Stating The Bleedin’ Obvious

That Erik Lamela, seems like a nice boychick. Needs to fill out a bit but a lovely touch, easy on the eye with the ball at his feet and a flowing stride that whets the appetite. More please, but I’m not sure when, not in the League at least.

So how about our Andros then? Our policy of loaning out young players to gain experience has paid dividends, although using England as our feeder club is a little cheeky. Hearty congratulations to him on two fine, eye-catching performances for the national side. Particularly impressive was the way he mixed it up, going outside to cross right-footed as well as cutting in, knocking the ball short to keep possession if he could not make any headway (rather than trying a futile dribble) and his link-up play with Rooney and others up front.

I don’t want to rain on his parade or pee on his bonfire when I add that for us, it’s not worked as well. Against West Ham he ran into brick walls and blind alleys, unwilling or unable to go wide and cross with his right foot, while Chelsea turned the match in their favour by targeting our right-hand side. In the end, Townsend was substituted.

It’s stating the bleedin’ obvious to say that the Premier League is different. Lamela and Townsend have different styles and are at different stages of their development but both face the same issue. They have little to space in which to operate and any defensive shortcomings will be ruthlessly exploited. Also, the Wham game will become a template for how to play against us.

As Villas-Boas struggles to create the best blend from the riches at his disposal, he has to get that balance right, not just for these two young men but for the team as a whole. More bleedin’ obvious: the side needs time to bed in. It takes a while before players can settle. Most of the new signings are young, although Eriksen and Lamela have already played for years outside their home countries. The singular demands of the Premier League are by no means insurmountable but they exert considerable physical and mental pressure. Add to that the fact that Villas-Boas has yet to decide his best side and the question becomes not whether they need time but how much time is reasonable?

Hardly part of the Spurs pantheon but Steve Hodge always sticks in my mind. Signed from Forest, he made an immediate impact when he arrived only to fade into obscurity as his influence dwindled away to nothing. I mention this only because his experience was unusual. The vast majority of players give of their best after many months or typically in their second year. I’m including most of the best here: Ardiles, Mabbutt, Waddle, Sheringham, Bale. Not everyone fits the bill – Gough and Lineker hit the ground running – but although it is an obvious point, it tends to get lost in these days of media hype and inflated expectation. Players need time and fans need to be patient.

So maybe a year is reasonable, not to peak but to significantly raise the level of influence a player has. We probably haven’t got that but our buying policy is based around playing the long game, with developing talent able to take us to the level of contenders but, crucially, with room to improve still further. Holtby, Lamela, Paulinho, Sandro, Chadli, Eriksen, these are the imports who fit the bill, with Townsend and Rose as home-grown talent. Lloris, Dembele and Vertonghen have their best years ahead of them.

Sounds good but there is frustration in store. The media will severely scrutinise any weakness as a sign of failure. Having built us up to title contenders after our good start to the season, anything less than that will be deemed by them as failure. The narrative has been created even though it was false in the first place – I would be amazed if we got near the league title this year.

The issue for supporters is different. For us, we can see the potential and desperately want the success we crave after so many years of loyalty and unfulfilled dreams. It’s the what-might-be that gets us, every time and there is so much to look forward to here.

So what to do? In this next phase of the season, Villas-Boas has to let loose the skill and creativity he has invested in. I follow the tactics discussions a little and like to think I can grasp most of it. Basically however, in the Premier League you need to get enough players back to defend and enough to get forward. Easy, huh? You need quick, flexible and versatile players. Check – we have that in abundance. The formation itself is less significant than players having an awareness what’s going on around them, to know when to get forward and when to hold back. Check – we should be able to do that.

Back to Lamela and Townsend – either they (and Chadli, Siggy or Lennon) learn to work harder and track back or you sort out the rest of the team to give them some cover. We have played most of the season in a 4-2-3-1 with one of the DMs getting forward to support an attack if there is room, the wide players in the three cutting in and width coming from the full-backs. Who would have thought the return of Danny Rose would ever be so anticipated? One of the key elements of our balance disappears without him.

