"They need more movement from the front men. Far too slow and predictable" - These were the words echoed by Gary Neville as Tottenham struggled to defeat Aston Villa last Sunday. Fast forward a week and still the same problems that has haunted Tottenham throughout this season was very much evident against Hull; obviously Andre Villas Boas did not heed my advice (below).
Currently, Tottenham have enjoyed large swathes of possession - the most in the league - which can be put down to the great work of the 'back six' winning the ball quickly and transitioning from defence to attack diligently. The problem is what occurs after Dembele/ Paulinho/ Sandro is far too slow.
This means whilst on paper Tottenham have created tons of chances, in reality many of them are pot-shots from Andros Townsend who until last weekend's fluke of a goal had the misfortune of having the league's worst shot to goal ratio.
Nonetheless, whilst his decision making may not be the best, Townsend is currently the only productive member out of the midfield trio that plays behind Soldado. He is not afraid to take shots and he is currently the leagues best dribbler. Quite simply, Townsend is more than adept at creating space (for himself) and quickening the tempo.
The same cannot be said for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Christian Eriksen. Don't get me wrong, they are both skilled players who have had good starts to the campaign, but the two of them together in the same starting line up serve only to get in each others way, slow down the tempo and as a whole make the pitch narrower - it's like the Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard situation all over again!
Sigurdsson likes to make runs from deep and finish chances on the edge of the box (like Lampard), Eriksen (who really is nothing like Gerrard) prefers to linger around the hole and thread balls into space. Problem is with a striker as immobile as Soldado and Defoe, with Sigurdsson often finding himself deployed on the left wing and with teams parking the bus, space is a commodity Tottenham do not have.
Fair enough Sigurdsson and Eriksen aren't renowned for their fleet feet, but even in the creative department they are lacking. Eriksen has a tally of 9 key passes this season (1.8 per game), which is the same as Townsend's. Now considering how little clear chances Tottenham have had and how Townsend has 35 shots, you wonder just how many of these key passes have been cleverly thought out or simple side passes for Townsend to smash from 35 yards. Either way when you compare it to Mesut Ozil's tally it is disappointing. Sigurdsson's tally of 8 (1.1 per game) isn't even worth dissecting.
Against Villa, Villas Boas duly dropped Eriksen, yesterday he left Eriksen on the bench and dropped Sigurdsson. In their places came Lewis Holtby and Aaron Lennon. I shall refrain from attacking Lennon as he has come back from injury (though I feel he is an inferior version of Townsend); Holtby on the other hand has no qualms for his quiet performances.
Who Spurs are really missing is Gareth Bale, their struggles are the result of his goals and general contributions leaving the building. However in Erik Lamela they have a ready made placement. I previously made a mention of this in my weekly predictions of the 'top six' (a term I have coined).
"Taking a look at the comparison of Gareth Bale's and Erik Lamela's stats for last season (below), you will find only Lamela is currently capable of matching the productivity Bale has. More importantly, his presence would create space for others - most noticeably Soldado/Defoe who are both players who cannot create space for themselves."
*Quoted from Scoop on the City
Earlier this week Villas Boas put Lamela's inactivity down to Lamela trying to get to grips with the language, well I have three things to say about that:
- Carlos Tevez
- Arsenal fans should sing "boring boring Tottenham" from now on
- Get used to more boos in the meantime