I just don’t understand what’s going on with our midfield. AVB seems to be tinkering and substituting and swapping and manipulating with just about every midfield combination we have. And quite simply I’m tired of it. Any Tottenham supporter who watched the combination of Sandro and Dembele, before Sandro’s injury last January of course, will be able to vouch for me when I say clearly and emphatically that it was the best central pairing in the league. Sandro supplied brilliant moments of decisive tackling and defensive cover, while Dembele supplied a classy link from the midfield to our attacking quartet. It was quite literally a match made in heaven. And yet AVB seems to totally ignore it as a viable option this year. I don’t understand.
Worth mentioning in support of my argument is last Thursday’s match against Sheriff at the Lane. For me, its the best 90 minutes I’ve seen all year from us. While Vertonghen alongside Kaboul showcased easily our top central defensive pairing, it was the fluidity and purpose of the midfield that resonated with me. Dembele had an absolutely classic match, brilliantly picking the ball up from an immense Capoue and marauding forward at every chance, igniting silky attacks led by the almost magnetic touch of Eriksen. It was a game that highlighted the cruciality of Dembele as that link between defense and attack, and the presence of a defensive minded midfielder to free Dembele up. These two elements are absolutely necessary to our midfield going forward.
Now, keeping in mind Paulinho’s relatively impressive start to the campaign I wouldn’t be opposed to him taking the place of Dembele, but that all rests upon Paulinho proving his goal scoring potential. Because what Dembele lacks in pace to burst forward he makes up for with his incredible on the ball power and decent creativity. Up to this point Paulinho has showed a great willingness to burst into the box, yet still hasn’t convinced me of his passing/orchestration abilities, which are crucial aspects of the central midfielder role. So, as it stands, Dembele gets the start, along with Sandro over Capoue, but if Paulinho starts scoring Dembele could have a proper fight on his hands for his place.
Another option if Eriksen goes down injured, or if we have time to fiddle around in the Europa League, is having Paulinho as the furthest forward in a trio also including Dembele and Sandro. That combination, however, would probably limit our creativity and could only be realistically used if Lamela and Townsend start on the wings together, just to supplement the immense power in the midfield with some of their trademark pace in attack. I understand that most would prefer Holtby to Paulinho in the No. 10 role, but if Paulinho can become a Frank Lampard-esque goal scoring midfielder, the creativity will be more than made up for in direct goal scoring ability. But one of the two of Sandro/Capoue must always be the anchor, because the one combination that quite obviously hasn’t worked up to this point is Dembele and Paulinho together with Dembele as the anchor. It’s a bit disappointing to say, I’ll admit, because a trio of Eriksen-Dembele-Paulinho has endless offensive potential, but unfortunately Dembele and Paulinho are a bit too similar in their attack-minded approach to the midfield and proved their inability to operate well with each other against Newcastle. But to completely contradict every argument I’ve made up until this point, I still believe that trio could just maybe work and shouldn’t be completely abandoned. Dembele and Paulinho would just have to really hone in their partnership and always divvy up defensive duties. Not to mention Dembele would need a full tank of gas which he had against Sheriff but so obviously didn’t against Newcastle. But if we have pacey wingers in front of them who are active and direct I see it panning out. Because the defeat by Newcastle was much more a result of ineffective and weak wing play by Sigurdsson/Townsend than Dembele.
Which brings me to my last point. After watching our match against Sheriff I really believe Lamela needs to be playing in the Premier League. At this point, our wing play has been glossed over because of an unusual and unwarranted amount of hype surrounding Andros Townsend and Gylfi’s ability to score a goal or two. But at its roots, our wingers simply haven’t done enough to warrant the seemingly immediate selection their getting week after week. Lennon on the right/Townsend on the left; Lennon on the right/Lamela on the left; Lamela on the right/Townsend on the left are all better options than Townsend on the right and Gylfi on the left. As I stated in a previous article the only role Gylfi should be playing is that of a back up No.10. Hazard, Kagawa, Nasri, Cazorla, Coutinho, Sigurdsson. These are more or less the players that Sigurdsson shares a position with. I’d pick Siggy last. By a long shot. Unless he is scoring 15 goals a season he just is not good enough to be the starting left winger on an aspiring Champions League side. And I think it’s about time AVB realized this. At any rate I’m desperately looking forward to our match at City and really hope AVB gets his selection spot on. It could be a season-defining win. And with the left-back position somewhat of a weak point for City, I think Lamela has shown enough to at least have a go at the big boys. Worst-case scenario we sub him off at half-time. Hardly a risk for the potential reward. But anyway, as we all know there are a dozen options for the Starting 11 against City, but here’s mine, assuming everyone is fit.
Walker Kaboul Vertonghen Rose
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