What formation could Spurs use in 2021-22 under Nuno? A fan's view

Nuno Espirito Santo, the new Tottenham Hotspur manager, is known to use a variety of formations in his previous clubs. He preferred a back 3 formation at Wolves but also used a back 4 setup in his previous stints at Valencia and Porto, structuring the formation according to the strengths of his players. There has been a lot of talk regarding what formation he can use at Spurs, but so far, we know little about his plans, other than perhaps the report from The Telegraph that Nuno wants a two striker setup at Spurs. From a transfer viewpoint, we've been linked to a bunch of centerbacks as well as Takehiro Tomiyasu (who plays CB/RB and seems to be a right footed Vertonghen in terms of playstyle). I'll discuss what formations we can theoretically use this season, and the pros and cons of each. This is only my own opinion, so feel free to discuss anything in the comments. It is extremely likely that Nuno will also use multiple formations over the season, so he can possibly employ all of the ones below. Also, he might use different formations in attack and defense. I am also assuming that we will have signed Tomiyasu as it looks done and dusted (I know I shouldn't be moving but I can't help :p)

Formation 1: 4-2-3-1

This is the formation Spurs' players are most familiar with, the one Nuno has used in the past, and the one many expect to be our formation in the beginning of the season. Our best lineup would probably look like this (I've used CB and RB to denote players we are clearly bringing in but currently don't know the identity of):


RB CB Rodon Reguilon

Hojbjerg Ndombele

RW* Lo Celso** Son


*Lucas/Bergwijn is an alternative, **Alli is an alternative

While a good formation on paper, the squad right now looks pretty weak on the right. On that side, we have Matt Doherty and Tomiyasu, and neither are proper rightbacks. Tomiyasu would probably be better there; by all accounts is a very good passer, likes to get forward, and has decent recovery pace. Ahead of them, we have either Lucas or Bergwijn (or Ryan Sessegnon!), the latter playing on his less favored wing. Neither are elite players, although Bergwijn does have more potential. However, I think Bergwijn's best position is left wing (the role he played at PSV), or a free roaming second striker (the role he played for the Netherlands when he used to start). This formation also demands a lot from the DMs to cover the fullbacks when they push forward, and in my opinion certainly limits Hojbjerg's (who showed his offensive abilities at The Euros) and especially Ndombele. There is no ideal place for Sessegnon too, who played as a wingback last season.

So in essence, while this formation would work, if we seriously wanted to push for top 3, we would likely need to bring in a starting caliber proper two-way rightback (in addition to Tomiyasu), a starting caliber right winger (those aren't cheap) and an elite centerback, or hope that Tomiyasu and Bergwijn crush it at RB and RW. A proper defensive midfielder would also be fairly high on the list considering how the crucial role they play in plugging gaps on the wing when the fullbacks push up. I would be fairly worried that we have not been credibly linked to a single right winger or a DM. For these reasons, and also because of Nuno's two striker plan reported above, I do not think we will be using this formation as our go-to, especially in the latter half of the season. I won't be adding a 4-3-3 formation below, because I think that will be similar stylistically to this one for the most part.

Overall rating: A+ overall if right players are bought, B- in terms of fit with current players
Likelihood of using this formation: 8/10

Formation 2: 5-3-2


Doherty Tomyisasu CB Rodon Reguilon*

Lo Celso Hojbjerg Ndombele**

Kane Son**

*Sessegnon as an alternative, **Alli is an alternative

Just to be fair, this is NOT the formation Nuno used at Wolves. The one constant thing he uses is wingers. However, this is possibly the only back 5 formation that can incorporate three of Ndombele, Alli, Son and Lo Celso in the preferred positions, as well as both Doherty and Reguilon/Sessegnon at wingbacks. Alli can be given another opportunity as second striker which is the role he statistically had the most success with (18 PL goals in 16-17), and between giving either Ndombele/Lo Celso or Son a break, there's plenty of minutes for him. Because it is a back 3/5, we don't need our CMs to be defensively inclined (Neves and Moutinho at Wolves were hardly pure DMs), thus Ndombele and Lo Celso are free to push forward. A top CB like Kounde in the middle would certainly make this a viable choice. And remember Super Jan's CB runs? Tomiyasu does that equally well, and imo this would be the best position for both him and Tanganga.

