Tottenham Focus - Opening victory sees encouraging signs
Opening day victories and penalties have been in fairly short supply for Tottenham recently, but Roberto Soldado’s 50th minute spot kick gave Spurs all three points away to Crystal Palace.
The victory was deserved even though the game became slightly more open after the 66th minute following typical bravura substitutions from Ian Holloway. Palace had had the potential to be a slip up for Spurs, with a new look team up against an Eagles side buoyed by a raucous crowd on their return to the Premier League after an eight year gap. However, Spurs appeared comfortable all afternoon, rarely moving out of second gear.
Coach André Villas-Boas kept to the 4-2-3-1formation used so often last season but with numerous changes to last year’s team. There were debut starts for Soldado up front, Nacer Chadli wide left and Paulinho alongside Mousa Dembelé in one of the central midfield holding roles. Gylfi Sigurdsson, who spent much of last season on the left, started in the No. 10 position behind Soldado, replacing the missing Bale, whilst Danny Rose came in at full-back.
Despite pre-season, this, perhaps understandably, felt like a team still getting to know each other on the pitch. The pace at times was relatively slow, passes kept simpler to retain possession whilst players were getting used to new teammates’ movement.
There was undoubted promise for Spurs fans though. Soldado lead the line well, offering plenty of movement and dropping deep to be get involved as well as getting off the mark with a well-placed penalty. Chadli grew stronger and more confident as the match progressed with some nice touches and Paulinho was named the television broadcaster’s man of the match, poised on the ball and strong in the tackle.
There appears more of a physicality and athleticism in the team. Starting with Paulinho, who won four tackles and made three interceptions and two clearances, alongside Dembelé sitting in front of the defence, Spurs controlled the centre - Dembelé was replaced by another new boy Etienne Capoue in the second-half, who in 30 minutes, made six interceptions. Factor in that Sandro is still to return and Spurs look as though they may be hard to break down this season.
Perhaps the number of quality players in this position is an indication of expected rotation with the amount of work and covering needed in front and to the side of the defence, especially considering Rose and Walker were looking more like wing-backs than full-backs.
Going forward Sigurdsson looked sharp, popping up across the attacking third and linking with others. Spurs need a creative player and whilst Sigurdsson is not a trequartista, he is more natural in that role than out wide. Criticism of Sigurdsson in the position may be unfair as this relatively new for the Icelander at Spurs, with new players around him. Time may see him excel.
The first match saw encouraging signs from Spurs from returning players - including Youne Kaboul - to new players. Once the players start to gel, Spurs could look very good indeed.
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