Farmed out on Loan
Tom Carroll needs to be given a chance from the start for Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur’s season is in real danger of fizzling out in a similar manner to last year and the young midfielder could freshen up the midfield and provide some attacking impetus.
Whilst there was always a real chance this could happen, Tottenham Hotspur fans had hoped that last year’s disappointment was something that couldn’t be repeated this time around. The squad seemed stronger and their twelve match unbeaten run in the league was built on late goals and a pleasingly stern defensive record.
However three losses in the space of seven days have pulled the rug out from under their feet, and whilst they still have a top four place and a spot in the quarter finals of the Europa League, they no longer have the momentum and safety margin over their rivals that had been carefully accrued over the previous few months.
Andre Villas-Boas needs to respond to this, and one way to do this would be to give Tom Carroll a chance to impress from the start when the squad reconvenes after the international break.Some players seems tired and some are simply out of form, and this is particularly true in the centre of the midfield, where even the colossal Mousa Dembele disappointed against Fulham. Scott Parker has not come close to replicating the form he showed last season, and the loss of Sandro’s dynamism has become increasingly apparent in the last three games.
Carroll has been given limited appearances so far this season, but has invariably impressed when on the pitch. His touch and confidence in passing the ball around stands in stark contrast to Parker, who frequently stalls Spurs’ attempts to move the ball forward from the back.
Parker is clearly also there to break up the opposition’s play, but even in this regard he has been poor in recent matches, with tiredness coming into his game as a result of having to play almost every minute of Spurs’ matches since Sandro’s injury.
Dembele also looked tired at the weekend, and Spurs improved noticeably against Fulham when Carroll came on for the Belgian on Sunday. Hopefully the international break will give some players a chance to return to full fitness, but whoever is available, Carroll deserves the opportunity to stake his claim for a regular starting spot in the run in.
Bruno Martins Indi would be an excellent piece of business for Tottenham Hotspur this summer
The 21-year-old defender is one of the biggest prospects in Dutch football, and Tottenham Hotspur are hoping to fend off competition from Chelsea, Liverpool and AC Milan for his signature.
Whilst Tottenham Hotspurs fans might have been frustrated by a quiet final day of the January transfer window, they will undoubtedly agree that they have had a fine season in terms of new arrivals at White Hart Lane.
Lewis Holtby’s winter arrival added to a slew of excellent acquisitions in the summer, with Moussa Dembele, Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris standing out as particularly shrewd purchases.
The Portuguese born player already has seven caps for the Netherlands, and has been impressive for Feyenoord since becoming a regular in their side since 2011. Whilst the Dutch national team is generally more famous for its plethora of talented attacking players, now established at left back, Martins Indi is amongst their most promising youngsters.No doubts wheels are in motion for the coming summer already, and if rumours about their interest in Feyenoord defender Bruno Martins Indi are correct, then Spurs would seem to have their eye on another excellent young player.
Comfortable either at left back or in the centre, Martins Indi is fast, strong in the air and a threat going forward if playing on the flank. He is currently valued at around £5.5 million, but if several top clubs come in for him in the summer, then that figure could easily rise to around £10 million.
If Spurs could sign the youngster, it would be another excellent addition to their imposing defensive line-up. So far this season they have lacked cover at left back, and there have also been persistent rumours that Beniot Assou-Ekotto might leave in the near future. Martins Indi has all the attributes to become an effective part of the Spurs defence, with his pace and physical strength well suited to Andre Villas-Boas high pressing system.
If they do claim Champions League football, especially if its through a third place finish in the league that sees them guaranteed a place in the group stages, Spurs will be looking to strengthen their squad considerably once again this summer, and Bruno Martins Indi would be an superb place to start.
How has Gareth Bale improved as a player under Andre Villas-Boas?
Tottenham Hotspur’s star man is enjoying a stellar season at under his new manager, but how has his game changed since Villas-Boas’ arrival?
Four goals in his last three Premier League matches has built the hysteria around Gareth Bale to such an extent that there were people genuinely asking if Bale was as good as the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on Saturday afternoon. As if news had filtered across to the continent of a young rival, Ronaldo coolly slotted in a hat trick on Saturday night to remind everyone exactly how high the level Bale aspires to is.
