Tottenham Focus - Lloris shines but lack of creativity a worry for Villas-Boas
In the shadow of violence suffered by some of their fans, Tottenham came away from Rome with a 0-0 draw against Lazio. The hard won point means Spurs only need a draw at home to Panathinaikos in a fortnight to progress to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
On the basis of this performance a draw against the Greek side is certainly a possibility. Spurs fans have been used to performances of two halves from their team. Arguably the game against Lazio was more a team of two halves: the defence, inspired by Hugo Lloris, outperforming the offence, the supposedly creative, attacking part of the team. Only two teams have stopped Lazio scoring this season - Juventus and Tottenham. Tottenham have done so twice now, though Lazio, through Libor Kozak, missed several chances last night.
With rumours of Brad Friedel going on loan to Blackburn Rovers, André Villas-Boas may finally have settled on the French international stopper as his number one. If he had any doubts before, Lloris’ performance in Rome should have made up his mind. The French captain excelled making several crucial saves and came off his line at pace to sweep behind his defence. As an interesting aside, Friedel sportingly took to Twitter to compliment Lloris.
In front of Lloris the Spurs defence seemed if not infallible, then reasonably solid. The two Kyles, Naughton and Walker, had perhaps one of their better games of the season, while Steven Caulker and Jan Vertonghen - a promising but relatively untried partnership at centre back - performed ably as well. There should however be no doubting Tottenham’s star of the night. When Lazio did break through the defence, it was Lloris that keep them out.
In centre midfield, youngster Tom Carroll again showed the promise that Spurs fans have come to expect. His partnership with Sandro - who this season looks consistently strong in his defensive shield role - has a good balance to it. There may be a good case for starting the duo against West Ham at the weekend, allowing the returning Mousa Dembelé to play in the number 10 role, an area where Spurs looked to struggle against Lazio.
Given his domestic suspension, Emmanuel Adebayor understandably started as the lone forward supported by an attacking trio of Gareth Bale, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Clint Dempsey. Perhaps the selection was partly to rest Aaron Lennon and perhaps partly to show trust in Sigurdsson and Dempsey and to try to build their confidence.
Apart from a delightfully weighted Carroll pass in the opening minutes that saw Bale round the keeper and put the ball in the net before being called back for offside, Spurs created very little. This should worry Villas-Boas. There seemed a lack of movement, which made it difficult for Spurs defenders and central midfielders to play or bring the ball out. When the ball was played forward, ball retention was poor, with the four attacking players averaging around 72% passing accuracy.
The performance of Carroll may provide Villas-Boas with the option to play Dembelé further forward and help overcome the creativity problem that the manager perhaps need to address. Thankfully for Spurs fans, if Lloris reproduces his form against Lazio, the defence should take care of itself.
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