Tottenham Hotspur fan Steve Jennings gives us his latest installment of his ‘Seven days @ Spurs’ series, where he sums up the weeks events at White Hart Lane.
“Back-to-back away wins” is not a familiar phrase at Tottenham Hotspur, but after impressive victories at Aston Villa and Sunderland, Spurs find themselves in fourth place going into the new year.
There have been a fair few positives over the festive period in addition to our good form. No one is playing particularly badly. Kyle Walker gave the ball away in the build-up to Sunderland’s goal, but didn’t let his mistake curb his performance. The full-back also played well at Villa Park, producing a beauty of a pass for Gylfi Sigurdsson to set up Gareth Bale’s hat-trick strike.
In my opinion, Walker has been the team’s biggest disappointment so far this season. However, when the team is playing with confidence, so is Walker. At times I doubt his ability, seeing his pace as an attribute that gets him out of trouble on numerous occasions, but Walker has recently shown just enough to warrant his place is the team.
Emmanuel Adebayor’s goals were key to any success Spurs had last season. The Togolese striker is yet to find his goal-scoring form of last term, but it’s fair to say he is playing reasonably well in an unfamiliar position. It may appear that he is being used in a 4-4-2 formation alongside in-form strike partner Jermain Defoe. It appears to me, however, that Adebayor is dropping in to the Van Der Vaart/Dempsey position. Obviously, goals in this position may not be expected – but Van Der Vaart often found the net when playing in the hole, and even Clint Dempsey seemed to improving in front of goal before a groin injury hampered his progress.
The fact is Adebayor is still finding himself in areas of the pitch from where he bagged a few goals last season; he needs to start upping his stats in order to stay in the side. The other side of the coin could suggest that Ade should be tried in Defoe’s place, with either Dempsey or Sigurdsson in behind him. Sigurdsson still hasn’t had a fair crack of the whip or an extended run of games, whilst Adebayor found most of his goals and assists from a more advanced position in the previous campaign.
It will be interesting to see the centre-back pairing against Reading tomorrow (Tuesday). Whilst Jan Vertonghen and William Gallas started at Villa, Andre Villas-Boas decided to take them both out for a Michael Dawson/Steven Caulker combination against Sunderland. My ideal partnership would be Vertonghen and Caulker – surely the future of a sturdy Spurs defence. However, Dawson and Gallas have performed admirably of late. A range of centre-backs is something that has been needed for years at Tottenham, and with the return of Younes Kaboul only a month away, an array of talent will soon be available at the back.
Spurs will come up against Reading (H), QPR (A) and Manchester United (H) in their next three league games, with a third round FA Cup tie against Coventry (H) in amongst those fixtures. With Reading and QPR seemingly lacking quality and form, six points are expected. With Hugo Lloris in fine form, clean sheets may also be a realistic target for those two matches. Manchester United will obviously be a challenge, but going into the game in-form would massively increase confidence and our chances of a rare three points against the league leaders. An early season win at Old Trafford might also mean AVB’s men will fancy their chances.
Gareth Bale picked up his fifth yellow card of the season at the Stadium of Light, meaning he will miss the Reading at White Hart Lane. This could be an opportunity for Andros Townsend to impress the coaching staff on the field. Townsend has shown flashes of talent in a Spurs shirt, but the winger really needs a run of games in order to convince AVB that he has a future at the club. Bale’s almost automatic starting place in games he is available for obviously makes Townsend’s task much more difficult.
Welshman Bale was superb in last week’s 4-0 thrashing of Villa. After the match, I saw a tweet from an Arsenal fans that read something along the lines of… “I suppose Bale is better than Ronaldo again now then?” I replied, “Yes.” Obviously I was simply trying to wind the Gunner up, but it got me thinking – Bale may not be as good as Ronaldo, but he is just as influential to his team. The winger’s hat-trick at Villa Park was proof of his hard work on the training ground as he proved he doesn’t have to stay out wide to be effective. Taking all three of his goals brilliantly, Bale moved up to a tally of ten for the season.
But Saturday’s game at Sunderland saw the other side of Bale. Despite a good performance, all people could talk about was another dive and another booking for simulation. For me, technically it was a foul; Craig Gardner obstructed Bale on purpose. His arm was across him and there was a clash of knees. But Bale dragged his right leg despite no contact in that area. There is the argument that no one knows how easy it is to go down when running at that pace, but it is clear to me that Bale often reacts in an over-dramatic manor. There is no need, and he is getting a reputation that is going to damage his career.
Regardless of this, Gareth Bale is integral to Tottenham’s potential success this term. It is difficult to criticise him in any way due to his influence and form. Cutting out diving, though, could be the best thing Bale does all season.
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