But even keeping your feet on the ground, it’s true to say that Bale is an astonishing player, and one of very few in the league who can produce real moments of magic that lift everyone watching. It’s also fair to say that Bale is still improving, and this season has shown him take on a different, more Ronaldo like role for Tottenham Hotspur.
Last season Bale was superb for Spurs, scoring nine times and adding ten assists as Harry Redknapp’s side claimed fourth spot in the league. The Welshman was played as a fairly conventional winger in a 4-4-1-1 system, although it’s worth noting that there were plenty of occasions when Bale would cut inside.
This year Bale’s position has advanced slightly, so he now forms part of a band of three attacking midfielders behind a lone striker. Given Andre Villas-Boas’ preference for a 4-3-3 system at Porto, there’s every chance that Bale could end up moving even further forward for Spurs as the left flank of a three man attack, and this season has shown that he is more than capable of taking on the role.
Whilst last year Bale produced more assists than goals, this season the stats are very different, as Bale has scored 13 times whilst only providing two assists. The stats about his general play also read more like a striker than a midfielder, especially when compared to last season.
Bale has already taken 102 shots in 22 appearances this year, putting 44.1% on target and attempting to score once every 19.9 minutes. Last season Bale took 136 shots in the 36 games he played, getting 32.4% on target and shooting once every 24.9 minutes. Bale is now taking more shots and getting a far greater percentage of them on target. Perhaps the most telling stat of all is that Bale has converted 12.7% of his shots into goals this season, compared to 6.6% last season. Bale is also making fewer passes at a lower success rate in the final third than last year, again suggesting he is operating in a more advanced area and looking to get more shots away.
Bale has improved his attacking play this year, and has become a far more attacking player in general. Andre Villas-Boas’ move away from a traditional four man midfield has freed Bale up to focus on his forward play, and given Bale’s ability in front of goal, you would expect that move forward to continue if Villas-Boas eventually switches to a 4-3-3. At this stage it might be worth remembering Bale started at Spurs as a left back.
Younes Belhanda is an unlikely target for Tottenham Hotspur
Montpellier’s Moroccan midfielder has been linked with a £10 million move to Tottenham Hotspur after his feted move to Fenerbahce seemingly collapsed.
Younes Belhanda of Montpellier is rumoured to have captured the attention of Daniel Levy and Andre Villas-Boas, and at the outset, it seems like it could be a good bit of business for Spurs.
At £10 million Belhanda is relatively cheap compared to other targets, and he is also attainable, with Montpellier struggling in Ligue 1 and eliminated from European football after a disappointing performance in their Champions League group. Belhanda is also a fine player, and has strongly linked with moves to the Premiership in the past, with Liverpool and Arsenal also keen on the Moroccan.
Even if Holtby doesn’t join before the end of January, the German looks a better prospect than the Moroccan and will likely be ahead of him in the pecking order at Spurs in the long term, making a £10 million bid for Belhanda seem unwise.However there a few reasons to suspect that the reports linking Spurs with the player are somewhat flimsy. Firstly Spurs have decent options in Belhanda’s position, and have already agreed a deal to bring Lewis Holtby to the club in the summer with rumours of that arrival being brought forward to January for a nominal fee.
They have also lined up other targets that would take precedence over Belhanda. Right now deals for Willian and Joao Moutinho look nigh on impossible, but in the summer there’s little doubt that Spurs will go in for those players again, especially if they qualify for the Champions League.
As such, interest from Spurs at this stage is likely to be minimal, and the rumours that have arisen today are likelier to be the result of Montpellier trying to make Fenerbahce meet their demands for the player.
The Turkish club have issued a statement about the situation saying that the move has broken down over the price tag of the player, but with so much time left in the transfer window, it could easily be resurrected, and if Belhanda is linked to other sides in the meantime Fenerbahce might become more willing to pay the £10 million Montpellier are asking for.
What would a pre-contract agreement with Lewis Holtby mean for Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer window?
Andre Villas-Boas side are reportedly the favourites to agree a deal with the German midfielder, who can leave Schalke on a free in the summer. Would this mean a lack of other signings in January?
Given the amount of clubs competing for his signature, the acquisition of Lewis Holtby would be something of a coup for Tottenham Hotspur. The talented 22 year old is one of the hottest properties in Europe, and Arsenal and Liverpool have been reported as also targeting the player.