The argument against a back 3/5 has always been that you're adding a defender in place of an attacker. Well yes, that is true, but here you're sacrificing Lucas/Berwijn in favour of an extra CB for stability, freeing Doherty, Reguilon AND Ndombele from their defensive responsibilities considerably. Doherty had 4 goals, 3 assists for Wolves, Reguilon had 2 goals, and Ndombele had 7 assists at Lyon when he last played in a 3 man midfield. Are all those things worth sacrificing an extra right winger? No, if said winger is an elite one, but Lucas and Bergwijn are hardly that. In terms of playing your good attackers, you play the same number of them, but in their ideal postions.

This formation also necessitates less expensive signings to be extremely successful. An expensive CB is needed, but other than that we only need a backup CB like Andersen/Milenkovic and a backup right wingback. A rotating crop of Kounde/Rodon/Andersen/Tomiyasu with Tanganga//Davies as backup is good enough for the 3 spots. The need for a proper DM is less also, and I am more comfortable with Skipp ahead of a back 5 than a back 4. Also has two strikers, so that aligns with Nuno's apparent plans. The ceiling of this formation, with the above players bought, however, is less imo than the 4-2-3-1 formation's ceiling.

Overall rating: A- overall if right players are bought, B+ in terms of fit with current players
Likelihood of using this formation: 6/10

Formation 3: 4-4-2


Tomiyasu CB Rodon Reguilon

RW Hojberg Ndombele Son**

Alli* Kane

*Lo Celso is an alternative, **Sessegnon

This is essentially the FRAAB Redknapp style formation, with defense first fullbacks, swashbuckling wingers and 2 strikers up top. Defensively 2 banks of 4 are surprisingly good, but unlike usual 4-4-2, both Alli and Lo Celso are really good at pressing, hopefully that we will prevent us from dropping deeper and deeper like typical counterattacking sides. Fullbacks are mostly defensive so Tomiyasu or Tanganga are fine here. Son imo is a bit wasted at LW, and we will need a pacey proper winger on the right side. Overall, I do not think Nuno will use this style, but I fear that given the 2 ST approach, his preference for wide players in the past, and the ability of this formation to be deadly on counters (which he loves), this might become a thing.

Overall rating: B+ overall if right players are bought, B in terms of fit with current players
Likelihood of using this formation: 7/10

Formation 4: 4-4-2 diamond


Tomiyasu CB Rodon Reguilon

DM Lo Celso* Ndombele


Son Alli

*Hojbjerg is an alternative

Now we're getting into wild, fully speculative territory. This is the formation that jam packs all our good players without looking absolutely silly. Diamond formations can get away with a poorer defender at the base of the diamond as long as they have good recovery pace and press resistance (in this case either Ndombele or Lo Celso), but absolutely needs a Kante like workhorse to douse all the fires that constantly keep happening while also joining the attack on his side. Hojbjerg simply isn't quick enough for this, and would get caught out in quick transitions (the main threat to this side). Offensively, on paper it looks weird with Kane at 10, but in practice it will be a bit similar to Liverpool, Kane would be the false 9 with Son on the right and Alli on the left, then in possession Kane would drop deeper while Son and Alli (or Bergwijn or Thuram or Ings) move up top. Tomiyasu works because this formation requires good long balls (something he's really good at) into the channels (for Son to run onto) rather than crossing, and the DM would help him.

I think this formation definitely won't happen, but it is by far the most fun on paper. It's a bit like Liverpool, only that we have both Lo Celso and Ndombele doing stuff in midfield. A super good 1on1 CB in the mould of Van Dijk is needed, as well as someone who plays like Kante; they won't be cheap. Without them, we absolutely cannot run this formation.

Overall rating: A+ overall if right players are bought, C- in terms of fit with current players
Likelihood of using this formation: 4/10

I hope anyone who reads this found it interesting, or at the very least, a good topic for discussion. Which formation do you like the most? Any other formations I may have missed out on? As always, feel free to disagree with any/all of the above, or point out inconsistencies, as these are only my own opinions. Thank you!

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