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Tag Archives: Andre Villas-Boas

Emmanuel Adebayor holds the key to Spurs’ Champions League dream

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Courtesy of Flickr/All rights reserved by willis104

Andre Villas-Boas’ unforgettable tenure in England highlights the various components required to succeed at the highest level. In a country where the media and football fans are quick to criticize, coping with pressure and negativity is a necessity.

Winning the treble with a remarkable Porto side transformed Villas-Boas into one of the games most coveted managers in 2011, and with the Chelsea job vacant, the Portuguese manager couldn’t resist. Villas-Boas’ return to Stamford Bridge – he was previously a video analyst for the club – presented an opportunity to replicate Jose Mourinho’s career path and succeed in England.

But apart from their nationality, time as work colleagues, and the fact that neither man played professional football, the two managers have very little in common – and Villas-Boas’ spell in the Premier League displayed that. The 36-year-old is a young, vibrant manager that strives on producing attacking football. However, Villas-Boas’ man-management skills were poor, while his obstinacy and tactical naivety led to his downfall.

The Portuguese manager’s attempt to play ‘vertical football’ – attacking football that pegs the opposition into their half, while quickly circulating the ball, and maintaining a high defensive line – at Chelsea didn’t fit the players’ identity, nor did his eagerness to phase out the old guard bode well with management, the dressing room, or the supporters. Villas-Boas was sacked within seven months, and it appeared that his experiment in the Premier League was over.

Nonetheless, Harry Redknapp’s dismissal at Spurs provided Villas-Boas the platform to prove his critics wrong, as the North London side pushed for Champions League football. This time, Villas-Boas completed the season with Spurs, guiding them to their highest Premier League point total, but they still finished a few points out of the top-four.

Besides all the problems regarding the Portuguese manager and the Spurs hierarchy, the one issue Spurs encountered was scoring goals. Gareth Bale’s breakthrough season was pivotal towards Spurs’ success in his final season at White Hart Lane, but with the Welshman pushing for a move to Real Madrid, Spurs required another scoring outlet.

A mixture of poor performances, lack of goals, and new signings needing time to gel played a factor in Villas-Boas’ dismissal, but turning against the fans, along with his naïve tactics that resulted in blowouts against Manchester City and Liverpool solidified his fate. The drive was no longer visible, the exuberant celebrations were halted, and his methodical approach was constrained – Villas-Boas wanted out.

Spurs were at an all-time low, and the atmosphere around White Hart Lane became toxic. Yet two months later, the appointment of Tim Sherwood has proved to be successful, as Spurs sit a mere three points behind Liverpool for the final Champions League spot. Sherwood contradicts Villas-Boas’ style, as his team selections are pragmatic, his sides sit deeper without the ball, and Emmanuel Adebayor, opposed to Roberto Soldado, has led Spurs to success.

Villas-Boas attempted to sell Adebayor in the summer, but the striker was determined to stay put and fight for his position. The Togolese striker’s poor relationship with Villas-Boas increased when he questioned the Portuguese manager’s tactics during training, thus resulting in his exclusion from the first-team.

Adebayor’s behavioural issues have held him back in the past, but the Togolese striker doesn’t take his profession for granted, and is fortunate to play the sport he loves. The 29-year-old striker spent four years of his life unable to walk, in which his mother travelled across Africa with hopes of curing Adebayor.

Adebayor spent most of his time in church during tribulation, due to his religious background – yet, despite numerous prayers, a footballing miracle changed Adebayor’s life forever. “I was in the church laying down and, around nine or ten o’clock on the Sunday morning, I could hear children playing outside. Suddenly somebody kicked a ball into the church. And the first person to stand up and run was me, because I wanted to get that ball,” Adebayor told the Telegraph.

“My mum was afraid because she had never even seen me walking and suddenly I was running after a ball. And all the people in the church who had been praying for me told my mum, ‘your son is walking because of football. It must mean the boy has football in his blood.’

Adebayor’s opportunistic personality enables him to thrive when managers instill belief in the Togolese striker, but Spurs’ summer spending spree highlighted that the club was headed in another direction.

Over £100m worth of talent arrived at White Hart Lane, including Spanish striker Roberto Soldado. On paper, the Spaniard represented a striker well suited for Villas-Boas’ system – a diminutive, mobile poacher that could punish the opposition if presented an opportunity around the 18-yard box. The 28-year-old striker plays on the shoulder of the last defender, constantly aiming to make darting runs in behind the opponents back-line in search of goals.

Soldado’s £26m price tag merited him a start in Villas-Boas’ 4-2-3-1, but the Spaniard has only recorded five Premier League goals since his big move from Valencia – four from the penalty spot. Due to Villas-Boas’ lack of a no.10 capable of providing weighted through-balls, Soldado lacked the service to thrive at White Hart Lane. The 28-year-old spent most of his time under Villas-Boas isolated upfront, and with the Portuguese manager reluctant on playing 4-4-2, or using Emmanuel Adebayor, and Jermain Defoe, Spurs’ chances of achieving Champions League’s qualification was in jeopardy.

Nevertheless, Adebayor’s return to prominence has been beneficial to Spurs, as the Togolese striker’s recorded nine goals since Sherwood’s appointment. Adebayor provides Spurs with a reference point, which not only adds variety to their attack, but also makes up their lack of a legitimate through-ball specialist when Christian Eriksen is unavailable.

