of the time we would need two defensive midfielders in the shape of Palacios (or Sandro) and Huddlestone. A six-man midfield, then? Well, no. We would need to shuffle the pack a tad, needing to lose two players somewhere. This is easy: move Bale to left-back and play with one striker.

Bale is wasted at left-back

Bale was bought as a left-back. He has developed into one of the best left-sided midfielders in the country – but that doesn’t mean he can’t be effective with defensive duties. He quite often tracks back now. Just look at Ashley Cole and how often he gets forward. Benoît Assou-Ekotto is habitually roaming forward and, just as often, getting caught out of position. With Modric in front of Bale there is the issue of leaving Bale exposed as the Croatian drifts inside. But with two defensive-minded midfielders there is adequate cover to let him get forward, but only if he is disciplined enough to know when to stay and when to go. The way I see it is you’re getting two players for the price of one. “If Bale is going to be the best anywhere, I think it’ll be from left-back. I’ve got Benoît who does well for me there. But in the long term, it’s all in front of [Bale at left-back],” says ‘Arry.

Defoe can’t play upfront on his own

Two or three years ago I would have agreed. But we only need to look at his performance for England to realise he can. Rooney didn’t play as a striker that night – he played the celebrated Özil role. Defoe’s hat-trick was half-dismissed while everyone crowded around Rooney to say what a fantastic part he played. The experts argued that Rooney made Defoe’s job easy. This is a fallacy: Defoe made Rooney’s job easy. Defoe’s running, hold-up play, and movement was perfect. Rooney had simple balls to play because Defoe put himself in such good positions. Van der Vaart and Modric can play that role. Modric looks such a threat when he’s pushed forward, and Van der Vaart is made for it. What’s the point of having creativity in abundance and then smashing the ball up field for Crouch to nod down? Defoe isn’t in the Drogba mould, admittedly – but is Torres? With an attacking midfielder right in behind, there is little chance of Defoe being isolated and I think we will see the best of him.

But, returning to fluidity, we have to be pragmatic and display a willingness to mix it up a little bit. The idea that 4-5-1 is the more defensive option is wrong – but there’s always room for a little bit of 4-4-2. I wait in anticipation to see what ‘Arry does with this fantastic squad of ours.

By Anthony Pearce


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  1. There is no way we can think of playing Bale back in the LB role, he is to vital to our attack and has proved his worth playing there, not only that, But! Ekotto has earned his place in the starting team and he links well with the aforementioned.

    I think a formation of 4-5-1 away from home will serve us very well, ie:


    Corluka King Gallas Ekotto

    Lennon Hudds Modric Bale

    Van Der Vaart

    …………………Defoe………………………. Made the Gallas/Daws change due to injury, and one has not forgotten Sandro, jury out on him until proof given.

    At home we can rely on the 4-4-2, a preferred partnership of Pav and Defoe leading the home advantage attack. Arry`s job and headache to sort the MF out, I need a drink to combat this mine-midfield conundrum. Lol


    • 'One has not forgotten Sandro'? Write a chant based around that sentence and try singing it on the terraces. What the fuck has happened to football?

  2. Nice post – particularly the last line "…with this fantastic squad of ours." It is fantastic. As a long suffering fan through the 90s, I can't quite believe it. Strength in depth, a good balance of youth and experience, flexibility, pace and flair. Pinch me, am I dreaming?

  3. Fantastic article, let's just hope that 'Arry has the same thing in mind. Would also be interesting to see how well Pav would do in a similar formation, i.e. VDV/Modric in an attacking role just behind.

  4. Foggy, I’m glad someone has mentioned Kranjcar!! people seem to forget what he did for us last season.. player left, right, central! He’s such a talent.. Am I the only one who feels we may benefit from startinghim on the right instead of lennon? VDV and defoe will create so much space and he is one of our most talented goal scorers from the midfield..

    I know everyone loves lennon (believe me i do aswell!)but i just think Kranjcar may be able to do some serious damage with space. just a thought!

  5. As far as I can make out our Harry has the best job in football just now. How many managers would like to have the depth squad that he has? 4-4-2, 4-5-1 it all depends on the circumstance surely decisions are made but we don’t live and die by them, what would be a travesty would be to waste the abundance of options available to us by playing long ball up to Mr( Roboto, Head on a stick ) Crouch. It’s actually scary to think just how much we can shuffle the pack and we are going to have to because potentially we could have a 55 plus game season. Lillywhitetilidie


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