Guest Post for FantasyYIRMA.com Another weekend passes by and once again Andre Villas-Boas found himself under huge pressure after watching his Tottenham side go down 5-0 to Liverpool. Unfortunately for the Spurs boss, this proved to be the last straw, and the football betting markets were proved right when he was sacked on Monday morning. […]
Spot the odd one out in this sequence.
Sergio Aguero: 11 games, 10 goals. Luis Suarez: Seven games, nine goals. Daniel Sturridge: 12 games, nine goals. Tottenham Hotspur: 12 games, nine goals.
That’s right. Three are individuals, one is an entire football club, a world-renowned football club who are expecting to challenge the elite teams at the top of the Premier League table and not have goalscoring records that would only stack up to the individuals who play for them.
The goalscoring problem at Spurs has been highlighted throughout their decidedly mixed start to the season, but at the weekend we saw a far more alarming concern come to light.
Granted, they were facing a trip to Manchester City – probably the toughest assignment in the Premier League just now – but their meek surrender and almost acceptance of a 6-0 hammering must be tough to take for Spurs fans, whose team are now priced at 4.60 to make next season’s Champions League with Bwin.
Those same supporters spent the summer putting on a brave face over the departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, and perhaps understandably looked towards the huge influx of players brought in with the money from his sale with expectation more than hope.
These players seemingly have it all.
There is Roberto Soldado’s excellent La Liga goalscoring record, Erik Lamela’s series of eye-catching displays in an entertaining Roma side, Christian Eriksen’s performances for Ajax which had scouts heading over to Amsterdam in their droves, Paulinho’s increasing importance for Brazil.
It is all there, and all of them are clearly fine players, but none of them is Bale.
Time and time again last season, the Welshman would ride to the rescue for Tottenham and Andre Villas-Boas with a timely intervention usually taking the form of a spectacular goal. “Where would they be without him?” we often wondered, and the answer was here.
But “here” isn’t actually that bad.
Spurs are ninth going into the weekend, but that is only four points off second placed Liverpool in this increasingly condensed Premier League table.
Following on from Thursday night’s Europa League distraction against Tromso in Norway, they welcome Manchester United to White Hart Lane on Sunday afternoon in what could just be the perfect game for them.
David Moyes and his men have hardly been impressive on the road this season, with their latest slip-up coming in the dying moments at Cardiff, and this could just represent the perfect chance for Spurs to inject some life into their season.
As well as the City drubbing, the recent home reverses against West Ham and Newcastle are likely to be on the minds of plenty of home fans who attend the game early on Sunday, but the players must sense that this is an opportunity for them to get back on track.
Win, and it will have been the perfect start to a week which also includes trips to struggling Fulham and Sunderland, matches in which it will be the team ethic that gets them over the line as opposed to any form of individual brilliance from one of their stars.
It was always going to be difficult for Tottenham at the beginning of this season due to the sheer number of new faces who had entered the building and were playing on the same pitch as each other before really introducing themselves, but a little more trust in one another could go a long way.
Soldado isn’t going to score the same amount of goals as Bale.
Lamela isn’t going to sprint at defences in the same manner that Bale did.
Eriksen isn’t going to score free-kicks like Bale.
And Paulinho isn’t going to dominate games like Bale.
Bale is gone, but Tottenham live on, and it’s about time that the team acted like it.
We need to talk about Kevin(s)
It is all well and good claiming that referees need more help and would benefit from a greater use of technology, but when they make errors as glaring as the ones that Phil Dowd and Kevin Friend made on Saturday it is hard to have any sympathy for them.
Kevin Mirallas’ lunge on Luis Suarez in the Merseyside derby wasn’t just a red card it was about three of them, whilst what an earth possessed Friend to dismiss Wes Brown in Sunderland’s clash at Stoke is beyond all rational observers.
So give referees help if they need it, sure, but make sure they get the basics right first, and if they don’t then ban them until they do.
Bluebirds can silence Gunners
Manchester City obliged last week, and this weekend’s best bet would be one that they’d welcome as well.
Title rivals Arsenal go to a Cardiff side who’ve already beaten City and drawn with Manchester United on their own patch this season, with another draw here looking like the way to go.
With the Fantasy Premier League getting back up and running this week we have already had people asking about the potential of some of the new summer signings as viable options for your Fantasy squad. Players such as Jesus Navas, Wilfried Bony and the wonderfully named Ricky van Wolfswinkel have all been mentioned as potential fantasy selections in recent weeks.
In addition to this the recent Confederations Cup gave us the opportunity to look at Paulinho up close. The 24-year-old collected the Bronze Ball as Brazil won the tournament on their own patch and impressed onlookers with his performances.
With this in mind we have a great guest post from the @FootballButler who goes into detail over the role he expects Paulinho to play for Spurs and how this may lead to a change in tactics.
A great football insight and also invaluable research when scouting for your fantasy team!
Paulinho’s Spurs switch a sign of Villas-Boas’ desire to reinstate successful Porto tactics
Another Brazilian midfielder is heading east to ply his trade in the Premier League, and the tactical implications of Paulinho’s North London arrival could be indicative of a stark change in Andre Villas Boas’ Tottenham Hotspur tactics.
