It all started so well for Andre Villas Boas this season but now his dream is starting to crumble. After selling prize asset Gareth Bale for a world record £85.3 million, Spurs funded the signatures of a group of players meant to take them to the next level. The arrival of Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, Christian Eriksen, Paulinho and Nacer Chadli filled the fans with genuine optimism with many really believing that the title might not be unrealistic. Unfortunately yesterday’s 6-0 thrashing by Manchester City still shows the gulf that exists between Spurs and the other title challengers. With a difficult December fast approaching and Tottenham now sitting in ninth place, Villas Boas knows that he needs to get his team back on track if he is to make his team into genuine title challengers.
Form and results this season in the Premiership have been less than impressive. Having only won 50% of their matches played so far (12 in total), with 4 of them by a single goal, the real problem appears to be an inability to finish. This is backed up by the fact that Tottenham have only scored nine times this season in the league. In Europe and in the League Cup, Spurs have found goals easy to come by but the reasoning behind this is that their front line is afforded more time as the game is played at a slower pace. So far, Villas Boas has relied heavily on Spanish striker Roberto Soldado to lead the line in the Premiership whilst Jermaine Defoe gets the nod in Europe. Whilst Defoe is on fire, Soldado has been less convincing scoring only four goals (two of them from the penalty spot). He appears to be struggling with the higher pace of the English game which gives him fewer opportunities to score. The former Valencia striker was identified as the man to take Tottenham to the next level following his exploits in Spain, where last season he hit 24 goals in 35 games. But he has failed to adapt as yet and Spurs have suffered for that. One of the other reasons behind the misfiring Soldado has been the service he has received. With the departure of the ever reliable Bale, Villas Boas has drafted in suitable creative replacements like Eriksen, Paulinho and Capoue but the trios are more central players rather than conventional wingers. The emergence of Andros Townsend from the shadow of Bale has been a revelation and his helped to mask the disappointment around new arrivals Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli. The pair has failed to shine so far and live up to their promise. Lamela in particular has been painful to watch as the Spurs fans know that he is of genuine quality.
Having lit up Serie A during his time with Roma, the 21 year old arrived at Tottenham as the savior and the man to replace Bale. It’s still early days for the young Argentine but with a hefty transfer fee attached to his move, he will have to start to deliver quickly before he is branded a flop by the British press. Most of Tottenham’s creative plays this season has come from pass and go rather than crosses, with Eriksen and a rejuvenated Sigurdsson pulling the strings. The pair has had the freedom to push forward thanks to the defensive play of Sandro and Paulinho who support the back four. But opposition teams are now getting wise to this tactic and are giving Eriksen in particular less space to create. With few options out wide, Spurs are limited in their attacking capabilities which are preventing them from scoring more goals. At the back, Tottenham have been more convincing. Before Sunday’s drubbing, the Spurs defence has performed well, conceding only six goals. It’s been a fairly settled back four so far with Dawson leading the line alongside either Kabul or Chiriches in the middle with Kyle Walker at right back and Belgian centre half Jan Veronghen deputizing at left back. Veronghen has gone public with his annoyance of being played out of position, favouring his usual position at centre back more but he has coped well in what has been a problem area for Villas Boas. In goal, French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has grown into his role and made the No.1 jersey his own, only giving it up once due to injury.
Tottenham will likely strengthen in January with the addition of a left back that will help push Veronghen back into more familiar territory. They will also look to offload strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermaine Defoe, replacing them with goal scorers to ease the burden placed on Soldado’s shoulders. Lamela will be given time to adapt to the Premiership in the hope that he can fill Bale’s shoes long term as Tottenham’s go to flair player. The same can’t be said for Chadli who looks lost in the Premiership and will likely be shipped out if not in January, most definitely at the end of the season. Villas Boas knows that he has the nucleus of a squad capable of challenging but will be aware that he needs to help them to step up a gear and grow from potential challengers to genuine ones.