Andre Villas-Boas has from the outset stressed the importance of the Europa League to the club this season, regarding it as essential preparation for players with aspirations for Champions League next year. He must, therefore, be disappointed that in three matches, Tottenham have failed to win any of them. They could have won all three but equally, haven’t deserved to win any of them apart from, perhaps, the home game against Lazio. The manager’s disappointment with the results and performances, however, will be set aside as he takes encouragement from a number of positives from last night’s match against NK Maribor in Slovenia.
Positives for AVB
- In normal circumstances, three points from three matches would have left Tottenham looking at an early exit from the competition but because Group J has been so close, there is still everything to play for. Panathinaikos’ late equaliser against Lazio prevented the Italian team from taking a commanding position in the group and opening up a three point lead over second placed Maribor. All four teams are covered by three points with Lazio on five points and fourth placed Panathinaikos on two. So, despite Tottenham’s indifferent performances they are still very much in contention for qualification to the knock-out stages.
- The team missed Gareth Bale but some players earned credit for their performances. Steven Caulker showed good reading of the game while Kyle Naughton made a good return from injury and his diagonal passes to Aaron Lennon on the right wing were well executed.
- Sandro worked tirelessly for Spurs, defending across the midfield but also moving forward in search of an opening. It was his first half shot which came closest to putting Spurs ahead while his header on the edge of the penalty area from Tom Huddlestone’s chip fell to Defoe but his shot went over.
- Iago Falque made a good impression when introduced at half-time and Tottenham’s attacking threat in the second half frequently came from him on the left. It was his driven cross which led to the equalising goal scored by Sigurdsson. The goalkeeper could only push out the cross towards Jermain Defoe whose shot rebounded off a defender to the goalscorer.
- Defensively Spurs have resources available to mix and match, as required, with Jan Vertonghen returning to central defence.
Concerns for Villas-Boas
- The ponderous nature of the team’s play – Spurs lacked pace and drive without Bale. Aaron Lennon was double marked and had few opportunities to run at his defender.
- Spurs lacked a player capable of a pass to unlock the disciplined Maribor defence. Jermain Defoe was starved of service throughout the game without a clear opening being created.
- The team’s reliance on Bale. As on Saturday, the team lacked the spark that his running and pace brings to a game and the pressure it creates for the opposition when he’s on the ball.
Through the opening twelve matches of the season, Villas-Boas has persisted with his 4 – 2 -3 – 1 formation and kept faith with the same nucleus of players, only making changes to cover injuries and other absences. It may be time for the manager to consider other options and produce a Plan B by making changes to formation and personnel.
Should AVB persist with his current position or should he consider changes to the team?