Not everyone impressed and a draw against a League Two side is nothing to write home about, however, there were some encouraging signs from Tottenham Hotspurs’ first preseason friendly.
It was only one match with mostly academy players so it is difficult to draw conclusions from the first preseason friendly for Tottenham Hotspur. However, with the Spurs featuring for the first time under new Head Coach Nuno Espirito Santo, we are definitely looking for changes in the team. Fortunately, despite not getting the result we wanted, there was a lot to be encouraged by as the Lilywhites did show some positive signs.
The youth is coming along for Tottenham
Maybe the most encouraging takeaway from the preseason draw with Leyton Orient is the talent within the Tottenham Hotspur Academy. Nuno Santo started the match with five academy players and finished the match with a completely different set of 11 players, all from the youth teams.
Sure the lads gave up a tying goal in the second half but making mass changes at 10 positions simultaneously will break up whatever continuity may have existed.
It was not just about the number of young players either, it was also about their performance. Dane Scarlett was good in hour-plus leading the line and scoring a fine goal. Nile John held his own in the midfield and shows the pantry is not empty behind Oliver Skipp in the deep midfield.
In the back Cesay Kallum played a good match at left-back, managing to get forward on several occasions. And while not an academy player, academy graduate Alfie Whiteman did have a fine save in the second half, despite giving up the goal.
Of course, most of these young players are not likely to see any real playing time this season, some like Scarlett are almost certain to have a part to play for the Spurs squad. We definitely still want and need to sign new players but it is good to see some talent in the ranks.
Tottenham was looking to go forward
The Spurs were by no means Carlos Ancellotis’ 2009/10 Chelsea in the attack but the performance was a far cry from much of last season. Whereas last season, Tottenham often sat back waiting for the other team to make a mistake and then pounce, the LIlywhites were much more aggressive both on and off the ball against Leyton Orient.
Tottenham attempted several long balls over the top just missing on a couple of occasions where Lawrence Viouroux was just fast enough off his line to get to the ball first. Those passes may not have connected but they kept the defense honest and kept the keeper on his toes. Not all Premier League keepers are that aggressive coming off their lines meaning in season, some of those balls may do even more.
Additionally, we saw the return of the through ball, something not used enough by Tottenham last year. The goal Spurs scored was an excellent first time through ball from Lucas Moura to Scarlett, who finished superbly.
The long balls over the top help to stretch the defense, however, it is the through ball up the seam that often splits defenders and creates opportunity, it was nice to see such passes being attempted.
Finally, Tottenham did get a little bit of service from the wings. While neither Maksim Paskotsi nor Kallum was Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold; they did look to push up and get in the attack. Most importantly they did so without selling out the two center-backs, finding times to pick and choose making runs forward versus standing out at midfield.
The Spurs are getting there physically
Tottenham has simply been too easy to beat physically over the last couple of seasons. While Spurs were not dominant by any stretch they were solid physically and showed they are going to play a more physical style.
Dele Alli in particular was both fit and more importantly did a better job of staying on his feet. When players are fit and strong it takes more to knock them off the ball, meaning there are fewer dives and hopefully more calls the Spurs way as a result.
This newfound fitness could also be seen in some of the efforts on the pitch as well. Just minutes before coming off, there was Dele clearing the ball defensively in the box and then racing up the pitch to try and win the ball back that was not held by the attackers. As Steven Bergwijn stood and watched, Dele went for the ball and won a foul to get it back.
Again, this is a small sample size but for Dele in particular to show that drive to get up and down the pitch and most importantly stay on his feet is a big deal. A new mentality starts within and signs of it were apparent on Saturday, which was something we really wanted to see.
So what did you think, were there other positives to take away from the first friendly of the season?