Tactical re-shuffle for the Chelsea game?
September, it's a month that sends shivers down the spines of all Spurs fans. We hardly ever win a league game during it. Which makes our next one (away to Chelsea) even more ominous than it usually is. Then again, we never tend to win 4 straight games on the trot from the start of the season, so records (good and bad) are there to be broken. And if we have any ambitions to claim only our second September win since 2003 we'll have to make changes for the visit to that richly veined historic club in the heart of Fulham.
In the aftermath of Saturday, it's quite obvious to all now that selection and tactics didn't quite work against United.
I'm hoping that we are not about to embark on one of those painful ego will eat the football club road trips that sees us sacrificing common sense and logic to appease the vanity of others. Robbie Keane has been undroppable since his return, made more so difficult to drop thanks to the captains armband bestowed upon him by Harry. On Saturday, our first Modricless game, we all pondered who would start out on the left. Would Niko (one training session with his new team-mates) be suitable for selection or possibly Gio who has been in blistering form for Mexico (be it against opposition that are probably the international equivalent of West Ham)? The latter didn't even make the bench. Niko made a second half appearance. Instead Harry found himself in the welcoming position to allow for three of his four forwards to start the game, with Crouch up front with Defoe and Keane out on the left - thus keeping his captain happy. If that was the intention. Bit far fetched, possibly, to suggest that Harry feels he has to play Robbie, you know, because of the armband and the fact he signed him. And for team tranquillity, with Crouch wanting first team football - no Luka meant he could keep them all smiling. Although if Pav spends any more time sitting with his backside on the bench, don't expect him to be in Lilywhite come the new year.
So, what we got was a disjointed balance to the side because - as everyone more or less knows - when Keane is up front, he drops deep which is imperative to Huddlestone who requires the support. With Palacios subbed at half-time it rendered the midfield redundant, although the introduction of Jenas restored - in pockets - some energy and intent.
What this all proved was simply this: For the sake of the team, the unit, keep it simple with like-for-like replacements. We might not be able to swap Luka for someone of equal stature, but we can at least attempt to retain some form of shape. Ok, so no matter the player who starts out on the left - we won't in all likelihood be able to use him as our creative outlet in the same way we use Luka. But at the very least, the midfield remains sturdy and with a touch of freedom to control the tempo a little.
So for Chelsea I’d start Keane up front with Defoe. Let him play his coming deep (ooh) game and helping out the midfield - something we will need in abundance. Jenas (yes that's right, I said Jenas God damn it!) in place of Huddlestone as we're going to need some box-to-box energy to keep up with their relentless power in the middle.
I know Tommy has proven in the past that he can show a level of tenacity that Jenas tends to lack. But I'm thinking JJ has something to prove (hasn't he always?). We'll see.
Kranjcar should be given his first start out on the left flank and let him do what he does. As long as he's fit and able to do what he does. It's not going to be the type of match for passengers. We're going to need 100%, determination and focus and players who can dig deep. As much as I'd like to see Gio get a run-out, I don't think this is the game for him to do it - off the bench, yes. From the start, no.
IMO the above, will restore some order to the front and midfield and avoid the over excessive punts up towards the head of Plan B Crouch. Play it on the decks, with pace. Pressure them, harass them. With Keane able to drop deep, we can look to shift into a 4-5-1, making sure we have plenty of clout in the centre, although it's still in essence a 4-4-2. Keane's main priority should be to keep their defence busy, making an absolute nuisance of himself, and forcing Mikel to chase after him. Nullifying Bosingwa and Cole is another key battle as we all know the damage they can do going forward, so support for our full backs is imperative - JJ, know your role and responsibilities here. BAE will need your guile (yes that's right, I said guile God damn it!) And Palacios will have to be at his monstrous best as he tussles with the likes of Lampard and Essien. We can make it work. It worked against them at the Lane last season. Although Luka was in his ascendancy at the time. Now, he's just looking on from the stands.
Let's not forget our other lickle spark. After a quiet evening versus United, all eyes on Aaron. Will be interesting to see how closely he's marked. Evra, for once, had him contained. Chelsea no doubt will attempt the same - so he might be instructed to swap flanks and cut inside more often than not.
It's going to be won in midfield (under-statement of the year right there). It promises to be a proper ding-dong tactical tussle. No need for any parking of the bus. If we want to compete, we need to go for their jugular.
Other likely changes? Gomes back between the sticks (would he have saved those two efforts on Saturday?). He's got far more of a commanding presence than CC does, even with the occasional cock-ups. Woodgate back alongside King, if Woody is 100%, would also be welcome. Not that Bassong has done much wrong. But Woody + King are more likely to handle the likes of Drogba.
I'll settle for a point, but would prefer us to go for all three. The games that follow this one are all winnable. There's not that much left of September so rejoice. My money is still on us being Top 4 come the end of October.