And so to the League Cup, in some ways a chance to put the Stoke defeat behind us but these days the midweek cup bears little resemblance to the issues facing us or any Prem team in the league.
From Everton’s perspective a kick-about in the Goodison car park has a greater priority than this evening’s match. Their injury list is in double figures and they are already fielding weakened teams in Europe, losing 5-0 last week, so we could have a situation where as their team is announced, we can call ‘Whooooo?’ after every name. I hear a couple of the subs are bringing their mums to tie their boot laces.
We’ll make changes too. With Crouch, Lennon, Woodgate, Defoe and King all missing there are opportunities for players who are pressing for a first team slot. It’s tempting to give them a run-out and I’d certainly like to take a look at Naughton for the first time in a Spurs shirt. However, I would not advocate wholesale change for change sake. This is a game we should win but we have to guard against complacency. Personnel rotation can upset our balance unnecessarily. More importantly, the first team is still learning to play with each other and I would prefer that we spend 90 minutes working on at least some combinations that will bear fruit in the Premier League.
I would go for a strong spine that could easily take the field in any league match. Let’s give Gomes more time to work with Dawson and Bassong in the centre. JJ has to start on Saturday so partner him with WP, develop their understanding together about who goes forward and who stays back, and when. Up front, Keane will play with Pav, although it’s shame Pav and Crouch could not have a run-out together. Maybe the Russian will benefit from the freedom of not being the target man, a role he does not enjoy and cannot be effective in, and have a greater license to roam. There’s no reason why he can’t play in this manner with Keane, however, and I’d like to see Harry tell him to play with Keane as Defoe does, i.e. the team are looking to pass and move, through-balls into the gaps and tell Pav not to have his back to the goal all the time. To me, the benefits of all this outweigh the desire to rest people.
Out wide there’s more room for manoeuvre. Bale should be selected at left back – he is so talented, I really want him to succeed here. Hutton or Naughton on the right. Kranjcar needs more game time to get fit, rather than rest. That leaves Bentley. Harry really does not fancy Bentley, for whatever reason, so if he has no place in our plans, to my mind it is pointless playing him, even if Lennon will be out for a while. Give someone else the experience. However, if he can play for his future, if he wants to stay and fight for a place, if the rumours about not giving him another league start for fear of triggering a transfer payment are untrue, then go for it, DB. Only Harry and Bentley know the answers to this one, but should he play and not show any real appetite, then we will make our own minds up about his future.