Our Premier League season is off and running, after we secured a vital win away at Wolves. Here are five things we learned from watching Tottenham’s victory this weekend.
1. 4-4-2 still works
There’s been a lot of tactical debate over the last season, as to whether a five-man midfield of a traditional 4-4-2 was the best way for Spurs to play. When we finally signed the type of big, strong and mobile striker that we needed to be able to effectively play with one up front, it was sod’s law that our link man between the midfield and the attack, was out injured.
So we went back to the drawing board and started with a 4-4-2, that saw Jermain Defoe partnering Emmanuel Adebayor in attack. With the quality we possess in our squad, this is a approach that will see us being able to beat a lot of teams in the Premier League, even away from home. It was blindingly obvious in the second half of last season that our strikers couldn’t make a 4-4-1-1 work and Redknapp should have reverted back to a 4-4-2, by shifting Rafael van der Vaart wide, or dropping him to the bench.
We need to have tactical flexibility and the ability to switch to two or three different formations. 4-4-2 is still a valid way to play, especially at White Hart Lane against the division’s weaker sides. I’ve always thought that Defoe is something of a flat-track bully and generally ineffective against better teams, but he can be a very useful player to have in our squad and will get plenty of goals, if we pick and choose when to use him.
2. Adebayor must be handled with care
Rather unsurprisingly, Adebayor looked rather rusty in the first half, but as the game wore on he looked better and better. He took his goal very calmly, but what was far more encouraging to me, was how he linked play and held the ball up.
Like Peter Crouch, he has good feet for a big man, but unlike Crouch he is also fast and mobile enough to work the channels. Watching his performance against Wolves, you could imagine him playing with Van der Vaart just behind him, or as a genuine lone striker in a 4-3-3, flanked by two wide men, with three deeper midfielders.
That would be extremely useful when we play the likes of Chelsea away. A midfield of Luka Modric, Scott Parker and Sandro for example, would be an extremely solid base, but it can only work with Adebayor in the team. With neither Defoe or Roman Pavlyuchenko being able offer the qualities that Adebayor brings to the table, we will have to wrap the on-loan striker in cotton wool and pray that he doesn’t get injured this side of January.
3. The King is still alive and well
Adebayor wasn’t the only player to look a little rusty against Wolves. Ledley King also took some time to settle back into things, but all things considered, his performance was further evidence of just how much of a special player he is.
As King proved when he returned to our team at Liverpool last season and again on Saturday, he has a remarkable ability to slip back into the action as if he’s never been away, despite the fact that he’s spent the previous months doing nothing more strenuous than splashing about in a swimming pool.
As ever, everyone around King raises their game when he returns to our defence and we look far more stable. On one hand it’s far from ideal to have King being in and out of our team, but on the other, how do you leave out such a world class talent when he is available?
4. We may have a new fastest player with our ranks
I’m not sure who’d win a 100m race between Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale, but I reckon that Kyle Walker would be right up there with them in a photo finish. Pace is increasingly important in the Premier League these days – just look at how Manchester United are ripping every team apart at breakneck speed – so it’s important that we have players in our ranks who can keep up with the very fastest around.
It will take time for Walker to develop the positional sense that he needs to play as an attacking full back, but in the meanwhile, his speed and ability to recover will atone for many of his mistakes.
5. Kranjcar is still looking for a home
If Niko Kranjcar was a jigsaw piece, you could bet that he wouldn’t be one of the corner bits, where you’d instantly know where to put it. Instead he’d be a middle bit, where you wouldn’t know where to slot it in until all the other pieces were in place.
Against Manchester City, it was clear that Kranjcar is not cut out for life as a central midfielder against a top side. When I saw the team against Wolves, my first thought was that Niko would be played on the right where he has never impressed, but thankfully Bale was switched there instead. It was by no means ideal to have Bale on the wrong flank, no matter what Gary Speed might think, but it was a better solution than the alternative.
I’ve read some criticism of Kranjcar’s performance against Wolves and in particular his lace of pace. It’s true that he would be lagging well behind Bale, Lennon and Walker in a sprint and doesn’t offer much protection to his full back, but to his credit he had a hand in both goals. I suspect that his best position for Spurs would be in the Van der Vaart slot and with the Dutchman out, he could be a good option behind Adebayor. Kranjcar is clearly a luxury player of sorts, but we all need a little luxury in our lives.