Holtby would also be a well-judged addition to the Spurs’ squad, as his playing style would complement the side Villas-Boas is building at White Hart Lane. Young, dynamic and adept on the ball, Holtby would a natural fit for the team should he join in the summer.
Spurs’ recent form has rightly won plenty of plaudits, but they would still benefit hugely from signing a player like Holtby in January, rather than waiting until the summer.As such, there would be plenty for Spurs fans to celebrate should the German agree to sign in the summer, but there might be a chance that his addition will lead to Spurs not entering the market for a creative midfielder this January, and this could be a mistake.
Mousa Dembele is an injury risk and still unable to play 90 minutes comfortably, and the front four has looked unconvincing at times, either when set up as three attacking midfielders behind a striker, or with Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor on the pitch. Add in the fact that Adebayor might still go to the African Cup of Nations with Togo, and Spurs could be left short of creativity going forward.
Agreeing a deal for Holtby would make a move for another attacking midfielder unlikely in January. Spurs have been strongly linked to Wesley Sneijder, Miralem Pjanic and Joao Moutinho in recent weeks, but it would make little sense for one of them to join ahead of Holtby in the summer.
The German midfielder is exactly the kind of player Spurs need, but they could do with that addition coming in January, to ensure they are not left short in the second half of the season.
Five points for Tottenham Hotspur to take from the loss to Everton
Two mad minutes saw Spurs lose 2-1 in a match that was on the brink of being an excellent victory. Some positives can be taken, but they will ring hollow after the loss, and there are still considerable issues in the side.
Gallas and Caulker
Up until the final couple of minutes, this had been a strong defensive performances from the centre backs as they dealt well with the imposing aerial threats of Jelavic and Fellaini. However both goals were linked to poor defending, and this is what mattered in the end. Caulker seemed to again ignore a call from Lloris and clear the ball poorly in the build up to Everton’s equaliser, before both were out of position for Vellios’s flick on for Jelavic’s winner. Naughton has to be played at left back whilst Assou-Ekotto is injured, Vertonghen is badly needed in the centre.
Once again Spurs conceded late in the day to throw away points, the two at Everton make it 14 points surrendered in the closing minutes. Had Spurs held on in those matches, they would be top of the league. Whether it’s a fitness issue, or problems with concentration, this has to be addressed quickly.
When Bale was ruled out for the match, most would have assumed it would be his attacking play that would be missed. However it was the lack of his tireless tracking back that cost the side on Sunday. With Coleman given the run of his right flank all game, it mas almost inevitable that one of crosses found the mark for the equaliser. Dempsey naturally tucks in when going forward, meaning the right back had a free run when Everton turned over possession. In a 4-2-3-1 this wouldn’t have been such an issue, but with the 4-4-2 Spurs played, it gave Coleman far too much room. Dempsey was good going forward, and perhaps a striker needs to drop out rather than the American to combat this issue whilst Bale is out.
Tom Huddlestone and the centre of midfield
Villas-Boas sent his three subs on with a clear task - to hold onto possession in the final minutes. The first man given this role was Tom Huddlestone, and he was miles off the pace for Spurs. With passing stats of 7/12, Huddlestone gave the ball away almost as many times as he completed a pass, adding pressure to the defence who had been well screened by Dembele and Sandro for most of the match. Dembele didn’t have his best match, but he went off, the difference was marked as Spurs looked unable to keep the ball in the middle of the pitch. With Parker’s return on the horizon, Huddlestone might find himself a long way away from first team action on the back of this performance.
After all, Spurs were very close to picking up an admirable win. The trip to Goodison Park is a tough one for any side and Spurs need to regroup and focus on the next game rather than dwell on the defeat. With three home games in the next five, Spurs have a decent set of fixtures over the next few weeks and need to bounce back from this loss quickly to try and capitalise on this.
How will Scott Parker fit into the Tottenham Hotspur side?
The news that the England international has returned to action with an outing for the reserves is a welcome boost for Spurs ahead of the Christmas schedule, and Villas-Boas should try to find a system where his three excellent central midfielders have a place.
Slowly but surely, Spurs’ injured and suspended players are starting to return to action. Adebayor and Dembele are now available for first team action, with the latter starting the past couple of matches, and Parker and Assou-Ekotto are nearing a return.
