Tottenham’s lacklustre performance added to the woe of defeat against Fulham on Sunday.
While Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas was right not to let fatigue be an excuse for such a tepid display, the Portuguese boss has to look a little closer to home to find the person responsible for three defeats on the spin.
said Villas-Boas after the game.“Were the problems linked to the Inter game? I do not think so. We had fresh legs because we have rotated. The effort and commitment was there.”
No doubt the manager could have done without his side’s complacency in taking the match with Inter Milan to extra time, having secured a 3-0 lead in the first leg, but the defeats against Liverpool, Inter and Fulham have all included curious tactical decisions by the ex-Porto and Chelsea coach that have cost his side.
Against Liverpool AVB partnered Jake Livermore with Scott Parker. Both players are hard working ball winners, but they do not have the ability on the ball to stimulate play and create chances.
The player who can do that, Moussa Dembele, was shunted out to the right wing in the absence of Aaron Lennon and struggled to create chances. Also, both Livermore and Parker lack the positional sense to form a protective shield in front of the defence – more Parker’s fault as the older head of the two – Spurs flittered between possession that struggled to go anywhere and defensive fragility.
Switch to the Europa League game with Inter and again, Parker and Livermore played, with Dembele and Gylfi Sigurdsson out wide but cutting in. Now, two defensive midfielders to protect a 3-0 lead appears to make sense, but two defensive midfielders when you are set up to get an away goal? Senseless.
Add to this the deployment of two strikers in Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe, both who have struggled for goals and form in 2013, both who rarely look to run the channels and offer width that the midfield was never going to provide, and two players who had not played together in months and looked like they had not played together in months, and it is no surprise that Tottenham fans’ nerves were tested.
Then we come to the Fulham game. There was shock in the pubs and on the streets of Tottenham when the starting eleven was announced (I know, I was there). Is that Benoit Assou-Ekotto on the left of midfield? Is AVB going with a 5 man defence? Wing backs? Whichever one it was, the manager had decided to go with a huge change despite only having two days between the game in Milan and the one at White Hart Lane.
There are times when you can get away with such a drastic move, but it usually requires plenty of practice on the training pitch – something AVB did not have time for.
Assou-Ekotto looked a fish completely out of water. Sigurdsson struggled on the right – he’s by no means a natural winger but at least when on the left he can cut inside on to his stronger right foot.
Spurs one flying winger played the first half in the middle, then bizarrely played on the right in the second half when Defoe came on, with Adebayor playing on the left!
Fulham were resolute and deserve credit for their performance, but Tottenham made it easy for them by playing so narrow and using their best players in wrong positions. The sight of Parker bombing forward towards the box while Dembele sat deep will haunt my dreams until the summer.
The loss of Aaron Lennon, with no backup after Andros Townsend’s loan move to QPR, has hurt Spurs, and it seems their manager’s mind is clouded. He cannot see the wood for the trees.
The international break has come at the perfect time as it allows Villas-Boas the chance to clear his head, focus on what made Tottenham such a potent threat – pace and width – and also decide what to do with enigma that is Emmanuel Adebayor.
The Europa League campaign will stretch the team but Tottenham do not need the manager making things worse. If Spurs get back to basics they can get back to winning, with the chance of glory still firmly in their hands.
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