After conceding six goals against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium last weekend, how will Andre Villas-Boas shake up his Tottenham team for the game against United at White Hart Lane tomorrow?
The Tottenham manager knows that another performance against United like the one his team gave last weekend could put his position at White Hart Lane under serious threat. One heavy defeat released an avalanche of pressure on AVB from both supporters and the media. Villas-Boas has to find a balance in the team between his defensive tendencies and the need for greater creativity to provide goalscoring opportunities. He knows that the performance will be just as important as the result although a win over United would go a long way to lift the spirit of fans and players.
AVB regularly chops and changes his team so what combination of players will he decide upon this weekend? It’s hard to know if there’s any significance in the players who played in Norway on Thursday evening or of those who remained in London rather than make the long journey inside the Arctic Circle. Some suggest that Jermain Defoe’s absence with a slight injury concern, was an indication that he could start against United.
Hugo Lloris who contributed to last weekend’s poor display with his erratic kicking which set the tone for the Spurs’ display inside the opening 14 seconds, will obviously return in goal. Hopefully, he will be back at his best.
The back four never settled throughout the game and with Danny Rose still expected to be absent, there is the problem of who to play at left back. In order to allow Jan Vertonghen to return to his preferred central defensive role where he can have greatest influence on the team, I would use Kyle Naughton at left-back. His role in that position would be restricted to defensive duties as he offers little going forward on the left wing and frequently gets caught up-field when the opposition counter-attack. Kyle Walker would return at right back. The option for a central defensive partner for Vertonghen should go to Vlad Chiriches. He has impressed when selected while neither Michael Dawson nor Younes Kaboul have been at their best this season.
Spurs dominated possession in the match last Sunday, as they have all season, but did little to ruffle the composure of the City defence or create any goalscoring opportunities. i would opt for Sandro and Etienne Capoue as the defensive midfield players. They are competitive and have the pace to cover as well as support when going forward. Mousa Dembele has been in and out of the team this season, frequently coming off the bench. He played one of his best games against Tromso and made a difference to the team when he came on last weekend although it was too late to change the game. He should be used in a more forward position in the centre of the attacking midfield trio. On either side I would play Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon. Lennon on the right and Townsend on the left. In that way the opportunity to deliver accurate crosses onto the area for the lone striker would be greater and with their pace they would be a constant threat to the United defenders.
I would stay with Roberto Soldado. The lack of service to the striker has been a problem all season and neither Defoe nor Adebayor would have had any more success in the goalscoring stakes. Some who regularly lambast Defoe are now calling for his return but I feel that with service Soldado will get goals and his current failure is not solely down to him, it’s due to the team’s inability to deliver a pass to him in the penalty area where he is most effective. Until that prolem is resolved, it wouldn’t matter who Spurs played as striker, they wouldn’t score.
Team: Lloris; Walker, Chiriches, Vertonghen, Naughton; Sandro, Capoue; Lennon, Dembele, Townsend; Soldado
What will AVB do?
Play Vertonghen at left back with either Dawson or Kabul to partner Chiriches. Paulinho will play with Sandro in the defensive midfield role while if both Lennon and Townsend play, it will be on the opposite sides. Defoe’s absence on Thursday could indicate that he will start tomorrow while the position behind the lone striker, is up for grabs as no-one has yet filled it successfully or consistently this season.
Whatever team starts against United, they will need to show a greater application and appetite for the game than last weekend or Spurs could be facing another very uncomfortable afternoon against a United team coming into form with Wayne Rooney playing a major part in their revival after a disappointing opening to the season under David Moyes.