Tottenham Focus - How effective are Villas-Boas’ substitutions?
Nearly halfway into the Premier League season, Tottenham Hotspur lie fifth, three points from third. Spurs’ points tally could have been considerably higher but for the number of late goals conceded. Is there a sense that there is a correlation between the goals being conceded and the Coach’s substitutions? In the 16 matches played, André Villas-Boas has made 45 substitutions - a high number. Does this tell the true picture - exactly how effective have the Portuguese’s changes been?
Perhaps the number of changes is down to several factors. Fresh legs - the high pressing game particularly in central midfield can be tiring, and 22 of the changes have involved one or more central midfielders. Perhaps this also due to tactics; Spurs fans bemoaned the lack of a Plan B under Harry Redknapp. Now there is a coach who changes players according to what he believes will affect the match. And of course there have been changes due to injuries, such as against Wigan Athletic and Fulham. Injuries have meant that like-for-like replacements, such as Gylfi Sigurdsson for Sandro against the Latics, are not always possible.
The late goals suggest Spurs have not learnt to close out the game, yet there has been criticism of substitutions made for exactly that reason. For example, the matches against West Bromwich, Norwich, Queens Park Rangers, Manchester United and Liverpool all saw such changes. Sometimes it works, sometimes, such as against Manchester City, it does not. Yet it should not be ignored that a number of individual errors have led to late goals.
At times Villas-Boas has made positive changes to break the deadlock or draw level. Against Newcastle, West Bromwich Albion, Norwich and Everton, Spurs scored shortly after the changes were made. At times changes appeared to be to chase the game. For example, in the Chelsea match Spurs went behind minutes after Tom Huddlestone came on. Villas-Boas brought on Emmanuel Adebayor for Dempsey with 16 minutes to go to get something from the game. The danger is that this can leave you more open and in this case Chelsea scored again in the 90th minute.
Encouragingly, though, Villas-Boas has shown he is not afraid to make bold changes - the Arsenal and QPR matches should be testament to that. However, is there a problem with changing the shape so much? Despite such positive intent, in their 16 league matches Spurs have conceded 13 times after one or more substitutions have been made. Arguably, some changes have followed others too quickly, creating uncertainty for players. 13 substitutions have been made within 10 minutes of the previous one.
Perhaps this is part of the transition. The majority of Spurs players were possibly accustomed to having only a Plan A and are adjusting to being challenged more tactically, something with which they should become more familiar in time. Villas-Boas perhaps needs to allow more time to see if changes made work before making further alterations so quickly. However, overall, the changes appear to be made with thought and purpose to obtain a positive outcome.
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