By Wayne Veysey | Chief correspondent
As any armchair fan who watched the lone-striker formations that did not so much dominate the World Cup as define it will know, the future for 4-4-2 looks bleak.
Now Harry Redknapp, one of the greatest supporters of the formation that has defined British football for 40 years, is considering dispensing with it to accommodate his young attacking talents in what would be a radical departure from his favoured twin-striker approach.
Redknapp used variants of the en vogue 4-2-3-1 formation during Tottenham's last two pre-season friendlies and is preparing to work extensively with the players on that style when they step up their preparations for the new campaign in London following the club’s 10-day tour of America.
The new set-up would be similar to the tactical approaches used at Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and, in big games, by Manchester United rather than the more defensive 4-5-1 styles employed by the more poorly-furnished Premier League clubs.
Redknapp has already mooted the possibility of using a more nuanced approach in the Champions League and wants his team to be more difficult to break down on their domestic travels. Having a well-rehearsed Plan B is, he believes, essential.
“It is not about being negative but finding the best way to win games,” said a Spurs source. “A team with a lone striker and numbers in central midfield is better placed to control games and hit the opposition on the break, particularly away from home.”
Revolution: Redknapp may dump 4-4-2 formation in favour of lone-striker system
The key is furnishing the forward line with a mobile spearhead who can move centre-halves out of position, hold the ball up, play one-twos and finish off attacks. Redknapp does not believe he has that kind of A-list all-rounder among his four-man strike band.
“If you look at the big teams, Arsenal have Robin van Persie, Liverpool have Fernando Torres, Chelsea have Didier Drogba and Manchester City have Carlos Tevez,” added the source. “Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch have their qualities but they are not in the same class.”
Robbie Keane took on the lone striker role in Spurs’ run-outs against New York Red Bulls and Sporting Lisbon in the USA but, despite Redknapp’s claims that the Irishman is still central to his plans, Tottenham are ready to off-load the 30-year-old and will also listen to offers for Roman Pavlyuchenko.
Aston Villa remains the most likely destination for Keane, especially if, as anticipated, Norwegian John Carew moves to the Continent.
While Tottenham have been fairly muted in terms of transfer activity – the only new addition has been Brazilian midfield anchorman Sandro – chairman Daniel Levy has been active behind the scenes. He has tied key figures Luka Modric and Gareth Bale to extended contracts when both were being coveted by Europe’s leading clubs and, crucially, Redknapp himself extended his agreement with Spurs until 2013.
The north Londoners are in the market for a dynamic front man who can operate effectively on his own. As Goal.com UK revealed last month, Levy has made it his priority to sign a world-class striker and is willing to pay £25 million to deliver the kind of statement of intent that would make the rest of Europe sit up and take notice.
Tottenham have cast their net wide. Redknapp’s No.1 choice was Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko and Levy flew out to Germany at the end of May to try and secure the signing of highly-rated Bosnian before the £35m release clause in the player’s contract expired, but the Bundesliga club held firm.
Goal.com UK understands that the club’s top three striker targets are Luis Fabiano, Luis Suarez and long-term alternative Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
AC Milan’s Huntelaar is available and would be the easiest – and cheapest – to entice. Fabiano has hinted he would be willing to move to Tottenham but there is a feeling at White Hart Lane that he is using interest from Spurs to engineer an improved contract with his current employers Seville.
Suarez, who plundered 49 goals for Ajax last season, is the most intriguing of the trio but his transfer value and demand for five-star wages could be insurmountable hurdles for Levy. Furthermore, it is believed the Uruguayan would prefer a switch to Spain.
In demand: Ajax hot-shot Luis Suarez is a target of Harry Redknapp's Tottenham
Redknapp’s interest in Craig Bellamy is genuine but the Spurs boss does not regard the much-travelled Manchester City forward as a striker capable of leading the forward line alone. The manager views the Welshman as a rival for Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon on the flanks, a role that Bellamy performed so impressively for Manchester City last season.
Modric is another contender for a berth on the left wing but the versatile playmaker has been earmarked to forage in the hole between the opposition’s defensive and midfield lines.
Redknapp’s plan was for Joe Cole to be used in the second striker role but the influential Modric, who attracted an enquiry from Cole’s former club Chelsea earlier in the summer before signing a new contract, will take on the responsibility of a central position when Spurs line-up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The final piece of the jigsaw for Spurs is central defensive reinforcement. With a schedule bloated by what the club hope will be extended Champions League involvement, doubts whether Jonathan Woodgate can ever kick a ball again and Ledley King’s ongoing fitness issues, Redknapp believes that Micah Richards fits the bill as a strong, athletic defender who can flourish at a new club.
The 22-year-old’s infrequent appearances at City last season were primarily as a right-back but Spurs regard him as youthful and talented enough to mature into a blue chip centre-half. However, the two clubs are wide apart in their valuations. City want £15m and Spurs don’t want to pay more than £9m.
Long-term Spurs observers will appreciate that Levy has a habit of leaving it late in the transfer window and much can happen in the final days, even hours, of August. Think Dimitar Berbatov, Sir Alex Ferguson and curtains deliberately left open at the Old Trafford offices.
It will soon be time to strap on the seatbelts and enjoy the ride.