In Spurs’ victory over United at Old Trafford, Adebayor constantly dropped deep to link play, while Soldado stuck tight to the last defender, thus giving Spurs the attacking options they lacked under Villas-Boas. Adebayor received the ball in pockets of space and tormented Moyes’ back-line when he ran into United’s third. His opening goal signified the attacking dimension he offers Spurs – Adebayor linked play with Soldado in midfield, and ran towards the back post, out jumping Chris Smalling to perfectly nod Aaron Lennon’s cross past David De Gea.

Sherwood believes that Adebayor’s experience and desire to play are vital towards Spurs’ success. “He is in the mood already, he wants to enjoy his football and I’m giving him license to go on the pitch and express himself,” Sherwood said.

“He is a great example to the rest of the boys. He has been there and done it. He has done it on a regular basis and is one the players are looking up to. He’s been magnificent from the moment I took over, both on the pitch and off the pitch.”

And even when Spurs haven’t played their best football under Sherwood, the Togolese striker has kept them within touching distance of fourth place as a lone striker. Everton single-handedly outplayed Spurs when they visited White Hart Lane a few weeks ago, but poor finishing and Adebayor’s wonderful strike ensured Spurs obtained maximum points. Despite being isolated for majority of the match, a lofted Kyle Walker free-kick saw Adebayor wonderfully control the ball, shrug off Seamus Coleman, and fire a venomous shot past Tim Howard.

Perhaps, Sherwood still needs to incorporate a holding midfielder in his starting lineup, and find a way to limit the opposition from penetrating space between the lines, but his pragmatism states that he’s quickly learning from his mistakes.

There’s always room for defensive improvement, though, but Adebayor’s goals can be the key towards Spurs’ Champions League return, opposed to another disappointing season.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in EPL, Published Work

 

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Tottenham 0-5 Liverpool

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Courtesy of: Football.ua

Liverpool produced a scintillating performance at White Hart Lane, which sees them climb to second in the table.

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Andre Villas-Boas made two changes to his side, introducing Roberto Soldado and Sandro to the starting line up.

Brendan Rodgers was forced to make one change to the side that defeated West Ham last week, as Lucas was placed in midfield for the injured Steven Gerrard.

Rodgers’ men were exceptional – they attacked and defended well as a unit, but most importantly they exposed Spurs’ highline.

Pressing

A key component heading into this fixture was how both sides would approach the match without the ball. In possession, they both rely on ball retention, yet defensively they intend on applying pressure, and closing down their opponents in their third.

Spurs attempted to press Liverpool from the back with Soldado and Paulinho closing down the two centre backs, but Lucas Leiva dropped between Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho as the spare man. At times, Aaron Lennon and Moussa Dembele pushed forward to press Lucas, and a Liverpool fullback, but Nacer Chadli’s deep positioning provided Rodgers’ men with a passing outlet.

The odd feat in AVB’s approach was their reluctance to press in midfield. Spurs maintained an extremely high-line, but they allowed Liverpool’s midfield space and time to play passes across the pitch. The only defence Villas-Boas could make is Liverpool’s aim to overload central areas – Rodgers’ men already had a numerical advantage in central areas, but with Phillippe Coutinho drifting infield, Spurs were outnumbered 4v2.

Liverpool down the right

A common feat in the first half was Liverpool’s aim to isolate Kyle Naughton. Prior to Liverpool’s opener, Rodgers’ men constantly looked to overload and play balls behind the Spurs left back.

  • 10th min: Henderson played a lovely diagonal ball to Raheem Sterling, and the Liverpool winger cut to his right, beating Naughton, and forcing him to foul Sterling at the edge of the 18-yard box.
  • 11th min: Sterling intercepts Dembele’s pass and plays a one-two with Coutinho, before slipping a ball to Allen – behind Naughton – who delivers a cross into the box, thus leading to Sterling firing his shot over the net.
  • 15th min: Etienne Capoue fails to clear Lucas’ corner, and the ball falls to Sterling, who cuts to his right, beats the Frenchman for space and drives a venomous cross into the box.
  • 17th min: Coutinho drifted infield, dragging Chadli and Lennon out of position, before slipping a ball into Sterling. Chadli recovered his run, but was also beaten for pace by Sterling, but the Liverpool winger’s cross went right into Hugo Lloris’ hands.
  • 47th min: Sterling got the better of Lewis Holtby by cutting towards the byline, and his lofted cross was met by Sakho, who nodded the ball off the post.

Sterling was Liverpool’s main threat leading up to Suarez’s opening goal – Rodgers utilized his pace, and instructed his men to play him into 1v1 situations. Naughton struggled throughout the entire half, and Ezekiel Fryers replaced him at half time.

1-0

Subsequently, Liverpool took the lead a minute after Sterling’s final threat in the opening 20 minutes. There’s no denying the quality of the finish, or Henderson’s influence on the situation, but the manner in which Spurs conceded was appalling.

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Above we see Spurs’ shape after Dawson’s timely sliding interception to prevent Henderson from breaking free on goal. We also see Suarez behind Dembele, Sandro and Capoue.

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Henderson’s persistence allowed him to nick the ball away from Dawson to play in Suarez, and the Uruguayan – who was initially behind the three Spurs players – ran onto the ball, anticipated Walker’s slide, swayed to the left and coolly slotted his shot past Lloris.

