Tag Archives: Squad Rotation

We are still Spurs after all…

I grew up in East London, this one hurts me a lot! It has been a while since we wrote anything, I have moved and currently still have no internet or TV and ChrisWadds has been on a couple of stag do’s (his own) so it is lucky he can still speak let alone write something.

So let us jump back in, plan A really didn’t work on Sunday but that is not entirely the teams/AVBs fault. WH’s 4-6-0 formation worked well is also a major factor. Is it anti football? Not really given the score line. I wrote an article a while back (here) about a plan B and came to the conclusion that our bench really can just be like for like. Is this AVB’s Achilles heel, not wanting to move from the 4-2-3-1 cum 4-3-3 formation?

The opposing formations meant that 11 of the 20 outfield players were all vying for the same third of the pitch, a problem exacerbated by playing inverted wingers. Unless you pass like Barcelona or have dribblers like Messi and Ronaldo, there were simply too many players there able to mark space as well as players. This is highlighted in FourFourTwo’s statszone (here), where four of our top five passing combinations were between defenders – the top two were between our centre backs. There were no options for them to move the ball forward due to overcrowding. Some will say they should have taken the ball forward themselves and that may well be true but they would have added yet another player to the already overcrowded space.

Without a target man we only have the option for short balls and WH knew this so packing the midfield prevented our natural game. Out of 502 passes attempted only 42 were long balls, I don’t want to see balls pinged about all the time but with such a congested midfield surely a few more were needed. Had they been good balls then WH would have had to start closing our centre backs down which in turn would have lead to more space in the middle. If a game ever needed a lanky striker in a lilywhite shirt then this was it!

When playing with a right footed left back I think it is a mistake to play with an inverted left winger, we needed width that was not forthcoming from either Naughton or Sigurdsson. This is something that needs addressing as clearly AVB wants inverted wingers, Rose was a big loss.

It was a crap result, we know that. This is the first game we have not matched or bettered last season’s corresponding fixture (assuming CP = QPR and Car = Wig) so look for positives – ok there are not any about this game, it hurts too much. We struggled to break teams down last season also but still came away with a record points haul though so chins up!

I have said previously that we are learning something new at the moment and there will be hiccups along the way, granted I was not predicting 3-0 home defeats but still bumps in the road. The squad is better than last years and will get better at breaking the opposition down. The reaction to the result itself is a positive, the media have jumped on it and that is because we are a better team now. I never knew I knew so many WH fans but they all crawled out of the woodwork at about 17:45 on Sunday.

This was AVB’s biggest home defeat but it wasn’t so long ago that defeats like this were far more likely to occur. We need to stay positive, support the team until the final whistle. Yes boo at the end if you want but during them 90 minutes, as long as they are wearing a lilywhite shirt then support them like your life depends on it!

Look on the bright side, there cannot be that many more international breaks to lose a game before during the rest of the season…

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Aston Villa Preview (a) – League Cup

Tuesday 24th September, Villa Park, 19:45

Well the third game in the congestive fixture list is upon us and rotation is the key. Two good wins in the Europa and Premier league has kept the momentum going in the right direction. Tromso, albeit poor, showed that the squad can be rotated and still perform well. Cardiff showed again that the team is getting better at understanding each other and due to a good goalkeeping display, would have been a more comfortable score line.

There are still a few grumblings around. Naughton has been roundly slaughtered for his display in Wales. You have got to admit that in the MOTD highlights, all Cardiff’s chances came down our left hand side. It would be fair to say that being right footed really didn’t help. There was no easy ball up the line as he had to keep cutting back to his right foot however that does not explain the backpass. Cardiff knew what they were doing and when they did attack, they targeted the weakest part of the defence.

The other is Townsend’s shooting. It is a weird one, he does shoot regularly from outside the area but so do the rest of the team. There were 15 shots outside the area against Cardiff out of the 29 taken. Yes six of these shots were from Townsend but there were also a number of good passes in there as well, one in particular springs to mind when he turns the Cardiff midfield on the touchline, takes the ball forward at pace before playing in Walker who crosses for Soldado to get a shot on target. While I agree he does shoot a little too often I think the team currently needs his direct play, he is not content to play in front of the opposition.

Would Lamela do better? Perhaps but until AVB decides it is time to unleash the Argentinian on the Premier League we will never know. The key would be the fullback he plays with as so far his only full game was with Naughton at right back. But also look at the flip side, if Townsend had scored a couple of these long range efforts we would all be pining for him to shoot – my opinion is he just needs a little more composure when shooting and with composure will come better decision making.

The Opposition

Villa Park is generally a tricky place to visit. Last season was tough and you would not expect them to struggle to that extent this season. Having said that, this game will not be a priority for Villa and with the current injury list, Lambert may well be writing this game off before a ball has been kicked.

