Monday, September 11, 2006

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Lennon?

The hills are alive with the sound of… anguish. Spurs fans around the world were rocked this weekend by the news that Aaron Lennon could be out for a couple of months with a knee injury. Having allowed his natural replacement in the squad, Wayne Routledge, to go on loan to Fulham and with the only other player capable of playing on the right side, Steed Malbranque injured for just as long, Spurs have got themselves a dilly of a pickle. Not buying that left winger over the summer now means that Spurs have just one fit player capable of playing in a wide midfield position, Reto Ziegler. However, he has done nothing to suggest that he justifies a place in the starting eleven, so it is going to have to be one of our many, many central midfielders to fill the void.

Playing four central midfielders in a flat four man midfield is a recipe for disaster, too many round pegs in square holes, so a tactical change is going to be needed. Chimbonda and BAE will now need to provide the width, so either a diamond in midfield or a Chelsea style 4-3-3 is in The Waddler’s opinion, the answer. Lets explain:

The Diamond

The key to this formation is who plays at the base and the point of the diamond. Zokora suggested on Saturday that he is capable of playing the holding role, the anchor if you will. He picks the ball off the back four, spreads it around, and brings it forward. Huddlestone would also make an able deputy, particularly if we need to be more defensive. The two sides of the diamond require the players to start centrally and perhaps drift slightly wider when needed, playing a one-two with the full back, or perhaps knocking in the odd cross. It’s a case of picking any two from Davids, Jenas, Tainio and Ghaly for these two positions. The tough choice is that of the peak of the diamond, and its going to sound strange but the ideal player here is Danny Murphy. Whilst his Spurs career has been appalling so far, this is actually where he played for Charlton, and looked good in the process. At his best he can pick a pass that unlocks the defence, whether that be to Defoe or Berbatov running on, or Jenas breaking through from deep, or one of the full backs bombing forward. He is also an excellent dead ball specialist, which is an added bonus. For a more attacking option, Robbie Keane could slot in here instead, playing a free role which he would relish, not stranded up front on his own like he was on Saturday. Perhaps Keane would be suited to home games, and Murphy away.

The 4-3-3

This one is slightly tougher given Spurs’ personnel, but it could work. The midfield would still require Zokora in the anchor role, with say Tainio and Jenas the two more attacking midfielders in front of him. Up front would be Berbatov in the main forward role, the Drogba position to continue the uncomfortable Chelsea analogy. Then on the left you could have Mido, and on the right you could have Defoe or Keane. When attacking we would have three forwards up there – you could picture Robbie or Defoe beating his man, crossing the ball and having both Mido and Berbi in there waiting to pounce. It should scare most defences. The trouble with this system lies in when the team is defending. It would require the two wide players to track back and defend, and it is debatable whether this would occur with Mido, Defoe or Keane in those roles.

So what should Big Martin Jol do? In The Waddler’s opinion it should be the Diamond, particularly for the next game in Prague. In this system all 11 players are playing in roles familiar to them, no one is being asked to do something they are uncomfortable with. It gets as many of our central midfielders in the team as possible, and plays to BAE and Chimbonda’s attacking strengths. If at some stage we need to go for the jugular, or Murphy is having a stinker, then we could switch to 4-3-3.

Whilst losing Lennon is a clear blow, it may do the team some good to learn to play without him. In recent games it has become all too obvious that our tactic is give it to Lennon and let him run at the defence – we need to come up with a pattern of play that will break a team down with or without him. It is also worth mentioning the rumours that he has come back from the World Cup as, to coin an Alex Ferguson phrase, “a big time Charlie”. He certainly walks with a bit of a swagger these days, and with the club tying Routledge down to a new contract before he went out on loan, it might suggest that they are preparing themselves for another Carrick situation. Naturally The Waddler hopes the rumours are just malicious gossip, as there is no doubt the boy is a joy to watch. Lets hope he recovers quickly, and is able to slot back into a winning team playing some great football. In the meantime, it is good to know there are alternative strategies, and all is not lost.

The Waddler.