Will Andre Villas-Boas spring any surprises in his team selection, formation or tactics for Sunday’s important match against Manchester City at The Etihad Stadium?
1. Emmanuel Adebayor
Last season, for Tottenham’s match at City just over twelve months ago, AVB surprised everyone by introducing Emmanuel Adebayor into his starting line-up for the first time in the Premier League. He had started the previous game, a Europa League match, playing alongside Jermain Defoe who scored a hat-trick.
For the City game, AVB opted for Adebayor as the lone striker and playing against his former club provided all the motivation the striker needed. For the first half Adebayor was a constant threat to the City central defenders who were struggling to cope with him and at the interval Spurs were a goal ahead. After half-time, City re-organised and the striker was less effective probably due to lack of match fitness having played so infrequently in the opening months of last season.
Could AVB consider a similar option this year? Adebayor has played no part in any game this season so it seems unlikely that the coach would take such a risk. In his press conference, reported by the Daily Express, AVB did talk about Adebayor who has been training with the first team squad and mentioned him as a possibility for the lone striker role. He said,
We have two performing strikers – Ade has not had chance to get into the team yet but I am sure he will perform when he does…..It is even a possibility Ade could play the game. It will be the decision that is best for the team and best for the strategy.
Decision Time: Yes/No?
No – Adebayor is, at best, likely to be included among the substitutes.
2. Formation Change
AVB has stuck rigidly to his favoured team formation this season, home and away. The 4-2-3-1 team set-up has brought a tight defence which has conceded only 6 goals, the second lowest in the Premier League. In the Europa League and Capital One Cup, they have conceded only 3 goals in a total of 8 matches – very un-Tottenham statistics. The goals for column in the league is also very unlike Spurs with 9 goals from the 11 matches.
Creative, attacking football has been sacrificed for defensive security this season.
Away from home, Spurs have conceded only one goal in the defeat at Arsenal. The other matches have produced wins at Palace, Cardiff and Villa with a draw at Everton. AVB will obviously be very satisfied with that return, it is the home games which are a problem to him. In the press conference, reported by the Daily Express, he talked about different formations and admitted that they had trained with 4-4-2 this week, using Adebayor. He said,
We have trained 4-4-2 this week and played a local game…..We can revert to it in the future. But I am not sure now is the right time because we have been very consistent defensively.
Manchester City have the perfect home record – unbeaten in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium with 5 wins, 20 goals scored, 2 against.
Decision Time: Yes/No?
No – Faced with such statistics I expect AVB will be very reluctant to tamper with the team formation which has proved so successful away from home. Again, if looking to change things around during the game, he may try 4-4-2 late on as a last resort.
3. Erik Lamela
The injury to Christian Eriksen while playing for Denmark last week, has reduced AVB’s options for the creative midfield role behind a lone striker. Many supporters would like to see Erik Lamela given the chance to fill that role. Previously, he has played on the right side of the midfield three, cutting in to the middle.
Against FC Sheriff in the last European game, Lamela had his best performance for Spurs. He scored his first goal and also won the penalty for the second. His running and skill on the ball were a constant problem for the Moldovan team’s defenders who were forced into making tackles they would have preferred not to have made, giving away free-kicks in dangerous positions.
Many thought he deserved to be included in the team against Newcastle but it was Eriksen who was preferred. Now with the Dane injured, AVB must decide who will take on that creative role. He has a number of options apart from Lamela, with Lewis Holtby, Mousa Dembele or Paulinho possibly coming into consideration.
Decision Time: Yes/No?
No – not for this game but AVB will have to give Lamela a chance soon or risk losing him. The Argentine will not be prepared to sit out the whole season without playing in the Premier League.
4. Two Wingers
Could AVB use two attacking wide players. He took that option at Everton and for the first half, Spurs had the better of the game, forcing Everton back and causing them problems. He used Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon on the right and left respectively. My only concern was that he persisted with them on the ‘wrong’ side throughout. He should have tried having them on the opposite sides so that they could get to the bye-line and put in crosses for Roberto Soldado in the penalty area.
Decision Time: Yes/No
Yes – but hopefully he’ll be prepared to play Lennon on the right side – the right! Using the two wingers would cause problems for the City full backs, ensuring they aren’t given the freedom to get forward themselves. It would also provide pace for Spurs’ counter-attacking game.