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.

We are Stratford,
Super Stratford,
We are Stratford,
From Tottenham

could be the chant from the stands of our new shiny stadium in 2015.

With a decision for a preferred bidder to be decided on the 28th of this month the future of the club is interesting to say the least. The pros and cons for moving have been debated for the last two weeks and the discussions have raised a lot of emotions and seemingly split the fans in three with fans siding with History, with business sense and the people in the middle who are just undecided.

Rivaling our bid are West Ham but also, with our proposal to redevelop the Crystal Palace National Sports Center, Crystal Palace who are looking to move back to where their club started and redevelop the NSC into a new football ground.

The Crystal Palace bid is of massive interest. Planning permission has been given to take down two of the stands at the NSC providing there is an athletics track in East London following the Olympics as part of a masterplan to remove a lot of the concrete surroundings and training pitches and return to them to green areas. Any work to the NSC would also have to take into account the whole of Crystal Palace Park (CPP). The NSC is considered Metropolitan Open Land so any changes will only be considered in exceptional circumstances or will provide an overall gain for the whole of CPP.

Proposed Crystal Palace Masterplan

The Spurs Stratford proposal has the athletics track being removed so Spurs would have to regain planning permission from Bromley council for any development work to be done to the NSC while the proposed masterplan has already been given the green light. Spurs would also require approval from the London Development Agency (LDA). This does not take into account the people who live locally who have seen off many a development for the NSC over the last 10 years and are historically against CPFC using the NSC as a football ground. They have also opposed any form of redevelopment of the NSC which would increase the visitors to the area on mass due to the poor traffic system and transport links.

The business side of the Spurs proposal is simple. Moving to Stratford would cost them less. The surrounding area is already there. The transport links are already there and it has been commonly reported that using Stratford, even though Spurs plan to rebuild most of the stadium would save them £200m from the reported £450m it would take for the new WHL to be built.

As a Spurs fan it is hard to comprehend Spurs not being where they are now. As it is our generation of fans that will make or break a move 5 miles East obviously it is a lot to take in if you are for or against the move. Spurs is largely a romantic club with ideas of the way football should be played and traditions of beautiful football and glory days, change is never embraced. Looking at our neighbours Arsenal; who remembers them as Woolwich Arsenal? They have been a North London club since 1913, I’m sure they had opposition from their fans and from the locals of the destination they moved to but to our generation of football fans they are Arsenal of North London and the same could be said for a move by us to Stratford, we, as the current fans take the brunt of it but in 20 years time there will be new fans for the club, supporting whatever guise the club is in at that point, cheering for a team that still has a history and traditions even if it has moved…and changed it’s name.

I am not pro-Stratford but I do understand why the club is considering the options. Everyone’s ideal is to build the stadium next door to WHL. My reasons for supporting this club aren’t because I was born in the area, I could easily have ended up supporting Liverpool, Arsenal or a multitude of other clubs. I understand the need to support your local club, something I currently do while still having affinity to my beloved Spurs. My heart says stay in Tottenham, we belong in North London, we want to maintain our rivalry with Arsenal (something I fear we could lose if we move East) but we need help and support to do that, not just from the fans but the council, our MP David Lammy and the Mayor. My head says I understand why but I also think if there is a requirement for athletics then Spurs will lose out both ways as West Ham will be ahead of us in the Stratford bid but also I cannot see Crystal Palace as an option due to the pitfalls I highlighted earlier.

Will it ever happen?

Spurs appear to be in a no-win situation and may have to go back to the drawing board and look at the options if they are going to go ahead with the Northumberland Project.

From next season UEFA’s financial fair play ruling comes into play for UEFA competitions, the official sanctioning of the idea comes into play for the 2013-2014 season but UEFA will look back over three seasons (two on 2013-2014) and average out the accounts to see if you meet the requirements. Each club will have to apply for a UEFA licence to compete in the Champions League and Europa League come 2013-2014.

