Sherwood reveals Dembele plan - but will it work?

Mousa Dembele

The Tottenham manager has stated that he wants the Belgium international to play in a more advanced role, but how this will happen remains to be seen.

Since taking the reigns at White Hart Lane from Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood has reverted to a 4-4-2 system with success and is starting to get strong results for the North London outfit.

A player that the new boss clearly rates is Mousa Dembele, who has been featuring in the centre of the park under the retired midfielder.

Sherwood has revealed that he is eager to play Dembele in a more advanced role however, to make use of his creative and individual ability.

"Mousa's a nightmare to play against because he can drop his shoulder and leave you on your backside," Sherwood told the club's official website.

"Opponents can't get the better of him physically either. He's such a strong man; he gets away from players; he's a real top talent.

"We're trying to get him further forward to play in and around the penalty area because he has the capability of creating and perhaps scoring more goals. We're getting him into the areas to achieve that.

"He's very well respected within the group. The lads know the quality he possesses and treat him with the respect he deserves."

However, with the 4-4-2 system and the personnel at his disposal, how exactly is the best way to exploit Dembele’s ability?

If Sherwood persists with playing two strikers, it will be increasingly difficult to get the former Fulham man consistently in advanced positions. Although he will be able to break forward from midfield, the defensive responsibilities of playing in the boiler room, even if the more cautious Nabil Bentaleb or Sandro is beside him, will mean that Dembele’s role will not be completely attacking.

In the last outing for Spurs, a 3-1 win at Swansea, a bespoke 4-5-1 formation was used, with Christian Eriksen operating in the number ten role. In this system a designated playmaker can be fielded, but for Dembele to be that man would mean the Dane switching to the wing or dropping out of the team.

Although there is no doubt that both Dembele and Eriksen can play in the same team together, only one can operate in the advanced role behind a striker. To fully maximise Dembele’s offensive abilities, Sherwood may well have to pick just one of these attacking midfielders.

Another problem in ensuring Dembele’s attacking abilities are fully utilised will be just where Paulinho fits into the picture. The Brazil international is currently on the sidelines with injury, but when he returns should be almost an automatic start for the side.

The ex-Corinthians man has shown great ability to get forward to support the strikers, and playing him alongside Dembele will mean that one or the other will need to play more defensively.

In truth, these are all good problems for Sherwood to have, with the attacker repertoire at the club’s disposal looking strong.

image: © Erik Daniel Drost

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