Saturday, 15 March 2008

Team for Tottenham

The defence issue seems pretty clear: Garrido, Corluka, Onuoha and then either Sun or Dunne, depending on the latter's fitness. By no means our ideal back four but stronger than predicted a few days ago.

In terms of our system, I think it might be best to return to the 4-4-1-1 of earlier in the season. In recent weeks we've gone with three central midfielders and two wingers, with no split striker. I think this has been a good response to Elano's performances (there's no point in building a team around a player out of form) but doesn't look like penetrating at all. Given how strong Spurs are in wide areas, and the quality of our full backs, it might be wiser for us to play two wide midfielders - allowing us to double up on Malbranque and Lennon where necessary. The suspension of Hamann, whilst a blow, does allow us to play four across the middle - Johnson and Fernandes will certainly cover more ground than the Kaiser could.

The personnel to play in the two wide and the two forward positions is not immeadiately clear. Starting with the right and left wings, none of the options stand out: Elano, Vassell and Ireland are out of form and judgements are still pending on Caicedo and Castillo. I think the necessity for hard work on Sunday suggests Vassell on one side (certainly if Sun is playing). It's then down to a choice between Castillo and Ireland for the left wing. I really don't know which way to jump on this: Castillo looks sharp and is unproven, really not sure how much help he'd give Garrido. Ireland is not really a left winger but will at least keep possession and might just produce something special. In the spirit of 'change versus more of the same', however, I'd start Castillo. This is, after all, a home game against a team ten points behind us - we might as well try to win it.

As the second striker, the only options really are Elano and Ireland. On current form, it's difficult, but the possibility of something out of the ordinary just swings it for Elano. Ireland has had a few months to make that attacking midfield spot his own and hasn't quite taken it. Elano hasn't really produced for some time but has had one or two touches in recent weeks that suggest he might be slowly turning a corner. Finally, the centre forward spot probably goes to Benjani by default. He hasn't looked very sharp recently - although that's perhaps due to the support he's been getting - and SGE seems unwilling to fully test out Caicedo yet. I think Sturridge could still have a role to play this season - but he hasn't been near the team for a while - so we'll have to wait on that one.

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