Tottenham have lost 1 in 7 in all competitions, having ground out a victory at home to Swansea last Sunday. They are fourth in the League, two points ahead of Arsenal and level on points with Chelsea. Yet, they have done all this, with only a fraction of their first team from last year.
Injuries have hit some teams harder than others this year, but it is commendable that Spurs haven’t used it as an excuse (or that fact Van der Vaart and Modric moved on this summer). It also shows the level of depth in the squad is good and would make any fan feel as though the club is in good steed for the busy Christmas schedule.
Player of the season, Scott Parker made a welcome return to action against Swansea and will add an enjoyable dilemma to AVB’s midfield planning. First choice left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto is due back with Gareth Bale this weekend and with the consistently powerful and dependable Younes Kaboul on the mend, after not featuring since the first game of the season, maybe Spurs will seize third place this season. This position has been fumbled by both Chelsea and Arsenal whose good starts to the season have become a parody of the trouble each team is facing behind the scenes.
The one criticism of Tottenham under AVB has been their inability to stay switched on for the full game. The stat, that if every game was only 80 mins long then Spurs would be top of the League, has been circulating around the statistic grapevine for a week now. But, with two of their first choice defenders injured and Michael Dawson lacking in pace it isn’t surprising that they have let in the goals late in the game. The 1-0 win over Swansea can be seen as a turning point.
With so many chances being missed and less than 20 mins left, it felt like Swansea just needed one chance to nick an undeserved victory. But then one of the stars of the season so far stepped up and Jan Vertonghen finished in a fashion that Teddy Sheringham would have saluted. It was also only Tottenham’s second clean sheet in the league too.
With Assou-Ekotto to return, we’ll see the Vertonghen Caulker partnership reunited at the back this weekend, which seems slightly more stable than when Gallas plays. Nothing against the experienced Frenchmen, but his age is certainly starting to have an affect.
The midfield dilemma that I mentioned before will be an interesting one. Scott Parker was one of the best players in the League last season and it will be fascinating to see if the team is changed to suit him. Moussa Dembele may be pushed further forward like in his Fulham days. Adebayor’s injury coupled with Clint Dempsey’s inconsistent start to life at the Lane means that Defoe’s role as loan striker, which he has made his own this year, could be a possibility. Dembele, however, has spoken about how he prefers playing deeper in midfield as it allows him to see more of the ball. Whether Parker will be played instead of or as well as these two will be an tough decision for AVB.
Another idea may be to use Dembele in a similar fashion to how Roberto Mancini used Yaya Toure last season. Toure is a beast of a man, so it will not be a like for like of tactics, but during a rather dull game against Newcastle last season, Mancini changed things by bringing Samir Nasri off for Nigel De Jong. This allowed Toure to play further up the pitch and grab two goals to send the Premiership title race into that surreal final day of the season, that we all relive whenever the credits begin for Match of the Day.
This gives you an idea of the type of luxury AVB will face when picking his midfield. He has top quality players all fighting for positions and AVB has shown that he is willing to offer excellent displays in training with a chance in the team. Tom Carroll, Jake Livermore, Steven Caulker and Kyle Naughton have all been used when a more experienced player was available.
Tottenham’s run of fixtures over the new year and Christmas goes; Stoke (H), Villa (A), Sunderland (A), Reading (H), Coventry (H) and QPR (A). Villa aside, Tottenham will be looking to get a stranglehold of that third position by the time Manchester United come to White Hart Lane on the 20th January. Here is the possible first eleven to face the team top of League that day:
Possible first team: Lloris, Assou-Ekotto, Vertonghen, Kaboul, Walker, Bale, Sandro, Parker, Dembele, Lennon, Defoe.
Subs: Freidel, Gallas, Naughton, Caulker, Dempsey, Sigurdsson, Huddlestone, Adebayor.
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