Tottenham’s defeat against Wigan Athletic at White Hart Lane has left supporters wondering if manager, Andre Villas-Boas has an alternative plan for Tottenham. The defeat shouldn’t really have come as a shock to Tottenham fans who have watched the team rise to fourth place in the Premier League, ahead of yesterday’s match, but struggle to be convincing in their performances. Since the beginning of the season, the victories and the climb up the League table have hidden a multitude of sins.
Following yesterday’s disappointing display, which had been greeted with boos from sections of the crowd at half-time and at the final whistle as well as at the decision to replace Jermain Defoe with Emmanuel Adebayor after Spurs had gone a goal down, Villas-Boas admitted his disappointment,
“It was maybe our worst performance of the season. We didn’t manage to keep the ball or pass well. We couldn’t recognise ourselves today. Wigan were superior. Our chances weren’t clear cut. There are various reasons why we played like this. The opponents were sharp and aggressive. We kept making mistakes. We played more with the heart rather than the head.”
He commented also on the fans expressing their feelings.
“The fans can show their frustrations……We do things for the benefit of the team. The fans want to win but we want to win as much as them.”
It hasn’t been an easy task for Andre Villas-Boas since taking over at Tottenham.
- The team had finished fourth last season and expectations were running high. The Coach, however, lost two very influential and creative players in Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart. The replacements that Villas-Boas had hoped Spurs would sign didn’t materialise and so he was left to work with a weakened squad and one that was unbalanced – with an abundance of goalkeepers and central defenders but lacking in strikers and creative midfield players.
- Injuries have added to Villas-Boas’ difficulties with Scott Parker, Younes Kaboul, Mousa Dembele, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Jake Livermore missing and now there are concerns over Sandro who had to be replaced against Wigan.
- The absence of Emmanuel Adebayor through minor knocks has also posed problems and uncertainty.
- Last season Clint Dempsey scored 23 goals for Fulham and Gylfi Sigurdsson got 7 for Swansea in only 19 matches. When they didn’t sign an additional striker in the summer, Spurs were expecting both players to contribute goals from midfield this season but neither has settled well into the team. Dempsey is a pale shadow of the player who so often caused Spurs problems while at Craven Cottage. Sigurdsson who is only 23 years of age is taking time to adapt to his new club.
Selection and Formation
Villas-Boas has been very rigid in his selection policy and formation. He has been loyal to the team which has brought the results so far this season, standing by the old sporting maxim, ‘don’t change a winning team’ but on occasions those wins weren’t at all convincing. He has also persisted with his favoured formation of 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 but especially at home, it has appeared rather defensive allowing teams to defend easily against a lone striker. The fans’ annoyance at the substitution against Wigan of Defoe being replaced by Adebayor was at the refusal to be a little more adventurous and have two strikers on the pitch. The argument for taking Defoe off because he had shown little in the game was legitimate but he had had no service when faced with three central defenders. Support from Adebayor might have created additional opportunities for him.
Issues Facing Andre Villas-Boas
- Defence: Spurs have failed to keep a clean sheet in all but three matches – Aston Villa, Carlisle and Lazio. In the last three games they have conceded four goals, all from corners and free-kicks. Plus in the game against Chelsea the crucial opening goal also came from a corner. In recent matches, the defence has switched off and players have made individual errors.
- Midfield (Defensively): Without Dembele, Tottenham have lost their controller, Sandro works hard but doesn’t bring the same presence to a game.
- Midfield (Creatively): the absence of Gareth Bale showed the limitations of Spurs creatively against Chelsea. Spurs rely on Bale and Aaron Lennon to create something from the wings but it is difficult with only one striker in the penalty area. Also, Wigan were very effective in denying both players any space by playing five players across the midfield. It restricted their room to play and there was no space for them to run in to as there was always a central defender there to sweep up any danger behind the midfield.
- Striker: Defoe has scored five goals and worked hard in the lone striker role. He, however, received no service from the midfield against Wigan and high balls in his direction were pointless with three central defenders in constant attendance to head them clear. Adebayor was a little more effective in his time on the pitch and it was easier for the midfield players to play the ball to him.
It is a difficult time for Villas-Boas to consider any major change within the team as there are thirteen matches to be played in the next two months. All are crucial to Tottenham’s season starting with the home game against NK Maribor. It is a must win match if Spurs are to progress beyond the Group stages of the Europa League while the next two League games are away to Manchester City and Arsenal. Following those is the away game against Lazio with two League games at home to West Ham United and Liverpool. December is no easier with the crucial Christmas and New Year period.
For the present, the manager will probably continue to assess the situation and maintain his policy on selection and formation in the hope that the defeat against Wigan was a one-off and that the team can recover its balance and shape in order to return to winning ways.