I have been a Tottenham Hotspur fan for a number of years, now. My beloved Spurs have found pretty remarkable success playing in a 4-4-1-1 formation. While the team stuttered a bit through the 2010-2011 season, this past English Premier League season saw Tottenham go on a run of only one loss in 19 league games, dropping only 11 points out of 57 possible. This was due in large part to the production of Rafael van der Vaart, who scored 6 goals in a 5 game stretch in the fall. Van der Vaart excels when he plays in the hole behind a lone striker and in front of the two central midfielders. But because of his role, in order for van der Vaart to succeed, the team needs certain players in those positions around him. Without a target center forward in front of him and the combination of a deep playmaker and ball winner behind him, van der Vaart would not be free to play his game; popping up in space outside the 18 yard box to take precision shots or making the late arriving runs into the area.
During the offseason, on February 6, 2012 to be exact, the Rochester Rhinos announced that they had signed Scottish veteran attacker. Bringing nearly 15 years of professional experience from the Scottish Premier League and Major League Soccer, McManus was a very exciting acquisition for the team of my youth. While I initially pictured McManus as a poacher in the mold of Doug Miller, when the team began lining up a 4-4-1-1 during preseason I realized the Scotsman would be much more like a Rafa van der Vaart.
Both players operate as the link between midfield and striker, while filling the exact role of neither. They both brought a high level of experience to the teams they joined (van der Vaart did have those years at Real Madrid). And as the Dutchman has proven for Tottenham in the last two years, I believe they are both more than just a cog in the machine going forward. McManus had the opportunity to be the focal point of the Rhinos attack in 2012. Continue reading