Tottenham Hotspur welcome an inconsistent Aston Villa side to White Hart Lane on Monday night. Villa manager, Alex Mcleish has stated that this season his team is in a transitional stage and they have struggled to get points away from home, with four draws and a loss in five fixtures. The loss came, perhaps not unexpectedly at Manchester City, however the four draws all came at teams placed lower than them in the league.
Both teams have arguably their best players struggling to return to full fitness after injury. Spurs’ Rafael van der Vaart picked up a hamstring pull on international duty, whilst Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor has only started training again in the last few days. Both should play but whether this will be at their maximum is open to question. Both are their teams’ top scorers, the Dutchman with six goals, Agbonlahor with five. Villa are likely to feel Agbonlahor’s lack of fitness more. The Brummie also has four assists – mainly for Bent – and his pace on the left has been a major factor for Villa.
However, Spurs have pace to burn on their right with Lennon and Walker which could push back Stephen Warnock and Agbonlahor. The emergence of Walker defensively and with Lennon covering should contain the Villa threat on the left. On the right Charles N’Zogbia has perhaps disappointed Villa fans since his move from Wigan and with Spurs old boy Alan Hutton will find themselves occupied by Gareth Bale who is in fine scoring form at the moment, and along with Benoit Assou-Ekoto should contain any threat from the flank.
With Bent and Emile Heskey up front, and if the threat from the flanks is contained, Villa have tended to go to the long ball from defence. The long ball though tends to result in loss of possession. Shay Given’s pass accuracy is under 50% and under 70% for Villa’s two centre backs. The tactic may not work against Spurs. Heskey has won 34 out of 59 aerial duels, Bent 15 of 42. By comparison King has won 14 from 21 and Younes Kaboul an immense 42 from 58. With Spurs’ Scott Parker excelling in a defensive midfield role, Stylian Petrov may not be able to pick up loose ball as usual. Up front the experienced Villa centre backs may have trouble with the movement of Emmanuel Adebayor and whether to come out or not to the deeper lying van der Vaart. Coming out will create space behind them to be exploited, staying will give space for the Dutchman to run in to.
Spurs should be stronger in each area, better balanced and are a team in form. There may be some interesting personal duels but Spurs fans would hope for a performance to better last season’s two 2-1 victories over Aston Villa.
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