Man United v Spurs: Why Change a Winning Side?
That’s the question I was asking as soon as the team news came out and we saw Harry Redknapp had moved Benoit Assou-Ekotto from left back to right back; Gareth Bale from left midfield to left back, and Luka Modric from center midfield to left midfield. All to accomodate the return to action of Wilson Palacios from a two game suspension, which left Younes Kaboul (who had been at right back for the last two matches) starting on the bench.
Aside from a great team spirit, Spurs had a wonderful balance in the side for the home matches against Arsenal and Chelsea; Bale marauding up and down the left hand side, helping out defensively while also serving as the main outlet in the attack. Modric and Tom Huddlestone providing calm on the ball in the center of the park; even though both are rather suspect defensively, the Spurs team defended wonderfully as a unit: from Gomes being in the form of his Spurs career at the back, to Michael Dawson dominating everything in the air and on the ground (get the man an England cap already!). Even Kaboul, though not first choice as a right back, performed adequately enough there, in a position he has a good amount of experience with from his Portsmouth days.
I see the point of adding Palacios away at Old Trafford, but Assou-Ekotto should have never been asked to play right back. It’s somewhat ironic to me as a Spurs fan, that a year ago we seemingly had 52 right backs on the roster, and today we went in starting with a converted left-back there, and ended with slotting in a defensive midfielder there (Palacios). Is it any wonder the two penalties Spurs gave away were both by the out-of-position right backs?
Obviously it’s easy to second guess after the fact, but I would’ve kept Bale and Assou-Ekotto down the left with Kaboul at RB. Bale at left back can work against lower sides which provide Spurs time and space to pick out passes, but you want Bale in midfield against the tougher teams, as then it greatly eases his defensive duties and allows him to get forward. It’s no wonder Spurs looked much more dangerous in the second half when Bale was moved back to midfield. If I had to start Palacios, I would’ve either put five in midfield, sacrificing either Jermain Defoe or Roman Pavlyuchenko, or left out David Bentley (hopefully with Lennon finally back we’ve seen the last of him for the season), and moved Modric to the right.
But ideally, I would’ve left Palacios on the bench to start, and used the same team shape that defeated Arsenal and Chelsea. After all, why change a winning side?