There is a battle ongoing in North London at the moment. No, it isn’t Tottenham vs Arsenal.
No, it isn’t Daniel Levy fighting against one of his managers. And no it isn’t Heung-min Son and Hugo Lloris having another scrap on the pitch. It’s the battle between 3-4-3 and 3-5-2.
It appears there are two sides to the argument.
The vast majority of fans want to see 3-5-2 be the regular formation, while Conte has been clear in stating that 3-4-3 is his favoured tactic.
However, the Italian has also admitted that he wants his side to be able to swap between the two depending on the opposition and players available.
It was 3-4-3 in which we saw Tottenham’s incredible form at the end of last season; form that took the Lilywhites all the way to the Champions League spots.
But Spurs have looked a little uninspiring at times during this campaign and arguably have shone during the fleeting moments in a 3-5-2.
Take the second half against Leicester, the second half against Everton, and the match against Brighton as examples.
Some of Tottenham’s best displays of the season, all coming in a 3-5-2 with Yves Bissouma stepping into the midfield.
So what are Tottenham’s best line-ups for each of these formations? I would argue the following…
Cristian Romero, Eric Dier, Ben Davies;
Matt Doherty, Rodrigo Bentancur, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Ivan Perisic;
Dejan Kulusevski, Harry Kane, Heung-min Son
Cristian Romero, Eric Dier, Clement Lenglet;
Matt Doherty, Rodrigo Bentancur, Yves Bissouma, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Ivan Perisic;
Harry Kane, Heung-min Son
I can see why Conte prefers the 3-4-3, and for a number of reasons.
One, it is the formation he has drilled into his players for the best part of a year now and has yielded a lot of progress during that time.
It is also a formation that allows him to pick what is arguably his favourite XI and gets the best out of the front line due to the talents of Kulusevski off the right.
Spurs are also a lot more defensively solid in the 3-4-3, which is why Conte switched back to it after going 1-0 up against Brighton recently.
However, the downside this season is that Tottenham, for whatever reason, have been far less fluid in transitioning from defence to attack – I believe because of the absence of the injured Kulusevski.
The Swede is the linchpin that links midfield and attack, and without him Spurs seem to lack balance on the right, especially with Emerson Royal struggling in the attacking third.
3-5-2 on the other hand has appeared a lot more potent going forward.
It reminds me of the Jose Mourinho days in which Tottenham’s attack focused on two men and two men only, Kane and Son.
Those trademark Kane balls over the top to an onrushing Son are there for all to see in the 3-5-2. It takes Son out of the pocket and back onto the shoulder where he has always operated best.
However, with the high press Conte seems to like alongside the 3-5-2, Spurs have also been a little more erratic, open, and inconsistent at the back.
So… pros and cons to each formation. And strap yourselves in for a boring conclusion.
The answer is simple. The battle has to become a partnership.
Like Conte says, I think Spurs need to be able to transition from one formation to the other, not only from match to match, but also in-game.
Certain oppositions will struggle more against a 3-5-2 than a 3-4-3. Certain opponents will find it harder to break down a 3-4-3 than a 3-5-2. And injuries may force one formation more than the other.
Once Conte is happy that his side can reach the required levels in both formations, I very much expect to see them rotated every few games or so in the future.
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