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Emmanuel Adebayor justifies his return to prominence at Old Trafford

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Courtesy of: Roger Gorączniak

One of the few alterations in Tim Sherwood’s resurgent Spurs side is the inclusion of two strikers. Andre Villas-Boas’ reluctance to play a 4-4-2 left supporters and the ownership disgruntled, and it was one of the key factors that led to his dismissal.

Villas-Boas’ persistence to play marquee signing Roberto Soldado as the lone striker didn’t replace the attacking void Gareth Bale’s departure left in attack – and it’s difficult to solely blame the Spaniard for Spurs’ attacking deficiencies. Soldado isn’t a traditional number nine – he thrives when teammates are within close proximity to link play, and adequate service is provided. Villas-Boas’ side struggled to score goals and create chances during the latter stages of Villas-Boas’ tenure, while Soldado was merely a peripheral figure that spent many matches isolated against the opposition’s centrebacks.

Another difference to the North London side since Sherwood’s appointment is Emmanuel Adebayor’s presence in the starting XI. Villas-Boas banished Adebayor from the first-team, and the Spurs striker only featured for 45 minutes this season prior to Sherwood’s appointment.

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Tottenham’s trip to Old Trafford was pivotal, and their impressive away record instilled optimism, as Sherwood’s men aimed to defeat Manchester United for the second consecutive season. Sherwood made one change to the attacking six that comfortably defeated Stoke City over the weekend, introducing Etienne Capoue for the injured Paulinho. Christian Eriksen was expected to drift infield from the left flank to provide creativity, whereas Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker were responsible for width on the right.

While Eriksen’s impact on the match was monumental, Adebayor’s performance exhibited Spurs’ attacking approach. Spurs struggled to sustain possession in the opening half hour – they constantly misplaced passes in key areas, and their decision-making was poor. Yet, despite United’s dominance in possession and down the right flank, it was Sherwood’s men who created the better chances.

Adebayor was a reliable passing outlet for the North London side, as he often dropped deep into midfield to receive the ball, and bring the midfield – that often sat deep – into the match to link play; a feat that Soldado struggled to complete as the lone striker. The Togolese striker initiated quick counters from his own half, and his rampaging run into United’s third, which led to Lennon’s tame effort in the 12th minute, highlighted his impact. Towards the end of the first half, Adebayor wonderfully brought down a loose ball, and played an incisive pass to Lennon that led to a squandered Soldado opportunity.

The Spurs striker’s involvement in both goals summed up his influence on the match. Eriksen’s ability to locate and attack space enabled the Dane to get into United’s third to deliver a cross at the far post, and Adebayor rose above Chris Smalling to direct the ball past David De Gea – it was the Togolese striker’s fourth goal since his return from exile.  Likewise, it was Adebayor who brought his midfield into the attack in the buildup to Eriksen’s goal, as he played the initial pass to Soldado, which led to Lennon’s penetrating run towards United’s box.

And while Adebayor’s involvement in both goals was pivotal, his determination and work ethic was identical. His battle with Wayne Rooney to win possession near the Spurs corner flag, along with his powerful run to the byline, before cleverly back-heeling the ball to his teammate displayed his ambition.

Unfortunately for the Togolese striker his exceptional afternoon was short-lived as he was stretchered off the pitch midway through the second-half. Spurs dug deep for the final moments of the match, and Hugo Lloris made a few key saves to preserve the lead. Sherwood’s belief in Adebayor has gifted Spurs with a rejuvenated striker, who’s developed into a key cog in their push for Champions League football. Here, he was the goal scorer, creator, and at times the heartbeat of the Spurs attack.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Tottenham 2-2 Manchester United

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Manchester United came from behind twice courtesy of strikes from Wayne Rooney, to earn the champions a vital point at White Hart Lane.

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David Moyes made three changes to the side that comfortably defeated Bayer Leverkusen in midweek. Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley were introduced in midfield, alongside Phil Jones, Shinji Kagawa and Antonio Valencia. Also, Nemanja Vidic made his return to the starting line up, forming a centre back duo with Jonny Evans.

