Search This Blog

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Extensive look at what we've learnt from AVB so far.

I wasn't too sure what to expect when this tour of the US kicked off. I blame the appointment of AVB and a couple of early signings for giving me bursts of excitement and a reason to watch all three games. What I have noticed is a vast improvement on how we've adapted to a new style of football; a high line, defence starting from the furthest player forward and working together as a unit. The progression is more than evident, as with each passing game we've looked more and more settled.

We finished off in New York. Many gasps of surprise were heard at around 11.15pm when team news was released and we were lacking a forward. I didn't see this as any wrong doing on behalf of Harry Kane but merely trying something different, while we can. In typical Spurs style, we went in 1-0 down at Half time. Walker, looking as tired as we were watching, found himself sitting a good few yards behind the rest of the defence playing Cahill onside whom went down under a Vertonghen challenge for a penalty.

I noticed that we didn't seem able to keep the ball as well as we're used to. Under Harry we controlled many games in midfield but this wasn't the case, not just in New York, but also in spells vs LA and Liverpool. I put this down to three reasons:

1. We seemed to eager to attack. Instead of being more calculated with our passing, we seemed too keen to feed that 'killer' ball through and subsequently saw it cut out or smothered up by the opposing goalkeeper.

2. The long balls from the back have started to creep back in. I nearly found myself on my knees, hands flat together in hope that this isn't something AVB has insisted on; Dawson annoyingly knocking it long more often than I cared to count. When you have 6 players in midfield and no forward, logic would dictate that you'd try to play through them and work the ball into the box. This brings me on to my final point.

3. We seemed very keen to cross the ball whenever we got the opportunity to. In truth, Bale is the only predominant player with an effective aerial threat. But, again, I feel that playing through the midfield and working the ball into the box or into good shooting opportunities would've been a more effective means of attack.

It brought little surprise to see Bale starting furthest forward. Although his attributes may fit a centre-forward role, the player himself didn't look comfortable in it. He struggled to impose himself on the game and found himself coming deep as the first half wore on to see more of the ball. A fantastic player, but a fantastic player out left. Please stay there.

Pressure from the front.
Although these shots were taken in the first half, the style maintained consistent throughout the game's entirety. The high pressure from the front is evidently something that will be common under AVB. I do believe that we have a squad with the energy to keep this up for large parts of a game; possibly sitting off more if we find ourselves winning with only a small proportion of the game to play. Although, and this will come with time and experience I'm sure, I felt that we needed to be more intelligent with our movement in midfield. We should be looking to move up with play, and as a unit. I often found that when New York's back four had the ball, and there were no Spurs players close to them, we'd get a few players that would sprint 30 yards to catch them; this would also leave a gap between the three front players and the three that were sitting off. Had we moved with play then we wouldn't have found ourselves chasing down a player that's already pick their pass.
One player sitting in front of the defence.

I also noticed that we often had one player sitting in front of the back 4 more often than not. This was almost a saving grace for me. Against Liverpool and LA there was always far to much space between the deepest midfielders and our back 4. With a player, in this shot it's Huddlestone, sitting in front of the defence this ensures that the space is compressed and we are less vulnerable to counter attacks or a ball cutting up our midfield.

Numbers behind the ball.
I was also very happy to see 10 players behind the ball when defending or when the opposition have enjoyed some possession. The success of this new style AVB is trying to implement largely depends on the side playing together as a unit. We have the pace in the side to get numbers behind the ball and counter; we often caught New York in possession which inevitably lead to a shot on goal.  NY set up to restrict us and, bar picking the ball out the net, Gomes was found - to many fans' relief - to be just as much a spectator as the rest of us. I feel that New York's lack of sight of our goal is partly because of the system which does appear to be getting better as each game comes and goes - and this is without many of the first team.

We're learning that the high line isn't just down to the back 4 but the midfield compressing the space together and forcing the opposition into conceding possession. The second half saw us keep the ball far better and we looked much more effective going forward.  Of course it's only friendlies, the real test is in the Premier League. With New York straying offside more as the game wore on my confidence in the players to adapt to a system, which can be difficult to play, grew.

So had we leave the US win-less would it bother me? Not in the slightest. The job was to come out and get the players adapting to a new system, get them fit for the start of the season against sides that are already well under-way in their respective seasons. The tour was a successful one and I feel we got a good clue as to how we can expect to start in Newcastle in just over two weeks. Longer highlights are below.

What did you make of the tour?