Redknapp: Spurs can’t play 4-4-2 with Van der Vaart

Two months after Rafael Van der Vaart’s arrival, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp concedes he is still unable to fit the Dutchman into his tried and tested 4-4-2 formation - the system that took Tottenham into the top four last season.

HARRY Redknapp admits that Rafael Van der Vaart’s arrival has forced him to change his approach and formation, potentially ending his ability to play 4-4-2 with two strikers.

Redknapp is a big fan of the 4-4-2 system and, with the odd exception, Spurs played with two frontmen throughout last season as they achieved their long-term goal of securing a top-four finish.

However, the last-minute signing of Van der Vaart has enforced a seismic change, with Spurs now playing 4-4-1-1 with just one recognised forward home and away.

“It’s difficult balancing your team up when you’re trying to get two strikers in your team. It’s not easy when you’ve got Rafa,” explained the manager.

“If you play two up front what do you do with Rafa? It’s hard, if you play him on the right he doesn’t really want to play on the right – he wanders all over.

“You can’t play him behind the front two because then what do you do with Gareth Bale, who plays wide left? Suddenly you can’t balance your team up.

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“You could play two midfield players behind Rafa but then you’ve got no-one playing on the right-hand side. It’s very difficult, it’s a bit of a balancing act, but he’s a fantastic player.”

After five goals in his last six Tottenham games, Van der Vaart simply has to play. However, at this stage last season, the Lilywhites had scored 10 league goals more than they have managed this time – 21 from nine fixtures in 2009, compared to 11 this season.

Of course, Spurs have been missing Jermain Defoe recently, but the goals scored by Tottenham’s strikers last season played a huge part in their success.

Between them, Defoe, Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Robbie Keane scored 56 goals in all competitions. If one didn’t score, the other usually did.

Last season Redknapp would certainly have played 4-4-2 at home against Everton. This time Pavlyuchenko – who scored his fifth goal of the season against Fulham the previous weekend – had to be content with a place on the bench.

Of course that decision was vindicated as Crouch set up Van der Vaart but, when the Russian came on to add further firepower with 20 minutes left, Spurs did indeed look unbalanced. Van der Vaart was moved onto the left flank, with Bale moving over to the right flank, and it didn’t work.

The Dutchman has been at the Lane for two months now, but Redknapp concedes he is still struggling to fit his new star into his favoured formation.

That issue will be highlighted over the next week as the Spurs boss prepares his side for a trip to Old Trafford and then the vital visit of Inter Milan. Redknapp will need his best players on the field, but he also needs goals – so how many strikers will he pick? We will see.