Andre Villas-Boas also made three changes to his starting eleven after last week’s embarrassing defeat to Manchester City. Moussa Dembele and Nacer Chadli slotted into midfield – which pushed Paulinho behind Roberto Soldado – while Vlad Chiriches played at centre back alongside Michael Dawson.

This was a tight affair that was decided by individual mistakes – Spurs went ahead twice, but failure to increase their lead, and individual defensive mistakes allowed United back into the match.

Shape

A main feat that contributed to the minimal chances created was the shape both sides dropped into when the opposition was in position.

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Shockingly, Spurs’ defence sat deeper than usual with the midfield sitting off in front of the back four, which allowed Jones and Cleverley time on the ball.  Villas-Boas’ men were content with the duo sustaining possession, and there was no surprise that the Cleverley and Jones completed the most passes in the match.

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Soldado nor Paulinho applied much pressure on the United defenders either – Evans, Chris Smalling and Vidic completed the most passes after the duo – as it was an incentive for United to push forward, and Spurs to hit them on the counter. At times, Paulinho did work hard to close down United defenders, but there was always a spare outlet available.

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Lennon and Chadli tracked back into deeper positions admirably, while Sandro and Dembele worked hard to limit activity in the final third.

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On the other hand, United stuck to their defensive principle under Moyes, and prevented Spurs from playing out of the back. Valencia and Welbeck pressed the Spurs full backs when they received the ball, while Jones and Cleverley picked up Dembele and Sandro. Spurs were forced to play long balls into the channels for Soldado and Paulinho to chase, and their best opportunities were often created on the break.

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In the 14th minute, United were nearly awarded for their work ethic out of possession, as Rooney forced Chiriches to concede possession and he played a pass to the advancing Valencia. Dawson blocked the Ecuadorian’s initial cross, but he cut the ball back to Rooney, who also had his attempt blocked by Sandro.

United dominated the possession statistics due to Spurs’ approach – who chose not to press Moyes’ men – but when Villas-Boas’ men did move forward as a cohesive unit, the tempo was often slow and they lacked creativity.

Right flank

Similarly, there was a distinct feat in the set up of both sides, as they both enjoyed more freedom down the right flank.

Valencia was an influential figure in the match using his pace and strength to get the better of makeshift left back Vertonghen.

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This forced Chiriches to often come across to limit his threat in the final third, while Chadli sat deeper – more so in the second half – to prevent the Ecuadorian from isolating Vertonghen and Smalling from getting forward.

Likewise, the role Evra has developed under Moyes has left him vulnerable against sides that possess pacy, direct wingers. Lennon’s movement dragged Evra out of position, and the United left back was unable to cope with his pace. Also, Welbeck and Kagawa’s inclusion on the left flank ensured that Evra was vulnerable. Considering majority of Spurs’ attacks were on the counter, United’s left attacker was often caught out in a central position – specifically so Evra could push forward – and this allowed Walker to surge forward.

  • 27th min: Sandro wins a loose header that Lennon keeps in play, and the Spurs winger drove forward, holding off Welbeck and Evra, and plays a ball to an advancing Walker. Walker’s cross goes to the far post, but Chadli didn’t make a run at the far post.
  • 30th min: Soldado freely receives the ball, turns and finds Lennon making a diagonal run into the box. The Spurs winger beats Evra for pace, fires a shot at De Gea, and then squares the rebound across the six-yard box, but it’s a few yards ahead of the unmarked Paulinho.
  • 78th min: Jermain Defoe plays Walker in free on the counter, and Evans allows him to drive forward and play a sensational ball to Andros Townsend, but the substitute was unable to direct the ball on net.

Valencia was a significant threat in United’s attack, but the threat of Lennon and Walker pushed Spurs into dangerous positions – this will be explained below.

1-0

In the 17th minute Paulinho received a ball around the 18-yard box – as Jones allowed Sandro’s nod back to bounce behind him – and the Brazilian was fouled at the edge of the box by Evans, thus leading to a Spurs free kick. Walker scored from a free kick, but the main issue in this situation was the wall in front of De Gea.

