Mauricio Pochettino needs to reevaluate his wing options after another poor performance from wingers Erik Lamela and Andros Townsend hindered Tottenham Hotspur's attacking effectiveness in the 2-2 draw with West Ham United at White Hart Lane on Sunday.
In the Spurs head coach's preferred 4-2-3-1 system, he needs his two wide attackers to contribute in the build up and the conclusion of attacking moves, providing service to the lone striker and also support the forward as the play develops.
This must also be combined with defensive duties such as covering the Lilywhites full-backs and pressing the opposition high up the pitch, and deciding when to hug the touchline and offer width and when to come inside and get on the ball, the roles are arguably the most critical in terms of making the fluid system work.
Plenty of options
Pochettino started the season with plenty of wide options, with record signing Lamela, Belgium international Nacer Chadli, and England internationals Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend, with Christian Eriksen also able to play wide when required but far more effective when played centrally.
Chadli started the season fantastically and has improved his goal scoring record impressively from last term. The former Twente player only scored once in the Premier League last season but has seven this time round.
While Chadli has improved his record, the same cannot be said of the other three. Lennon has been loaned out to Everton for the second half of the season and his permanent departure from White Hart Lane seems only a matter of time.
Although only 27, the ex-Leeds academy graduate has flattered to deceive for too long and while his work rate can be impressive, he offers far too little forward penetration for a player with so much speed.
Townsend offers another speedy option but has too many deficiencies in his game. Mainly played on the right, he can cut inside too often and narrow up the play; he can add unnecessary complications to his game, shunning space and turning into men.
He does not always deliver the ball as quick as he can, adding to Tottenham's struggles to play at a high tempo and exploit any openings in the opposition's defence; and finally his touch can be terrible and send him in the wrong directions.
His four goals in all competitions for Spurs this season marks his best return in his career, but includes three penalties. Turning 24 this summer, the Spurs fan should be approaching his peak but his record shows he does not offer enough for Pochettino in this system. Perhaps the system asks too much from Townsend and he would deliver more playing as a traditional winger on the left.
And finally to Erik Lamela. A couple of years younger, at 22, the £30million signing from Roma has struggled ever since his move to England two years ago. His first season was marred with injury and he only made nine league appearances. However, he has now played over 50 times for Spurs and has only five goals.
That is a disappointing return, and his performance against West Ham was another of promising signs but ultimately little product, with the Argentine running into trouble, taking up poor positions and being brushed off the ball too easily.
Lamela has never really looked at home on the right flank. He is an attacker, and despite added some tenacity and determination to his game he still does not have the natural defensive instincts to help out his full back. Going forward, he moves inside in search of the ball too often, congesting the play, and when on the ball he runs into crowded areas and does not have the physical stature to power through players.
When he gets the ball in the penalty area, with little time to mull over his decisions, Lamela looks a different player and it is perhaps in a more advanced role, devoid of the defensive tasks save pressing the opposition, then the former River Plate player might shine.
The players are not performing to their best levels, so it might be a case that the system does not suit them. Certainly at home, against teams that sit deep with ten men behind the ball, the single striker system can mean not enough Tottenham players get into the box, and too many are drawn deep to the ball like moths to a flame.
As Pochettino slims down the playing squad and signs players that suit his preferred system better, perhaps he will introduce new set-ups into his side's thinking. At the moment, Spurs are flying without wings.
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