A lot has been made of whether Spurs have any other plan than plan A, last year mainly but already this year as well. Whether this be AVB not being able to change from his formation (4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1) or that the players on the bench will not offer anything different from those on the pitch, commentators and pundits alike often say we lack a plan B when the game is not going our way.
In our first three league games we have played the following:
Today’s team: Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose; Lennon, Dembele, Chadli, Sigurdsson, Paulinho; Soldado. #THFC
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) August 18, 2013
Here’s our team – Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose; Capoue, Dembele, Paulinho; Townsend, Soldado, Chadli. #THFC
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) August 25, 2013
Here's our team – Lloris; Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose; Capoue, Paulinho; Townsend, Dembele, Chadli; Soldado. #THFC
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) September 1, 2013
I am taking the formation from where the semi colons are in the tweets. It is fairly safe to say that plan A revolves around a solid centre and explosive wings. In each game AVB used all three subs, did the substitutions change the style in any way?
Capoue for Dembele (57 mins), 7 minutes after the goal was scored. Shore up the midfield with a more combative midfielder.
Defoe for Soldado (83 mins), straight swap.
Kaboul for Rose (86 mins). Extra height in defence to deal with Palace lumping it into the box.
Sigurdsson for Dembele (64 mins). 6 minutes after the goal was scored. Straight swap.
Defoe for Soldado (81 mins), straight swap.
Sandro for Townsend (88 mins), shore up the midfield for the last minute onslaught.
Defoe for Dembele (69 mins), throw another striker on and formation change to 4-4-2.
Sandro for Capoue (75 mins), Capoue injured, straight swap.
Lamela for Townsend (75 mins), straight swap but looking for a little more guile.
The first two games didn’t really need much changing given the winning position Spurs were in but the third is where it gets a little more interesting. Having been one nil down for almost 50 minutes, AVB decides a change is needed and throws Defoe on for 20 minutes. Changing to 4-4-2 against a team with a strong 5 man midfield was a bold move that in the end did not work. One bold move was not followed by another as Capoue’s injury gave AVB the chance to perhaps change to a very attacking midfield, throwing on Sigurdsson or Holtby. I don’t think AVB had much of a choice though given the midfield was already outnumbered. The other change of Lamela for Townsend was designed to address the way Arsenal were putting many men behind the ball however I think replacing Chadli would have been the better solution. I think Chadli was left on for his height advantage.
I think it was a little early for people to suggest that perhaps there was no plan B for Spurs given the only game we had to really try something else was against a good team.
So what is plan B
The squad assembled over the summer has been discussed at length here and on many other blogs. It is a good and deep squad. Assuming plan A is what was suggested at the end my previous article (here) , what could possibly be a plan B, C or D? I am not talking about changing the starting line-up here but how to change a game that is already in progress.
Pointless looking back, what is done is done. So, plan A is what you start with and this is my starting eleven with subs. Yes subs, they are crucial after all to change a game so I also tried to select subs!
Subs: Friedel, Dawson, Naughton, Dembele, Holtby, Chadli, Adebayor
Ignore Friedel so let us start with Dawson. It may seem a little off-piste to say a centre back can change the attacking outlook of a game but that is due to 3-5-2 being out of favour currently. However, with the current love of playing a single striker by Premier League clubs it is a viable option. We gain an extra striker but do not lose any presence in the midfield. This wouldn’t be a one man change, it would require two at the same time to introduce the second attacker. The downside is that there must be a reason why people do not play 3-5-2? Perhaps managers are not bold enough. It is an option but I worry about Dawson in this system, does he have the ability to bring the ball out of defence well enough to play the system?
There is not much in attacking sense I can see for Naughton, by that I mean coming on to make Spurs more attacking. The only option I can see is that by playing Townsend in left midfield in my formation I already have someone willing to get to the byline. As such, Naughton could come on for Rose to provide the option of cutting inside and delivering a different kind of ball into the box from the left.
