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Tottenham Focus - Are Spurs the new Barcelona?

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By Tim Doel

Friday 22 February 2013

In the absence of Jermain Defoe, Tottenham have managed to win two and draw one of their last three games, a run that saw Gareth Bale hit four goals, and Mousa Dembele claim the all important equaliser against Lyon on Thursday. But on closer examination, when it comes to orthodox strikers, Spurs have learned to play without one.

Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Lewis Holtby

Just like Barcelona, having a striker is a luxury at Spurs, rather than a necessity. Whether Tottenham line-up with an out-of-form Adebayor, Defoe, an uncomfortable Clint Dempsey pushed up, or Bale moving to the centre-forward role for a spell, or a combination of all four, the goals are still arriving.

The style of play that manager Andre Villas-Boas has implemented is centered around movement in the three 'trequartista' players positioned behind the main striker. The movement and interplay that Bale, Lennon and Lewis Holtby provide act as a far greater danger to the opposition than the striker closer to the goal.

Maybe, just maybe, Daniel Levy and AVB knew what they were doing in January when they bulked at the transfer fee asked for Leandro Damiao. Maybe Villas-Boas was right when he didn't feel it the right move to panic-buy Lisandro Lopez of Lyon for £12m.

Jermain Defoe has had a great first half of the season, and was there to provide eight goals in 10 games at a time when the new tactics for the three aforementioned forward players were proving harder to implement. He was indispensable, and should walk back into the team when fit.

But he has missed the last three matches, and netted just once in the previous 11 games he took part in. Adebayor has gone five games without a goal, since New Year's Day, and was absent at the Africa Cup of Nations.

The scenario called for the midfield, and the attacking midfield of Bale, Lennon, Dempsey, and Holtby to click in their new roles, and that is what has happened, with all 12 goals from the last nine outings coming from these areas.

When opponents play deep to soak up pressure, Tottenham's close and quick interplay near the edge of the area opens up gaps in the opposition defence, allowing shots on goal from outside the area (or earning free-kicks in dangerous positions). For teams that play with a higher defensive line, Dempsey and Holtby can thread high quality balls through the defence for Bale and Dempsey to run on to. The striker is sometimes at best a decoy.

This set-up is working wonders, as Spurs are on a run of just two defeats in their last 20 outings, 13 of those being victories. Tottenham could do with a top quality striker, and for Defoe or Adebayor to come into form, but in the meantime, it's good to know Spurs can do it the Barca way!

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