The scuttlebutt in the papers about Tottenham’s managerial search has centered around unemployed Andre Villas-Boas and France's manager Laurent Blanc being the two “front runners” for becoming the next boss of the Spurs.
These rumors may come to pass, but the idea of either man taking over the white half of north London will have implications straight away on the training ground.
Both AVB and Blanc run 4-3-3 systems that differ a great deal from Harry Redknapp’s 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 style of system.
AVB’s time at Porto was short and sweet. The Portuguese outfit won the league, cup and Europa League treble with a lineup that featured heavy hitters Radamel Falcao and Hulk.
The fullbacks charge up field and provide the width of the squad, with the wings being pushed much further up field.
At the beginning of the season with Chelsea, the squad worked on keeping a higher defensive line, trying to play for the offside rather than sitting deep and keeping the forwards in front of the defense.
To assist, the deepest of the midfield three would drop back and form a back three while on offense.
Speaking of the midfielders, the midfield becomes a three man unit with the (aforementioned) deep midfielder. The other two midfield positions are designated for an attacker (shutter) and a passer/playmaker.
The midfield positions are not necessarily fixed in AVB’s system. As long as the three roles are filled, the players have some flexibility to move between the spots, although it is likely the players inserted will be in their accustomed positions more often than not.
The forward positions are very high up the pitch, as the wingers and center forward are expected to press the defense.
With his experience at Chelsea, chances are better that the wings will not be nearly as high as they were initially. However, they will not be deep enough to be considered midfielders by most standards.
If one were to guess (based on past history) what a potential starting 11 would look like, here’s a sample (with the current squad):
GK: Brad Friedel
RB: Kyle Walker; CB: Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul; RB: Kyle Walker LB: Benoit Assou-Ekotto
DM: Scott Parker; CM: Luka Modric; AM: Sandro
RW: Rafael Van der Vaart; CF: Jermaine Defoe; LW Gareth Bale
This grouping, with the players at the club, would be a close representation of the AVB starting lineup at Porto and Chelsea.
We all know Van der Vaart “loves” the wing positions, but in AVB’s system they aren’t necessarily true wingers. They are given more license to cut inside and play as a front three, usually coming in on the opposite side of the play.
In regards to Sandro, it would be far more likely that the Brazilian would be featured on the right side of the formation as cover for Van der Vaart. Bale, if he was required to, could pull back and protect Assou-Ekotto while Sandro could “shuttle” to the right wing and create two banks of four in defense.
While Tottenham is familiar with parts this sort of lineup, the playing style in the center of the park would be far different, and the width would be forced to come from the fullbacks. Assou-Ekotto and Walker are used to this, but perhaps not as the sole width of the squad.
The biggest key in AVB’s system is pressing. While Chelsea was rooted in their own style of play, Porto was aggressive with their pressing, especially high up the pitch. This would require some serious work from Van der Vaart, Bale and Defoe, as well as more work in the middle of the field.
Blanc, on the other hand, has subtle differences in his style of 4-3-3.
First, Blanc’s 4-3-3 is a cross of a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 at times, with the midfield combination sometimes a one deep/two forward look or a two deep/one forward look.
Perhaps that’s too simple a definition, as Blanc will look to make the pieces at his disposal work rather than jamming players in. His work at Bordeaux is a model of making formations suited to the use of the players in the squad.
In any case, the defense and fullback’s roles remain unchanged. The wingers are more likely to play as wings and provide width to the squad.
Blanc has, more often than not, had a wealth of creative midfielders to balance his team around. At Tottenham, however, he’d more than likely have to stretch out the formation to get the players he wants into the middle of the park.
A Blanc starting 11 might look as such:
LB: Assou-Ekotto; CB: Dawson, Kaboul; RB: Walker
CM: Parker, Modric; AM: Van der Vaart
LW: Bale; CF: Defoe; RW: Aaron Lennon
Whereas AVB would require a lot of pressing and specific positioning, Blanc’s formation would be slightly more comfortable to the squad.
The wings would be expected to be back defending while the midfield zone would have two deeper, but perhaps not holding, midfielders.
The biggest challenge would fall to center forward, who has to be active all across the final third. The wingers could be given license to roam the touchline or to cut in as they see fit, and the forward must be able to adapt to their positioning.
This would require moving deep or wide to drag defenders away while also drifting into threatening positions.
It also would require the attacking midfielder to be actively looking for positions in between the opposing defense, and the midfield to create overloads and exploit gaps.
Most importantly, Blanc’s design is for controlling the tempo of the match by playing from the back and keeping possession. Whereas AVB’s system demands quick and decisive action, Blanc wants the squad to be flexible enough to find good positions and keep the ball moving.
AVB and Blanc's systems are similar in broad terms, but have little differences according to each manager’s style of play.
Whether Tottenham could adapt to either man’s design is a question that may be answered sooner rather than later.
Now, with all that said, what's your take on the above? What's you own prediction of a starting 11 for the Spurs under a new boss? Comment below and let everyone know your thoughts on the subject.