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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

AVB's New System

It's August 27th 2013. We're beginning to find our position more fortuitous as the this window edges closer to its' conclusion. It has to be one of the few that we've seemed to call for a close prior to its' deadline next Monday. When AVB announced that our summer targets, set before the close of last season, would remain the same despite the lack of Champions League football it was easier to find the pessimism in his words than to dig out the optimism.

We're probably a player short of where we want to be. We've been incredibly pragmatic in our approach this summer and signed off the deals we're usually being stringed out over the summer for in plenty of time. Gareth Bale is still a Tottenham Hotspur player. I'd stuck to my guns for a lot of this summer, remaining in confidence he would stay up until last week when a move seemed imminent. You consciously take the decision, usually, to turn more than a blind eye to the back pages but they have a way of weaselling into your subconscious. Planting a seed of doubt. Levy has Madrid tied around his finger. He has Gareth Bale on the end of a fishing line and is ever so tentatively dipping him into the sea. We've got one of the World's biggest clubs eating out of our hands, whether they can see that or not I don't know.

So with a new season brought a new system. AVB is slowly turning the screw towards his ideal of a 4-3-3. We're certainly more aesthetically pleasing on the eye. Despite only scoring twice in our opening two fixtures of the Premier League, we've been solid. We're 5 points better off now than at this stage last season and look good value for it. Paulinho has been one acquisition that's brought an armoury of traits that we've not so much lacked but haven't been accustom to at Spurs previously. He's fit the bill of a 'complete midfielder'. My initial perception of him was that he was more of a defensively driven player. He'd break-up play and let others do the offensive work. But that was naive. His offensive work is his defensive work. He wins the ball high up the pitch then looks to be very direct. He'll bring the ball forward and isn't afraid to have a shot.

Against Swansea, we seemed to play more of a 4-1-4-1, with Paulinho and Dembele sitting behind Soldado looking to win possession in the opponents third of the pitch. We pressed them, barely allowing them to cross the half way line. The holding player in Capoue, sitting slightly deeper than Dembele & Paulinho, ensured we could crowd out any breaks through the centre. His Sandro-like presence gave Jan and Daws next to nothing to do for the majority of the 90. Swansea looked to sit deep & hit long to Michu, inevitable after pockets of space were rarer than gold dust. This pressing game allowing the infamous high-line imposed by AVB to fend off much of Swansea's attacking threat.

We've so far conceded the fewest shots on goal in the PL this season (at 12). With a seemingly fair understanding and the wealth of strength we have in the middle, teams look to go out wide countering any direct threat. Rose has looked a little suspect defensively and seems to lack patience in a challenge when battling one-vs-one against the opposition winger. I'd be generally satisfied if Rose was first choice this year but not fuelled with overwhelming confidence. I do think Walcott would get the better of him on Sunday. We haven't got out of 2nd gear as yet but have 6 points from 6. Our playing staff looked settled into a slightly amended system from last year that isn't built around Gareth Bale. So, in terms of a mini transition I was expecting us to be a victim of in these early days, I'm delighted.

It's clear we still need that number 10. That magician behind Soldado. I can't see the 4-1-4-1 being the system we base our season around but the beauty of the strength in depth we have at our disposal thus far is that we can be flexible depending on the opposition. I am a fan of Sigurdsson, but think we may need someone who can think that one step ahead & get that one final ball spot on. In Soldado we have a forward renowned for seizing chances. He feeds off of them. If he's given the service, he'll score the goals. I'd be more inclined to sit Holtby there and see if he can recreate the success he had at Schalke. Him & Huntelaar enjoyed a fantastic understanding. Maybe this is Carroll's opportunity to step up and fulfil the faith we have in him.

Bale leaving wouldn't be the hole in our midfield as it would've been 3 months ago. Levy's ensured that either way, Spurs will have emerged stronger. We seem on another levels to where we've been before. Last season seems a mere platform. The difference in quality in the squad this season is evident. We've a leaner squad. Despite bringing in a £26m forward, there doesn't seem to be that aura weighed to his shoulders that we're solely relying on just him to bring us goals. Chadli, Townsend and Paulinho are all goalscorers. Not for the first time, but the future looks pleasing. We've lost the 1st season uncertainty of AVB anchoring us down. That air of uncertainty was diminished as we finished on 72 points. Bale forever seems further out the door by the day yet we find ourselves more optimistic than we probably ever have.

It's a funny old game.

Ben - You can follow me on Twitter here

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

It wasn't to be.

The year is 2013. The unthinkable has occurred. Sir Alex has finally stepped down at United. Spurs have broken their transfer record on a forward. Goal-line technology is set to be used in the Premier League as of next season. Tom Huddlestone has left Tottenham Hotspur. 3 years ago this could have easily been written as a piece of satire with the latter statement seemingly the least likely of the 4.

It's hard to find a suitable starting point with Tom. Although heavily flawed as an all-round centre midfielder, his ability to spot and execute a pin-point pass in the final third always left you lingering with that string of hope that he may build on this to become a prominent player for Spurs and England. Alas, it wasn't to be. There's only so many years you can hope a player will fulfil their 'potential' before admitting that this is about as good as it'll get. A couple of key assists from last year couldn't mask the fact that he didn't quite fit in with a squad now built on pace and power. He almost sat as the Woolworths of our midfield. He couldn't quite tackle or run, but had a nice technique about him.

It's clear we're building a leaner (no pun intended) and more competitive squad. The arrival of Paulinho & the expected arrival of Capoue renders Huddlestone and Parker redundant. They become assets that are needed off of the wage bill and the transfer fees to balance the books. We forever seem to be pushing our limits and stand reluctantly on the brink of finally achieving our season's goals. We fall that player or two short at key points in the season and find ourselves asking 'what if'. 'What if we'd brought in a forward, midfielder or extra defender when we could've'.

Pre-planning and anticipation for such events avoids seemingly knee-jerk and over-priced transfers. We're building a powerful squad of quality, not just a first 11. We forever seem anchored down with 'deadwood' players that act as fillers for those that are injured. I was a big fan of AVB's rotation policy last year and hope to see more of it this year. Although it'll be nice regularly rotating quality players ensuring those coming in will be match-fit and hungry to fight for their place. Competition for places will be ever-increasing this year, especially across midfield.

With another season in the Europa League, players will get the game time they'd desire. Real strength in depth is something we've lacked properly across the years but is key to competing effectively in all major competitions. We finally seem to be jumping on the treadmill this summer and look a far leaner outfit. We've bought in key areas and look to sell those that aren't wanted. The squad will take time to gel as one which may bring with it a slightly slower start than we'd hope. But that's football.

Tom will be wished all the best, maybe even missed at times, but with the ambition we've shown this summer. His name was always going to be one sounded out to other clubs.

Ben - You can follow me on Twitter here