Benteke will be a big loss but their squad is not as deep as others, as such they may not rotate as much as is being predicted. They have not had as big a fixture pile up which means the need to rotate is lessened.

Expected line up

AVB has suggested that perhaps the majority of the starting line up from the weekend will not start tonight given the short time frame. But with a number of injuries you would question if AVB is willing to bring in some youngsters or whether some will in fact have to play. My line up is:

formation

Subs: Lloris, Naughton, Dawson, Eriksen, Dembele, Townsend, Soldado

So there you have it, I don’t think any of the development squad will be involved, had it been league one opposition then it may be a different story. I think AVB wants to keep the wins coming and therefore will use the remainder of the squad. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Lloris in goal given he played against Tromso but you have got to think Friedel will want to play against his old employers.

Naughton has played two 90 minute shifts but who comes in to give Walker a rest? So I have gone with Walker, AVB has had chances to play younger members of the development squad in previous games and has chosen not to so I do not think it will change now. Went with Paulinho in the middle as he didn’t start against Tromso but would AVB want to disrupt the partnership he is forming with Dembele? He has to rest one of them with the derby game coming up at the weekend and given Dembele has started the previous two fixtures I went with him.

I have assumed that Defoe and Kaboul have only slight knocks and were kept away from the Cardiff game with this game in mind. Clearly if they do not make it then up front will be pretty simple, Kane will move forward, Holtby will move to the centre and Townsend will come in (he didn’t play against Tromso). However if Kaboul is still out then it is a little more tricky, who comes in out of Dawson and Vertonghen? I would go with Jan, controversial but Dawson has played a hell of a lot of football so far this season.

There may even be a surprise on the bench given Adebayors recent positive tweets…

Prediction

I actually do not think Lambert will rotate as heavily as suggested and it will be interesting to see how much rotation we do given the short space of time between games. I think that is the key factor, not the game coming up at the weekend! I am going for, wait for it, 1-0 Spurs with Lamela opening his account… Whatever happens, we really want to avoid extra time!

So what do you think? Wholesale changes and development squad game time? What is your line up and predicted score?

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Tromso IL (h) Preview

Thursday 19th September, White Hart Lane, 20:05 live on ITV4

After the slightly over enthusiastic reaction to beating a Norwich team that played to our strengths, we return to European action on Thursday night welcoming Tromso to the Lane . The reaction may have been slightly over the top (Eriksen was almost the second coming of the messiah) at the weekend but that should not detract from the fact that it was a very good Spurs performance.

We have made an excellent start to the season, conceding only a single goal and it cannot be taken for granted how important the midweek games are in keeping the momentum going. No matter who plays, it is a squad game now and the players mentality will rub off on others if games do not go well.

With a tricky game coming up in south Wales at the weekend, you would expect some rotation to occur. I have discussed how I think rotation could work in my previous post (here) and would hope that some rotation would be made for this game.

AVB has come out to give a little moan about the fixtures at the moment. I agree completely, if we play on Sunday after a Thursday European game so there is time to recover then why is the same rule not applied between Sunday and Tuesday. Now clearly there are some traditional exceptions to this if days fall at certain points (Christmas say) but don’t think September is one of those periods. However, we have all been banging on about how good and deep the squad is so we need to just get on with it!

Spurs released there third kit today, I honestly thought they were not going to bother with a third kit this season given the price increase on the shirts this year. It is better than the away kit though, wonder if they will wear it tonight to promote it… update, nope it will be worn at the weekend!

The Opposition

Tromso are currently struggling in the Norwegian league, sitting a place above the relegation playoff spot on goal difference. They are still in the competition because Besiktas got thrown out and therefore progressed despite losing to the Turkish team 3-2 on aggregate at the playoff stage.

Scandinavian teams generally seem to play football closer in style to the English game so we should expect them to play like a lower league club. However this is a big fixture for Tromso and provides a release from their disappointing league campaign.

It is a shame we were not playing this game in Norway, Tromso are the northmost top tier team in the world and the return fixture is in November – very cold in the arctic circle you would guess at that time of year.

Expected line up

With the trip to Wales coming up at the weekend, you would expect a fair amount of rotation for the game. Chadli, Lennon and Capoue are out injured with Adebayor working his way back to fitness. I have gone with the following 4-2-3-1:

formation

Subs: Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Sandro, Paulinho, Eriksen, Kane

You would expect some players to definitely start in a rotation sense. Friedel, Kaboul, Naughton, Holtby and Defoe fall into this category. Whether Naughton replaces Rose or Walker is anyone’s guess but given Walker had two England games I would go for him. You would expect Dawson to retain his place (unless perhaps Chiriches has a work permit now) for the same reason Rose will keep his, no international football. Defoe has to play some part in our season despite being second choice (currently) behind Soldado, he will find game time limited this year I think and wouldn’t be surprised if he disappears come January.