The basic requirement is to break-even and to become self sufficient, not relying on the money of oil barons or sheikhs to exist and to even the playing field. While the full requirement to break-even does not come into play until the 2018-2019 season from next season clubs will have to start putting themselves into shape. Gone will be the massive transfer fees we are seeing the likes of Man City pay. In fact this January window is the last chance for the billionaire owned clubs to spend big and Man City are doing their best to build a team as quickly as possible because as soon as this window goes they will no longer be able to spend extortionate amounts of money on players and for Spurs this is a good thing.

For this post I’m going to be looking at how Spurs are setup for Financial Fair Play and how they will be able to compete against City despite the millions they have.

From the recent financial accounts Spurs have presented we can see that we made 119m during the 2009-2010 season.

This breakdowns as follows:

  • Match day revenue – 27m
  • TV Revenue – 52m
  • Commercial avenues (sponsorship etc) – 41m

With a match day revenue of 27m we make just under 10m more than Man City (18m) due to the fact we own our stadium however we are way behind the likes of Liverpool (43m), Chelsea (75m) and Arsenal (95m). The results posted do not include any European games due to not qualifying for Europe in the 2009-2010 season but working out 27m divided by the 23 home games we had last season it works out we make 1.17m per home game; a figure Spurs have already made this current season having a guaranteed 18 home games from the league plus the 4 CL home games and 1 home League Cup game leaving us with 28.1m for the season not including the upcoming FA cup game v Charlton or the CL leg v AC Milan which would take Spurs to 30.2m match day revenue for this season already.

I am going to skip over the TV revenue. The reason being is this fluctuates depending on how successful you are, while last years TV money was 52m next years could be around 85-90m (conservative figures but up to extra 10m from last years SKY money due to overseas deal plus 20-30m for CL participation dependent on success in the competition). An extra 30m is not to be scoffed at and could enable Spurs to take another step forward but that money cannot be relied upon as the fight for the top positions is more fierce with 6 teams fighting for 4 positions.

Commercially Spurs have struck some great deals although Man City currently earn more from their commerical endeavors earning 53m compared to our 41m. However Spurs have a new sponsorship deal in place which earns them 13m a season, 4m more than their current deal which takes us up to 45m, 1m more than Arsenal make although Arsenal do take a hit due to the upfront payments and long term deal offered to them by Emirates to complete their stadium.

Looking at next years accounts, just existing as a club Spurs will have roughly 75m (adding TV money normally would be 125m the same as Man City made last year but with CL money makes a massive 155m and that’s with conservative figures).

An important point to Financial Fair Play is being able to sustain yourself and this is where Spurs will thrive and City will be in real trouble. Spurs wage bill last year was 67m, roughly 56% of its earnings. Man City however are in massive trouble spending 133m on wages alone from earnings of 125m. To break even City will have to shed some players, get that wage bill down and will not be able to buy anyone, at least at the extravagant prices they are spending at now. Spurs on the other hand can continue to exist as we do now and will probably have less competition for transfer targets. With the 25 player squad rules and some teams already feeling the pinch to get in line with the new financial rules. Chelsea will suffer as they will not be able to spend big money to replace their current crop of stars and we are already seeing signs of this with their bench full of potential rather than proven quality. Teams like Man United, Arsenal and us should rise to the top as we are largely self sufficient, Liverpool could come back into the frame but without CL money their wage bill may be too big to compete and they will suffer especially if they do not make the CL this season or the next.

Having broken down the figures it’s clear to see that we can challenge Man City financially minus the shiekh money but also have more room to expand than Man City with City already in a stadium and Spurs pushing for a ground with more capacity with the new ruling not counting debts or loans for infrastructure improvements. Due to Levy’s tight hand on the purse strings, our investment in youth and potential starting to show fruit and a strict wage bill when the financial fair play rules kick in Spurs will be in a great place to take advantage of the situation and ultimately it will be the clubs that look after themselves that will prosper.

There can be no doubt that Harry Redknapp has had an impact at Spurs and 2010 is surely a year to remember.

