I wrote this:

I mentioned this:

(If) Defoe is the lone striker. He HAS to make movements for the oncoming players and he simply does not do this enough. Defoe has good attributes for a lone striker if the ball is played to feet, he can hold up play, he can turn and beat a man and is selfish enough to shoot when unsupported if needed…..

….it’s clear to see that Defoe is largely central, he is not pulling the defense in any particular way and it is highlighted more when compared to the Premier Leagues most rated front men, even Crouch has more movement than Defoe although he does not have the attributes to turn and beat a player or shoot

And Adebayor does this:

Adebayor against Wolves (A)

Adebayor against Wolves (A)

Problem solved ;)

Two weeks to go until our first game of the season against Everton and movement at the Lane has been pretty non-existent. The signing of a 40 year old keeper in Friedel and two fetuses for the future in Ceballos and Coulibaly has left the fans with razor blades centimeters from their collective wrists.

So, what’s been happening? A lot of fans seem to be confusing lack of ambition with the ability to attract the quality of player we need. With a turnover of £120m and 56% of that dedicated to wages already it’s clear that we have to keep an eye on our finances. We cannot afford a player at 100k a week and we do not have Champions League football to attract other quality players.

With one of the largest squads in the league we have to lose players somehow, we currently have too many first team players for the 25 man squad with the likes of Bale now eligible for the 25 man squad and the returning loaned players of last season looking to play football in some capacity. With our lack of billionaire owner we cannot afford to have players outside of the 25 man squad pulling in wages of 30-40k a week and the statement from the club appears to be that they have to sell these fringe players before we can bring anyone else in. While the media interprets that as an agenda to sell our best players for big money and be a selling club work from the top is that our best players aren’t for sale but that is not to say any of our mid-level players would not be allowed to go for a decent fee but there is also an issue of the wages that a player is on at our club so going to a smaller club he may have to take a wage cut, also that the player is based in London so may not want to go and live in the North so the options available are reduced to a handful of clubs.

So where do we have to look for the players we need? We are obviously gagging for a quality lone striker. Spurs have to look for a player who is young so that if we are to spend a lot of money on the transfer fee, he retains a sell on value otherwise as a club we would just be throwing money away. The player has to fit into our wage structure of which, if the media reports are correct, we pay up to about 70k pw to our top earners. The player also has to be better than what we already have, this is problem because it largely comes down to a matter of opinion especially for the fans so in ‘Arry and our scouting team we must trust.

Reading the criteria for the players we are looking at it’s easy to see why we are struggling so much to get in the players we need, we want to progress, we want to improve, we want to ‘freshen up’ the squad but we cannot stretch to compete with the teams above us who cream in money from their stadium (Manchester United, Arsenal) or are owned by Billionaires (Chelsea, Manchester City).

The case of Liverpool is interesting, with their need to recover from their fallen status they have spent big to fill in gaps they need but they have followed the criteria above, the players are young, within their wage structure and better than what they already have. Looking at the players they have signed I’m sure most Spurs fans would be unhappy with any of them arriving at the club at the fee’s paid. We are at a different stage to Liverpool, we are not trying to recover, we are trying to progress, our squad is still decent if we keep hold of our top players and it’s hard to imagine our strikers will be as poor as they were last season. Our issues last season were against the clubs in the lower positions of the league, against the teams at the top we competed and there is no reason why we cannot do the same again. Our only way forward is to invest in potential and push forward with our stadium plans to put us on an even level with the teams we want to compete with. Based on the success of the Emirates Arsenal churn in an extra £57m on match days a season (£94m to our £37m) so it is massively important that we move into a larger ground and we do all we can as a club to make that happen otherwise we will be left behind forever.

Levy contemplates....

I don’t want to sound like a Levy apologist but the important thing is the future of our club, that we exist as a club in many years to come, so that our children and our childrens children can experience the ups and downs of supporting a team who have a history and a tradition of playing the glory game like ours.

In the 2009-2010 season Spurs rose above expectations to finally clinch qualification for the Champions League, a main part of that success was one of the bargins of the season: Niko Kranjcar.

