A breakthrough performance on Thursday. Previously, young Tom had looked technically accomplished but had a touch of the Carrick about him – lovely passing, but not making the most of his ability. A lot of sideways balls, ‘tidy’ would be the word I’d use. Understandable for a young kid just starting his career, but hopefully more was to come. On Thursday, in a two man central midfield, Tom not only showed that he wants to be involved in the play, but he showed a range of passing that was not only accurate but very productive.
His assist for Defoe’s second is a prime example of this. He was on his toes, anticipated the loose ball and had already read the situation, and played a perfect first time through ball.
I was not that disappointed to see Carrick move on because I felt he always acted within his comfort zone, very deep and not making enough of his vision. Huddlestone has a fantastic range of passing and is a touch more direct than Carrick, but lacks authority and sharpness. While it is still early Carroll is showing signs he could usurp both of those England internationals, and that is very exciting.
Far happier with a partner with him, especially someone who can offer a physical presence and let JD focus on moving into goalscoring positions. His hattrick was a display of goal getting instinct and great finishing.
His omission from Sunday’s game meant his stock rose a little higher, absence making the heart grow fonder. While I completely agree with AVB’s decision to go with Adebayor, if not some of his other decisions, it would not be a bad thing if some Spurs fans appreciated Defoe a little more.
Immense in a generally poor performance on Sunday. Ahead of Parker in the DM pecking order.
Finally, the switch to 4-4-2 against weak opposition. It took a shellacking from Wigan for AVB to show a little flexibility, and obviously having Adebayor fit and ready helped, but it has been long overdue. For the first time this season we looked like Spurs at their best – high tempo, great wing play, and while it was not quite polished our attacking play looked more effective than it has at White Hart Lane (and we scored a goal at the Park Lane!)
Fans had called for the change from the struggling 4-2-3-1, and the players looked a lot happier in roles they fully understood. More men in the box, more options up the field, a direct threat to complement our fine passing, Thursday was reminiscent of so many games at the Lane last season.
Scored on Sunday, and I’d expect him to get a debut cap on Wednesday in Sweden. Hodgson has tended to call players up so he can see them train, and then on their second call up they play. If it were not for the U21’s playoff Caulker would probably have made his full international debut already.
I don’t think he has had a bad week, but the perception in the media and with some fans (disappointingly) is that AVB has made several errors and someone else (can’t imagine who) would have thrashed City in a blaze of fast paced attacking play.
He switched to 4-4-2 because the fans booed against Wigan, he picked Adebayor instead of Defoe (although Adebayor did pretty well) and he let a lead slip at the home of the undefeated champions.
The ex-Porto man needs a thick skin because until he wins a cup or gets us in the Champions League every defeat will be followed by criticism and ridicule. If we win at the Emirates on Saturday everyone will be back on his side, but a loss in Rome or against West Ham and the knives will be out yet again.
Against Maribor we saw a great example of top class wing play. On Sunday we saw an ego getting out of control. Bale was anonymous on Saturday – part of that was his fault because he did not work hard enough, the other part was some very poor passing from others. However, while both Bale and Lennon struggled to get into the game at all, Lennon at least helped Walker out defensively. Bale was too often ambling around the pitch, leaving Vertonghen isolated and exposed, and numerous City attacks came down out left flank.
We cannot expect Bale to destroy full back after full back, day in day out, but when the game is not going his way he needs to put the work in for the team, and to put it simply he could not be bothered on sunday.
The 4-2-3-1 system seems to alter Bale’s mentality. He is always looking for the next counter attack, that’s fine, but in this system he seems to think the ‘2’ behind him will do all the donkey work and he can abandon any concerns over defence.
It’s not his preferred position, and he has played nearly every game, but Super Jan’s performances at left back are looking increasingly ragged. His positioning is getting looser and he is struggling in one on ones. No doubt a little help from those further ahead of him (see above) would have helped but I feel Jan is getting a bit tetchy at playing out of position for fear of being stuck there for the rest of the season. Benny’s return and Jan’s move back to the centre can not come soon enough.
A victim of the system, Clint looks a little boy lost at the moment. AVB needs to either clarify the role he wants the player in that position behind the striker to fill, or change the system. Problem for Clint is can he play in our preferred setup?
Outshone by Carroll on Thursday, Tom’s passing went to pot at Eastlands. His set piece delivery was excellent, and I enjoyed seeing him break forward on one counter and fizz a shot just wide in the first half, but overall if the Hudd’s passing is off he doesn’t bring much else to the side.
In Thursday’s program he said he hoped he would score this season – if I was AVB I would be telling him I expect a player in his position to score at least five goals, not just one!
No one formation or tactic is completely useless. The 4-4-2, generally out of vogue at the moment, can be the perfect set-up in certain circumstances and played in a certain way. AVB deserves some credit for looking to improve our general tactics, and how many times did we cry out for Redknapp to show more tactical nous, but at the moment the system AVB wants to play does not suit the players we have.
Hopefully he has now learnt that 4-4-2 (or at least playing with two natural strikers to go with our two wingers) is the way for us to go against weak teams who we should control, and something different is needed when playing against higher quality teams, especially away from home.
Problem is, the midfield looks all at sea in his default formation. When we need to get the ball the pressing is too slack. The striker has to work too hard, invariably giving up as you would, the three behind are too far away from the defenders and deep lying midfielders to force them into mistakes or make interceptions, the central two are too deep to shut off space, and the defence tries to play an offside trap when there is no pressure on the ball. Wigan cut through us with ease, had more possession, and more chances. Unless you press the whole pitch, you struggle to get the ball back in good positions, and by the time you are in good positions you don’t have enough forward options to pick out.
So you use it as a defensive plan. That’s fine, but you need to drop deep and get men behind the ball. The five men in midfield need to form a wall, either a flat five or four with an anchor man behind. On Sunday we saw Sandro and Huddlestone getting dragged out wide to help the full backs, then filling in the gaps between centre back and full back when the full backs were pulled towards the touchline. This left the City midfield free to pick up the ball, look for a pass or goalscoring opportunity.
We looked better in the first half, about 20 minutes in, when the shape altered to a 4-1-4-1, with Dempsey and Huddlestone picking up Barry and Toure, Sandro with an eye on David Silva, and the wingers marking the City full backs. Adebayor could sit a little deeper and City had the ball but nowhere to go. Why we didn’t continue with this into the second half I don’t know. Did AVB alter the tactics in the first half or did the players gravitate towards the changes, only to be admonished at half time?
At the moment the 4-2-3-1 is a half way house between attacking fluidity and defensive solidity, achieving neither and affecting the performance of the likes of Dempsey, Sigurdsson, the wingers and the lone striker.
It’s not a bad formation but it still needs a lot of work with this group of players, and after the game in Rome in ten days we have West Ham (H), Liverpool (H), Fulham (A), Panathinaikos (H), Everton (A), Swansea (H), Stoke (H), Villa (A), Sunderland (A), Reading (H), QPR (A). That takes us into mid January, and apart from Everton away there is reason to say we should be playing 4-4-2 or a variance of that for each game. We should look to dominate possession, dominate the chances created, and score more goals. Meanwhile on the training pitch AVB can practice and explain his preferred system more fully and hopefully we will see a better performance when it is played.