Against ‘weaker’ teams we should not have a need to play a holding midfielder hence Sandro only making the bench, he will probably start at the weekend. I went with Dembele and Holtby as the central midfield pair, I think Holtby is a number 10 really but has said himself he can play deeper. I picked Dembele over Paulinho as he has played less minutes than Paulinho, also if Sandro does come in at the weekend I would expect it to be at the expense of Dembele rather than Paulinho.

If there was ever a game that you could throw Lamela in and say ‘show us what you can do’ then this is it! We are a little short at the moment in the wing department so expect Townsend to retain his place or perhaps Siggy will move wide and Kane starting as the number 10…

Prediction

We should win this game and win it comfortably. I’m going to go for 4-0 with Defoe (2), Holtby and Kane scoring.

So what do you think? Wholesale changes? What is your line up and predicted score?

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Does AVB need to know his strongest XI?

When a team (not just Spurs) has a large talented squad and a result or two goes against the team the football community invariably comes to the same conclusion – the manager simply does not know his strongest or first eleven yet. It was used to describe us after the North London Derby and is currently doing the rounds for blue teams from Manchester and west London.

If it is later in the season either the same reason is rolled out by the media or the tact changes to saying that the team changes so regularly that it cannot be settled or gelled and that is why results are not going the expected way. Is this something we should be worried about given all the rotation quotes coming from AVB and the players? If we believe the media then yes but I do not think it is as clear cut as that. It really depends on how AVB rotates his team…

Formation

The obvious first port of call is to ensure that the players understand how AVB wants a formation to play. How each player should position themselves whether we have the ball or not. Who should press, who should be making that forward run or who should be covering who – all should be well understood by the entire squad. It should not be seen as Townsend as right wing but simply as right winger therefore it does not matter who fills that role.

If this is true then making three or four changes for a game should not matter as everyone knows how a role should be played. As with any team there will be a certain level of creative freedom but essentially the formation is played how AVB wants it. The problem is that players may well interpret things differently and even if they do have the exact same interpretation, different players will make different decisions. So understanding the formation is important but perhaps not the most crucial factor in whether a teams rotation will work.

Partnerships

This is where rotation generally falls over, a player must understand how their partner is going to react to a situation to enable them act accordingly. This is how telepathic understanding is built and the team plays well. I don’t think AVB needs to know his strongest or first choice eleven but I think he does need to know which partnerships work well together.

I feel there are a number of partnerships in a team and all are key to a successful season but I would say the most crucial is the central midfield trio. If these guys do not click then Spurs will struggle to create chances and break up the opposition – both have direct relation to goals scored and goals conceded. I am not suggesting that if one of the partnership trio is out then all three should rotate but I would suggest that two of the three should be usual partners.

You could easily argue that the whole team is a partnership and to a certain extent I believe that too. But I think that understanding the formation completely, compensates for this. As such the defence may not need to be playing week in week out with the same midfield because the defence and midfield understand their roles within the formation.

AVB the tinkerman

He has come out and said he will be rotating more this year, players have said the same thing. Assuming the best case scenario that Spurs reach the final of the three cup competitions then the team will be playing 67 games (38 Premier League, 6 Fa cup, 6 League cup, 17 Europa League) with the possibility of further FA cup games due to replays. AVB has said he will take each competition seriously so rotation will definitely be needed.

All the players so far have been saying the right things, they know they will get a chance because there are so many games. However there are some positions in the team that you do not see rotating all that often when the game must be won. I’d say goalkeeper, full backs and striker are pretty much set in stone for must win games. While the ‘back up’ goalies and full backs have probably accepted this, I doubt the strikers have!

Some have suggested that perhaps playing a, so called, second string in Europe and League cup will solve the issue. I don’t think that works as the ‘second string’ will get demoralised knowing they are not considered first choice which, if they need to be called upon in ‘bigger’ games, may result in lacklustre play or over eagerness to prove themselves. Also I think AVB see’s all the games, more or less, as equally important. Now clearly there will be instances when this is not true, for instance we win our first five group stage Europa League games then clearly the final group game is fairly meaningless as we would have already qualified and (in all likelihood) be group winners.

I suppose I am worried by the prospect of having an unsettled team due to rotation but have convinced myself that smaller partnerships within the team and understanding of formation are more important. I have also convinced myself that the majority of the squad have accepted the rotation policy. I suppose there is only one way to find out, sit back and watch…

What do you think? Worried about the rotation that is likely to occur? Does AVB really treat all competitions equally? Should he play a first choice and stick to it, risking burn out, injuries, etc?

