Tottenham Hotspur started the 2020-21 Premier League season with defeat to Everton on Sunday, with the contrasting performances of the sides’ midfields an interesting sub-plot.
Spurs boss Jose Mourinho opted to field Harry Winks alongside summer signing Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but the duo were outnumbered and outplayed by Andre Gomes, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan in the Toffees boiler room.
Regardless of the opposition, Tottenham appear to deploy the 4-2-3-1 formation to allow Dele Alli to play in the number ten role – something that unbalances the side.
Moving forward, Mourinho should change to a 4-3-3 system, removing Alli and adding an extra central midfielder, to add stability and structure to the team.
Hojbjerg has been signed to anchor the Tottenham side from a deep midfield berth – he can only do this as part of a midfield three, as showcased by his poor performance against Everton.
The Dane and Winks were so busy trying to win the ball back, mostly unsuccessfully, and as such the new man could not sit as the defensive and distributive shield in front of the Spurs back four as intended.
Switching to bring Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele into the midfield, at the expense of Alli and Winks, would allow Hojbjerg to operate as the holding midfielder.
At the same time, it would unleash the Argentine to create in the final third and let the Frenchman do what he starred doing at Lyon – getting on the ball, beating defenders and making use of his athleticism while in possession.
With Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min cutting in from the wings to support Harry Kane, a 4-3-3 system with this rejigged personnel would offer a better solution for Tottenham than the current formation.
It would be equally effective on the road as at home, with the wingers able to make it a 4-5-1 formation while not in possession.
Dropping Alli this early in the season seems harsh, but Mourinho must do it to allow Hojbjerg to thrive and to improve the Tottenham team’s balance.