Tottenham and Chelsea played out a 1-1 draw in a hot tempered match in which Tottenham controlled the first-half, whilst Chelsea, with Juan Mata on, controlled the second. The draw kept Spurs in second place in the Premier League until Liverpool’s win over Sunderland and maintained their impressive the start of the season – arguably more impressive considering the number of new players brought in and the inherent problems that creates.
Spurs’ defence, led by Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris, has been miserly, conceding only two goals in all competitions whilst the midfield has grown in strength and depth with quality players being added and existing players such as Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andros Townsend making their mark.
However outside of the cup competitions, six goals in six games has left Spurs looking goal shy. Fans had to wait until their fourth game in the league – against Norwich – to see the team’s their first goal from open play. This is not to say that Spurs are shot shy. In the league Spurs are averaging 20 shots a game, yet in six games, Spurs’ forwards have only managed 19 shots between them. The question is why?
For Roberto Soldado this at least may be partly due to the time needed to adapt to the league’s pace and physicality. Factor in that Spurs have seven new players all trying to do the same then the fluidity and understanding is not yet there.
However, last season Soldado – the archetypal fox in the box – scored 24 goals in La Liga, all from inside the penalty area. This season Soldado has worked hard and is a willing runner but he does not appear to be getting the service required. His average position on the pitch has been around 30-35 yards from goal and he has often been linking play up front.
Also whilst there are many benefits to the inverted winger, particularly the ability to create more interplay between attackers, change the attacking angles and set up the midfielder running from deep as seen with Paulinho, is the inverted wide play causing Soldado to drop too deep? More often it seems he is receiving the ball with his back to goal and is laying it off, as for Sigurdsson against Chelsea, or being forced across or away from goal.
In some ways Soldado is having to create his own opportunities. Spurs are perhaps not mixing the attack with enough traditional wing play, yet against Dinamo Tblisi Soldado showed what he can do. Nacer Chadli put in an unstoppable ball low across the defence for Soldado to tap in, a goal reminiscent of Beardsley to Lineker in Mexico ’86, whilst on the other wing Townsend got to the by line to cut back for Soldado to convert. Both goals showed Soldado’s strengths – his movement off the ball and anticipation of play to get in a position to finish a move.
Villas-Boas likes versatility in his players yet a top class striker should be allowed to be just that. Spurs need to mix tactics to bring out the best in him.
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