You can follow the blog on twitter, @thfc1882dotcom and “like” our facebook page! We are even on instagram. If you are really bored you can follow my ramblings about anything and everything on twitter (@waddiealex) as well..

The real reason Spurs came fifth?

There has been many a discussion post season as to why we finished in fifth spot in the league last season, when many, myself included, thought that fourth should have been a definite and maybe even second or third was a real possibility.

Some of the post mortem debates have been;

Was it the lack of goals from the strikeforce and the fact we didn’t strengthen this area in the January transfer window? At the start of the season most would have said it was good enough to compete.

Was it that our success in the CL had a negative and tiring effect on our league form as we all know about the 2 points from 8 games fact, plus the seeming inability to defeat the so called inferior teams?

Is that I and many others are just wrong and we really aren’t as good as we had hoped and believed and we are in the right place for the level we are at?

All the above points have merit to some degree.

We know that our strikeforce of JD, Pav, Crouchy and Keano should have been capable of firing in the goals as they had plenty of imagination, flair and talent behind them creating the chances for them. But ,for various reasons, it didn’t happen for them last season and when we desperately needed to strengthen and had the opportunity this failed to materialise also.

The inability to defeat lesser teams was the most frustrating fact from last season for me. I can hear you saying now to yourself ‘why would this be?’, as Spurs have a history of doing such things and you would be correct in that thought. The previous season we were much better at getting the points when we struggled and played the bottom half of the table teams and maybe I just expected the team to carry on in the same vein. Of course the CL exertions had an effect but we have a quality and large enough squad that should have been used to its maximum to prevent such a dire return at the tail end of the season.

After reflecting on the last season I truly believe that it really was a superb opportunity for us to finish anywhere from second to fourth in the league as we had the talent to have done this. Especially as Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and even Manchester United struggled for large parts of the season, so a real opportunity lost in my eyes. On the where we really are front and compared to the other teams mentioned I think we can honestly seriously compete with City, Liverpool and Arsenal now.

But, after reading a very good article in the latest edition of FourFourTwo Magazine (@FourFourTwo on Twitter) I put forward this reason: Injuries and specifically injury to Ledley King!

According to said article Spurs had 61 different injuries during the last season, the most in the PL, the least were BLackpool with 20. Spurs as a whole lost 1528 days to injuries, the 4th most, Sunderland were top with 2001 days. I know our squad should be big enough and have enough depth within it to cope with such issues as every team has them, but 61! That seems a hell of a lot of injuries and days lost, I wonder how many times that specific ones occurred? Maybe the club should analyse what they were, how many times they occurred and how they could possibly change the training routine to prevent some of them. Yes, some were obviously match related injuries that you cannot do anything about as it is a contact sport after all and also injuries occurred to players whilst playing for the their countries rather then us (Dawson and JD’s for England being 2). Still, injuries on this scale must have an effect on the team with consistency, gelling with and understanding team mates, fitness levels and possibly psychologically as well. With the amount of games we played I am not saying this was the only reason but it may have been a real factor and taken its toll on the team.

My second point on the injury front issue is our leader, Mr Cool himself, Ledley King. I firmly believe he is the best centre back in the country bar none and it’s a crying shame what has happened to him due to his dodgy knees mainly, amongst other related issues. I have some interesting facts for you:

Last season LK missed 197 days of a 282 day PL season (the previous season 101). He was included in 10 squads throughout the last season, starting 9 times and being an unused sub once, 6 starts were in the PL (previous season 21 starts, 20 in PL). This related to a total of 764 minutes of competitive football played last season and 1637 minutes the season before. Our win percentage with him in the team last season was 75% (PL games only and yes I know only 6 of them!), and without 58%, over a much longer period it has to be said. I can counter this though with the stat that over the last 7 seasons we are at a win percentage of 59% with him in the team and 50% when he isn’t. How many points this relates to last season if he played even 10 more league games of the 32 that he missed is anyone’s guess but if we used a win percentage of only 50% and converted some of the draws into wins, it would be anywhere from 10-15 points I reckon and second place in the league! Wishful thinking I know.

Obviously this is all theoretical and stats can be twisted to suit but I do honestly believe we are a much calmer, better team with LK in it that wins more. It also would have helped if we could have had available our first choice XI much more often (obviously with squad rotation being taken into account) without the deluge of injuries and last season could have been even better than it was.

Hopefully next season we won’t have so many injuries, especially to our top players, Ledley will play some more games and our strikers will be firing.

Top four here we come!

COYS

Rob

All facts and figures taken from myfootballstats.com and FourFourTwo Magazine