While Henderson’s run and determination plays a pivotal role towards the build-up of the goal, the work ethic and positional awareness of the Spurs trio was diabolical.

Spurs’ highline

The most evident feat throughout the match was Spurs’ vulnerability maintaining an organized high-line, and Liverpool’s aim to get runners behind it. It also didn’t help that Villas-Boas was without Jan Vertonghen and Vlad Chiriches, thus forcing him to pair Capoue and Dawson against Suarez.

However, it was peculiar to see AVB stick with this approach, considering his results against both Manchester clubs this season. At the Ethiad, City blitzed Spurs’ backline, defeating them by six goals. Yet, against United, Spurs sat a few yards deeper and focused on minimizing passing lanes, and space between the lines.

Here, they reverted to the approach at the Ethiad, which ultimately made Rodger’s approach straightforward.

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  • 21st min: Sterling and Joe Allen dispossessed Chadli at the halfway line, and Sterling drove forward and played Suarez through, but the Uruguayan failed to slip his shot past Lloris.

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  • 23rd min: A simple Lucas long ball stretched Spurs’ backline and set Coutinho free on the left flank.

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  • 27th min: Lucas played a quick pass to Coutinho off a free kick, and the Brazilian spotted Suarez’s simple run into half-space. Suarez did well to hold the ball up, and cut it back to Coutinho, and his shot rattled the cross bar.

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  • 33rd min: A simple hoofed clearance from Martin Skrtel, sees Suarez run past the Spurs high-line and nearly double Liverpool’s lead. Lloris mistimed his header, and it fell to Suarez, but the French keeper did well to recover and deny the Uruguayan.

Villas-Boas’ approach was eccentric – he instructed his men to play a high-line, but no pressure was applied on the midfield, and Liverpool were allowed to easily bypass the Spurs midfield. Meanwhile, it was beneficial to Suarez, who is renowned for making runs into the channels and behind the backline.

This was a poor tactical approach from AVB, yet this isn’t the first time his preferred high-line has failed him in a big match.

Henderson

Although Suarez may steal all the headlines based on his great form, and outstanding goal return, it’s key to note that Henderson was magnificent at White Hart Lane. At times, Henderson found himself in deeper positions playing long diagonals and retaining possession, but Spurs were unable to cope with his dynamism from midfield.

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Henderson’s energetic runs from deep positions were integral to the buildup for three Liverpool goals. Rodgers was aware of Villas-Boas tactical naivety, and he encouraged the Liverpool midfielder to push forward and attack open space.

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  • 17th min: Henderson attacked space between Walker and Dawson, which gave Suarez a positive passing option. Dawson may have intercepted the pass, but Henderson’s run and persistence handed him the opportunity to lay the ball off for Suarez, thus leading to his opener.

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  • 39th min: Henderson starts his run at half between Lennon and Paulinho, and the Liverpool midfielder surges forward unmarked, and runs into space to receives Coutinho’s lay off. Lloris stopped Henderson and Suarez’s efforts, but the Englishman did well to convert the third attempt.

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  • 74th min: Henderson makes a run behind Chadli and into the space between Capoue and Walker. Walker does well to force Henderson wide, but he provides a nifty back heel to Suarez, who picks out Jon Flanagan at the back post, and he fires his shot off the cross bar to give Liverpool a 3-0 lead.
Henderson better view 3-0 run

A better angle of Henderson beginning to make a run behind Chadli, into open space

Better view 3-0 Henderson

Henderson continues his run and attacks the space

Henderson’s role was pivotal to Liverpool’s success at White Hart Lane. He was a proficient distributor from deep positions –  alongside Allen he pressed Dembele, Sandro and Paulinho out of the match, and his energetic runs from midfield tormented the Spurs backline.

Second half

Spurs responded well in the second half as Liverpool oddly dropped deeper into their third, but Soldado missed two opportunities to cut down the two-goal deficit. While Spurs pushed forward, Liverpool had clear opportunities to expose Villas-Boas’ men on the counter – led by Henderson – but they often lacked the final ball.

Ultimately, Paulinho’s red card midway through the second half ended any chance of Spurs mounting a comeback. With Sandro’s injury in the first half, Dembele’s departure for Andros Townsend and Paulinho’s sending off, AVB was forced to field Lewis Holtby and Chadli in a 4-4-1.

Liverpool received more space in midfield to retain possession, and Rodgers’ men surprisingly only scored three goals, despite creating numerous opportunities.

Conclusion

This was a fantastic Liverpool performance, but it’s difficult to ignore Villas-Boas’ tactical naivety. The Portuguese manager looked to have learned from his mistakes based on his approach against United, but is eagerness to revert to back to his preferred philosophy has been suicidal. It let AVB down in big games throughout his career in England, and this time it cost him his job at White Hart Lane.

Rodgers’ men were diligent out of possession, and isolated Spurs’ deficiencies at every opportunity. Liverpool targeted Naughton, nullified their holding midfielders, and used an energetic midfielder to penetrate open space. The result will build confidence in the Liverpool dressing room, but it’s unlikely that they’ll enjoy such freedom on their trips to City and Chelsea – until then, it’s difficult to categorize Liverpool’s role in the title race.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 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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Gareth Bale’s Galactico expectations require time

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Gareth Bale is encountering an arduous situation at the Santiago Bernabeu. It’s been two months since Bale made the move to Real Madrid, and the Welshman has been vilified and harshly scrutinized by the Spanish media. The rapid influx in fans, owners and the media demanding immediate success has somewhat tarnished modern day football, as players and manager’s are continuously under severe pressure. Despite all the negativity surrounding Bale, it’s shocking to know that he was a household favourite a few months ago.

