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5 Reasons for Spurs Fans to be Optimistic

Too frequently, analysis of football matches starts with the result and works backwards. The victorious side are praised for everything, while the entire gameplan of the defeated side is ripped apart. But while football might be a simple game, explaining the result is often much more complex.

Manchester City’s 4-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend is a fine example. City played reasonably well, but the individual brilliance of Sergio Aguero hid the fact Spurs were very lively, outplaying City at stages. Considering the context of the game – away at the league champions – this was arguably Spurs’ most promising post-Bale display, despite the heavy defeat. Here’s five reasons for Spurs fans to be optimistic…

1 – Soldado’s link-up play

Roberto Soldado has never settled at Tottenham. From the outset there was something strange about his performances – it wasn’t simply his goalscoring record, but his general lack of interest in the game. His movement was poor, his link-up play non-existent, and without proper service he struggled for chances, let alone goals.

His performance at the Etihad was much brighter, though. He linked successfully with Christian Eriksen on numerous occasions, particularly when Ryan Mason darted forward to join them for direct attacks. He looked more comfortable with his back to goal than last season, and made some good runs into the channels.

His missed penalty overshadowed his display, and might be a further knock to his confidence. But this was better than anything Soldado managed last season, and better than anything Emmanuel Adebayor has managed this season.

2 – Ryan Mason’s midfield running

Ryan Mason is a strange case. He’s now 23, it’s nearly six years since he made his Tottenham debut, and there’s been little hype surrounding his rise, something of a rarity in modern football. He’s been loaned out five times, most recently to Swindon in League One, although he also spent a strange season on loan with Ligue 1’s Lorient, where he didn’t make a senior appearance. He played just 20 minutes for England’s U20s, and never for the U21s.

And yet Mason looks at home in the centre of the Spurs midfield, and for the second time in three games, he excelled away at a Champions League side. In the battling 1-1 draw at Arsenal, Mason was all about clever positioning and reliable short passing, but at the Etihad we witnessed a more combative side to his game – he got stuck into challenges, particularly on Frank Lampard, and made a succession of darts beyond the ball and into goalscoring positions.

He nearly found himself through on goal early on, then got into a position for a one-on-one chance that forced Joe Hart into a good save, and also pressed Fernando for Christian Eriksen’s opener. On this evidence, he looks a very good all-round midfielder.

3 – Eriksen’s pressing

Many questions have been asked of Christian Eriksen in Mauricio Pochettino’s system – he doesn’t seem a natural at pressing high up, which seems strange given he grew up at Ajax, a club where pressing is ingrained in players quickly.

Still, Eriksen has looked more committed recently. In the draw against Arsenal, his closing down was crucial in the build-up to Nacer Chadli’s opener, and here he was again involved in winning the ball inside the opposition half.

Eriksen needs to do more with the ball, but few doubt he has that capability. It feels like he should explode into a top-class Premier League midfielder shortly.

4 – Chadli’s positioning

Chadli is another strange player. He’s unlikely to be the star of the show, and it’s difficult to imagine him turning a poor side into a good side. He’s the type of player who excels with his positioning, his movement and his selfless link play, and allows others to shine – the role Pedro Rodriguez plays at Barcelona, for example.

The better Barcelona are playing, the better Pedro plays – and therefore it’s encouraging that Chadli has looked good against both Arsenal and City. He hasn’t done anything spectacular, but his drifts in behind Fernando caused real problems during the first half on Saturday, occupying the Brazilian and allowing Mason to make unseen runs from deeper.

Getting the balance right in the front four is crucial for Pochettino. Few sides can field four individualists together, and Chadli is a team player.

5 – the nature of the concessions

Spurs conceded four goals at the weekend because of two reasons. First, Sergio Aguero. Second, individual errors.

Obviously, they won’t be coming up against Aguero every weekend, and few other Premier League strikers will punish them as ruthlessly.

Individual errors, meanwhile, are highly frustrating – and have been a problem for Tottenham for a while. But in the long-term, it’s far preferable to the situation Spurs encountered last season, when they lost 6-0 at City because Andre Villas-Boas’ system was completely unsuited to the occasion. When the same mistake was repeated in the 5-0 loss to Liverpool, it was clear the overall gameplan, rather than individual failings, was to blame. Pochettino, a fine centre-back himself, should be capable of ironing out defensive errors – the overall strategy seems fine.

Posted in , Premier League, Zonal Marking | 0 comments

October 23rd, 2014 by Michael Cox

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