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“We’re only a point behind Arsenal and City”

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A win. A home win. Three points. At White Hart Lane. The first victory for Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane under the stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas. After the consecutive 1-1 draws with West Bromwich Albion and Norwich City, it was nice to leave North London with the first home win on the board, despite a thorough investigation at the hands of Queen’s Park Rangers.

Regardless of the appalling weather, it was nice to leave the ground with three points tucked away in the swag bag, making that walk down Seven Sisters road that much sweeter. However, the win doesn’t mask an awful first half performance from Spurs, and while there are positives to take from the encounter; Villas-Boas still has a lot to learn, with a number of points proven in the 2-1 win over QPR.

Jan Vertonghen is dynamite

Can Jan Vertonghen really do any wrong at the moment? Since making his debut in the 1-1 draw with West Brom, the Belgium international has gone from strength to strength and continues to play himself into the hearts of the Spurs faithful. Yesterday was absolutely no exception and if anything; saw fans fall further for those dreamy blue eyes of his.

Starting the game at centre-back, he all but held the relentless QPR front-line, but fell to a lapse of concentration for Bobby Zamora’s goal. And the lapse, if you can call it that, was all it was. For the remainder of the encounter, Vertonghen was an absolute rock in the defence, brushing away every QPR attack as if it were a minion troubling his master.

But, it wasn’t in the heart of the back-four that saw the 25-year-old excel yesterday. For the second half, Vertonghen was required to play at left-black and did so to the highest standard, but we’ll get more to that later. Comfortable at the back and excellent pushing forward, as witnessed in Jermain Defoe’s strike, the Belgium international proved his worth in one moment on genius late in the second half – that tackle on Junior Hoilett that saw fans compare it to Ledley King’s challenge on Arjen Robben from 2006.

Gareth Bale can’t play left-back…

It was a shock, that’s a given, but Gareth Bale starting at left-back was always going to be a minor disaster. The Welshman has shot to prominence playing on the left wing, running at opposition defenders with blistering pace to wreck havoc on the right-back. However, injuries to Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton forced Villas-Boas to alter his pack.

Most had championed Vertonghen to start at left-back, with Steven Caulker partnering William Gallas in the heart of the backline. Nevertheless, Bale began the encounter in defence and it proved to be a nightmare opening 45 for the Welshman. The 23-year-old looked more like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming 4×4 then a proper left-back.

The second half, and with Vertonghen at shunted across to left-back, Bale looked far more comfortable on the ball and was more impressive breaking forward then he did from deep during the opening exchanges. However, his cause wasn’t aided by those in front of him, which brings me to my next point.

…Especially with Clint Dempsey in front of him

Bale’s time at left-back wasn’t helped with Clint Dempsey starting on the wing. During his time with Fulham under Martin Jol, the USA international was granted permission to break forward and support the front-man. Behind a striker, his prolificacy was evident, as witnessed by his goalscoring record with the Cottagers last season.

However, on the wing, he continued to drift inside, clogging up the space in the middle of the park and hindering the impact of Gylfi Sigurdsson. Furthermore, his continuous attempts to cut inside left Bale isolated and exposed to the ensuing attacks from QPR, as witnessed in Zamora’s opener, which come from the right after the corner was only partially cleared.

A lack of cover for Bale meant he was regularly pinned back in his own half, limiting his creative input despite his best efforts to break forward. Once Sigurdsson was substituted for Caulker at half-time, and Dempsey moved into the middle, the team regained the balance that was lacking in the first half and it wasn’t a shock to see Spurs go on and pick up the win.

Villas-Boas is still working out the kinks

The fans certainly vented their frustration at half-time during the game, and while I don’t condone booing; the players were awful in the first half. A lack of cohesion, balance and any form of attacking intent saw Spurs head into the interval one goal down, with Bale at left-back evidently not working.

However, he witnessed that everything wasn’t working, tactically, and went about switching personnel in order to improve the fortunes on the pitch. It worked on the day, but it’s still vital to give him the time and patience he needs to succeed. Everything was never going to click into place overnight and he requires time to work out his best team and formula with the players at his disposal. 

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5 thoughts on ““We’re only a point behind Arsenal and City””

  1. I hope AVB is able to play the starting 11 and formation from the Lazio game against Man Utd this Saturday, we played great football that night and were unlucky to have not won 2-0. And yes Freezal should not play, the FACT is that Lloris would have made those same saves against QPR and Zam's goal too, the shots Freezal pushes out for a corner Lloris would catch. I have watched the QPR game twice now and while Brad is a nice guy, he makes simple saves in a way that makes them look harder than they are. Everytime there is a set price a clump of my hair goes grey, Lloris takes control of the 6yrd box.

    It's a myth that brad should stay in goal, Brad can't keep a clean sheet. I know it isn't popular opinion but like I say, watch the game again and you'll see.

  2. Give Friedel a break. He has been mr dependable, reliable and consistent. Those that remember the bad of days of barry daines will agree. Hugo's time will come. Gomes was a good keeper before too much was asked too soon.

  3. Sorry Ian but I have to disagree… It's not good enough.. We have a better goalkeeper in Lloris he should be playing, again I say, watch the games this season again and you will see Brads inability to take control of the 6 yard box and his poor positioning on set pieces lead to our loosing 1-0 advantages against west brom and Norwich. Again Loris would have made those same saves that brad did. Brad also gives away corners on balls that Hugo would catch. I want us to win and have no interest in giving someone extra time on the pitch for average performance.

    I'm not saying this off a whim, it's from watching everyone of our games this season 3 times each as we'll as using the 442 app powered by Opta. I think brad is a great guy and great professional but that's not enough to stay in goal. We need clean sheets. Has everyone forgotten the 4 Manchester fixtures last year and the 5-2 arsenal meltdown already. Or even the Norwich home game last year we lost with the insane goal line scramble I don't want any of that to happen again.

  4. Bale should never have been at left back. Other sides fear him and tend to put 2 men on him. Vert is known to be able to play LB so with Daws. and Caulker on the bench why try this stupid option? You don't win games by being cautious. At least not that cautious. Brad. won the game for us. Is he as good as Loris? I don't know but Loris will get his chance when Brad. has a shocker. I have read, on another blog, that AVB said he “handed the first half initiative to them so he could counter attack”. Please tell me that isn't true. Once you surrender the initiative you don't usually get it back. But maybe it is true, that is why QPR scored an own goal by way of appreciation of this very strange and generous gesture. Quite frankly, if we continue to play, at home, like we have done this season we ain't going anywhere soon.

  5. Didn't Bale lose his first 12,506 games for Spurs whilst playing LB?
    At a push you'd have to play him there but as alreaady mentioned we have got defensive cover so it wasn't the best move.

    Although to be fair to AVB maybe he expected us to dominate at home against QPR so Bale's defensive duties shouldn't have been called upon too much?

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