Harry’s (and Spurs) league record in 2010 stands as follows:

Played 37, Won 19, Drew 9, Lost 9

Points Per game 1.78, the highest of any Spurs manager in history ultimately taking Spurs into fourth place and the Champions League for the first time.

Harry has been in charge for 127 games at Spurs, winning 65, drawing 30 and losing 32. He is Spurs most successful manager in terms of games played and sits ahead of Burkinshaw(2nd) and David Pleat(3rd) in terms of successful games played. Of course he has yet to bring Silverware to the Lane but this team is full of quality, determination and a team spirit that fans have not seen for quite some years. It seems an age ago that we were lining up away at Ipswich with a front line of Willem Korsten and Gary Doherty and slumping to a 3-0 loss while George Graham looked on wondering why his stone age tactics were no longer working.

So the highlights of 2010 are many, there has been a double over Arsenal, the beating of Chelsea, the Inter Milan games, the signing of Van Der Vaart and the emergence of Gareth Bale. Here is a selection of the years highlights in video form. Enjoy and have a happy new year. COYS!

Harry Redknapp talks about being open a lot, in fact in pretty much every interview…

I’ve got good wide men, so I play them, I want to play Gareth Bale, I want to play Aaron Lennon, and I want to play two front men because when the wingers are pulling everybody out of position, there are going to be bigger spaces for the strikers to use.

I like playing this way and I won’t be changing. I enjoy watching open football, so I enjoy watching my teams play. I’d rather be going home on Saturday night knowing that at least we gave it a go. I’d hate drawing 0-0 or losing 1-0 and knowing that we never really went for it. I think we can hurt anybody with our style and that is what I tell the players before every game. I was still saying it at half-time here. The last thing I wanted us to do was try to defend a 1-0 lead.

We have seen the benefits of our open style of play, the width created by Lennon and Bale leaves space for the likes of Modric to advance into or Van der Vaart with plenty of space to cause problems but of course there are the negatives that can be seen by the 1 clean sheet in 17 league games Spurs have played this season compared to the 10 we had last season, a Spurs record.

So what has changed between this year and last? Well the movement of Modric into the middle could be a factor, Modric is not a tackling defensive player but he does make a lot of interceptions, in most games he intercepts the more more than twice the amount of times of most players on the pitch making 30 interceptions this season compared to Jenas second best rate of 18 so positionally at least he is sound. Playing on the left hand side he also has help from Assou-Ekotto and Bale, both defensively strong players so maybe this isn’t the problem, maybe the problem lies on the other side….

On the right, predominately this season Huddlestone has played in this position. While his passing is fantastic and his ability to dictate the game has come on leaps and bounds over the last season could it be his mobility that is causing the issue? Tackling wise Huddlestone has the best success rate winning 87.5% of his tackles yet he only appears to have put in 16 tackles all season, half as many as his battling teammate Palacios and has played . Palacios on the other hand has passed the ball the least of our central midfielder players.

Bale and Lennon both put in a shift defensively as well, Bale with a massive 31 interceptions and 71% success rate in tackles compared to Lennon’s 11 interceptions and matching 71% tackling success rate. So is the open formation a problem for our defensive play?

Playing open leaves more space between players, spaces that better teams can take advantage of. A lot of the teams that come to White Hart Lane sit deep and hit us on the counter, playing so open leaves us massively susceptible to this with holes in the middle of the pitch due to the lack of a holding player/defensive anchor. This puts more pressure on our defensive line and the opposition hit the back line quicker, the term ‘like a hot knife through butter’ sits well here, due to our attacking nature and open play the gaps between lines of players can easily be breached by a well placed pass and playing at the top of the game there are many players that can do that even in the teams that are in the lower half of the premier league (Murphy at Fulham is a prime example).

The answer to not conceding so many goals would be to play narrower but this would hinder our attacking play. Against Arsenal at 2-0 down Redknapp changed the shape and played narrow with Van der Vaart coming in from the right wing and Bale tucking in slightly to help the central midfield players. This restricted Arsenal’s ability to pass and we won more balls in the centre and could hit Arsenal on the counter attack, which we did….3 times 🙂

Redknapps’ philosophy is simple, set up his team and get them to dictate the game, don’t worry about the opposition until you have to, unfortunately this season it has been a point that we have had to worry about them at half time, with Spurs winning 16 points from losing positions, more than any other team in the league.

