Time running out for Tottenham outcasts as likes of Jenas & Bentley falter again

Vicarage Road could have been the stage for redemption for a number of fringe Spurs players, but Andre Villas-Boas would have been left disappointed by their lacklustre showing
By Jay Jaffa

Sometimes the most tedious of games can tell a manager more about his squad than a dominant victory ever could and in Tottenham's below-par showing against Watford on Sunday, Andre Villas-Boas will have gleaned further information about his squad.

With the Premier League season just under two weeks away, Spurs' laboured first half may not have concerned some observers, but perhaps it may have worried the Portuguese head coach as he continues to familiarise himself with the players at his disposal.

Goal.com takes a look at the six players aiming to avoid the cull and secure a place in Villas-Boas' squad for the upcoming season.

Age 29
Position Striker
Likelihood of starting vs Newcastle  
Pre-season performance
Missed the games against Stevenage, Liverpool and New York Red Bulls. In and out of the LA Galaxy game, scored against Watford.

Though he show some sharp movement to get on the end of Walker's precise pass to score the only goal of the game at Vicarage Road, his overall play lacked distinction.

An area that Defoe has notably improved upon in his time at White Hart Lane, has been his hold-up play. For such a small frame, he can retain the ball and win his fair share of duels better than most others of his stature. Yet, on Sunday he appeared isolated from the start and did what Defoe tends to do - vanish for large periods.

It appears he will be told to stay at the club, despite hinting at his frustration last season for a lack of minutes. But with Harry Kane, the prodigal 19-year-old who has yet to show the form that had him labelled as a future first-team player, as the back-up striker and Emmanuel Adebayor's transfer seemingly drifting away, Spurs are alarmingly short in attack.

For the 4-3-3 formation Villas-Boas prefers, it is hard to envisage Defoe providing the all-round qualities needed for the role, but he may have to if the club do not complete a deal for one of the many touted strikers.

Age 29
Position Central midfielder
Likelihood of starting vs Newcastle
Pre-season performance
Has featured heavily in all five friendlies with mixed performances. Passing is still a weakness and often appears out of his depth.

Jenas was given a start against Watford to add to a large number of pre-season minutes afforded to him by Villas-Boas, but should look back on this performance with a sense of frustration. Jenas has spent his career threatening to emerge as a top-class midfielder but those occasions in which he has driven Spurs to important performances have been far too sporadic to take seriously.

A first half littered with misplaced passes and flimsy tackles only served to show Villas-Boas the weaker side of his game, further lessening his argument for a starting, and indeed, squad place.

This was not the only game in which he struggled - at Stevenage he played a number of blind passes, handing possession back to the opposition. He also looks to have lost a yard of pace in the last year - worrying given his athletic ability is one of his strongest assets.

Though fans may come to the conclusion that Villas-Boas has taken to the lanky midfielder, it is highly unlikely he will start the new campaign - particularly with the competition around him in Gylfi Sigurdsson, Tom Carroll, Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone, Rafael van der Vaart, Sandro, Scott Parker and potentially Luka Modric should he remain at the club beyond August.

Age 34
Position Centre-back
Likelihood of starting vs Newcastle
Pre-season performance
Featured sporadically so far, but has looked reasonably comfortable in a new system. Still has the pace to cover his fellow centre-back.

Gallas has performed above expectations so far in pre-season. He may turn 35 in two weeks' time but the Frenchman continues to show that when he is fit, he is an asset. Against Watford, he pitched up alongside a relatively disinterested Younes Kaboul and marshalled the threat from Watford well.

He still has his pace, which in Villas-Boas' system, will be a vital asset for any defender as the reliance on defenders able to cover a high line grows.

However with rumours of a transfer elsewhere - Goal.com exclusively revealed that QPR have stepped up their interest recently - and the likes of Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen and Steven Caulker competing to line up alongside Kaboul, Gallas may be tempted to leave White Hart Lane in search of first-team football.

It certainly does not look like he will be lining up at the Sports Direct Arena when the Premier League kicks off again.

Age 23
Position Full-back
Likelihood of starting vs Newcastle
Pre-season performance
Started against Stevenage and has flitted in and out of the team offering cover to Walker and Assou-Ekotto. Has performed adequately.

The full-back spent last season on loan at Norwich and, by all accounts, put together an impressive campaign at Carrow Road. However, he has not appeared comfortable in his new surroundings and looks very much the back-up player to Walker and Benoit Assou-Ekotto.

Naughton has played at left and right-back in pre-season but there is the lingering feeling this has been to allow Assou-Ekotto and Walker extra time to recuperate from a season that barely gave either full-back a rest. Naughton should be kept around the squad and, although he is reaching the age in which he should be playing first-team football, Villas-Boas should be able to convince him to stay at White Hart Lane this year.

Though he does not appear ready to challenge Walker for a first-team spot, his versatility and relative experience should stand Spurs in good stead if they need to rotate.

Age 27
Position Midfielder
Likelihood of starting vs Newcastle
Pre-season performance
Enjoying a new lease of life and has been played more than expected. Still has not imposed himself on a game to show AVB what he is capable of though.

Bentley has spoken of his relief at being given a chance by the new management but the former England international has yet to stamp his authority on any of his appearances, instead rather coasting his way through matches.

And though he may make out that he was not given a chance by Redknapp, question marks hang over the midfielder's attitude. Does he really want to fight for a first-team place or is he content to pick up his salary each week?

It seems harsh to come down too heavily on Bentley but his hopelessly underwhelming spell at Tottenham following the massive £15 million move from Blackburn opens the door for such criticism.

Looking through rose-tinted glasses, if a fully fit and determined Bentley could rediscover the form that had him labelled David Beckham's England successor, he may prove to be a valuable squad member.

I will not be holding my breath though. It will be a surprise to see him feature for the first team this year.

Age 23
Position Forward
Likelihood of starting vs Newcastle
Pre-season performance
Yet to feature for Spurs on account of his involvement in the Olympics with Mexico, where he has played well.

There is a player in there somewhere - there is simply too much evidence to suggest otherwise. From his education at Barcelona to his consistently strong, goalscoring displays for Mexico, Dos Santos remains a riddle yet to be solved by those at White Hart Lane.

He was rarely used by Redknapp and rumours of an unprofessional attitude peddled the idea that he was more interested in life off the pitch than on it.

Yet, in theory, Dos Santos could be a player Villas-Boas will consider an excellent option as one of his wide forwards. So far in pre-season, Gareth Bale has moved from left to right and vice-versa for Aaron Lennon. But they are both natural wingers.

With Dos Santos, Spurs have a genuine forward schooled in the art of the inverted winger. If Villas-Boas intends to transfer his Porto blueprint to Tottenham, we could see the Mexican forward feature far more heavily.

That said, after his involvement in the Olympics, it is unlikely Dos Santos will immediately claim a place in the first team.

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