Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino utilised the 4-4-2 diamond formation for the fourth time in the club’s previous six matches in all competitions for their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg tie against Chelsea at Wembley on Tuesday night.
The Argentine boss hard largely favoured either a 3-4-1-2 or 4-2-3-1 system previously, but injuries to the likes of Eric Dier, Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama have left the 46-year-old short of defensive midfield options, and as a result he has favoured a diamond midfield.
Dele Alli has been the natural choice to sit atop of that despite the presence of Christian Eriksen in the starting XI, but he has struggled to really make an impact in the role.
The England international failed to register a goal or assist in the win against Cardiff City and the defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers, and while he did score in the 6-2 victory against Everton he was taken off at half-time with a slight injury issue.
The 22-year-old would have been to show what he could do against Spurs’ London rivals on Tuesday as he looks to help them win what would be a rare trophy, but he always appeared to be on the periphery of proceedings.
Throughout the 90 minutes Alli failed to register a single shot or key pass, as per WhoScored, while he only had 49 touches of the ball as he failed to impose himself against Maurizio Sarri’s men.
The frustrations for the former MK Dons man was perhaps summed up by the fact that he was also dispossessed on three occasions, and didn’t win a single aerial duel despite proving he can be a real threat from that particular point of view in the past.
When in a 4-2-3-1 formation – the one that Alli has excelled in previously – particularly he not only has Harry Kane ahead of him to look for, but he also can spray the ball out to the likes of Eriksen, Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura out wide if needed.
That width has to come from the full-backs in a 4-4-2 diamond, but against opposition like Chelsea it is difficult for players like Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier to commit themselves too high up the field.
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The new formation Pochettino is clearly liking may be suited to some Tottenham players, but if it is holding back Alli then he may need to switch things back to how they were sooner rather than later.