The Premier League is committed, so they say, to finishing the 2019-20 season at whatever cost. The latest rumors have football starting up again in June, and doing multiple matches per week until the season ends, so Liverpool can lift their damn trophy and we can all pretend that this wasn’t a bad idea.
But instead, let’s pretend for a second that the Premier League gets REALLY weird and decides that the only way to finish out the season is to play five-a-side football. Why? Who cares, this is awesome, shut up and stop asking questions.
Our friends over at The Busby Babe, SB Nation’s Manchester United blog, threw down the gauntlet with their own 5-a-side article, and frankly we feel like we have to respond. Five-a-side is a different beast to regular football and requires a specialized team. So I polled the masthead and we came up with our own list of teams that we think could win the title. At least, we’d like to think so.
The Dust-bin of History (Dustin George-Miller)
Hugo Lloris, Tanguy Ndombele, Gio Lo Celso, Dele, Lucas Moura
Defense? What’s defense? Five-a-side is played on a smaller pitch with smaller goals and while keeping the ball out of the net is important, what’s more important is to have players on the pitch who are nimble, can dribble, can shoot, and can press.
There’s no recognized striker here, because all of these dudes can shoot, and while my man Harry knows how to score, Kane’s lack of speed could be a hinderance on a small pitch. I want this team to press the hell out of anyone not on their team who touches the ball, force turnovers, get forward at pace, and be able to dribble right past people in tight quarters. Tanguy, Gio, and Lucas all fit that bill perfectly, and Dele’s there for creativity at the top and close-quarters shithousery.
The end result is a positionally flexible, total-football five-a-side that can swap positions anywhere on the pitch, can press like mad for the entire match, and can dribble the pants off of any team it encounters. Plus Hugo.
All the Kane’s Men (Avery Farmer)
Tanguy Ndombele, Toby Alderweireld, Giovani Lo Celso, Stephen Bergwijn, Harry Kane
As a casual five-a-side player for many years and a habitual contrarian, I have strong feelings about how I want my team to play. Starting with the obvious controversy, I’ve opted for Tanguy Ndombele as keeper. Not because I think he’d be particularly good at shot-stopping, but because he is the best fit for the tactical role I have in mind: Ndombele will be expected to make half-hearted efforts to stop shots while masterminding play out from the back through his signature pinpoint passing. Offensively, Toby Alderweireld plays point guard, seeking to set plays in motion while always having Ndombele to play back to if need be. Defensively, Alderweireld sits just behind Lo Celso and Bergwijn, who will occupy wingback duties. All three will be charged with pressing to limit the shots on Ndombele, while on offense, Lo Celso and Bergwijn will be instructed to move fluidly to confuse defenses, each relying on their footskills, vision, and strength to twist around defenders and progress the ball. Finally, Harry Kane jogs around at the top of the pitch, ready to turn and score at any moment.Obviously, this is a team whose success relies on scoring more than the other team, rather than on a solid defense. In my experience, this is the more effective strategy for five-a-side, since the short distance to goal and the number of shots available favor players with a penchant for scoring over those who are best on the defensive. Harry Kane is a dream five-a-side striker, since he could probably score from anywhere on the pitch. Behind him, the speed and ability to change direction that Bergwijn and Lo Celso possess make them perfect to seek triangles with Alderweireld and Ndombele, since opposing defenders won’t be able to keep up. Ndombele and Alderweireld, meanwhile, are my favorite passers on Tottenham, both relying on their accuracy and vision to pull off ideas that others wouldn’t dare try.
Power and Glory sponsored by Bitcoin (Sean Cahill)
Toby Alderweireld, Giovani Lo Celso, Ryan Sessegnon, Moussa Sissoko, Dele Alli
Who the hell needs an acrobatic keeper in five-a-side? I want someone who is fantastic at blocking and can also provide passing. Toby gets the easy nod to be the anchor in the back of the formation. He is amazing at positioning and his passing is invaluable from the back.
Sissoko has good speed and dribbling but his strength can be compared to an Abrams Tank in five-a-side. I dare some weakling on Moussa’s flank to get in his way and try to take the ball from him. He’ll explode into Fruity Pebbles upon contact with #17’s body. His passing is probably the most suspect of this group, but there’s too much upside with everything else.
Sessegnon brings speed and agility, not to mention a knack for being good at defense in a pinch. Sess can be a cutter for GLC but can double back at any point if needed to help Toby out in a tight situation. Sess is the perfect compliment to Moussa Sissoko’s bulldozing style going down the flanks.
Giovani Lo Celso is a lock for my squad just because of his ability to cut teams open with forward passing. He’s a fantastic dribbler and progressor of the ball. I thought about pairing him with Ndombele in this, but I think they’re too similar and I’ll go with the one that I’ve seen far more of at this point.
I had a tough time picking the focal point of the attack but it has to be Dele. He has the flair and attitude that is perfect for this style, never mind the finishing ability added in. In a game where you want a little bit of everything, Dele has that so he has to be included in this formation.
Over to you, commentariat. Out of this year’s Tottenham Hotspur squad, who would you pick in a five-a-side team, and why?