The free kick was positioned approximately 20-yards away from goal, and considering Walker is known to go for power opposed to precision, it was peculiar to see the United wall jump. The likeliness of Walker getting/opting to place the ball over the wall and beat De Gea was slim, and there was no need for the United wall to jump.

Soldado/Paulinho

One of the main talking points heading into this fixture was the utilization of Soldado in Villas-Boas’ attack. The Spurs striker hasn’t enjoyed a great start in the Premier League, as he’s often been an isolated figure up top.

Here, Villas-Boas played Paulinho in an advanced role – Lewis Holtby hasn’t prospered behind the Spaniard, and Christian Eriksen is injured. Not only did the inclusion of the Brazilian allow Spurs to play Dembele and Sandro, but it also gave Paulinho freedom to make runs into the box.

In the 28th minute, both men displayed what they offer to the Spurs attack. Paulinho played a ball to Soldado on the break and he did well to lay it for the Brazilian, who drove forward and played a well-weighed ball to the Spaniard, but he skied his shot over the net.

To an extent, Soldado’s poor scoring form can be down to the lack of chances created from the Spurs midfield – however, this wasn’t the case against United.

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  • 5th min: Sandro plays a good ball to Lennon, and his first touch evades Evra, forcing the United fullback to foul him. Paulinho picked up the loose ball and played it out wide to Walker, who ran behind Evra, but Soldado was indecisive with his movement, and the Spurs right back let the ball out for a goal-kick.

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  • 38th min: Dembele completed a powerful run from deep in his half and picked out Chadli, who played a nice ball behind Evra for Lennon, but Soldado nor Paulinho make a run to meet Lennon’s cross.

The decision to play Paulinho behind Soldado was to get a player close to the Spaniard, in hope that he would be more involved in the attack. While Villas-Boas did succeed in that aspect, Soldado’s movement in the final third was poor, and apart from his wild shot over the goal, he didn’t come close to testing De Gea.

United going forward

While United sustained majority of the possession for large portions of the match, they struggled to break down Tottenham’s back line. Initially Rooney and Kagawa didn’t have an impact around the edge of the box, so they dropped deeper into central areas, to help United push forward as a unit.

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Equally, this didn’t improve United’s attack. Kagawa, Welbeck and Rooney were dropping into the same area, leaving the Spurs centrebacks fairly comfortable at the back. Moyes’ men didn’t offer an attacking thrust in the final third – Rooney was starved of service, Kagawa didn’t stamp his authority on the match and United failed to create one legitimate goal-scoring opportunity in the first half.

Moyes’ alterations

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Towards the end of the first half Moyes decided to play Kagawa on the left, and push Welbeck ahead of Rooney. This was a logical move because United lacked proper service in the final third, and a physical presence to compete with Dawson and Chiriches.

The move gave Rooney more freedom to express himself, and United were now more threatening in possession. Also, Welbeck was now a danger man because of the strength he possesses to hold up the ball, his pace to attack space behind the Spurs backline and he was still able to drift around the final third to help United sustain possession. Ultimately, Welbeck’s pace did pose problems against Spurs’ backline, and in the 68th minute, he nearly punished Villas-Boas’ men.

Welbeck received a simple ball over the top in the left channel, and he beat Dawson for pace at the byline, but his cross didn’t meet Rooney, who was closely watched by Dembele. Moyes’ alterations increased United’s attacking impetus, as there was a gradual improvement in the final third – Welbeck was now an attacking threat opposed to a defensive liability, Rooney vastly transformed from a peripheral figure to United’s most important player, and Kagawa limited Walker’s freedom down the right.

2-1/2-2

The most eventful moments of the match took place in the 54th minute when Sandro received the ball in midfield, drove forward, turning Cleverley in and out, before firing an unstoppable shot past De Gea.

Surprisingly, it took United two minutes to equalize.

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Walker gambled and flew into a 50/50 challenge with Vidic in United’s third, and came up short. Rooney picked up the loose ball and drove towards Tottenham’s half. With Lennon and Walker out of position, Sandro was forced to drift over to close down the United striker.

