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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