Tactical Analysis: What are the main strengths & weaknesses of Tim Sherwood’s 4-4-2 at Spurs?


We asked Dan Fitch – ESPN Tottenham blogger and Betfair tipster – to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Tim Sherwood’s 4-4-2 formation.

Strength – Two strikers are better than one

Tactics guru Jonathan Wilson recently made the point of Sky’s Footballer’s Football Show that central defenders have forgot how to defend against two strikers.

In recent years they have generally had to deal with only one striker, with one man marking and the other defender covering behind. A two man strike force featuring mobile players such as Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado will prove a handful for any defence.

Soldado hasn’t started banging in the goals since being partnered by Adebayor but he does look far less isolated, with his influence on the build-up play increasing and more chances coming his way. He’s short of confidence at the moment but you have to expect that things will eventually click for such a player with such quality.

Weakness – Over-reliance on Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor has played in every one of Tottenham’s games since Tim Sherwood took charge and at the moment there seems very little chance of him getting a rest.

With Jermain Defoe looking likely to move to Toronto, Spurs could soon only have Adebayor and Soldado as senior strikers, with the youngster Harry Kane as back-up.

Adebayor’s movement and ability to hold up the ball makes him very important in Sherwood’s formation. Without him Tottenham will struggle to retain possession, as evidenced when they fell apart after his substitution against West Ham. Another player with similar attributes is needed for the squad, given Adebayor’s history of injury and spells of poor form.

Strength – Getting the best out of Eriksen

After a couple of starts in a central midfield role Sherwood switched Eriksen to the left of his four man midfield, where he has licence to drift inside to create a central midfield three.

It’s a very similar role to the one given to Luka Modric when he first joined the club. Like Eriksen, the Croatian struggled to adapt to the pace of the Premier League and the pressure of playing in a central role, when he first arrived at White Hart Lane.

On the left Modric was afforded more space and became much more difficult to mark as he drifted inside. The move has also allowed Eriksen the opportunity to exert more influence on the game. This was particularly true in the 2-1 win at Manchester United, with the Dane first appearing on the right wing to provide the cross for Adebayor’s goal and then heading in Tottenham’s second as he ghosted in from the left.

Only time will tell as to whether Eriksen will follow Modric’s path into the centre of the Spurs midfield, but for now it’s working.

Weakness – The flank left exposed

The negative aspect of playing someone on the left that likes to drift inside is that it leaves the full-back isolated on the flank.

Danny Rose is very good at getting forward so it suits him to have Eriksen moving inside when Tottenham are attacking, but he can be left exposed when the opposition have possession.

The young full-back was converted from a winger and still looks more comfortable with the ball than when defending. He will find himself in a lot of one-on-one situations as Eriksen is left up the pitch.

Strength – Spurs can beat most teams in the division playing this formation

Tottenham have a terrible home record and a great away record this season. That’s in part because Andre Villas-Boas had the side perfectly set up to play tight, counter-attacking football that works on the road, but wasn’t willing to change his tactics and play more openly at home.

Spurs have got some very good attacking talents and in putting faith in them, Sherwood will see the side’s home record improve. A lot of the weaker sides in the division have resigned themselves to putting defending deep when playing at White Hart Lane in recent seasons and AVB’s methods were simply too cautious without a player like Gareth Bale to unpick the lock.

Even away from home Sherwood’s 4-4-2 can prosper, as we saw when Tottenham threw caution to the wind to outscore Southampton and overcome David Moyes’ similar formation at Old Trafford.

Weakness – But they will struggle against the best sides

Sherwood made a mistake in not altering Spurs’ strategy against Arsenal. With the Gunners’ wide midfielders liking to drift inside, just like Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen, Sherwood’s team were outnumbered in the centre of the pitch.

You can see Spurs facing similar problems when facing the likes of Chelsea and more tactically adaptive managers, such as Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers and Everton’s Roberto Martinez.

Then there’s Manchester City who also play 4-4-2 but have much better players than Tottenham in crucial areas. If Sherwood tried to outscore them, there will only be one winner.

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