Tottenham Focus: Villas-Boas’ half time switch brings first home victory.
The relief at the final whistle may have been palpable as André Villas-Boas claimed his first win at White Hart Lane with a 2-1 defeat of Queens Park Rangers. This was not an easy victory; QPR were the better team in the first half, perhaps partly because of the way Spurs were set up.
Brad Friedel, William Gallas and Gylfi Sigurdsson came back into the starting eleven. However perhaps key were the positional changes forced by the injury to Kyle Naughton at left back. Villas-Boas selected Gareth Bale to start in defense, with Clint Dempsey starting in Bale’s usual position on the left flank. This selection arguably upset the whole balance of the team.
On it’s own, Bale at left back may not necessarily nullify his attacking threat, but coupled with Dempsey’s positioning, the Welshman spent much of his time penned into his own half, as Dempsey’s preference for cutting inside to a more central position [he had only 7 out of 32 touches on the left wing], meant the left back position was exposed. This gap was exploited by both Shaun Wright-Phillips and Kieron Dyer. This meant Sandro was being pulled over to help cover the left leaving space for Rangers central midfielders, Alejandro Faurlin and Esteban Granero to move forward. Consequently, Spurs were under pressure for much of the first half, unable to really get into the match, going behind through a Bobby Zamora goal. Villas-Boas obviously recognized the problem and made what turned out to be a crucial half time switch.
Dempsey moved to the central position for Sigurdsson, who came off for Steven Caulker. Caulker went to centre back with Jan Vertonghen moving to left back and Bale moved wide left. Immediately the team looked more balanced. Bale restored to his normal position started to threaten Dyer, who was himself filling in at right back. Supported by Vertonghen who himself had a storming second half, the left side which had been their weakness in the first half, became with the switch, Tottenham’s main strength in the second. This strengthening of the left side meant Sandro [and Moussa Dembelé] were free to rest some control of central midfield back from QPR.
The match turned in a couple of minutes, firstly the increased Spurs pressure brought a 59th minute corner leading to own goal from a Caulker header. Two minutes later a lightning counter attack by Bale saw his shot saved by Julio Cesar, only to fall to Jermain Defoe, who grabbed his fourth goal of the season. The game was [for Spurs fans perhaps a nerve racking] end to end after that with both teams threatening in looking for a goal and only a perfectly timed last ditch tackle by Vertonghen keeping Spurs ahead before Spurs saw out he game.
Arguably Villas-Boas made a mistake in his original positional selection. Encouragingly, the coach not only recognized this, but acted decisively and early. With one substitution and some positional changes he helped bring about his first home victory. Have Spurs found a coach with a Plan B?
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