In a nervous and potentially catastrophic series of events following yet another Soldado penalty, Andros Townsend violently crashed over the advertising boards and managed to lacerate a nearby photographer’s head with a trailing boot, all while knocking himself out in the process. It was a scary moment that resulted in Townsend remaining off the pitch for some time thankfully to return, albeit with a Marouane Fellaini-esque wrapped in bandage and sprained wrist. Graham Chadwick, the unfortunately situated photographer who got quite the facial wound was also outfitted with a bandage across his head. Given that there were more bandages administered than goals today it only seems appropriate to utilize the opportunity at hand, and create a metaphorical piece that equates a bandaged wound to this increasingly safe and cautious, and at times underachieving, post-Bale Tottenham side.
From the moment I laid eyes on the Starting XI today against Hull, there were obvious areas of weakness, positions that for one reason or another were not up to scratch for a trophy challenging side . First off: our back line. Our defensive 4 looked solid, but there is no doubting that Super Jan is a central defender. His mobility isn’t even close to Rose’s and even though is a wall defensively, the modern game (especially a 4-3-3) requires fullbacks to push into the opposition half and join the attack. Unfortunately, Vlad had a generally poor game which probably contributed to Jan’s more cautious approach, and also brings about the question of Kaboul’s return. Kaboul is a tremendous presence, and although we’re keeping clean sheets left and right, we have some big games coming up that will require that extra bit of class in defense, an extra class that a fully-fit Kaboul can certainly provide. I think its also worth a shot to restore Jan to a central role just to sure things up and allow for experimentation with Vlad on the left. Vlad on the left with Jan central, for me, is better than Vlad central and Jan wide based purely on Vlad’s ability on the ball and relative mobility. It could turn into a Naughton-esque problem but who knows for sure. Anyway, just like West Ham, there was really no consistent production off the left-flank, aside from Jan’s handled cross, which brings me to our other obviously bandaged position: the Left Wing.
Right off the bat I’m saying it, Lennon should never start on the left. Even despite my sentiments about him throughout last year’s campaign (that he was absolutely crucial to our team’s balance and success) I find him far to one-dimensional to be of any positive effect on the left-side this year. His poor vision, coupled with his penchant for not scoring or setting up goals makes him a rather detrimental inclusion in the squad. All day long you could sense he wanted to cut infield, which not only smothered the box for Soldado, but also solidified Holtby’s non-existence and eventual substitution. Aside from igniting the odd counterattack and lofting cute, gentle balls into the box with no particular target, Lennon doesn’t have much of a role to play this year. Especially not on the left. I thought today was a perfect opportunity for Lamela to get the start, being a creative and direct influence while providing the width we so desperately needed to break down a cohesive Hull side. I’ve seen enough of him to feel confident handing him a bigger role. He’s such a lethal talent that I’m not sure we can be so complacent with Gylfi as our starting man. Today was all too reminiscent of the West Ham match, no productivity on the left flank and therefore Hull’s compact defensive was able to completely stifle any of our attacking threat. The left wing is becoming an increasingly problematic and obviously bandaged position for us.
Gylfi’s goals have patched up a problem, similar to the way Andros has patched up Bale’s departure. But rather than a positive and largely reliable Townsend on the right, the problem of our left wing still exists underneath the goals. This summer I imagined Chadli, Lamela, and one of Townsend/Sigurdsson challenging for the advanced wing positions week in and week out. In a bit of good fortune for Gylfi, he hit a vein of form early on this year. I believe, however, that this vein of form is really smothering our potential as a team. Gylfi doesn’t have the direct ability of Chadli or Lamela to beat a man with skill or pace and he is really a No. 10 at heart. I really feel the fact that he is scoring goals makes us (paradoxically) worse off. I’m all for playing the hot hand, but I would much rather see Chadli once he gets a bit of momentum or a halfway decent Lamela than a pretty good Sigurdsson. Frankly, if AVB feels so inclined to keep playing him I wouldn’t be opposed to see him as the furtherest forward in the midfield trio, just to keep Eriksen and Holtby on their toes, maybe finally inspire some directness and willingness to try a screamer from outside the box that our current No.10’s lack, and maintain spacing on the wings.
But like a bandage, you can never be sure how the wound looks until you expose it. Sometimes a wound still needs time, or sometimes it is completely healed. With the departure of Bale we were obviously left with a massive gash in our squad’s talent. But its becoming increasingly clear that the Bale wound could very well be healed if not better than before. I have a hard time blaming AVB for playing Sigurdsson as a starter in big games, but deep down I feel like he wasn’t anticipating being in this position. After shelling out 30 Million Euros I’m sure he thought Lamela would have been closer to a starting role. Although, in smaller games I don’t mind a little rotation to keep things fresh and everyone happy. To keep it safe and go with the proven veterans instead of the potentially explosive talents. But playing it safe is a two-edged sword, and we are beginning to sacrifice the actualization of our potential for mostly comfortable but at times nervy, small margin victories. Our deficiencies on the left wing has been a bandaged position all year, and thats largely been fine up to this point. But with big matches coming up, AVB needs to rip the bandage off, expose Lamela and see what he truly has in an all-action atmosphere. The bandage protects but hinders, gets in the way but ensures safety. With Everton, Liverpool, and the two Manchester sides arriving soon safety isn’t an option. We need to go out and grab the game by the horns, expose our potentially lethal options on the bench and put full faith behind them. Inspired by our fans and motto, I can’t see how we won’t be better than before. To Dare is to Do, after all.
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