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Tottenham Focus - Does Leeds loss highlight squad depth issues?

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By Alan Robins

Monday 28 January 2013

Tottenham went out of the FA Cup to Leeds United at Elland Road on Sunday afternoon in what was arguably one of their worst performances of the season. The loss will be disappointing for fans and for André Villas-Boas, who had been determined to take the cup competition seriously.

Tottenham players after losing to Leeds

Spurs were without Jermain Defoe due to a slightly twisted hip. With Emmanuel Adebayor away on international duty, Villas-Boas had no alternative but to play Clint Dempsey as a lone striker, with Gylfi Sigurdsson coming in to play in the hole. Tom Huddlestone came into the centre midfield, Steven Caulker into defence and Brad Friedel in goal. Despite the changes Spurs still fielded a strong team - they just never appeared to get going.

This was not a blood and thunder cup tie. The atmosphere seemed relatively flat and Spurs went out with a whimper and not a bang. Villas-Boas admitted his team suffered from a sluggish first-half, but in truth the team looked not only sluggish but sloppy throughout. There were too many misplaced passes and not enough drive to make the victory difficult for Leeds.

While Dempsey did pull a goal back, the lack of a recognized striker looked a particular issue and Spurs fans will hope that chairman Daniel Levy will have taken note coming into the last few days of the transfer window. However, it was central midfield. not the lack of a striker, that was perhaps the main issue. Did the sluggishness referred to by Villas-Boas stem from this?

The central midfield is the heart of the team, sets its tempo, yet Spurs’ central midfield seemed unbalanced. Huddlestone has always been a fine passer of the ball, but his long injury absence seems to have robbed him of something. Perhaps his lack of mobility meant he tended to sit deeper, but did this mean Scott Parker playing more of the Mousa Dembelé role?

Parker, himself coming back from a long injury, is a fine defensive midfielder, but his strength is not in the creative side and Sigurdsson and Dempsey did not appear to get enough service. This imbalance also meant the Spurs defence struggled, having little protection in front of them. If the Coach wanted to rest Dembelé, arguably a Parker-Tom Carroll axis would have been better.

Both Parker and Sandro as defensive midfielders have urgency, a drive which coupled with their tackling gives an impetus to the whole team. Huddlestone lacks this as well as the nimbleness to get away from players when needed. Of course his passing is his strength but one of the strengths Villas-Boas seems to look for in players is versatility. Has Huddlestone become too one-dimensional for this Spurs squad?

Spurs may need to recruit a striker this window to strengthen a top four challenge. Whether they need to recruit further in midfield is open to debate. They are already trying to bring in Holtby earlier and have some fine young players in their academy but are these more on the creative side? Is a defensive midfielder is needed as much as a striker?

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Norwich v Tottenham

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