Dembele is a weird one to make an attacking change with and given he was the first sub in each of our three games, it looks like he is perhaps seen as one of the less important players on the pitch currently. However, he can play in any of the three central midfield positions and the most obvious attacking change would be to replace Sandro. I wouldn’t expect him to play as deep as Sandro so hopefully this sort of change would push the play closer to the opposition goal.
Holtby is a more obvious choice to bring more attacking intent and can replace either of Sandro or Paulinho. If he replaced Sandro then it would result in Paulinho being the deepest central midfielder though again not as deep as Sandro. Neither Holtby or Dembele change the formation when being brought on by themselves, just the attacking impetus so I can see why some would say this is a lack of plan B given the rest of the team will still be doing the same job.
Chadli falls into the same category as Dembele and Holtby, not going to change the formation and I struggle to see where he can add attacking impetus over Townsends direct play and Lamela’s trickery. I think he will come on for Townsend to add extra height but also to change tact if getting to the byline is failing by cutting inside onto his stronger foot.
I picked Adebayor over Defoe because I think he gives you more options. Defoe will have an impact if he has time to turn and shoot but Ade will involve the rest of the team more. He could directly replace Soldado to hold the ball up better. This would lose the movement of Soldado but perhaps increase movement of those around him. He could come on for a central midfielder, changing the formation to 4-4-2. I would assume Paulinho would be sacrificed in this scenario as you wouldn’t want to lose the creativity of Eriksen or the battling nature of Sandro given being outnumbered (assuming most teams play with 5 man midfields). He could also be used in the switch to 3-5-2 as discussed previously.
Defensive changes are not what the media are referring to when talking about plan B’s but it is worth considering. They are probably a little more straight forward than the attacking changes but we’ll have a quick look.
Again ignore Friedel and start with Dawson. He could replace one of the full backs with Kaboul or Vertonghen then moving to full back. Always dangerous given the player moving suddenly has different worries to concern themselves with but it does provide extra height and defensive qualities to the team. Another option is the replace one of the wingers resulting in a 5-3-2 formation, our full backs are very attack minded to say the least so should be comfortable as wing backs but we would be inviting attacks down the wings. With three tall centre backs you would hope they could deal with the high ball/cross onslaught.
Naughton, from what I have seen, is not as attack minded as Rose or Walker so would be an obvious solidifying change by replacing a full back.
You would assume that if Dembele came on to help see out a game it would be for Eriksen, you lose the natural creativity but gain some battling qualities and possession retention. If this happens you would expect to see a flatter central 3 in midfield rather than the staggered 4-3-3 version. You would really be isolating the striker here so the strikers work rate pretty much doubles.
I don’t see Holtby as the go to player for a defensive change however he could come on for a winger or Eriksen. He would harry the opposition in his tenacious manner which could give the defence the breather they require while perhaps losing some width (if winger is replaced).
Chadli, like Holtby, is perhaps a little limited when being used with a defensive improvement in mind. He is taller than our other wingers so the height is always a help and again it would be a change to bring fresh legs on to pressure the opposition.
Ade could be the key when making a defensive change given he has the ability to hold the ball up. His extra height will again also help with set pieces.
Clearly this is all based on what would be my go to first eighteen that I think will cover the majority of situations. Naturally you would take each game as it comes, picking a starting eleven and subs to reflect the opposition.
I do see why some would say we are short of idea’s when we are failing to break down the opponent because a lot of the attacking changes are really like for like without really giving the opposition much new things to consider. However, there are changes that can be made to affect the outcome of the game, some are more adventurous than others but they are there.
Naturally, plan A working is what would be the ideal scenario so nothing has to change but that will not always be the case. But for a change to be effective they need to be made with enough time for the players to have an effect, in the North London Derby they probably came a little too late.
So what do you think? Is there enough scope to change the course of a game? Or is AVB unwillingly to move from his tried and tested tactics? Squad is good, but is it all too similar? The England game is bound to be dull so why not leave a comment!
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