Tottenham need a defensive leader
Tottenham opinion: 4-1 extra-time defeat against Inter Milan highlights Spurs' mental fragility
Tottenham qualified for the Europa League quarter-finals despite losing 4-1 to Inter Milan last week. That performance highlights the fact Spurs require another defensive leader.
The north London outfit are proud of their traditions and the way they play football. It is a club where passing and beautiful football has always been valued, often even at the expense of winning games.
The gung-ho approach has been synonymous with the club during the Premier League era.
Just think of the great strikers the club has had – Jürgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham, Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane just to name a few. I bet most Spurs fans can’t name many top-level defenders at the club comparable in stature to those great strikers.
During the past couple seasons that philosophy has been evident in the transfer market as well. Spurs have been piling up on good attacking midfielders, while the destroyer types are generally avoided.
In the game against Inter Milan, it showed. The whole team seemed distracted and confused, allowing Inter far too much time on the ball. They didn’t have someone to win the ball back quickly to launch counter attacks.
The high-pressing game that head coach Andre Villas-Boas prefers is usually quite effective in regaining possession of the ball, but the defending as a whole in that game was still quite poor. It was probably more mental than anything else.
Also, the team lacked a great leader on the pitch, someone vocal and one who leads by example. William Gallas had been tasked with that but, performance-wise, it was one of his worst games in the Lillywhite shirt.
Their previous manager, Harry Redknapp, said many times that you can’t have too many leaders. This summer, Spurs lost their long-serving captain and defensive lynchpin Ledley King, a man who instilled calm and authority on the team.
While they replaced him with a worthy successor in Jan Vertonghen, he appears to have the skill and calm required to become captain at the club but, at the moment, seems to lack some leadership skills, which may yet develop.
Every top team has their leaders on the pitch and Tottenham have many potential ones. Michael Dawson is the current captain and certainly a good leader, while Scott Parker is also hugely experienced and and has even captained England.
Gareth Bale, meanwhile, leads by example and could be captain material as well. The truth is that the squad as a whole is still quite young and keep learning and growing together with each game.
For those young players the loss at Inter Milan will serve as a good wake-up call and also a reminder of what not to do.
Spurs will come out of this more stronger and more experienced.
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