Tottenham tactical preview: How will Spurs set up under AVB
By John Fernandez
Andre Villas-Boas has arrived at Tottenham Hotspurs and has a point tor prove. One question which will be asked this season is how his side will set up tactically after his Chelsea nightmare, will he stick to his guns, or fold and change tact?
Pre-season has already seen him try a 3-4-3, a 4-4-2 and his preferred 4-3-3.
The destination of playmaker Luka Modric, will most likely be the key factor in how AVB’s Spurs set up next season, however, AVB has a style and is fully expected to keep to form.
Wherever the diminutive Croatian ends up it’s likely that the Lilywhites will set up in AVB’s preferred 4-3-3 formation, which he has played at every one of the clubs he has been in charge at.
The search for a goalkeeper appears to be one of AVB’s top priorities, with Hugo Lloris and Julio Cesar heading his wish list; however with the season fast approaching Brad Friedel looks like a certainty for the #1 jersey.
If there was an issue that needed resolving after the previous season for Spurs, it was their porous defence. While bright sparks were apparent in the emergence of Kyle Walker and the significant improvement of Cameroonian left back Benoît Assou-Ekottou, as a unit the back four shipped too many goals for the top side they are striving to become.
The retirement of Ledley King is a massive shame, but with his best playing days behind him, it seemed like the right time for everyone involved. Jan Vertonghen arrival at White Hart lane, though, seems to have brought a ready made replacement for terrace hero King.
A new look centre back pairing, of Younès Kaboul and Vertonghen will be tasked with AVB’s notorious high defensive line. With Kaboul developing into a quality centre half, his partnership with Eredivisie Player of the Year should be a solid base from which Spurs can build attacks.
Kaboul will play the more aggressive defending role, winning balls in the air and getting stuck in, while Vertonghen will be tasked with distributing the ball and covering the gaps left due to the high defensive line.
The high line could also be an advantage to Spurs’ flying full backs Walker and Assou-Ekotto, as AVB will expect his right and left backs to bomb forward and whip in crosses for the central striker to feed off.
The issue that is apparent though, is that with both full backs constantly pushing forward, AVB’s defensive line could be exploited by a quick counter attack on the flanks, leaving the two centre backs vulnerable, as was apparent in the Portuguese man's spell at Chelsea.
Scott Parker and Luka Modric (or his replacement) will be the first choice two in the deeper midfield roles. Parker will use his industry and dynamism to break up the opposition’s attacks, sitting in front of the back four, as the anchorman. His high work rate will also be important in the system AVB is looking to play, as he will be expected to cover for the attacking full backs when they plough on forward, so a good replacement in Sandro on the bench will provide much needed cover if Parker is injured or tired.
The Modric role will require someone who can pick out a pass and set the pace of the game. If Modric stays, his calm head in possession will be the team’s most valuable asset in the distribution of play to the flanks, as wingers Gareth Bale and Rafael van der Vaart look to go forward.
Potential replacement Moutinho has the skills to fit into this position well though, and while he is not in Modric’s class, he should work well alongside the industrious Parker if the Porto player does move east to Spurs.
Playing in the role which Ramires filled and earlier on in AVB’s career, Fernando Belluschi played, as the more attacking central midfielder will be new signing, Gyfi Sidgurdson.
Unlike Belluschi though Sidgurdson’s ability to strike a ball will see him much more akin to drifting centrally leaving space on the flanks.
The Icelandic midfielder in this role can either bomb on behind the opposing full back or move centrally to receive the ball in-between the lines and cause trouble from there.
This position is potentially the most integral for AVB’s 4-3-3 system and will need Sidgurdson to show great positional awareness.
On the left AVB will be overjoyed with the asset he has inherited in the form of Gareth Bale. The Portuguese manager likes his left sided players to hug the touchline and occasionally cut in. In this role Bale will flourish. His crosses and his ability to get box to box will be a massive cog in AVB’s system at Spurs and will have right backs across the country whimpering with fear.
Often over the past two seasons opposing teams have chosen to double up on Bale, and if this happens again, it could leave extra space for Sidgurdson to move around the centre of the park, behind the opposition’s midfield, and in front of the back four.
In two of Spurs’ pre season fixtures, though, Bale was started as a central striker and while he didn’t exactly flourish in the role, he did manage to put a good shift in, scoring once. This could point to a preference by AVB to play him up top, on the shoulder of the last man, using his phenomenal pace to beat players.
On the right, AVB prefers his teams to play with an inverse winger, a role in which Aaron Lennon may struggle as he is a more conventional wide player. The position is one that could suit one of Spurs' other returners Rafael van der Vaart.
At Porto, Hulk played this role and was able to fire off his huge long range shots while still troubling the full backs, so van der Vaart with his trademark left boot could be deadly cutting inside and firing of shots. Walker’s overlapping pace will also be a valued outlet for Spurs right flank, as he will provide the width that van der Vaart invariably won’t provide in the inverse winger role.
The central striker, which looks most likely to be played by Emanuel Adebayor, will be a game changer for AVB’s new look Spurs side. With Adebayor’s eye for goal and ability to get into goalscoring positions he should fit in perfectly and easily hit his previous season’s total of 18 goals.
The striker in this role has only one objective and that is to score goals and get in on the end of chances. He doesn’t need to drop deep to receive the ball or move into the channels, just sniff out the chances around the six-yard box. A role in which AVB’s old charge Falcao flourished in.
AVB may have some surprises in store for us next season, but this the most likely way the former Porto manager will set out his stall for next season. Spurs are definitley going to be one to watch in 2012/13