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Andre Villas-Boas and the North London Derby

It wasn’t the ideal result, that’s a given, but Nick Harris has looked at the positives from the 5-2 loss to Arsenal, including Andre Villas-Boas’ tactical approach to the encounter. 

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At the end of the match on Saturday I wanted to write this piece immediately, but decided to mull it over for a couple of days before putting pen to paper, figuratively of course – I don’t want a well known tabloid to start a feature about me using pen and paper like some kind of square.

Looking back now, I think it’s still fair to say that Andre Villas-Boas’ stock rose with a great deal of Tottenham Hotspur fans this weekend, despite the poor result at the Emirates.

One of the criticisms the manager has faced in recent weeks it the lack of attacking intent in Spurs’ line-ups. Saturday saw a far different approach, with Spurs lining up as a 4-4-2 at the start of the game, before switching to a completely unexpected 3-2-3-1 (loosely) for the second half.

Villas-Boas also moved Vertonghen into the middle of the defence, and started Lloris ahead of Friedel. To my eye, the formation and substitutions he picked were not only the right choices; they were traditional Spurs choices.

To dare is to do, and few things are more daring than switching to a three at the back ten man system when away at Arsenal. Both the starting line-up and the changes he made at half-time wrong-footed Arsenal, and gave Spurs hope in a second half they had no right to have any hope in.

One of the things I have enjoyed most about Andre Villas-Boas’ start to management at Spurs is that he makes bold choices, and seems full of ideas. Fans may not always agree with him, I certainly don’t always agree with him – Lloris should have played for a while now, though I will admit I am developing an unhealthy obsession with the Frenchman; it’s probably the cheekbones – but there seems to be a plan in mind when he makes those choices.

There are 5-2 losses, and there are 5-2 losses. Last season saw Spurs come out in the second half with no idea how to combat the Arsenal pressure; this season we took the initiative in the second half despite having only ten men. Had it paid off, had Bale found the pass to Defoe to make it 4-3 and Spurs then gone on to grab a point or three, then Villas-Boas would be lauded from every corner for the changes he made.

Although it didn’t pay off, those changes should be recognised as good, bold, Spurs-esque management. There was a chance in that second half, and the North London side now have a manager who can create those chances, even if he will insist on using a notebook.



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