Tottenham Hotspur supporters were on the edge of their seats when Bale received the ball on the right flank in their final game of the season against Sunderland. Had it been a few years ago, he may have opted to pass the ball or attempt a pacy dash towards the byline to provide a cross – but not this time. His confidence was oozing off his sweaty skin and fear was expressed in the Adam Mitchell’s eyes, as there was only one logical outcome.

The 24-year-old Welshman cut infield with his fancied left foot and curled the ball with precision and pace, humbling Simon Mignolet as could do nothing but watch the ball fly into the top corner, despite his efforts to make a save. White Hart Lane erupted. Spurs faithful adapted to Bale’s brilliance throughout the season, and this was just another piece of magic to add to the highlight reel.

Bale ran towards the Spurs supporters jubilant, knowing that this would be the last time he’d share a moment of this magnitude at White Hart Lane. The celebration was more of a ‘come get me NOW’ opposed to a sign of hope that relied on their London rivals dropping points on the final day of the season to solidify fourth place.

Daniel Levy’s most prized asset was ready to make the big jump abroad, despite the North London side earning a club-high 72 points. Truthfully, it was foreseeable. Bale’s vast growth into a world-class player couldn’t be ignored. He thrived in a no.10 position under Andre Villas-Boas that handed the Welshman a free role to roam around the final third searching for gaps and openings in the opposition’s backline. However, he maintained defensive responsibility by quickly closing down centre backs to complement Spurs’ high-pressing game.

The pressure of living up to the ‘galactico’ billing is insurmountable. However, Bale – the 11th galactico – had bigger shoes to fill as his summer transfer to Real Madrid made him the world’s most expensive player. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to know that on two separate occasions, Bale’s career hung by a thread.

Bale’s athleticism was evident at a young age. The Welshman excelled in rugby, hockey and track-field throughout school, but football was Bale’s top priority.  The Welshman’s PE teacher Gwyn Morris was aware of the Welshman’s talent and challenged him to improve other aspects of his game by forcing Bale to play one-touch football and predominantly use his weaker right foot, as he was superior to the rest of his schoolmates.

Southampton youth scout Rod Ruddick spotted the Welshman when he played for Cardiff Civil Service in a U-9 five-a-side tournament in Newport, Wales. “Even at the age of eight Gareth had fantastic ability. When you sign a player at that age it is because they have great potential and he has just kept getting better,” Ruddick said.

“You could see his pace and quality on the training pitch but I think his left foot helped him stand out. What we saw then we knew he was going to be something special,” he added.

Bale worked his way through Southampton’s satellite academy, but his recurring back injuries sustained from a growth spurt, nearly prevented him from receiving a full-time scholarship.

The Welshman signed with Spurs for £10m in 2007 – a year after breaking into the Southampton first team – and he endured 24 consecutive losses when he featured for the North London club. Bale’s frail build was his downfall, as he struggled to stay fit, which saw Alex McLeish attempt to pursue to the Welshman to join Birmingham in 2009. “Gareth wasn’t in the Spurs side at the time and Harry Redknapp wasn’t able to get him a game for whatever reason,” McCleish said.

“What if he had come to Birmingham and enjoyed it? We were in the Championship at the time but eventually got promoted to the Premier League. That would have changed the picture for us financially. You just don’t know. Unfortunately, this time, for us it didn’t, he said.”

Bale worked hard over the next few years to become stronger physically and mentally – with help from former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp’s tough love approach in training – and the football world witnessed glimpses of his brilliance. He took the world by storm through his two performances against Inter Milan in 2010, where he singlehandedly terrorized Brazilian fullback Maicon. Bale’s ability was never questioned – it was whether he could replicate his performances on a consistent basis.

Under Andre Villas-Boas, the 24-year-old winger flourished, and took the first chance to move abroad to challenge for trophies, opposed to spending another year at White Hart Lane, fighting to secure a Champions League spot. It was his childhood dream to play for Madrid, but scrutiny and ridicule followed him like a shadow.

More so, Bale’s transfer fee has been the focal point during his sluggish start at the Santiago Bernabeu. Had Bale set the valuation, or publicly stated he was worth £85m, then it would be understandable – however he didn’t. The inflated transfer market has been beneficial to teams with lesser financial power, as they now possess the power to hold out until they receive their required price tag.

Is Bale a £85m player? No.

At the time, was Bale worth £85m? Possibly.

Considering his remarkable performances throughout 2012/2013, the three years remaining on his contract, and the fact that Spurs initially weren’t willing to sell the Welshman, the valuation isn’t far-fetched.

Consequently, the Bale saga, and a few niggling injuries, prevented the Welshman from participating in pre-season activities. Given the circumstances, it’s absurd to label the Welshman a ‘flop’ based on the first two months of the season. Adapting to a new league, culture, country and style of football is never easy. While some players settle quickly into a new environment, others need time and patience – and based on the abundance of turnover that transpired at Madrid this summer, it’s rational.

