There will be plenty of criticism of players and manager after Tottenham Hotspur stumbled to a 1-0 loss at home to Wigan Athletic. Nothing leaves a taste in the mouth as sour as losing a home match that should be regarded as a “banker”, and when the loss comes having been largely outplayed by a Latics side nestled in the bottom half of the table, the search for blame can get particularly vicious.
While things are not drastically bad at White Hart Lane, with injuries certainly playing a role in the poor results, a lack of adaptation to the circumstances those injuries have left us with is exacerbating the problem.
There weren’t any awful players on display for the hosts on Saturday; many of them have been involved in great results already this season. Similarly, Andre Villas-Boas has shown encouraging signs at the start of his Spurs career, and had his side in the top four going into the weekend. However there have been problems clear in the Spurs side even in the recent victories in the league, and these should have been addressed despite those victories.
Making changes to you selection and tactics when losing games is easy, it is harder to make those changes to a winning side, and I would argue that Spurs have let this loss happen to them by not reacting to the negatives that have been clear in league wins. The 4-2-3-1 system has been very successful, but a large part of that was due to Mousa Dembele.
It’s not enough to curse your luck when a vital player gets injured, adaptations have to be made. Tom Huddlestone cannot play the same role as Dembele; this is only a crucial problem if he asked to. A formation is successful because it puts players in their best position. If unsuitable players have to be fitted to the system, it will inevitably become a problem.
There has been a similar inflexibility about player selection at Spurs. Again the harder change to make is one to a winning side. But even in winning performances, I don’t believe the likes of Brad Friedel, William Gallas, Clint Dempsey, Huddlestone and Jermain Defoe have necessarily made themselves undroppable. Villas-Boas has shown commendable loyalty to players at White Hart Lane, but at some point the good will that can create turns bitter.
This is particularly true with the goalkeeper situation. I said a few weeks ago that the worst thing that could happen was for Hugo Lloris to only come in due to a mistake or two from Friedel. Both the players and the team gain more from the inevitable change being made before that, with extra pressure being placed on the American every game he plays, and a with even more of that pressure being prepared for Lloris when he does come in. Friedel is a good keeper, Lloris is a better one; it should be that simple.
Spurs created some real momentum with the four wins on the bounce earlier in the season, but maintaining that momentum required well managed changes to the side. There were problems apparent in the home wins against QPR and Aston Villa, and more were shown away at Southampton.
The North London side have been very unlucky with injuries so far, but the reaction to those injuries has exacerbated the problems the missing players have created. The players, the system or both needed to change for the match today, and the fact that they didn’t has led to three more points dropped at home.
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