Redknapps’ style of play is however entertaining, as clear as it is that it puts more pressure on our defense and as a Spurs fan I wouldn’t want it any other way and perhaps the defensive situation would not be such a focus if we had a better striker/s to choose from. Exclusing Van der Vaart as he is notably a midfielder despite his position on the pitch Spurs strikers have scored just 6 goals in the league this season only 2 more than the defenders. For such an attacking team this is a shocking statistic and shows where Spurs need to improve if they are to continue to play in their current open formation but who this attacking addition could be is any ones guess, drop your suggestions in the comments 🙂

With a couple of days having past since Spurs first foray into the Champions League and the knee jerking having calmed down on the various messageboads littering the internet the game against Young Boys in Switzerland has raised a few questions.

For a tactical overview of the game I suggest reading:

Zonal Marking

Ghost Goals

Both have good analysis of what happened in the game and how things were changed to come back into the game.

The points I wanted to address were the usage of 4-4-2 and Redknapps insistancy that ‘tactics dont win games’ although in Redknapps defense he meant formation 😉

When I talked about 4-5-1 I highlighted that the triangles created and the anchor player/s can overcome a central pair easily. While this is true it does rely on the 2 central players being flat. The breakdown of a midfield flat 4 is usually LW CM CM RW which is how Spurs started against Young Boys. Alot has been made that this is suicidal away in Europe but it is only suicidal when the two players in the centre of midfield have a massive distance between them and do not stagger slightly so that one presses and one covers. The suicidal element to the Spurs setup in the first 30 minutes to Young Boys was Modric and Palacios being far from each other with Palacios pressing everyone and everything that came near him leaving Modric to man the central area on his own and when they were together they had a large gap between them which was highlighted by the third goal which was one pass from the centre circle straight through two lines of players into the path of a striker coming in on the diagonal. With the introduction of Huddlestone Palacios stayed closer to him and Huddlestone played slightly deeper to cover and used his fantastic passing ability to spread the ball to the wings where we had the most (and only) influence in the game in the first half.

In the second half with Niko Kranjcar in for an injured Modric he was asked to come in from the left to a more central position and Pavlyuchenko was asked to come back furthur. The question that I posed to myself was “Is this still 4-4-2”. Starting position wise it was a 4-4-2; in an attacking phase of play, an oncoming Bale taking a full back out of the picture,  Kranjcar was sitting in the hole behind two centre forwards and the two centre midfield players playing deep. In effect the formation in the second half was this:

Is this not 4-4-2?

With the slight shape change Spurs got back into the game, had more possession and got the goals they needed to make the home leg a competitve affair.

An interesting point to note was Redknapps assessment of the pitch, a lot of the media are reporting that he made out the pitch was a problem as an excuse but the actual point Redknapp made was that the artificial pitch affected the players psychologically and that he had four players who ‘werent up for it’. Psychology is a massive part of playing these days while the slightest drop in confidence and belief can have massive effects on players hence we see relegations strugglers not getting points despite being a decent team ( 2 points in 8 games!!!). With players more worried about what type of boot to wear and Young Boys already seven games into their league and home advantage no wonder they came out of the traps and made the early part of the game count.

That last bit may seem a bit apologetic but I don’t mean it to be. 4-4-2 can still work but it has to accomodate the formation that it is playing against and the players picked in that formation are the factors that make a difference and in that statement alone I make Redknapp’s ‘tactics dont win games’ quote right…and for all those who think I’m a Redknapp fan I can assure you it’s taken a long time for me to come around to thinking he knows what he is doing but from the end of last season and his media soundbites in the last few months I’m confident we have a manager that sees the bigger picture and is perfectly capable of seeing Spurs through to the Champions League proper, more than likely with 4–4-2.