Niko was signed from Portsmouth for the pittance fee of £2.5m and came to join with his Croatian teammates Luka Modric and Vedran Corluka. In his first season for Spurs Niko scored 8 goals (6 league, 2 in the FA cup) in just 24 games for the club. So what has happened to the prolific, creative, dare I say handsome individual who was such a hit last season and why have his appearances been restricted?

When arriving at the club it appeared that Luka Modric and Niko were fighting for the left midfield birth, Redknapp said:

“They don’t stand out wide and get marked. They come into positions where opponents can’t find them. They’re in little holes and they have that knack of doing that. They do it so well.

When asked how they would work together Redknapp said:

There’s no reason why they can’t have a good run together

but what Redknapp says and what Redknapp does are two different things…

The first set up for the Croatian duo involved them taking it in turns to play the left midfield position with Modric largely getting the nod but then a broken leg took Modric out for a considerable length of time and Kranjcar was left with the role to himself.

With Assou-Ekotto bombing on from left back while Niko tucked inside and Redknapp opting to use Huddlestone and Palacios as his central two, Niko was given free reign of the space behind the two strikers with Lennon holding width on the right hand side. This was Kranjcar at his best and his goal scoring record and the additional 6 assists that season proved that he has what it takes but then things changed…

Modric’s return to fitness coincided with an injury to Aaron Lennon and Redknapp had the chance to play the Croatians together but to Kranjcar’s misfortune it was he who had to move to the right hand side of midfield to accommodate Modric and Niko failed to perform or influence the game from his new position with Spurs largely playing too narrow to exploit the teams they were against but during this time something else was going on.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto had made the left back position his own but was due to attend the African Nations cup however he never made it that far as injury cut him down in his prime and Gareth Bale took his place at left back, the emergence of Bale as a force on the left side of the team sent shockwaves through the line up and he played himself into the starting eleven and then Ekotto was fit to play.

Another lacklustre performance on the right against Sunderland away with Modric in the middle meant things had to change with an important game against Arsenal coming up. Ekotto was fit to start, Bale was moved to left wing and Modric came inside to partner Huddlestone. Kranjcar was benched in favour of David Bentley on the right side and as they say the rest is history.

Redknapp has only picked Niko on the left side of the pitch when Modric has played centrally twice and I believe it largely down to the positions they take up on the pitch…

Modric (left) and Kranjcar (right) positioning

From the heatmaps above you can see there is a massive overlap in position, if anything they get in the way of each other, in the two games in which Niko started on the left and Modric centrally Niko was subbed early.

Compared to an out and out winger in Bale it highlights the difference between the two players and their style of play and the room it gives Modric to operate.

Modric (left) and Bale (right) positioning

It’s fair to argue that Modric and Bale are seen as the shining lights of this current Spurs team but it’s to the detriment of one Niko Kranjcar, a player of immense quality just doesn’t fit the system that caters to the best team we can put out and with the purchase of Rafael Van der Vaart his chances were further reduced with Kranjcar’s preferred role now totally redundant with no space for a left midfielder who drifts inside to operate at all.

It is sad that a player of such quality will probably not be with us next season but I’m sure every Spurs fan will remember his contribution to one of the best seasons we have had in recent history and his fleeting apperances this season where he scored 2 massively important goals for us. Wherever you go Niko, good luck!

A Real chance?


In a few hours Spurs will be embarking on one of the biggest games in their recent history, a Champions League quarter final game against nine times champions Real Madrid. Not only do Real pack an assortment of world class stars but they are managed by arguably the best coach around in Jose Mourinho. It would be an utter disservice to not look at the tactical possibilities in this game so here we go….

The Mourinho Way
Mourinho’s teams are largely built from the defense, at Porto, Chelsea and then Inter the defense was the basis of where everything worked. However, for Real Madrid it has been a totally different story, with the players not of the required defensive attitude available to him Jose’s Real have become a very direct team breaking away from Mourinho’s ideal possession game of resting while on the ball. With the the need for wins in every game of La Liga it has seen Mourinho have to adapt his style of play and has resulted in a more counter attack based form of football with Ronaldo largely the figurehead for the team with more balls going to Ronaldo than any other player.