At home I’m inclined to have one DM to enable another in a further advanced position to ensure we dominate that area and support Soldado in the box. Attacking full-backs should be extras – they can join the attack later, the second phase so to speak, or break from deep on the counter with others staying back to cover. With their first thought a defensive one, hanging back gives the midfield more freedom to get forward. Siggy has done well but I would give others a go. Holtby in particular looks raring to go. Townsend will have more freedom and Lennon is waiting in the wings. Soldado needs crosses – I think he tends too far towards the near post and should remain more central in the box. This positioning is even more important if we have left-footers on the right and right-footers on the left. The near post is less profitable for strikers in this set-up as crosses curl to the back post or the centre.

At centre-back, Kaboul’s absence worries me. if fit, he should replace Dawson. In reality, I am worried that he will never recover his pace and strength that was so formidable. Chiriches needs game time, and the upcoming round of the Europa League and League Cup is perfect. We must rotate. So far playing a strong team has put us in a good position and allowed the team to play together. Before Christmas, many need a rest.

6 thoughts on “Stating The Bleedin’ Obvious

  1. I don’t know what tactical analysis you’ve been reading but it certainly isn’t about the system we use. To suggest “the formation doesn’t matter and everybody just has to be aware” in an AVB team is verging on treason, instructions are his thing haven’t you heard? The whole idea of what we do is to press high, push the full back up and split the centre backs thus flooding the midfield with players allowing us to smother the opposition and win the ball back early. This can work spectacularly well (Barcelona and now Bayern for example) but three things are necessary, hard work total belief and more hard work. Have a look at Robben and Ribery for Bayern, they bust a gut to pressure the ball at the earliest possible moment. That’s what we need and we have achieved it to a degree in some games, look at our clean sheets but as sides work us out ( Arse and Chelsea definitely did and the Whammers just followed suit) the team has to work harder and believe more. Going forward our CLEAR CUT chance creation is bordering on nil so Soldado is suffering just like Defoe and Ade before him One of the negative aspects of the high press is that that the opposition can’t get out thus leaving a heavily congested penalty area in front of you, this makes stretching with width (right footed crosses from right side and vice versa) absolutely imperative. Despite their obvious preference Robben and Ribery will go inside or out making them much more difficult to defend against. This system can not be half done otherwise you’re wide open as we have found. In AVB’s defence he hasn’t had a decent uninterrupted spell to drill the team in his methods so we can hope for big improvements as the season goes on.


    • Thanks for taking the trouble to post such a thoughtful comment.

      I agree with you. What I said, or meant to say, is that all formations are best expressed these days in terms of purpose. Increasingly formations expressed in the traditional numbers, e.g. 4-2-3-1, are becoming shorthand at the top level at least for movement and fluidity.

      In Tottenham On My Mind I tend not to go for detailed tactical analyses – not a good or a bad thing, just my thing, so I’ve picked out a few points here rather than go into the whole thing. I make my mind up by watching Spurs play football, so plenty of room for error too!

      Anyway, take 4-2-3-1. The way Spurs play it, what I have called ‘defensive midfielders’ for the sake of brevity in fact is something much more complex. It describes the starting positions of (lately) Dembele and Paulinho but they have the flexibility to move forward, sometimes one of them pushes up leaving the other deeper, sometimes both go forward. Sometimes they go right into the box, at others it is a significant five or ten yards. Depends on an awareness of what else is going on, where their own players are and where the opposition is.

      Last season, tantalisingly briefly, Sandro and Dembele got this just right and were a powerful force in the middle.

      Also, their function is not just to defend but to start attacks from deep. AVB wants more than just sitting in front of the back four.

      That’s just one example, there are others like the pros and cons of inverted wingers that I have written about before this season.