Carlo Ancelotti, known for his possession-based philosophy has struggled to find his best starting eleven, and has been adamant on fitting Bale into the equation. But the rise of Angel Di Maria – arguably Madrid’s best player this season – has highlighted the need of natural balance in Ancelotti’s attack, specifically in their 7-3 victory against Sevilla.

“The team lacks little offensively, but lost concentration when at 3-0, but then continued to play well. We need more balance because you cannot open up a game when you are winning 3-0,” Ancelotti said.

“We played faster and more vertical. We need more offensive balance, but the game was fantastic,” he said.

Bale displayed glimpses of old, grabbing two goals and two assists. Sevilla’s shape without the ball was diabolical for large portions of the match, which benefitted a Madrid side that prefers to attack on the break. The Welshman was allowed space to isolate defenders, use his blistering space to stretch the match by running towards the byline, make darting runs into the box and combine with his teammates in wide areas.

Likewise, Bale has struggled to impose his authority on matches against sides that prefer to sit deeper, and defend with nine men behind the ball. Opposed to England, La Liga sides are precise with their overall shape without the ball, as they aim to be organized and compact. With Cristiano Ronaldo playing a free role, Bale has less space to work with, is more likely to drift out of games via isolation, and is a conventional winger, which will explain his inevitable statistical decline.

Coincidentally, Bale and Madrid, are going through a transitional period. Ancelotti is searching for balance, a preferred formation and a cohesive unit – whereas, Bale is settling into life abroad, which will expect him to thrive with less space, in a natural wide role.

An £85m transfer fee guarantees high expectations, but if Madrid supporters and owners are patient, then Bale can prove to be an intelligent investment in the near future.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in FIFA, Published Work

 

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Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham

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Olivier Giroud was the difference maker in Arsenal’s slender North London derby victory.

Arsene Wenger made three changes to the side that cruised past Fenerbahce in their midweek Champions League qualifier. Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott formed an attacking three, while Tomas Rosicky replaced the injured Lukas Podolski, and formed a midfield trio with Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere. Kieran Gibbs started at left back, and Laurent Koscielny returned from suspension to form a centreback partnership with Per Mertesacker.

Andre Villas-Boas made several changes to the side that dispatched of Dinamo Tbilisi in midweek Europa League action. Roberto Soldado, Andros Townsend and Nacer Chadli led the attack in Villas-Boas 4-3-3, while Moussa Dembele, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue formed a midfield three. Erik Lamela started the match on the bench, while new signing Christian Eriksen was unavailable.

Arsene Wenger learned from previous mistakes in the last North London derby, which proved to be decisive, in a match that contained a few tactical features.

Shape

An interesting feat in this match was always going to involve how both sides were aligned without the ball. In last season’s derby at White Hart Lane, both sides played extremely high-lines. Arsenal suffered due to the pace of Bale and Lennon, along with the space available between the lines for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Scott Parker to exploit. Spurs were able to get behind the Arsenal centre back pairing of Mertesacker and Thomas Vermaelen, which proved to be the difference.

Wenger learned from last season’s outing that nearly jeopardized Arsenal’s Champions League spot, and ordered his side to sit a bit deeper. Wenger’s men dropped into a 4-5-1 that sat off and minimized the space between the lines. In particular, Ramsey was one of their better players on the defensive end, as he thrived in Arsenal’s midfield five.

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It’s key to point out that the constant pressure that Giroud and Rosicky applied on Jan Vertonghen and Michael Dawson. Both men were able to push forward and play positive forward passes last year, and Wenger instructed his the duo to close them down, when possible – limiting their influence on Spurs’ attack going forward.

However, Spurs played a high-line, but were unable to replicate last season’s success. Arsenal looked most threatening on the break, where they could expose Spurs’ high-line. Their main outlet was Walcott – his pace troubled Danny Rose at times, and it was from this element of attack that handed Arsenal the lead. Ramsey broke forward and played a pass wide to the unmarked Walcott, and the Arsenal winger’s ball met Giroud’s run at the near post and the Frenchman tucked the ball under Hugo Lloris.

Arsenal was conservative without the ball, whereas they took a page out of Villas-Boas’ strategy last season, to harm their North London rivals.

4V3

The midfield battle proved to be the decisive factor in the result. Spurs fancied their chances due to their physical superiority, but Wenger replicated his decision in the second half of last season’s tilt at White Hart Lane – where Arsenal significantly improved – Cazorla was the main man, drifting centrally to overload the midfield.

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Cazorla helped Arsenal push forward in attack – he provided a spare passing outlet in midfield, and also disrupted Spurs’ approach in midfield. Now Tottenham had to worry about the tricky Spaniard drifting infield, and Villas-Boas’ midfield three were constantly dragged out of position. Cazorla was allowed freedom to play key passes in the final third, and was often the distributor in majority of Arsenal’s legitimate goal-scoring opportunities.

Wenger acknowledged the threat Spurs posed in midfield, so the inclusion of Cazorla was logical, based on its success last season and the numerical advantage his side gained.

Spurs’ Width

For all of Arsenal’s success in the middle of the park, Spurs did enjoy some freedom in wide areas. Villas-Boas instructed Chadli to take on the inexperienced Carl Jenkinson, and in the opening moments of the match Jenkinson was being exposed as Rose got forward to create overloads. Unfortunately for Spurs, Chadli didn’t maintain his impact on the left flank, and can be criticized for not assisting Rose cope with Walcott’s threat on the counter.