The Real defensive line
Mourinho’s teams generally play with a high line, keeping possession and suffocating teams, as Real play a more direct style the defensive line is not as high as would be expected of a Mourinho team and a lot of balls are cut out from the double pivot partnership of Alonso and whoever is partnering him on the day (Lass/Granero/Khierda).

The defensive line position for Real offers two possibilities for Spurs. If the line is high then it negates the effectiveness of Crouch as a lack of pace means he is unable to exploit the area left behind the defensive line but it plays into the hands of Lennon and Bale who have the pace to beat the high line and exploiting the high line on the wings is a tactic that has been used by quite a few of the Spanish clubs against Real.

If the defensive line is deep then Crouch becomes a massive problem for the centre back pairing of Real. It is hard to compete in the air with Crouch, his physical size makes any aerial ball a battle for the centre back to cover and the nearer to the box Crouch is the more devastating he is, not only as a scoring threat but playing in midfielders coming from deep especially Van der Vaart who has built up a good scoring relationship with Crouch.

Spurs on the defense
A half-fit Ronaldo could be an advantage for Spurs, if he is not as effective as he can be he is still seen as the figurehead for Real’s attacks and with more balls going to him than the other Real players it could be detrimental to have him on the pitch if he is unable to convert those balls into chances, however Ronaldo is always a threat and coming in off the left I expect he would be handled by Gallas and Corluka as he comes in on goal with Sandro also on that side of the pitch from his central midfield position.

Real are of course not a one man team, Lennon will have to track the runs of Marcelo and Sandro will have to be very aware of the position of Ozil, one of Madrid’s stand out players this year after a fantastic World Cup. Ramos at right back will bomb forward and will need to be tracked by Bale and Di Maria is likely to start from the right and cut inside so the centre of the field could be overwhelmed which would suggest Spurs may play more narrow than expected as they did against Arsenal last season at White Hart Lane and the second half of this seasons 2-3 game at the Emirates.

I would also imagine that Van der Vaart will be asked to pressure Alonso when he is on the ball. Every area of the pitch reflects an attacking opportunity for Real so Spurs will really need to be on their game to stop them scoring but thats not to say we don’t have a chance.

Spurs on the attack
With full backs that like to get forward it could leave space for the likes of Lennon and Bale to exploit the space they leave. Against Chelsea and Arsenal last season there was an obvious pattern of play that exploited both teams, upon an opposition attack breaking down Gomes would get the ball left as quickly as possible, either directly to Bale or to Modric who plays on the left of the central two in midfield, Modric would then in turn pick out Bale who would be running from deep and time and again the space on the oppositions right side was exposed. This can be seen again against Inter where Maicon had no cover in front of him, following an attack breaking down he was caught too high and alone on the pitch and Bale took advantage of that situation.

The front three of Real do not tend to come back and help out defensively either and it could gives Spurs the possibility to control the midfield in parts, especially if they are playing slightly more narrow than normal. With Ozil and Alonso part of their central three in midfield they may not pressure too much and it could give Modric the room he needs to operate in.

Expected Line-ups

It will be a tough game but Spurs do have every chance of scoring a valuable away goal in the first leg. To Dare is To Do. COYS!!

I got into football quite late. I changed primary school and my new school was football-centric. I didn’t have a team and I was pressured to choose one so I was placed in a rare situation…I had to pick a team.

Liverpool were quite well supported but we were in London so that was out. My dad was a massive Arsenal fan but knowing next to nothing about football that didn’t mean anything to me and he never tried to influence my choice. Crystal Palace were the local team but Tottenham got in ahead of them and it was because of Italia 90.

I watched Italia 90 with more interest than ever, I had a completed Panini sticker album but still no football team to call my own and as the TV lit up my room it happened. Watching football as a relative amateur the dire football of the England team in Italia 90 didn’t mean much to me, I was routing for them because it was my current country but the highlights were obvious. The more games I saw the more certain elements stuck out, I was watching a player who could take on a team single handed and a striker better than anyone else around, they were Paul Gascoigne and Gary Lineker and they were Tottenham.

