After a second win courtesy of a Soldado spot kick, Tottenham appear to be lacking cohesion up front but can boast a strong foundation. Brendon Netto discusses..
Tottenham Hotspur called on their club record signing Roberto Soldado to step up, score from the spot and secure the three points against Swansea City like he did away to Crystal Palace last week. After spending nearly £70 million so far this summer, Spurs fans may have expected their opening two fixtures to be a bit more comfortable but the encouraging aspect is that the team have a real formidable look about them.
The opening exchanges between the two sides at White Hart Lane yesterday didn’t yield too many opportunities but the hosts gradually picked up the pace and began to carve out a few openings. Tottenham tried their luck from range a couple of times with Paulinho and Etienne Capoue having a go.
However, given that they had a £26 million striker ahead of them whose movement was excellent throughout, maybe they could have made more use of him. Coming into this game, Soldado had already scored 3 goals in his first two appearances for his new club after bagging a brace against Dinamo Tbilisi in their midweek Europa League fixture and he certainly could have done with a bit more service.
In fact, the striker was probably the least involved player in the final third despite lining up on paper as the focal point of their attack. Whenever he was called into action, Soldado hardly put a foot wrong and his movement off the ball was sensational. From Tottenham’s point of view, it’s a shame they didn’t try to pick him out more often.
There’s nothing wrong with the personnel or system employed by Andre Villas-Boas though. Even with Aaron Lennon out injured and Gareth Bale waiting on his imminent move to Real Madrid, the likes of Andros Townsend and Nacer Chadli on either flank are more than capable of making inroads into the opposition’s defense and did exactly that on a few occasions. Moussa Dembele and Paulinho also looked lively going forward and made for a pretty good supporting staff.
Perhaps the only thing lacking in an attacking perspective for Spurs is the kind of cohesion among the forward players that will come in due time. With so many new faces in the side, it’ll take a while before everyone’s on the same page. Soldado’s isolation up front is a prime example of their lack of coordination at the moment.
Last season, Robin van Persie got off to a flyer at Manchester United but was isolated for large periods in games. Sir Alex Ferguson pointed out that the rest of the players needed to learn to use him more after the defeat in the season opener to Everton. Fortunately for them, the Dutchman was clinical and made the most of the chances that came his way. However, as the season went on, Van Persie became more of a central figure to United’s play.
That’s precisely what Tottenham must attempt to do with Soldado. Like United last season, Spurs are accustomed to predominantly attacking down the flanks but with the Spanish striker available now along with the bombarding Paulinho in midfield and Dembele in an advanced role, they must learn to utilize the threat they possess centrally as well.
Despite not reaching their full potential yet, Spurs created a few great chances. Kyle Walker’s fizzing cross was headed on to the post by Ashley Williams and the Swansea skipper was alert enough to keep out Paulinho’s powerful follow up shot with a helping hand from Michel Vorm.
Swansea had the odd chance as well with Jonjo Shelvey forcing Hugo Lloris into a decent save but Vorm was required to keep out Dembele soon after. The home side also had a penalty appeal when Townsend was tackled by Shelvey but the referee indicated that the challenge was outside the box and hence granted a free-kick instead.
Nevertheless, Soldado was afforded his chance to get his name on the score sheet when Townsend was adjudged to be brought down again by Shelvey, but inside the area this time in the 57th minute. The Spaniard duly slotted away his 4th goal in 3 games for the Londoners and it proved to be the winner as well.
What should be most encouraging for Spurs is the fact that they were reasonably comfortable in defense and a large part of that is down to their midfield recruits who serve to offer them a strong platform on which to build. Paulinho and Capoue make for a formidable central midfield pairing and the latter was particularly good at screening the back four.
The midfielder from Saint Etienne won 5 of the 6 tackles he made in the game, more than any other player on the pitch. The double axis he provided along with his Brazilian teammate made it exceedingly difficult for Swansea to break them down. So even if they haven’t quite gotten into gear up front, at least they have a strong core to insure that they’re not easily beaten.
Spurs amassed a record tally of points last season but had started slowly as they garnered just 1 point from their opening 2 games. They now have 6 at the same stage and it’s only a matter of time until the new recruits are on the same wavelength. In the meantime though, their solidarity in the middle of the park will hold them in good stead especially when they take on Arsenal in the North London derby next week.
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