Parker played 90 minutes on Tuesday night for the reserves, and could be available for the first team for most of December.
With Sandro and Dembele in excellent form, there have been questions over where Parker will slot into the side once fit. Given his own form for the side last season, Parker should be viewed as more than just backup to Dembele and Sandro and be accommodated into the side somewhere, and there are a couple of ways that Villas-Boas may look to do this.
Moving Dembele from a position he has been so successful in may seem an odd choice, but you could see the Belgian playing in the central role behind the striker that Dempsey has been given quite comfortably. This would mean that the 4-2-3-1 system could be retained whilst fitting Parker in, but I would suggest that there is perhaps a better solution.
Rather than playing 4-3-2-1, Spurs could switch to a 4-1-2-2-1, with one of Parker or Sandro playing behind two central midfielders that press higher up the pitch. I would put Parker behind Sandro and Dembele, giving those two the freedom to operate in more advanced positions. Given the mobility of Lennon, Bale and either Defoe or Adebayor ahead of them, this should result in a bank of five players pressing the opposition in their own half, whilst Spurs remain covered at the back with Parker screening the back four aided by Dembele and Sandro tracking back.
This system should also result in Spurs retaining possession better in the final third, with Dembele and Sandro both proving highly adept at holding onto the ball wherever they are on the pitch. Spurs should also be able to dominate the opposition’s midfield with Dembele, Parker and Sandro all on the pitch, and playing the three of them also gives more freedom to the full backs as Parker can cover their forward runs.
Clearly this is all hypothetical at the moment, with Parker yet to return to first team action. But if the England midfielder can reproduce his form from last season, he is too good to be left on the bench. I would love to see him added into a midfield with Sandro and Dembele, with the latter pair unleashed by his presence to go and win the ball back in the opposition’s half.
Five points for Tottenham Hotspur to take from the win over Fulham
Spurs made it three wins in a week as they triumphed 3-0 against Fulham at Craven Cottage. Is it time to start getting carried away with the side’s potential, or are there still issues that need to be addressed?
Sandro and Dembele
The Belgian made it six wins from six starts for his new club, and was once again central to Spurs efforts going, completing more passes than anyone else on the pitch. No less important was Sandro, with the Brazilian picking up his second league goal for the club and making more interceptions than any other player. Brilliant players both defensively and going forward, and firm fan’s favourites already, Spurs might have their best central midfield partnership in years.
Nothing sends a shiver down the spine of Spurs fan like seeing Gareth Bale pull up and limp off the pitch. Although the early indications are that Bale’s injury will only keep him out for 1-2 weeks, Spurs have to ensure they can maintain their momentum in his absence. Who comes into the side is the key question, with Sigurdsson and Dempsey both playing well and laying on goals from Defoe after Bale went off, and Adebayor now back from his suspension. With a tricky trip to Everton next week, if Spurs can get a result without Bale they will demonstrate the strength in depth required to challenge for 3rd or 4th.
As mentioned above, Adebayor will be available for selection next week, and the questions over Spurs’ system and Defoe’s place in it will be asked again. Four goals in three wins surely makes Defoe undroppable for the Everton match, but in the longer term Defoe is likely to only start for Spurs in a 4-4-2 system. Defoe’s excellent start to the season means it has to be given a go.
Yesterday Spurs started the match with none of their presumed first choice back four in place, and then saw another centre back taken off injured during the game. The fact they kept a clean sheet is testament to the strength in depth available at the back, but their defensive issues are still apparent. With Gallas shaky in recent weeks, and Naughton fairly solid at Fulham, the best option for the Everton match - presuming Dawson is sidelined and Walker is fit - might be to move Vertonghen into the centre, and play Naughton at left back.
Rivals stutter again
This has been a massive week for Spurs, as Villas-Boas predicted it would be. Three wins have lifted them into 4th, level on points with Chelsea in 3rd. Whilst Spurs have been doing this, all of their main rivals have been dropping points. Chelsea picked up only two points this week, as did Arsenal. Everton drew all three games they played this week, and West Brom’s bubble burst with two defeats in their last two matches. Anything can still happen this season, but if Spurs do push on to take a Champions League place, this week might have been pivotal.