I never got to appreciate Hoddle play but I imagine just the existence of him at Spurs encouraged other young football fans to follow Tottenham as I did upon seeing Gazza and Lineker in that world cup. Although my timing to become a Spurs fan was awful as 10 years of nothing occurred after my first full season as a Spurs fan. Spurs had always had star quality in their ranks, Ginola, Klinsmann, Sheringham to name a few and today that player is Luka Modric.

His name is Luka...

The short playmaker from Croatian has hit his stride in the premier league and is by far and away Spurs best player, he appears to play football as if he is still in the park with his friends, taking a ball, turning with ease and gliding into the space in front of him. Every pass to him appears as though he received the ball a few seconds before as he plays it off deftly with one touch to find a teammate either close to him or yards across the pitch. He is the metronome of a very attacking Spurs team that is full of quality yet Modric rises above them all. To watch him play at Tottenham I get the same feeling as I did watching Gascoigne drift through 3 players or seeing highlights of Hoddle as he juggled the ball and turned into space leaving players kicking thin air. 21 years have past since Italia 90, generations of football fans have chosen teams since then as the Drogba’s, Henry’s and Cantona’s have lit up the premier league and grabbed the attentions of a young fan to forever follow the club their superstar plays for and for future football fans it will be seeing the like of Luka Modric, Bale and Van Der Vaart that persuade them to support Spurs. Seeing Modric play now makes me forget about times before; the Graham years, Jason Dozzell as a midfield star, Ramon Vega… just the existance of this creative genius playing for my team makes me happy I chose Spurs.

As Tottenham lined up to face Fulham this weekend in the FA cup few imagined the pounding we were about to get. Before the game Harry Redknapp eluded to the ‘tiny, tiny, tiny team’ he had picked with a midfield containing Modric (5’9), Pienaar (5’7) and Lennon (5’5) behind a forward two of Van Der Vaart (5’10) and Jermain Defoe (5’7); Harry suggested it was an experiment of sorts and with the obvious lack of height in the team it was up to the Spurs players on the pitch to play through a hard pressing and motivated Fulham team. The end result was a chest thumping 4-0, mistakes early on cost us but the lack of height on the pitch and the possibility of a long ball contributed to those mistakes, Dawson caught twice under pressure with no outlet. While the Fulham game will be picked apart I’m going to look at how our team of height restricted players need to adapt their game if Redknapps form of midget ballet is going to work.

Possession Football
The epitome of possession football is Barcelona. It is widely believed you have to have a highly skillful team to play possession football but this is not the case. Barcelona are held up as the best example of how dominate possession football can be but only Barcelona can play the way they play due to the produce of their youth academy and philosophies on playing style. Wenger’s Arsenal and Villerreal are currently better examples of what Spurs would need to emulate in their quest for better play with a team of physically smaller players. The basic requirements for possession football are players who can quickly control the ball, find a team mate and then pass it off accurately. Highlighting those three skills many Spurs fans already know which players potentially fall down in that area but I will come to that in a moment. For possession football to work there also has to be an air of patience, if you cannot play the ball forward then you need to keep the ball or play it back to encourage the opposing team to come out and meet you, creating more space in front of you. The idea is retaining the ball, letting the ball work for you, not carrying the ball but keeping the ball with simple passes and with each simple pass there has to be movement.

Movement is one of the main points Spurs need to address, playing generally in a 4-4-1-1 shape doesn’t lend itself to good possession play with two flat lines the options become limited. Formations more suitable to possession play are 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 which automatically create small passing triangles giving each player multiple, close options to play to.

4-4-1-1 Short Passing Triangles

4-2-3-1 Short Passing Triangles

As the two images above show the 4-4-1-1 formation requires more running and direct play to be effective and make chances in the final third. Both formations use a lone striker and one of the main points Spurs need to address is the movement of the lone striker.

