Tottenham Focus - From Maribor to Manchester
A change of formation, a start and needed 90 minutes for Emmanuel Adebayor and a hat trick for Jermain Defoe saw Tottenham take three points against Maribor and their first victory in this season’s Europa League. The 3-1 victory was deserved, with Spurs dominating the Slovenian champions for most of the tie. Importantly for the coach [and the fans], Spurs players produced the reaction perhaps needed after the unconvincing performance against Wigan.
André Villas-Boas sent out his team, in what was nominally a 4-4-2, but in reality seemed more a 4-4-1-1 with Adebayor dropping into the hole behind Defoe. As seen last season, Spurs seem better balanced with the Togolese in the team. His work rate and movement pulling defenders out of position whilst linking with Spurs [very] wide men and Defoe was perhaps crucial to the victory, even if he didn’t score or get an assist himself. Similarly, Tom Carroll had an excellent game in centre midfield. Always available to take and make the pass, and accurate with both short and cross field ball particularly to Gareth Bale who tormented the right side of the Maribor defense all night.
Overall Spurs played a more fluid, open attacking style than recently and had Maribor on the back foot from the off. Away to Manchester City on Sunday should be a much tougher prospect.
Villas-Boas indicated in the Maribor post match interview that Spurs are unlikely to adopt the 4-4-2 formation. This may be understandable as City will likely start in 4-2-3-1 with Ya Ya Toure and a defensive midfielder in the holding positions. If Spurs keep to the 4-4-2 they may lose the midfield battle as away to Arsenal in February - more likely is a return to the 4-2-3-1. The biggest question for Villas-Boas may be who will start in certain key positions.
Defoe’s hat trick might have ensured a starting role for the Englishman and he showed against Manchester United that he can link play, however his ability to do this is not always guaranteed and Adebayor is arguably simply better at playing the lone forward role. It would be a brave decision to drop Defoe but would Adebayor’s all round play give Spurs more overall balance and chances? Adebayor might provide more for either Sigurdsson or Dempsey in the no 10 position running onto balls held up by the forward – something that brought success for both last season. Adebayor could play there himself but may offer less than either in pressing the City holding duo.
If Sandro is fit then there might be a straight choice between Tom Huddlestone and Carroll to be his partner. On the performance against Maribor this may favour Carroll who maybe has a more all round game. If the Brazilian is unavailable then the same duo may start, as Livermore appeared to be struggling to find form prior to injury.
Spurs should go into the City match buoyed by the performance against Maribor and have this season played better away from White Hart Lane. A tough match is expected but the Lilywhites showed against United they can be a tough prospect themselves. Villas-Boas has some difficult selection decisions to make but get them right and Spurs can take another three points in Manchester.
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