After the international break, Tottenham return to the Premier League with a match against Norwich City at White Hart Lane on Saturday afternoon which provides a few selection dilemmas for Andre Villas-Boas.With the summer of transfer dealings over, Andre Villas-Boas knows the squad of players he has to work with over the next few months. Six points after the opening three games has been a positive start and Spurs will be hoping to put the reverse against Arsenal behind them and move on to better things. Those three games, however, identified a few issues which AVB will have been pondering during the international break and with three new players available for selection he will be trying to find a balance in his team.
- Tottenham’s two goals in the Premier League have come from penalties so in the three matches, they have yet to create a goal from open play.
- The intensity and commitment of the north London derby appeared to take some of the new signings by surprise.
- A lack of creativity from the powerful midfielders.
Selection Dilemma 1
Central Defence – If all are fit, AVB has four international central defenders to choose from. Jan Vertonghen would be an automatic choice but who will partner him? Many supporters like the total commitment of Michael Dawson in a Spurs shirt. As captain, he gives his all in every game but he was caught out at Arsenal and there have been a few uncertain moments with his distribution from the back so his place may be in jeopardy. The signing of Vlad Chiriches who captained Romania in the two internationals in the past week creates competition in central defence and while AVB may prefer to give him time to settle into the club, he will be wanting regular football as will Younes Kaboul as soon as he regains full match fitness.
One solution to the abundance of central defenders could be to move Vertonghen to left back in place of Danny Rose. That would be hard on Rose who has done quite well in the early games but his lack of height at the back post is something teams are looking to exploit. Vertonghen would help to solve that problem but while he plays at full back for Belgium and will play there in an emergency he doesn’t want to do it regular basis.
Selection Dilemma 2
Midfield - The injury to Etienne Capoue who will be out for another few weeks may allow AVB to try something different in midfield in the coming weeks. Spurs had a powerful central midfield of Paulinho, Mousa Dembele and Capoue with Sandro to come off the bench against Arsenal. The sheer strength and power of that midfield trio wasn’t enough at the Emirates and the arrival of Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen will provide AVB with options to bring greater creativity into the team. How he does that will be interesting with Aaron Lennon, Nacer Chadli and Andros Townsend also looking for a starting place.
The early summer signings were designed to make Tottenham into a strong, competitive team with good back-up players to call upon when necessary. That alone was shown to be insufficient to provide goal scoring opportunities so some way will have to be found to accommodate more creative players. Lamela made a brief appearance against Arsenal and he with Eriksen would bring a difference to the dynamics of the team with the ability to run at players, forcing defenders into mistakes, and produce the unexpected.
I doubt that Villas-Boas will introduce both of his creative players against Norwich but certainly one will probably start the game.
Team for Norwich:
Hugo Lloris – in spite of his uncustomary lapses for France against Belarus
Kyle Walker – a difficult evening for England in Ukraine but he had little support and was expected to get forward on the right
Michael Dawson – will continue at present but he is under severe pressure from both Kaboul and Chiriches
Jan Vertonghen – a certainty to start but will it be in central defence?
Danny Rose – at the moment will probably retain his position
Paulinho – learning about Premier League football quickly and scored for Brazil against Australia
Mousa Dembele – Sandro will be pushing him for a place and the Belgian was only a substitute for for his country last week
Christian Eriksen – would like to see him play in a central creative role behind Soldado
Andros Townsend – on the strength of his good performances so far he could start against Norwich
Roberto Soldado – needs service to score but when he gets it, he will deliver as he demonstrated for Spain against Chile
Nacer Chadli – starting on the left but needs to be deliver more crosses from the left for Soldado and not leave it to Rose.
- In reserve Andre Villas-Boas could have a very strong bench including Sandro, Erik Lamela, AaronLennon (if fit), Gylfi Sigurdsson, Lewis Holtby and Vlad Chiriches.
Twelve months ago, AVB was hoping for a win against Norwich in his second match at White Hart Lane. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen with Norwich scoring a late equaliser so hopefully, Spurs will be able to do it this time and get the three points against Chris Hughton’s team on Saturday.