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Had Walker been disciplined, he’d be marking Rooney, and Sandro would be in a position to cut off Rooney’s reverse ball to Welbeck. However, Spurs were lacking numbers on the break, and Rooney provided Welbeck with a magnificent ball behind the Spurs backline. The Englishman took the ball in stride, and was tripped by Hugo Lloris.

Subsequently, Rooney converted a spot kick down the middle to level the score line, as United pounced on another defensive miscue from Walker.

Substitutions

Neither side was content with a draw, as it would increase Arsenal’s lead at the top of the table to double digits.

Villas-Boas replaced Lennon with Andros Townsend and Defoe for Soldado. Townsend added another element to Tottenham’s attack with his powerful running from deep areas. Unfortunately for Spurs supporters his crosses were comfortably dealt with, and he was unable to meet Walker’s ball in the 78th minute.

Defoe’s impact on the match was minimal, apart from a Vidic foul near the edge of the box in the 88th minute. Defoe’s mobility was an improvement to Soldado’s, but his decision-making and lack of service in the final third hindered his chances of winning the match.

Moyes’ changes were also straight swaps, as Javier Hernandez replaced Welbeck to no effect, while Nani and Ashley Young were introduced in the final minutes of the match, but there wasn’t enough time for the duo to have a significant impact.

Conclusion

Spurs created the better chances throughout the match, but two defensive miscues – solely from Walker – gave Rooney the platform to earn United a crucial away point.

Spurs will feel that they deserved maximum points, but the home side never looked comfortable when they took the lead. Their cautious approach limited United’s attacking threat, and their natural shape without the ball was a massive improvement from a defensive perspective. Spurs still need to address issues going forward, but Villas-Boas appreciated the overall response from his men.

“We are extremely happy with the performance but not so much the result, because a win would have taken us above them, but it’s a good response, not a bad result,” said Villas-Boas.

Once again glimpses of Rooney’s brilliance guided United to a positive result – Moyes’ men were mediocre on the day, and will need to improve as Rooney’s magic may not be enough to earn a result against Everton, Wednesday night.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal

Match in a sentence

Arsenal’s chances of playing in the Champions League next season took a massive dip, as two minutes of abysmal defending was enough for Spurs to extend their lead to seven points over their North London rivals.

