Tactics: How Spurs changed their shape for the Champions League

“A lot of club managers will take note of what happened in the World Cup and adjust their tactics accordingly,” said Harry Redknapp in the September edition of FourFourTwo magazine. “I’ve gone on record as saying England were far too open in the tournament and I think 4-5-1 would have been the formation to get the best of our lads and also close the space in midfield. In the Premier League, you’ve already seen a lot of teams using 4-5-1, especially away. It’s a formation I’d consider playing on the road, for sure.” 

Redknapp’s reputation as an attack-minded tactical ingenue was always going to be tested by Tottenham’s participation in this season’s Champions League, and the diagrams below – taken from the press kits area of the UEFA website – show how he has adjusted Spurs’ formation in their six group-stage matches. 

Having built last season’s triumphant campaign on an orthodox 4-4-2 formation, the deadline day signing of Rafael van der Vaart hinted at an evolution in Redknapp’s tactical thinking. That new, subtler approach has been evident in the Champions League. The apparent default shape, when van der Vaart is available, is a 4-2-3-1, with Gareth Bale wide on the left, Aaron Lennon on the right and the Dutchman in the centre. (Luka Modrić looked set to take up van der Vaart’s role in the 4-3 defeat at Internazionale, until he was replaced by Carlo Cudicini following the early dismissal of goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes.) 

Only in the eminently winnable games – at home to FC Twente and Werder Bremen, and away to Twente (when Spurs had already qualified) – did Redknapp field anything resembling a 4-4-2. Even then, the right-sided midfielder was often instructed to tuck in (van der Vaart at home to Twente, Niko Kranjčar in the return fixture). In the magnificent 3-1 win at home to Inter, meanwhile, van der Vaart played so close to Peter Crouch that he was effectively being used as a second striker in a 4-4-1-1. 

NB: The diagrams show average positions from the first half of matches only, so as to provide a clear indication of how Spurs approached each game in terms of formation. 

1. Werder Bremen 2-2 Tottenham Hotspur, September 14 

The average positions of Tottenham's players in the first half of their 2-2 draw at Werder Bremen; UEFA

 

[Squad numbers: 3. Gareth Bale, 4. Younes Kaboul, 6. Tom Huddlestone, 7. Aaron Lennon, 8. Jermaine Jenas, 11. Rafael van der Vaart, 15. Peter Crouch, 22. Vedran Ćorluka, 23. Carlo Cudicini, 26. Ledley King, 32. Benoît Assou-Ekotto]  

2. Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 FC Twente, September 29  

The average positions of Tottenham's players in the first half of their 4-1 win at home to FC Twente; UEFA

 

[Squad numbers: 1. Heurelho Gomes, 2. Alan Hutton, 3. Gareth Bale, 6. Tom Huddlestone, 9. Roman Pavlyuchenko, 11. Rafael van der Vaart,14. Luka Modrić, 15. Peter Crouch, 19. Sébastien Bassong, 26. Ledley King, 32. Benoît Assou-Ekotto] 

3. Internazionale 4-3 Tottenham Hotspur, October 20 

The average positions of Tottenham's players in the first half of their 4-3 defeat at Internazionale; UEFA

 

[Squad numbers: 1. Heurelho Gomes, 2. Alan Hutton, 3. Gareth Bale, 6. Tom Huddlestone, 7. Aaron Lennon, 8. Jermaine Jenas, 13. William Gallas, 15. Peter Crouch, 19. Sébastien Bassong, 23. Carlo Cudicini (replaced 14. Luka Modrić in 10th minute), 32. Benoît Assou-Ekotto]  

4. Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Internazionale, November 2  

The average positions of Tottenham's players in the first half of their 3-1 win at home to Internazionale; UEFA

 

[Squad numbers: 2. Alan Hutton, 3. Gareth Bale, 4. Younes Kaboul, 6. Tom Huddlestone, 7. Aaron Lennon, 11. Rafael van der Vaart, 13. William Gallas, 14. Luka Modrić, 15. Peter Crouch, 23. Carlo Cudicini, 32. Benoît Assou-Ekotto] 

5. Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Werder Bremen, November 24  

The average positions of Tottenham's players in the first half of their 3-0 win at home to Werder Bremen; UEFA

 

[Squad numbers: 1. Heurelho Gomes, 2. Alan Hutton, 3. Gareth Bale, 4. Younes Kaboul, 7. Aaron Lennon, 9. Roman Pavlyuchenko, 12. Wilson Palacios, 13. William Gallas, 14. Luka Modrić, 15. Peter Crouch, 32. Benoît Assou-Ekotto] 

6. FC Twente 3-3 Tottenham Hotspur, December 7 

The average positions of Tottenham's players in the first half of their 3-3 draw at FC Twente; UEFA

 

[Squad numbers: 1. Heurelho Gomes, 3. Gareth Bale, 8. Jermaine Jenas, 9. Roman Pavlyuchenko, 12. Wilson Palacios, 13. William Gallas, 18. Jermain Defoe, 19. Sébastien Bassong, 21. Niko Kranjčar, 22. Vedran Ćorluka, 32. Benoît Assou-Ekotto] 

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