Villas Boas’ time in England has seen him predominately switch between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3, the former utilized this season at Spurs and the latter used at Chelsea.
His premature sacking from Chelsea and his switch to a 4-2-3-1 this year at Spurs might suggest that his old 4-3-3, most effectively used during his tenure at Porto, was a striking failure. Regardless of how you interpret the reasons for that tactical change, a £17m investment in a defensive midfielder is a huge statement of intent from a team playing in Europe’s second string competition, especially when a number of Spurs fans would have unanimously agreed that Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s underwhelming performances might have warranted a substantial investment in the attacking midfield role instead.
Paulinho will now become Spurs’ third high class defensive-minded midfielder, and it seems highly unlikely that if he, Moussa Dembele and Sandro are all fit Villas Boas would omit any of them from his starting XI. With that in mind, it’s not unreasonable to think that a switch to the 4-3-3- as so effectively used at his time at Porto- could be the framework for Spurs’ 2013/14 campaign.
Rewind two years and that Porto team was quite something, full of flair and individual excellence, exceeding all expectations when it claimed 2 domestic cups, an unbeaten season (by a record breaking 20 points) and the Europa league. It would be naive to assume that Villas Boas’ Porto side was just a team of good players- there were many tactical features to that side, a credit to his managerial ability.
But the tactical highlight of that team was midfield rotation, an uncommon British tactical theme. The system primarily revolved around Porto’s no.6, the excellent Fernando, who tended to bomb forward despite being a pure holding midfielder, switching places with Freddy Guarin who usually had license to get forward, but would drop deep himself if Fernando advanced. With Joao Moutinho fulfilling an archetypal box to box role, Porto’s midfield had incredible variety, with opposition teams completely unable to track forward runs from anyone of those 3 midfield players.
Alas, midfield rotation- when it works- is hugely effective. Unfortunately, Villas Boas’ time at Chelsea proved that the Premier League was better suited with coping with such a system.
Villas Boas confessed his difficulties of applying that system to his unsuccessful Chelsea side:
“Our No 6 [at Porto, usually Fernando] sometimes became a more attacking midfielder and we tried to do that here [at Chelsea]. We decided it doesn’t work here, so that’s one of the things I have adapted. You lose a little bit of balance in the Premier League if you play that way. Transitions here are much more direct, making the importance of the No 6 to stay in position most decisive.”
Fast forward another 18 months and Villas Boas has yet to reinstate this tactic. But that could- could– be about to change with the signing of Paulinho. Whether Villas Boas is directly looking to reassert midfield rotation amongst his team is difficult to know, but Spurs now have the perfect players to carry out the system.
Moussa Dembele is a fantastically mobile player, and is perhaps one of the finest box-to-box midfield players in Europe- the role that Moutinho played in that Porto team. Sandro is perhaps a finer version of Fernando, an intricately intelligent player who almost certainly is able to rotate with Paulinho- should Paulinho operate the advanced Guarin role.
England currently seems obsessed with the midfield variety of a holder, box-to-box player and a playmaker in a 4-2-3-1, with each midfield player playing a well defined role. The genius of midfield rotation is that it creates a far more fluid midfield, and omits having certain ‘specialists’ within the team. Villas Boas might just about be ready to play his trump card again.
On a final, more general note, the 2012/13 season seems to have accentuated the use of the 4-2-3-1. Bar Barcelona and Juventus, 6 of Europe’s 8 Champions League quarter finalists (Galatasaray, Malaga, Dortmund, Madrid, Bayern, PSG), and 5 of England’s top 7 (Arsenal, Liverpool, City, Chelsea, and Spurs) stuck to the system.
Granted, Barca (4-3-3), Juventus (3-5-2) and United (Ferguson played something like a 4-4-2 that looked like a 4-2-3-1) stuck to their own unique systems and found domestic success, but all three teams struggled in Europe.
If not playing the 4-2-3-1 is a path to domestic success by that rational, then perhaps Villas Boas’ acquisition of Paulinho could be a masterstroke in elevating to Spurs to Europe’s elite tournament. It’s still early days in this highly active transfer window, but Paulinho’s arrival could be the first major clue of changing tactical trends in the 2013/14 season.
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Many Thanks to Amin from www.ToKnowTheGame.com for this guest post looking at the Tottenham – Arsenal match up this weekend.
Follow Amin on twitter at @asakhia
Let us know your score predictions in the comment section below.
As always – if you would like to Guest Post on #FY contact Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org
The North London Derby: Mind the gap
Arsenal head into the North London Derby looking to cut Tottenham’s lead to just a single point. Throw Chelsea into the mix as well, and once again it looks like it will end up being a real scrap for those top-four positions. Barring an absolute miracle in Munich, Wenger’s eight trophy-less years are sure to extend to nine, so the minimum target for the Gunners this year has to be Champions League qualification. They’re on a fairly decent run at the moment in the league (28 points from their last 36), so whether they can take that form to White Hart Lane on Sunday remains to be seen. Wenger has never finished below Spurs in the league and says:
“The game on Sunday will have a psychological importance for the rest of the season, of course.
