Tottenham Focus - Dawson and Huddlestone step up needed
Tottenham drew 1-1 at Panathanikos last night; a point away in Europe is said to be a decent result but in truth this will seem a disappointment for Tottenham. Though controlling the first half with ease and having numerous chances, the only reward at half time was a Michael Dawson goal. However in the second half, Spurs dropped deeper and deeper, conceding the initiative, eventually leading to a Greek equalizer.
Overall though there seemed a lack of urgency, perhaps for several reasons – maybe a touch of complacency caused by the ease of the first half, maybe the lack of atmosphere in what seemed a near empty stadium: perhaps though the main reason was playing both Tom Huddlestone and Dawson.
Huddlestone played instead of Sandro and Dawson in place of William Gallas. Did the match show the positives and negatives of both?
Huddlestone enjoyed 91% pass completion, was accurate with 7 out of 8 long balls, and provided a deft chipped assist for Dawson’s goal. However, Huddlestone doesn’t look a true defensive midfielder so plays deeper and as the match wore on Moussa Dembelé’s seemed to drop deeper too to assist defensively [the Belgian won more tackles than Huddlestone] and ended the match in a deeper average position than Huddlestone. This is not where Spurs need Dembelé as it negates his creative ability and Spurs suffer going forward.
Does Huddlestone have that vital mobility or the injection of pace, or seem the kind of player to be able to lift a team by winning a crucial tackle and setting a counter attack in motion - as Sandro did for Bale’s goal at Old Trafford? Perhaps not, but both can give impetus or urgency to a team.
As anticipated Dawson, captain for the night, wore his heart on his sleeve, made tackles and interceptions and of course scored Spurs goal. However, does Dawson have his limitations in this team? Part of the coach’s philosophy is to keep possession, waiting for the right opportunity. Dawson seems to lose patience and force the issue by pinging 40/50 yard passes which are easier for a defense to cut out. Dawson’s main problem though appears a lack of pace.
At times Dawson was struggling to keep up with some of the Panathanikos attackers [as with their equalizer]; appearing aware of this, to compensate he at times moved forward to try and intercept the ball. As with his lack of pace, when he failed to win the ball, Spurs’ defense was left vulnerable.
Maybe it’s unfair to single out both, and there were other contributing factors. However, arguably for the reasons outlined, the combination of playing Huddlestone and Dawson looked to have left Spurs playing 10/15 yards deeper than ideal.
As the match wore on, and with the whole midfield sitting deeper, especially and perhaps crucially Moussa Dembelé, Tottenham’s attacking threat was blunted and Jermain Defoe isolated. Huddlestone and Dawson are good players in their own right but can both in the same team play to Villas-Boas tactics?
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