While Gareth Bale is a world-class player, his success at Tottenham Hotspur was mainly due to the certain spark he could bring to the game. If Spurs were struggling to score in any particular game, they would look to Bale, and he would usually repay their faith will dangerous attacking play. It’s something unique to his style. With Bale gone, it seems like Tottenham have no such player who can fill the role he played, he even mentioned it himself after his move to Real Madrid where he was quoted to say “At Tottenham, I was always trying to get onto the ball and make everything tick, whereas here everybody’s doing that, there are world-class players all around the pitch and you’re able to concentrate just on your game rather than bringing the whole team forward, and I’m enjoying that.” It was evident under Andre Villas-Boas that Tottenham were missing a spark in their play, which directly correlated with their poor goal scoring record under the Portuguese. Under Sherwood, Tottenham have played significantly better, however the personnel hasn’t changed since he took over, and while he has been getting the best out of them, their playing styles couldn’t be completely altered. In order to assess whether Spurs are missing Bale’s style of play, we must assess the players who could spark the team if need be.
In many ways, Emmanuel Adebayor has solved this problem for the time being. His inclusion has been an inspired choice by Sherwood, and his promising attacking play has (pardon the pun) spurred on the Spurs. A perfect example of this would be the 1-1 draw against Hull. In this game, many Tottenham players simply couldn’t initiate any attacks, and was a main reason why they were held to a draw. However, when Adebayor was on the ball, confidence in the entire team grew, and the Togolese was integral in almost all the dangerous play Tottenham created during that game. The fact that Tottenham could only secure a point, however, is evidence that Adebayor cannot do this alone.
A young player with plenty of pace and trickery is a great way of getting some “oomph” into your team, especially considering Andros Townsend can play on either flank. The Englishman has the power to rejuvenate Tottenham’s lacklustre attack, however as evidenced by his performance in the disappointing recent 1-0 loss in Ukraine, he is not always going to provide.
The Danish playmaker has the ability to turn things around for Tottenham. He was most likely Daniel Levy’s best and most savvy purchase, and he has immense quality in many areas. Unfortunately, one of the areas he struggles with is creating that spark if other do not do work with him. As an example, we shall look at Mesut Özil at Arsenal. While Tottenham fans will be looking with glee at many calling him a flop (including Arsenal fans), his downturn in form has not been entirely his fault. Without Theo Walcott, Özil simply doesn’t have many players around him willing to sprint forward to latch onto his through balls, something that complements his style. Only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain really fits the bill of a player who can do that out of regular starters Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky and Olivier Giroud. Tottenham have a few more players capable of filling that position; Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, but Christian Eriksen himself certainly doesn’t play in that style.
Why is Mousa Dembele such in integral part of Tottenham’s team? Is it his phenomenal skill? Unlikely, his skill is less that Eriksen and arguably Holtby. Is it his strength? With Sandro, Etienne Capoue and Paulinho all in the team, there is hardly a deficiency in strength. Is it his goal-scoring prowess? Certainly not, he has only scored 2 goals in the Premier League since joining from Fulham last season. Then what is it? It’s how sometimes he’s the only player bringing the ball forward and encouraging attacking play. When he wriggles past his opponent (as he does so often) he invokes a sense of excitement. That excitement, for the fans and the players alike, is what Tottenham need from him the most.
While the Argentine has had major problems adjusting to the English game, there is always the possibility that Erik Lamela will eventually turn good. As he slowly adapts to the physicality of the Premier League, we may see glimpses of the quality that he showed at Roma. His stagnant performances was one of the main reasons why Lamela has been considered a flop, but if he can integrate some of the trickery and skill that all Tottenham fans know he possesses into his game, he can certainly become a crucial member of Spurs attack force.
While none of these players are particularly lacking in quality, Tottenham are deficient in having a player like this who can spark life into uninspiring football. Under Sherwood, the team have certainly been more positive going forward, and they have been able to create more chances for themselves. But, there is always the chance that the Englishman could dive into the transfer market for another player, if he is still in charge then.
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