Tottenham Focus - The lights go out in Georgia as Bale-less Spurs romp home
To their detractors last season, Tottenham where labelled a one-man team, the one man being Gareth Bale. With his impending sale, many believe Spurs might struggle to break into the top four. Perhaps this is the type of performance to make people think again as the first leg of the Europa League qualifying tie saw Tottenham dispatch Dinamo Tbilisi 5-0 in Georgia with not a Welshman in sight.
Dinamo were unimpressive and rarely tested Spurs, but for coach André Villas-Boas and his team this was a night full of positives. No matter the opposition, five goals away from home in Europe is notable. Spurs should have ensured the return leg at White Hart Lane is no more than a formality allowing the coach to rest and rotate players.
Villas-Boas’ team selection appeared astute. New signings were played to continue their acclimatization into the team, some fringe and young players were given an opportunity and Younes Kaboul captain for the night, continued his return from injury. All of this was done whilst keeping the strong spine to the team.
With the new signings and fringe players the pace - both passing and dribbling - was perhaps understandably slow to begin with whilst players got used to each other’s positions and movement, though things improved as the match progressed. All the time possession was retained.
The new signings were again impressive with Étienne Capoue and Paulinho controlling the midfield from the two holding positions, the Brazilian getting forward more, and to score. Roberto Soldado scored twice - on both occasions showing the art of movement, position and timed run in the box - his second from a defence-beating cross from Nacer Chadli. However, for all positives of the new signings it was arguably a home grown talent that stole the show.
Andros Townsend excelled; scoring Spurs’ first and setting up the next two goals, the Englishman’s pace and flair caused the Tbilisi defence constant trouble all night. In the past Townsend has been accused of holding onto the ball too long, but against Dinamo he showed greater maturity. His decision making when to go outside the full-back and when to cut in seemed better as was his release of the pass. Townsend appears to be building on the good form he showed on loan at QPR last season.
Could he mount a real challenge to Aaron Lennon’s starting place? Possibly and this is perhaps one of the changes to the squad being built. With the new signings, and potentially more to come, and the advancement of one or two academy players such as Tom Carroll, there is real depth in the squad. Injury or loss of form and your place may be lost, that little extra incentive to perform, to keep your place may make a difference over the season between top four or not.
Spurs dominated and if the lights went out on Dinamo in Georgia last night, they may have also gone out on Spurs struggling without Gareth Bale.
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