      One solution to the problems you described in getting the ball to Soldado is indeed that the wide men and others work damn hard. Fine, all in favour. What I was adding to that is a note of doubt that, say, Lamela and Townsend are going to do that for the whole game. Perhaps the full-backs having a less crucial function in providing width and keeping deeper starting position (but crucially permission to get forward when the moment is right) could enable the undoubted creativity of any permutation of the midfield to flourish. Players coming late in the attack can decisively pick out the gaps, overload one side, create a 2 to 1 etc, and provided they are (that word again) aware, Rose and Walker can be dangerous going forward.

      Regards, Al


  2. Thats it Allen! AVB out and you in. Then please drop this bloody high line until the new players get used to it.
    Dawson is not the problem, its the high line. Think about this for a minute.. Dawson and Jan high up the field, team beats offside trap with speed, then AVB expects Dawson to catch a player that has already run through on goal, its never going to happen.
    I could see it from a mile off that teams are parking the bus and finding space behind the high line, and then counter attacking us.
    AVB needs to learn to change the game quickly when we have been sussed, and Chelsea were a prime example of this. One minute we tore them apart, next we are on the back foot because AVB did nothing until late on in the game, and even then it was all wrong.
    All though I am moaning, I still want AVB to do well for us, as I do not want us to go for another manager and start all over again. Just want him to be more positive about the team he picks for the style of football we play, and change a game more quickly when we are on the back foot.
    As always keep up the good work Allen


  3. When Barca were at their peak, it was not just their beautiful passing game that brought them success, but their excellent high pressing (almost without parallel until Bayern Munich adopted the tactic more recently). I had never seen a team before that, on the rare occasions they lost the ball, swarmed around the opponents who had just got it bees order to recover possession and go again for the jugular.
    But first, Barca learned the real art of possession ..and not just possession for the sake of it (I’ve seen lots of teams bore me with their possession football and go nowhere ..and, on many occasions, Spurs themselves). What Barca learned was possession with rapier-like intent! Constant unforgiving ‘dentist chair’ probing into the opposition’s defense. Of course, it helps having great players ..but many became great players under the club’s umbrella and the system which it developed.
    Eriksen and Holtby may develop into the kind of players who can do this for Spurs (what Holtby lacks in incision and precise calm passing at the moment, he makes up for with energy, pressing and commitment). Paulinho and or Sandro/Dembele (once they finally realise it ..esp Dembele) can steamroller through the middle of any opponents, dovetailing, while pouncing powerfully and breaking up play in front of the back four. On the wings, Lennon can play with Townsend (either wing or even swapping throughout the game) and allow the midfielders to escape congestion in the middle. That will allow the chances to come for Solado both from the flanks and from the creative inside play of Eriksen (or even Sig ..who shouldn’t be on the wing, as he’s now been easily sussed there), from the unrelenting unselfish play of Holtby too, or from the power and driving forward of Dembele/Paulinho/Sandro. At the back, I too worry now about Kaboul. It seems that the last 12 months or so has really bitten into this strong and powerful defender, who should be at his peak at 27. But let’s not forget Capoue. He can play in the back four alongside Verts, Daws, Chiriches et al ..and I see him being incredibly important to us (er..shouldn’t he be back now from injury?). Daws may prove to be a victim of the high line but what’s more important is that AVB gets his tactics right for each game. Even Barca and Bayern may lose, playing the way they do, to the likes of WBA or Stoke on occasion if they were playing in the PL. It’s all very well having the players and the one major system, but it’s having the courage to surprise the opposition and do the opposite of what they expect. Chelsea (2nd half) and West Ham (throughout) showed AVB to be very slow in adapting to problems. He, like his system and his players, needs to be ready for that from now on. Finally, what of Lamela and Chadli, and Ade? I’m hoping that soon the former will show glimpses of why he’s our record breaking signing ..although I understand it will take time (look at Gareth Bale’s journey to greatness, for pete’s sake). But is Chadli a Spurs type player? And why can’t Ade be brought in to assist Soldado? That partnership, on certain occasions too, could prove crucial.


  4. Thanks Alan very well presented, I include rospurs and chriss in this.

    I would like to know how koko61 expects the new players to get used to the high line if it is dropped??

    Please do not say in training. Training and game time are not of the same quality!!


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