Another week, another injury for Tottenham Hotspur. Not only have the Lilywhites been robbed of the vast majority of their midfielders, but now the Gods have conspired to rob ‘Arry Redknapp’s blue and white army of their leading goal scorer. However, whilst one door closes, another always opens, and for Tottenham, it could be Luka Modric bearing the key.
With Tom Huddlestone and Jermaine Jenas out injured, Modric has covered admirably in central midfield, helping Tottenham to a draw away at Fulham, and a victory at home to Blackburn. However, although many thought Modric might seize the chance to dictate proceedings from central midfield, Modric has often been crowded out, shackled with too much defensive responsibility to effectively stamp his authority in the final third. Although Modric is not suited to a central position in a 4-4-2, the injury to Jermain Defoe could provide Redknapp the opportunity to alter his formation slightly, and deploy Modric ‘in the hole’ behind Pavlyuchenko.
For Croatia, Modric has been deployed in attacking as well as defensive central positions in midfield, and so, with Jenas and Huddlestone set to return in the coming weeks, Modric could well be played in a free role behind a striker in a 4-4-1-1 or 4-5-1 formation. Eidur Gudjohnsen has hardly had a look-in since his arrival from Monaco on loan, whilst Fabio Capello may be alarmed at how little football Peter Crouch has seen owing to Roman Palyuchenko’s goal scoring form. Deploying Modric further forward might therefore be an option, as not only would he find more space and freedom to roam, but opposition defenders would struggle to pick up the diminutive play-maker.
This could certainly be a viable option away from home, as both Pavlyuchenko and Crouch, aside from being fairly similar, are not particularly fast, and might not offer much for Tottenham on the break. However, if Modric is free to concentrate on getting forward, Tottenham might find the Croatian international can dictate play in a free role, offering the team more of an outlet.
The form of Gareth Bale on the left wing is another reason that might lead Redknapp to consider revising his formation. Before Bale was moved to left midfield, Spurs lacked genuine width in midfield owing to Lennon’s injury. However, Bale has been a revelation on the left wing, and has arguably been Tottenham’s star performer in recent weeks. In a 4-4-2 Modric is most definitely best suited to left midfield. However, with Defoe and Lennon still injured, Bale could continue to add width to the Spurs midfield, whilst Modric could be moved into a forward position, leaving Jenas, Huddlestone and Palacios to compete for the two spaces in central midfield, depending on fitness and suspensions.
In a utopian world, Lennon would play on the right wing, Modric on the left, with Bale resuming his supporting role from left full-back. However, injuries have robbed Tottenham of their ideal starting 11. Whilst under Juande Ramos, Modric failed to adapt to a central attacking position in a 4-5-1 playing behind Darren Bent, Tottenham are a different animal to the one the Spaniard left in 2008. Further, the prospect of Pavlyuchenko paired with Crouch or Gudjohnsen, is hardly an appealing prospect, especially away from home where pace and work rate are essential.
With Lennon and Defoe set to spend a significant period on the treatment table, is it time to let the little Croatian loose in attack?
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