“The outcome will give a big boost to the team who wins it, of course. But the winner will not necessarily finish higher at the end of the season. There’s still 10 games to go. In 10 games, a lot can happen.”
Spurs on the other hand are flying at the moment. Gareth Bale has been in devastating form this season, and with 15 goals already he is surely one of the front-runners for the Player of the Year. Additionally, AVB seems to have settled in quite well, and finally has Tottenham playing to the potential we all know they possess. He’ll be looking to Bale to fire them to another win and extend the gap to seven points:
“He’s proved that in different fixtures against different opposition, European included,” said AVB.
“He’s going to be a major threat in the game. You can’t allow him any kind of space. He can turn up in different places, unsettles opponents with his pace, his power his technique. Hopefully we can see him continue on this level of form and can continue to be decisive.”
Jenkinson/Monreal vs Gareth Bale: Depending on where Bale ends up playing, he will most likely come up against both Arsenal full-backs throughout the game. There’s been a lot of talk about Jenkinson being ready to take the mantle from Sagna, and Sunday provides him with probably his sternest test to date. The Frenchman is out injured, and is also likely to move on in the summer, so Jenkinson’s performance against Spurs will be of massive importance for his future. On the contrary, Monreal was brought in to provide stiff competition to Gibbs, and the Spaniard appears to be a more composed footballer. Again its early days in his Arsenal career, and we will surely get a better indication of his ability when he lines up against the Welsh whiz kid, Gareth Bale.
Jack Wilshere vs Scott Parker: A former England captain comes up against a future one. Both players will understand that the result of this game will hinge on how the teams perform in the middle of the park. Parker will be tasked with the responsibility of cutting down Wilshere’s marauding runs from midfield, and will also have to make sure he doesn’t get the time to pick out those delightful through balls to Theo & co.
It is setup to be a real attacking, free flowing type of game. Both teams will be desperate for a win in their quest for Champions League qualification, but I’m guessing neither of them would be too disappointed with a draw. Spurs look like the more complete team at the moment and will also have the added benefit of playing at their home turf. However, they’ve been on the receiving of back-to-back 5-2 thrashings at the hands of Arsenal, so it really goes to show that form doesn’t count for much in local derbies. The Gunners also boast the best away defensive record in the league, so Tottenham should be expecting a real battle on the pitch. I’m backing Arsenal to win by a goal, and eventually leapfrog Spurs to clinch the final top-four slot.
The attention was largely elsewhere during a madcap Sunday which could quite accurately be described as ‘Super’ due to the drama on show, but Tottenham Hotspur didn’t let that distract them from achieving their goal.
On England’s south coast, Spurs rather quietly slipped into the top four with a 2-1 win over Southampton that might not have done much for the home side’s prospects of avoiding relegation, but certainly served as a huge boost to the ambitions of the visitors at the other end of the Premier League table.
The win was Tottenham’s fifth from the last six league outings, with any doubts over manager Andre Villas-Boas following a winless first three games now firmly placed in the past.
That run of a loss at Newcastle followed by home draws against West Brom and Norwich even saw a few of the more reactionary Spurs fans call for Villas-Boas’s head and the return of good old Harry Redknapp, but the results since mid-September have now surely got any remaining doubters off the Portuguese’s back.
The task now is of course to keep on impressing, and going into a November which includes fixtures against Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool it will also be important to stay calm and not let results go to their heads.
Staying quietly confident might just be the best thing for Villas-Boas and Spurs right now, and so not for him the bullish and always inaccurate cries from Redknapp that his side were ready to challenge for the Premier League title.
The manner that Chelsea took the game away from them in their 4-2 win at White Hart Lane a week and a half ago showcased that Tottenham’s squad isn’t quite on a par with the top sides in the division just yet. Finishing just below them is a different matter altogether though.
In Gareth Bale, Moussa Dembele, Aaron Lennon, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor there are the raw attacking materials for a serious tilt at the top four from Tottenham, with qualification for the Champions League surely more than just a pipedream during a campaign in which a good cup run would also strengthen Tottenham’s claims to be considered amongst the big boys.
Reaching the Champions League quarter-finals in 2010/11 perhaps led to some people behind the scenes at Tottenham deciding that the club should run before they could walk, and with Redknapp eventually paying the price for such an increase in expectations then maybe it’d be wise for Spurs fans to just take each game as it comes right now. When you have a talent such as Bale on your hands though, that is easier said than done.
In these times of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo it can be easy to overlook other talents and compare them to that star duo – comparisons which they will always lose out in.
However, Redknapp’s recent claim that Bale is the best British player in the Premier League is probably a correct one in terms of recent form, and if the Welshman can keep on inspiring his side then the sky could well be the limit for Tottenham – so long as that sky falls just below Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City that is.
Like it or not that is where Spurs are right now, but that is a terrific base from which a young manager can build and look to improve as he establishes himself at a club who are slowly beginning to take him to their hearts.
Spurs and Villas-Boas shouldn’t mind that they’re not the centre of attention as long as they keep winning.
Leave it to others to decide when the quiet confidence deserves to be shouted about.