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Tottenham Focus - Encouraging signs from Villas-Boas

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By Alan Robins

Monday 19 November 2012

For Tottenham fans, losing to their north London rivals is never a good experience. Losing by the same 5-2 scoreline as in February it would appear that Spurs were out-classed. Arguably this was not the case. In February, Spurs had Scott Parker sent off but this was in the 87th minute when the game was already lost. In February, tactical naivety with no Plan B was behind the reult. On Saturday, the end result was achieved through a different path.

Andre Villas-Boas

At the Emirates on Saturday, Spurs started strongly and took the lead through Emmanuel Adebayor in the 10th minute. The away team could have been two up through Aaron Lennon before Adebayor’s red card. The Togolese’s studs up tackle on Santi Cazorla after 17 minutes left Howard Webb little option but to send the forward off. From hero to villain in seven minutes.

Against Arsenal’s passing game, playing with ten men for the majority of the game was always going to be an uphill struggle for Spurs. Two goals just before half time for Arsenal to take a 3-1 lead would make a result almost impossible. As so often happens with a sending off, Adebayor’s straight red did so dramatically for Spurs. It was a shame for manager André Villas-Boas who, perhaps by contrast to the February game, got many things spot on.

Villas-Boas has still to win over a proportion of fans and much of the media. Despite the result, his performance yesterday may have gone some way to winning over those skeptical fans.

Fans crying out for two up front got their wish. This was not a kowtow to the fans but a tactical choice. Arsenal’s defence, with no defensive midfielder, has been suspect and the two forwards should have created opportunities. Spurs first goal was evidence of this. Villas-Boas negated Arsenal’s superior numbers in midfield by using the high defensive line and high pressing to compact the play into Arsenal’s half. The tactic appeared to work, with Spurs looking in control until the red card.

At half-time, now trailing by two, Villas-Boas surprised and perhaps delighted fans. Rather than retreat and go for damage limitation, substitutions were made switching formation to a 3-5-1. A brave tactical switch given Spurs would leave more gaps for Arsenal to exploit but the team was sent out to go for a result. The result might not have come, but Spurs worried Arsenal at times, and their fans seemed reduced to a nervous silence, especially after Bale scored. Given the circumstances, could fans ask for more than that?

After the match and since, Villas-Boas refused to publicly criticize Adebayor. Some sections of the press have lambasted the Portuguese for not doing so. Why? Would they criticize Ferguson or Moyes for not doing so? Probably not, yet do so for the Spurs coach. As before Villas-Boas does things internally - the appropriate course of action.

Many fans realise Spurs are in a period of transition. Villas-Boas needs time, patience and support - from fans and his Chairman. Hopefully Saturday has helped to sway some dissenting fans.

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