As the domestic league comes to a one-week standstill, and players from Premier League clubs fly across the world to join their national teams for the two final qualifying games before the 2014 World Cup, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on our new style of play and how it has changed or even progressed from previous years.
When someone mentions ‘Tottenham Hotspur’ the first thing that people think about is fast, exciting, counter-attacking football, and an approach to matches of outscoring teams rather than grinding out results.
This philosophy has attracted a certain breed of player throughout our history, especially since the glory days of the 1960’s under Bill Nicholson. Even during barren periods for the club, for example during the 1980’s and 1990’s players like, Glenn Hoddle, David Ginola and Jurgen Klinsmann and in recent years, Rafael Van der Vaart, Luca Modric and Dimitar Berbatov all fitted the mould of the archetypal Spurs player: skilful, exciting and capable of winning games within the blink of the eye. These kinds of players could be incredibly infuriating, but they have always been favourites among fans at the Lane.
However, under AVB our style of football seems to have changed and with this, so has the breed of footballer that has been attracted to our club. The majority of our signings under AVB have been strong, pacey players who can get across the pitch quickly and can help out in attack as well as in defence. A lot of our recent signings, including, Paulinho, Capoue and Nacer Chadli are all quick, strong players, and across our team, physical attributes are preferred to flair and excitement; the attempted sale of Michael Dawson at the start of AVB’s time in charge and the sale of Rafael Van der Vaart highlight this point. These two players, especially Van der Vaart, do not fit AVB’s slower, more tactical game, compared to the Spurs teams of yesteryear.
Our play has also become more concentrated around the centre of the pitch, compared to previous Spurs teams who have been characterised by stretching the opposition by having quick, tricky wingers, running down the wings and whipping balls in. In AVB’s new 4-2-3-1 formation we play two inverted wingers: Andros Townsend and Gylfi Sigurdsson. These two players cut inside on their stronger foots and have shots on goal at almost every opportunity (especially Andros), rather than getting to the by-line, getting chalk on their boots and whipping a cross in, like Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale did under Redknapp.
The question is, with this new, almost continental style of football will we finally realise our potential as a club and cement our place in the coveted Champions League places? Harry Redknapp and Martin Jol both tried to carry on the traditional, fast, expansive Spurs brand of football, but with little success at making us a regular top-4 outfit.
What we will now see is whether AVB, with a group of players that he is happy with, backing from the chairman and with a (hopefully) soon settled squad, whether he can finally take us from being perennial underachievers to being a European footballing superpower.
His tactics and team ethos may split us as Spurs fans, especially those who witnessed the ‘glory days’, but in recent years, the traditional Spurs game plan has not got the club where it needs to be, and because of this a new way of thinking is needed not only from the playing and backroom staff, but also from the supporters.
Change takes time, and hopefully the new Spurs will be a successful Spurs.
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