On the other flank, Townsend looked to be the most influential Spurs player in the opening minutes of the match. With Cazorla tucked in, Walker surged forward, which allowed Townsend space to cut in and take shots from distance, forcing Wojciech Szczesny to make a few saves. It was a recurring theme in the opening 30 minutes, but as the match wore on Cazorla began to track back to provide Gibbs cover.

Soldado

Roberto Soldado has been somewhat of a saviour for Spurs since his arrival from Valencia. In fact he’s scored the winning goal in both of Tottenham’s Premier League victories, leading up to this derby, which is why is performance was pivotal to Spurs’ success. Unfortunately for Villas-Boas, Soldado was marked excellently by Koscielny and Spurs’ midfield lacked guile going forward to provide the Spaniard the service he required.

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Soldado scored two goals against Malaga last season, but there’s a clear difference in where he receives the ball in both matches.

While Soldado was often an isolated figure, it leaves one to question Villas-Boas’ decision to leave a player like Lewis Holtby or Sigurdsson on the bench. It’s evident that Eriksen will play an integral role as Spurs no.10, but Spurs have lacked a link in between midfield and attack this season – and Soldado needs ample service to perform at the highest level.

Conclusion

Arsene Wenger learned from his mistakes in last year’s North London Derby at White Hart Lane, and modified them this year, which gave his side the edge over Spurs. Overloading the midfield, pressing the Tottenham centre backs and sitting deeper as a unit, were key factors in their victory at the Emirates.

Spurs will be disappointed with the loss, and it will take time for Villas-Boas’ men to hit full gear. With several new arrivals, the Tottenham manager and supporters will have to wait for this newly assembled side to find form. They’ve added the pieces over the summer to challenge for a Champions League spot, and despite the loss, are still favourites to achieve that feat.

As for the Gunners, they were able to slip past their North London rivals, continuing their great run of form. Despite purchasing a world-class talent in Mesut Ozil on deadline day, they still possess a thin squad. Injuries, loss of form and suspensions will all play a factor over the course of the season, and if they intend on challenging on four fronts, the squad available isn’t enough. However, they displayed that they still have a lineup capable of showing up for a big occasion – a North London derby – and they did get the better of Villas-Boas’ men.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work

 

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Roberto Soldado: Another Piece To Villas-Boas’ and Tottenham’s Puzzle

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White Hart Lane was left in a subdued atmosphere despite Gareth Bale’s winner against Sunderland on the final day of the season. News from St. James Park had broke loose that Laurent Koscielny’s second half goal was enough to secure Champions League football for the Gunners – ultimately leaving Tottenham out of Europe’s most prestigious tournament for the second consecutive season.

Tottenham finished the season with 72 points – the club’s record point total and the highest of a side that has finished outside the top four, which would’ve guaranteed the North London side second place two seasons ago. For the most part, Andre Villas-Boas’ first season at White Hart Lane was successful – despite finishing one spot lower than Harry Redknapp’s side a year prior. Although AVB’s influence saw Spurs develop tactically, the Portuguese manager’s side still encountered a few issues that saw them drop 12 points in their final 10 games – which Bale scored goals in the final five minutes against Southampton and Sunderland, to avoid further blemishes.

Defensive solidity has been a recurring issue for Spurs over the past few years, yet the large abundance of inferior teams in the league has benefitted the North London side. The main issue Tottenham has endured was in the final third, mainly at home, where they struggled to break down sides that sat deep, and stayed organized. Spurs dropped 19 points at home last season, albeit only being bettered by Liverpool for creating the most clear-cut chances in the league – simply highlighting that a no.10 and a striker was needed.

While Bale’s highly speculated move to Real Madrid has dominated headlines, AVB has added two quality players in Paulinho and Nader Chadli to his squad – as it looks certain Spurs will transition into a 4-3-3 side. Frankly, keeping Bale is essential, but it’s uncertain as to whether he’ll be able to replicate the 26 goals he scored last season – where he benefitted playing in a free role as a no.10.

Now, Bale’s departure wouldn’t be disastrous as many think, considering Spurs would receive approximately £80-100m for the Welshman. There’s no question that there was a heavy reliance on Bale, but the system switch would limit the freedom he enjoyed – and it would leave the creativity to the midfield three and the wingers, while they would need a reliable striker to provide the goals – which explains the purchase of Spanish international Roberto Soldado.

Soldado has reached the peak of his career, so there was no surprise that he was eager to be the main man of a potential contender. The 28-year-old has failed to consistently be the centre of attack for the national team, and a full season under AVB’s guidance, bolsters his chances of potentially solidifying a starting role in Brazil next summer.

At the age of 14, Vicente del Bosque, then Real Madrid youth team coach, persuaded Soldado to leave his regional side Don Bosco. Soldado was an instant hit at Castilla, Madrid’s B side, yet he was unable to display his skills for the first team, despite scoring 63 goals in four seasons. With a strike-force that consisted of Ronaldo, Robinho, Raul, Michael Owen and Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Soldado found it difficult to feature regularly in a Madrid shirt, which led to Fabio Capello’s decision to loan the striker to Osasuna for the 2006-2007 season. 13 goals in all competitions for the Pamplona based side was enough to earn Soldado a second stint at Madrid, under newly appointed coach Bernd Schuster, but once again the Spaniard was deprived the opportunity to play.

