There’s been a fair bit of criticism for Tottenham following their 0-0 draw with Everton. Second place was there for the taking for either side, but the two teams canceled each other out and a draw was ultimately a fair result.
Focusing solely on the North London outfit, there seems to be a general consensus that a draw was an opportunity missed. Even though Everton have an impeccable record at Goodison Park as of late, there is a view amongst some that after their summer investments, Tottenham should be winning games like this. Maybe at this point they should be blowing teams away with vibrant attacking football? And despite an impressive points tally, just the nine goals in ten games is a statistic that has put the worries up some.
I wouldn’t buy into that. From this standpoint Spurs are looking like a side with a clear, long-term vision and based on early evidence, they have an excellent framework in place to develop into a top class team.
Focusing on the defensive side, off the ball Spurs were supremely well drilled at Goodison Park. And this is a facet of their game that has become increasingly pertinent in the early knockings of the season. Whilst they may not press in cavalier fashion like Southampton, they do so in a manner which is just as effective.
They have bags of pace in wide areas, which allows them to shut down the opposition full-backs sharply, subsequently squeezing the play and strangling the passing lanes. Then, the energy and anticipatory skills of Paulinho and Sandro come to the fore. They both equally adept at nicking the ball back and winning tackles, making the Spurs midfield look impenetrable at times. For teams that look to pass the ball out from the back, it is hugely difficult to inject any kind of rhythm into their play.
Villas-Boas has clearly embossed his authority on the team in pre-season, and this wholly evident when you look at the major improvement in their shape and pressing. They look tenacious, savvy and intelligent in their defensive play.
It’s even more remarkable when you consider the facelift the side has undergone this summer. To instil that level of discipline into a team containing so many new faces must be difficult, but the Portuguese boss has done exactly that. Sandro has ousted Mousa Dembele from the side, and he provides an enormous shielding presence in the middle of the park.
Vlad Chiriches also looks a super acquisition; the young Romanian has slotted seamlessly into the Spurs back four in recent weeks and has all the attributes the modern game demands of a central defender. Jan Vertonghen, Michael Dawson and Hugo Lloris have also started the campaign in sparkling form giving the Spurs goal an air of invincibility.
Whilst the meanness of the Tottenham defense is an overwhelming positive, on the flipside, the team has suffered with some aforementioned attacking difficulties. A serious concern for many, it seems. But Spurs’ stinginess in front of goal won’t last.
Typically, flair players find it much more difficult to adapt to the Premier League than physical, defensive-minded imports. The respective performances of Tottenham’s signings are an archetypal representation of that.
Whilst players like Paulinho and Chiriches have initially blossomed, none of the club’s attacking acquisitions have really caught fire as of yet. We’ve seen glimpses of Christian Eriksen’s quality, who Villas-Boas has looked to ease into the Premier League. Roberto Soldado is by no means an aggressive forward and has struggled to cope with the physicality of the English game, whilst Erik Lamela has also spoke of how he is finding it difficult to adapt.
But these players are top class talents. At some point this season, Villas Boas will see fit to unleash the likes of Lamela and Eriksen on a regular basis and in doing so, relieve Spurs of their proverbial shackles. This in turn will knit the offensive unit together in much more fluent fashion and by doing so, facilitate the best of Soldado, who is currently looking a little starved of service.
When Villas-Boas does see fit to unleash his creative schemers, the Spurs will have an ideal framework within which these flair players can flourish. The aforementioned talents will have to become accustomed to Tottenham’s high-intensity defensive style no doubt, but they will be able to express themselves safe in the knowledge that there is a formidable midfield, a mean defense and a top-class keeper in support.
Villas-Boas is resisting the urge to throw in the likes of Lamela and Eriksen, and whilst the attacking benefits of this may not be immediately obvious, the team will reap the rewards in the long term. It’s worth noting that Lamela, Tottenham’s record signing, struggled in his first year in Italy before turning in some blistering displays in his second campaign.
Patience is the order of the day here. With a refreshed squad, young signings and a progressive manager, Spurs are going about their business with longevity in mind. When this side truly blossoms, it’ll be worth the wait.
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