In our form as ‘tiny team’ Defoe is the lone striker. He HAS to make movements for the oncoming players and he simply does not do this enough. Defoe has good attributes for a lone striker if the ball is played to feet, he can hold up play, he can turn and beat a man and is selfish enough to shoot when unsupported if needed. What Defoe is poor at is movement as the below image will show.

(From Top: Left to Right: Defoe, Crouch - Bottom: Left to Right: Torres, Drogba, Van Persie)

From the image above it’s clear to see that Defoe is largely central, he is not pulling the defense in any particular way and it is highlighted more when compared to the Premier Leagues most rated front men, even Crouch has more movement than Defoe although he does not have the attributes to turn and beat a player or shoot (it seems, 1 league goal all season).

One of the main points of possession football is you can only play that way, it is often commented on that Arsenal do not have a plan B, Barcelona do not have a plan B. Mixing play with bouts of possession and a few direct balls defeats the purpose of what is trying to be achieved and again, Spurs fans will know that is something we as a team do quite often with Crouch used as a target man with direct balls played to his head. This is also backed up by Spurs having the 5th most long passes played, again a habit that needs to be broken if we are to work as a team with small players.

Pellegrini, formally of Villerreal has often spoken about how the idea is to have a system, a way you want to play, in each training session you work on the idea, the philosophy and try to eliminate the errors that cost you before, you continuously work on perfecting the system. Over time, as the team and philosophy of play gel the players start to see the pitch in terms of space. As an experiment it would be hard to just put the players on the pitch and see what happens as Redknapp appeared to be suggesting in his Fulham pre-match interview.

In the Spurs midfield there is a lot of technical ability but the one area we do not have that is in the centre. What is missing is a partner to Modric, especially in the absence of Huddlestone; although Huddlestone likes to vary his passes, I personally think the interest in Lassana Diarra shown during the recently closed transfer window would of been the perfect foil for our midfield maestro. A player totally capable of screening the back and playing accurate and simple passes out; retaining and keeping possession.

Defensively the team need to get use to not having a long outball; against Fulham this weekend, with no Crouch, Dawson did not have a target to spray long balls out to. The increased pressing of Fulham, a tactic employed by Fulham due to the notable lack of long ball option, forced both Dawson and Hutton into mistakes that cost us. Also when teams play against good possession play teams they tend to defend narrow, giving up the wings and flooding the center of the pitch; another problem Spurs would have to get around. It’s probably unfair for Redknapp to ask a Spurs team to go out and just play without an out ball within our current setup, all the things I have highlighted need time, patience and probably additional players to implement successful and shows that it is not something that can just be switched to mid-season.

Going straight into the action against Newcastle this weekend it’s interesting to note what effect Pienaar brings to an already talented and somewhat overflowing midfield for Spurs.

Playing from left midfield it is clear to see that he is a more attacking player, unfortunately Bale did not stay on the pitch for long on Saturday but it is clear from the statistics that Bale and his replacement Bassong had to do more work to cover for Pienaar’s attacking instincts and positioning.

Bassong made 6 tackles and 1 interception from left back, while Pienaar made 1 tackle and 2 interceptions. With Assou Ekotto and Bale in their familar roles of left back and left wing respectively it often common for them both to make the same amount of tackles and share the load. Despite being more direct Bale is seemingly a better defensive option.

Game Tackles Interceptions
Man Utd (H) Bale – 6
BAE – 6
Bale – 3
BAE – 7
Everton (A) Bale – 3
BAE – 8
Bale – 4
BAE – 1
Fulham (H) Bale – 7
BAE – 4
Bale – 0
BAE – 3
Newcastle (H) Bale – 9
BAE – 9
Bale – 2
BAE – 3

Pienaar is more prone to coming inside giving space for an overlapping full back which would also explain why he is not as good as defensive cover to the left back; with the left back more likely to be left exposed due to Pienaars positioning, comparing Pienaars position to Bale highlights this.

Pienaar's passing positions show he is likely to come inside while Bale holds his position to make the pitch wider

As ‘Arry would say we play open but with Pienaar we play even more open with a massive space left in his starting position from the left which leaves the left back exposed. As an attacking team Pienaar fits in perfectly, filling in various roles but defensively he could be our achilles heel.


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