Five points for Tottenham Hotspur to take from the loss to Manchester City
A second half comeback from City saw Spurs succumb to their third loss in three Premiership games, what should they look at ahead of next weekend’s North London derby.
Clint Dempsey: The American was once again largely anonymous playing off the striker, and looks unsuited for the role he has been given at Spurs. Dempsey is not a number ten able to set up the play in the final third, and his passing often lets the side down. Dempsey had no shots, completed only 19 passes in the match and made three tackles. He isn’t contributing enough, and Spurs need to either adjust his role, or try a different player.
Emmanuel Adebayor: The Togolese man was brought back to start against his old club, and was a powerhouse for Spurs. His ability to hold up the ball and draw a foul was the basis of Spurs’ lead and the striker frustrated City hugely. It’s been easy to forget just how good a player Adebayor is whilst he’s been injured, you wouldn’t expect him to be dropped again anytime soon.
Passing: Spurs were very poor on the ball, completing only 66% of 277 attempted passes. No-one expected them to go to City and dominate, especially with the injuries in the squad, but Spurs had trouble completing even the most basic of passes with regularity. Confidence is clearly in short supply, so perhaps bringing in players like Sigurdsson and Carroll, who are in theory happier playing the passing game, might be the way to go.
William Gallas: Gallas started the season very well, and was vital in matches like the win against Manchester United, but his performances have tailed off in recent weeks. It might be worth giving Naughton a go at left back and moving Vertonghen into the centre with Caulker, or bringing Dawson into the starting eleven for Gallas.
Late goals: Manchester City’s winner was the 6th late goal Spurs have conceded in their first eleven games. Two goals, Chelsea’s fourth and Reading’s consolation, haven’t affected the result, but the other four have cost Spurs six points already. There is a tendency to sit too far back in attempting to hold onto results and it invites too much pressure on the defence. Spurs should be able to control a match until the final whistle, and again it looks like a confidence issue. If they can get players fit, and settle down the system, this is something that will hopefully be addressed naturally over time.
Tottenham Hotspur need to press to bring away day success home in the league
Spurs are currently playing their best football when away from home, with players needing to show more verve and courage to make the new formation a success at home.
For many years Spurs were conspicuous for their inability to play their best football when travelling, and although this has changed a little in their successful recent years, there was still a clear disparity between the confident side at White Hart Lane and the team that went on the road.
This year, however, this has been turned on its head. Spurs have often played their best football when away, winning two out of three matches and generally looking more threatening, whilst sluggish performances at the Lane have yielded only two wins from their first five games there.
But this is something that has been true of Spurs for years, and hasn’t stopped them dominating sides at the Lane. The difference may be that Spurs players’ haven’t become entirely confident in the formation, meaning they are standing off sides a little too much. When playing 4-2-3-1 against sides who are happy to defend all match, Spurs have to push their whole side further up the pitch, with the full backs drawing in line with the likes of Sandro and Dembele to try and win the ball in the opponents half. Villas-Boas was frequently criticised for playing a high line at Chelsea, but is hasn’t been readily apparent at Spurs, and is an integral part of the formation he is playing at home.This is partly due to the formation Spurs have adopted under Andre Villas-Boas, but is more to do with new players taking a little time to settle in. With the 4-2-3-1 it is easy to settle into a counter-attacking rhythm, and this naturally yields better results when away from home, as the opponents are generally happier to attack Spurs. In broken play, players like Bale, Lennon and Defoe can be devastating with their pace and directness. At home they are often up against two banks of four, and rarely get the space to exploit that they do when away.
Linking up the midfield with the lone striker requires the whole midfield to move up the pitch, sitting back and trying to create space for the likes of Bale only works if the other team is prepared to come onto you. Spurs must throw caution to the wind and shift their team forwards as a unit to press sides at White Hart Lane. At the moment teams are forcing all the play to happen in front of them, with Bale, Lennon and Dempsey playing passes thrity yards from goal. It needs to be Dembele, Sandro, Walker and whoever is at left back that operate in that area, freeing up the attackers to make runs in front of them.
This style of play requires confidence, and so it should be something that happens naturally as the players settle in the system. Nothing creates confidence like winning in front of your fans, if Spurs can win their next two home games against Wigan and Maribor, and show more adventure in those games than before, they should be able to start playing their best football at home once again.