Why 4-4-2 might be the best short-term future for Spurs

Posted by Dan Fitch

The 4-4-2 formation might be on its deathbed waiting to be put out of its misery, but we might just be able to squeeze an ounce of life out of it before it goes to meet its maker.

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After Tottenham's defeat to Newcastle, I wrote that if we have to play Jermain Defoe then it's a better option to pair him with another striker in a 4-4-2 rather than using him as a lone centre-forward.

Jermain Defoe
PA PhotosJermain Defoe celebrates his goal

Today's match against QPR saw those two possibilities played out, either side of half-time. In the first half we lined up with Defoe spearheading the attack, Gareth Bale reverting to left-back and Clint Dempsey slotting in on the left side of our front three.

The results weren't pretty. QPR dominated the first 45 minutes and rightfully took the lead through our former striker Bobby Zamora. We just couldn't keep hold of the ball as QPR pressed us hard.

What Emmanuel Adebayor gave us last season was an option whereby we could play the ball to him in difficult areas, knowing that it would stick and that he would find a team-mate. When Defoe operates in this role he just can't perform this vital function. It's not just because he's small and therefore struggles to hold off bigger defenders to keep possession. It's also because his instinct is always to shoot rather than to pass, sometimes when he has no real chance of scoring.

Defoe's devotion to goalscoring isn't a bad thing, but he needs someone to take the burden off him and basically do everything else that is required from a forward line. In the second half Andre Villas-Boas switched things round and allowed Defoe and the rest of the team to shine.

Caulker was introduced for Sigurdsson, with Vertonghen moving across to left-back and Bale shifting back to the wing having been wasted in his defensive role in the first half. Most crucially, Clint Dempsey moved up front to support Defoe in a 4-4-2.

We instantly looked better and within 15 minutes were ahead with two goals in the space of a couple of minutes. Defoe was involved in both goals. For the first he was lurking as inside the six-yard box as Caulker headed the ball into the danger area, unsettling Alejandro Faurlin who scored an unfortunate own goal.

For the second, Defoe was on hand to put the ball into the net after Bale had smashed the ball against the bar. It was simple finish, but a demonstration of what Defoe does best.

Dempsey didn't get on the scoresheet but his second-half performance suggested that his partnership with Defoe might be the best option until Adebayor returns to fitness. The American can drop back into midfield to form a 4-5-1 when we need the numbers and then drift forward to provide the strength, industry and heading ability we need alongside Defoe when we're on the attack.

Other players to impress included Vertonghen, who again put in an assured performance in the centre of defence, before moving to left-back where he was better able to demonstrate his attacking capabilities. His marauding runs didn't stop him from making a brilliant tackle to deny the dangerous Junior Hoilett (we should have signed him by the way).

Covering Vertonghen's central defensive duties was Caulker, who didn't put a foot wrong and might well be challenging for a place alongside Vertonghen on this form. He's quick, good on the ball and a nuisance in the opposition area. He's also a product of the Spurs youth system and is a credit to the improved work that has been done in that area over the past few seasons.

With a trip to Old Trafford on the horizon we really needed to win this one. QPR were unfortunate to not leave with a point, but if history has taught us anything it's that we'll probably be ruing an unfortunate turn of events against United next weekend.

Will we got there with the same side that finished this one? It goes against received wisdom but an away-day 4-4-2 might just be our best hope.

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