Analysis

  • Arsene Wenger opted to for a 4-3-3 with a front three of Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott. Their midfield three consisted of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta.
  • Andre Villas-Boas stuck with a 4-2-3-1 with Emmanuel Adebayor leading the line. Gylfi Sigurdsson, Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott played behind Adebayor, while Moussa Dembele and Scott Parker shielded the back four.
  • The way both teams pressed in the first 20 minutes really set the tempo of this game. Arsenal pressed the Spurs defenders, as well as their midfielders and it was effective. Arsenal’s pressure caused Spurs to concede possession with ease, and they were unable to build from the back. Spurs on the other hand, failed to close down Arsenal’s midfielders and attackers and the Gunners asserted their dominance. Arsenal lacked quality in the final third and struggled to create goal-scoring opportunities, and that was the problem they encountered.
  • Wenger looked to have made the better team selection, as his side had an edge over Spurs prior to the first goal. Cazorla and Walcott’s presence forced Kyle Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto to be cautious about getting forward, which they rarely did. Arsenal’s pressing led to superiority in the midfield and allowed Arsenal to control the game prior to the goal. A positive for AVB was Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen having excellent performances, and they nullified Giroud’s involvement in the game. Lastly, at first Bale’s central position behind Adebayor was quite questionable. Yes, he’s licensed to roam around the final third, but with Lennon pegging back Nacho Monreal, it was odd that Sigurdsson was played on the left. Sigurdsson did track back occasionally, but Carl Jenkinson was allowed to get forward easily and cause Spurs a few problems.
  • Bale didn’t have a huge effect on the game apart from the goal, and he would’ve been more dangerous in wide areas against Jenkinson. He did help Adebayor in closing down the Arsenal defenders, while on the opposing end Giroud failed to do this and it allowed the Vertonghen and Dawson to push the ball forward in the midfield. Walcott looked like the man to lead the line, based on the pace he provides, but he was a quiet figure on the right flank. Assou-Ekotto sat narrow and did a great job in tracking his runs.
  • The main talking point in this game was both teams opting to play with a highline. In their encounter earlier this season, Adebayor’s early red card changed the game significantly, so it’s unfair to assess that battle in which Wenger won. But during AVB’s tenure at Chelsea, he was defeated 5-3 against Arsenal. In that game, Chelsea’s highline was blitzed and it was down to incisive passes behind the defenders. Chelsea at the time had John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic (men who lack pace), playing centre back. Today, Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker were in the same position and they had a nightmare. Both player’s aren’t great defenders, and are vulnerable defending so high up the pitch.
  • Lennon and Bale were the goal scorers for Tottenham today, and both goals stemmed from the same ball. Bale’s goal came from a ball that Sigurdsson played earlier in the game, but this time it was perfectly weighted and Bale placed his shot past Wojciech Szczesny. No pressure was applied to Sigurdsson, and the Mertesacker/Vermaelen partnership were caught ball watching, as no one tracked Bale’s run.
  • Lennon’s goal was a mirror image of Bale’s, except this time, the Arsenal defenders stood off and watched Parker drive through the middle and play the incisive ball. Lennon’s run started from a wide position in which he lost Monreal and this time Vermaelen was caught ball watching.
  • The second half saw a more cautious Spurs side, and as a unit the plan was to stay compact and break Arsenal’s highline. This was the approach Wenger possibly should’ve taken, because it was only a matter of time before his players tired from pressing. Also, Wenger has players at his disposal that are capable of causing a threat on the counter.
  • Nevertheless, Wenger’s side made the final 39+ minutes of the game exciting as Mertesacker nodded home a goal off a corner kick, six minutes into the second half. Adebayor failed to track Mertesacker, and he ran in front of Bale and headed the ball past Hugo Lloris.
  • Wenger took off Jenkinson and replaced him with Tomas Rosicky, pushing Ramsey to right back. Arsenal continued their search for a goal, and with Cazorla drifting centrally it looked certain that they might find an equalizer. Ramsey came closest to leveling the game, but he flashed his deflected shot wide. Arsenal probed and probed, but was unable to get behind the Spurs backline enough, and they struggled to create opportunities from open play. That all comes down to the excellent display from Dawson and Vertonghen.
  • Spurs did have an injury scare prior to full time as Dembele picked up a knock after colliding knee to knee with the below par Wilshere. Dembele limped off the field, as AVB couldn’t risk further damage to his star midfielder. It was a decent game between two of the Premier League’s better sides, that saw Arsenal dictate possession and the game, but Spurs were efficient, clinical and had that extra bit of quality in the final third.
Arsenal passing spurs

Tottenham – Arsenal
Passes

Tottenham - Arsenal Shots

Tottenham – Arsenal
Shots

  • Arsenal sit seven points behind Spurs with 10 games to go, and today’s loss has dented their chances of finishing in the top four. It’s certainly not out of the question, but they’d have to go on an incredible run, and hope for Chelsea and Spurs to help them out. Wenger tried to tactically switch things up in the second half, but the introduction of Podolski, Rosicky and Ramsey as a make-shift right back didn’t have any effect on the game. Although his team selection wasn’t poor, he will be questioned on why Arsenal played such a highline, and why Giroud was on the field for as long as he was. Wenger and his men face a daunting task in order to qualify for the Champions League next season, and failure to achieve that goal should cost him his job.
  • AVB will pleased with the three points, but what awaits him in the next few weeks will determine whether Spurs remain in the top four come May. Games against Liverpool, Swansea, Chelsea, Manchester City, Everton and Europa League fixtures against Inter Milan are what await the North London side. Spurs in the past seasons are known to drop points towards the end of the season, and whether they can avoid another end of the season dip, will be the difference maker. Out of the three London sides this season they’ve been the most consistent, and in May that will separate whether they qualify for the Champions League or Europa League. They’ll need to better today’s performance but with 10 games to go, Spurs are favourite to march on to a Champions League campaign next season.

Three Stars

1.    Jan Vertonghen

2.    Aaron Lennon

3.    Santi Cazorla

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @TEEWHYox

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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