Soldado was offloaded to Getafe the next season for €4m, where it looked like his career would amount to nothing, yet that’s where the Spaniard’s career took storm. Life abroad allowed the Valencia-born striker to flourish as the spearhead of the Getafe attack, scoring 33 goals in 66 appearances, which interested a Valencia side that was looking to replace David Villa. As humble, and soft-spoken as Soldado is off the field, he was quick to state his role with the club that eventually paid €10m for his services.

“I have all the enthusiasm in the world, but I’m not here to replace anyone,” Soldado said.

“I’ll contribute as much as possible with my work,” he added.

During Soldado’s three seasons at his hometown club, the Spanish striker slowly built his own legacy. The 28-year-old striker notched 80 goals in 146 appearances for Los Che, scoring a minimum of 25 goals per season in all competitions – while bringing his Champions League tally up to 15 goals, more than any player on the Spurs roster. Throughout the Spaniard’s career, he’s made it clear that he’s a genuine poacher, which could explain the player’s he admired as a youth.

“I favoured the finishers [when growing up], the goalscorers. [Ivan] Zamorano – I loved him when he was at Madrid. Jimmy [Floyd] Hasselbaink at Atletico, Ronaldo when he was at Barcelona. They really were the best of the best,” Soldado said in a UEFA.com interview.

However, although Soldado’s demeanor off the field was reserved, the bullish, yet gritty side of the Spaniard, which is often seen on the pitch, came out when speaking to reporters about his Valencia departure.

“The reason I’m leaving is because I don’t have faith in the current project and because the president has been lying for a long time, to me personally over the telephone,” Soldado said.

“A lot of the information you have received I believe was leaked by him. He has caused a lot of damage for me and my people, who are like family to me,” he added.

As the Spaniard reaches the latter parts of his career, a move to Spurs was logical, seeing as he fits the mold of a player the North London side need. Soldado prefers to play as the lone striker, and has made a living off of poaching goals in the 18-yard-box – all 24 of the Soldado’s league goals came in the penalty area. The Spanish striker tends to play on the shoulder of the last defender, while his movement off the ball and link-up play has gradually improved.

His performance against Uruguay in the Confederations Cup was an indicator that the Spaniard can thrive as the main striker in a 4-3-3. Soldado constantly linked play with Cesc Fabregas, allowing the Barcelona midfielder to get into advanced positions when he dropped deep – not to mention his game-winning goal with his preferred right foot.

Statistically, Soldado is an upgrade to the two strikers that Spurs have at their disposal. His 24% shot conversion is twice as good as Jermaine Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor’s, along with scoring more league goals than the both men combined. Of the 511 chances created by Spurs last season, the duo scored 16 goals and without a proper no.10, AVB’s men lacked a player that can play an incisive final ball. Soldado is a step up from the current Spurs strikers – his awareness in the box and ability to get on the end of chances can prove to be pivotal next season.

In hindsight, Soldado does rely on quality service from the midfield, and with players such as Moussa Dembele, Paulinho and Lewis Holtby behind him, the Spaniard should suffice. Although the trio isn’t known for their incisive direct passing, Soldado can link play, allow the midfield to penetrate the space behind him, and provide ample space with his off the ball movement so the midfield could supply the service required.

For all the good Soldado offers, the Spanish striker does have the tendency to drift out of games. It’s been one of the few pieces of criticism the 28-year-old has received over the past few years, yet Soldado doesn’t let the negativity affect his game.

“You have to have the belief that if you try to get away from your marker twice and you fail the third time you will succeed. In fact they can be winning the battle for almost the entire game but then you get the better of them once – and often that is enough,” Soldado said in an interview with the Telegraph.

Yet, even though the Spaniard has been ridiculed for being shaped in the form of a limited striker, Del Bosque, now Spanish head coach, encourages Soldado to stick to his game. Del Bosque believes that Soldado’s movement away from the play, not only keeps pressure on the opposition’s defenders, but it also gives the midfield space to orchestrate.

With that being said, Soldado’s arrival did come at a hefty price, and pressure will be on the Valencia-born striker to produce, but Spurs now have their first legitimate proven goal-scorer since the departures of Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane.

Spurs still face a few deficiencies at the back, and could improve on their squad depth, but as AVB’s tenure continues, the chances of Champions League football returning to White Hart Lane increases.

With-or-without Bale, Spurs are building a team to fit AVB’s philosophy, which proved to be successful at Porto. The Portuguese manager adds another piece to the puzzle that he’s attempting to solve – hence, Soldado’s fantastic goal-scoring record can be the difference between Champions League football and another substandard finish outside of the top four.

It’s evident that Spurs’ transition to a 4-3-3 is beneficial to their long-term success but they need to score more goals, and Soldado is the answer.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2013 in EPL, Published Work

 

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Tottenham 3-1 Manchester City

Spurs keep their Champions League hopes alive as they score three goals in seven minutes to come from behind to defeat Manchester City.

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Andre Villas-Boas made three changes to his side that crashed out of the Europa League against Basel. Hugo Lloris replaced Brad Friedel in goal, Benoit Assou-Ekotto started at left-back over Kyle Naughton, and Gareth Bale returned from injury to push Lewis Holtby to the bench.

