Tottenham Focus - Professional Spurs continue good run against Anzhi
Tottenham return from their Europa League trek to Russia with three points to go four points clear at the top of Group K. This was a professional performance where patience and possession appeared the overriding factors in attaining a 2-0 victory over Anzhi Makhachkala, with first-half goals from Jermain Defoe and Nacer Chadli as well as yet another clean sheet.
Anzhi’s financial woes have seen them sell the majority of their expensively assembled players and in doing so fall to the bottom of the Russian Premier League. As such the expectation was on Spurs to win the fixture. They did not disappoint even if the performance was more measured than scintillating. There may have been several reasons for this.
As anticipated coach André Villas-Boas heavily rotated the team, with only three players - Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker and Mousa Dembélé - that began the match against Chelsea on Saturday starting on Thursday. With the rotation the fluency suffered. Rather than passing to where a teammate was expected to move, Spurs players appeared to wait until the teammate had moved into position before passing. This slowed the pace of the game and give Anzhi time to organize in front of Tottenham.
Any fluency and quick passing was not helped either by the appalling state of the pitch - the tie was played in the Saturn Stadium in Ramenskoye, Moscow, over 1000 miles from Anzhi’s home ground due to the conflict in Dagestan - which was reminiscent of the QPR pitch in January that caused such damage to Sandro and Spurs’ campaign. In fact, during the match Younes Kaboul went off injured and Spurs fans will hope this is nothing serious after the Frenchman missed practically all of last season.
In the circumstance all the Spurs players coming in performed well, with Zeki Fryers and Vlad Chiriches looking comfortable in defence and Lewis Holtby, in the No 10 position, playing with his usual drive and bustle. Perhaps only Erik Lamela appeared to be off pace a little with some sloppy passing, especially in the first-half. However, arguably Spurs’ best players were the trio who retained their starting places.
Walker has endured a fair amount of criticism recently but had another good match. Defensively solid - he won joint most tackles for Spurs - and as always a constant attacking threat for Spurs, he claimed an assist for Chadli. Lloris is showing just why Spurs have only conceded two goals this season. The ‘keeper may not have had his busiest of nights but when called upon, responded with several smart saves and his customary pace off his line.
In midfield Dembélé appears in an excellent run of form and was the fulcrum of Spurs’ moves. He had 135 touches and 117 passes, the most in both amongst Tottenham players, with a 94% pass accuracy as well as the most successful dribbles, five; the Belgian may be establishing himself as one of the first names on Villas-Boas’ team sheet.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Tottenham v West Ham