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Roberto Mancini made five changes to his lineup that defeated Wigan mid-week, introducing Edin Dzeko, Gael Clichy, Matija Nastasic, Pablo Zabaleta and James Milner. Like Spurs, City played in a 4-2-3-1 that saw Carlos Tevez, Milner and Samir Nasri play behind Milner, while Yaya Toure partnered Gareth Barry in the midfield. David Silva was still sidelined due to injury, while Sergio Aguero was fit enough to play on the bench.

AVB’s tactical change with 30 minutes to play was the difference maker, as Spurs keep pace with Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Champions League football. City was the better side in the first half, but they strolled through the second, and were punished.

Tevez

Carlos Tevez was City’s most influential player in the first half, playing behind Dzeko. Tevez’ performance was identical to his first half performance against United; he found space in behind Dembele and Parker and he exploited it. The Argentine was the mastermind behind the first goal, which virtually came out of nothing. He played a pass to Milner between Scott Parker and Jan Vertonghen, and the English winger picked out Nasri, who tapped the ball into the open net.

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Tevez was drifting from flank to flank creating overloads with the wingers, running at defenders from deep positions and linking play with advancing runners. Tevez played in Nasri, and the Frenchman nearly doubled City’s lead but he slipped his shot wide of the net. Tevez was a man on a mission on the first half, and if he had kept playing at this level, City might have picked up three points.

City’s Shape vs. Spurs attack

Both sides pressed cautiously and allowed their opponent’s centre backs to push forward. Spurs occasionally pressed the City defenders, but it was mainly Emmanuel Adebayor and Bale who were looking to close them down.

AVB’s men enjoyed lengthy spells of possession throughout the match, and City was content with dropping into two banks of four and forcing Spurs to break them down. Nasri and Milner pressed Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Walker when they had the ball, as well as tracked their runs when they decided to push forward. Milner was another bright spot for City going forward, as he troubled Assou-Ekotto early on in the match, constantly skipping past him.

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Spurs struggled to create chances because both sides played quite narrow, leaving the centre of the pitch congested. When City won the ball they aimed to play through Dzeko, but the Bosnian striker was unable to cope with Vertonghen and Michael Dawson.

With Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey drifting centrally, Assou-Ekotto and Walker were left to provide the width. Milner, known for his defensive work, did a great job on his flank, as did Nasri for the first 30 minutes, tracking superbly. Towards the end of the half, Walker was relishing 1v1 situations with Nasri and he provided a great ball that nearly led to the equalizer. Players such as Bale and Dembele were unable to find space to penetrate, and they struggled to create goal-scoring chances in the first half.

4-3-3

City made one change at half time, introducing Aleksandar Kolarov for James Milner, who picked up a knock. Late in the first half, Bale moved to the right flank, while Dempsey played behind Adebayor. The pattern of the first half continued at the start of the second, as Spurs held possession, with City sitting back. Mancini’s men were complacent on the ball and looked willing to contain their one goal advantage.

AVB introduced Holtby and Tom Huddlestone as Spurs switched to a 4-3-3. Huddlestone sat deeper, providing a passing outlet, while Dempsey and Holtby took turns dropping into the midfield. Space opened up in the midfield for Dembele to dribble into, and it left more space for Bale to attack higher up the pitch. Defoe’s movement off the ball also created space for the midfield three, Dempsey and Bale to exploit. Defoe’s introduction was logical, as the Englishman provided pace, and intelligent runs in behind defenders, something Adebayor failed to do.

Huddlestone and Dawson were now able to spray diagonal balls without pressure from deep positions, Holtby could thread passes into tight spaces, and Dembele’s dribbling led to more chances for Spurs. Huddlestone also did a better job in tracking Tevez’ runs, as the Argentine had no significant impact in the second half Dempsey’s goal was down to a great ball from Bale, but Dawson’s cross-field diagonal led to it. The final two goals stemmed from Spurs winning the ball and finding that decisive pass, due to the space available. Kompany should have gotten closer to Defoe on his goal, as the Englishman fired a superb strike past Hart.

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Mancini introduced Scott Sinclair for Dzeko and Joleon Lescott for Clichy in the final minutes, but his side was unable to fight back into the match. Mancini faced the same problems with Dzeko as AVB did with Adebayor, but he chose not to react, nor do we know if Aguero was fit to play.

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Dzeko and Adebayor ineffective

Conclusion

AVB’s tactical switch and substitutions paid off, facilitating Spurs’ comeback. City was in control of the match, but their intensity levels dropped, and Mancini was unable to react when Spurs went to a 4-3-3. Defoe provided movement and pace upfront,  Holtby and Huddlestone provided positive passes going forward and the tactical change suited Spurs, whereas Mancini’s men were unable to cope.

The win sees Spurs stay in the hunt for European football, as a loss would have dented their chances. They again struggled to break down teams that sit deep and minimize space in central areas. AVB’s tactical switch changed the game, and has now made their encounter with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge massive. Spurs can only win their games and hope their opponents drop points, if they intend on playing Champions League football next season.

City’s loss ensures that a Manchester United victory against Aston Villa will clinch the Premier League title. During Mancini’s tenure, City has struggled to get results away from home, and have lost many matches in this manner. Questions will arise about Aguero’s inclusion on the team sheet as he wasn’t fit enough to get into the game. City failed to maintain their intensity for 90 minutes, and AVB tactically outcoached Mancini, in what may be the nail in the coffin on his time in England.

Three Stars

1.    Jan Vertonghen

2.    Gareth Bale

3.    Clint Dempsey

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @TEEWHYox 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Match Recaps

 

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