AVB is on to something. Our recent draw with Manchester United has brought to light the importance of trust, balance, and consistency. At the beginning of the season, encouraged by the quality of our summer signings, this Tottenham team looked athletically imposing, and ruthlessly versatile. Rather than the one-note style of football that Bale encouraged in the 12-13 season, AVB seemed to be searching for something more, a style of play that above all is versatile and balanced. This year we weren’t going to win games because of a player, we were going to win them as a team.
But that vision hasn’t quite, up to this point, taken off. A lack of creativity and production in the final third has caused a voracious appetite for tinkering around with players and positions in an attempt to find a proper fit. But up until our match with Manchester United, the teams fielded have never had a chance to settle. We weren’t lacking in creativity, we were lacking in confidence and discipline to AVB’s system. The lack of gelling was to some extent self-inflicted, and the constant alterations over the past few weeks reflected the exact opposite of where the strength of this Tottenham side lies, in its balance.
We took the most errant and edgy midfielder we have (Holtby) and tasked him with joining our midfield with attack against Manchester City, we took the most inconsistent winger we have (Townsend), and gave him a blank check in almost all of our games, and we continue to field a slow center-half (Dawson) in a defense that utilizes a high line. Two of those problems have been addressed with great results, one still remains.
It’s a testament to the fact we’re still growing, still in search of the ultimate consistency that will propel our team to actualize the potential we’ve always had. But in order to get there, AVB needs to consistently field teams that actually represent his vision, teams that can enact the positive and proven formula for success he possesses. Against United, we saw the first proper representation of AVB’s ideas, and they certainly were encouraging.
Our midfield was finally a cohesive unit, balanced and capable in both defense and attack. Chadli offered a solid showing, revealing his talents offensively and even defensively, and Lennon formed the balanced union with Walker down the right that was so crucial to our success last year. Our defensive midfielder Sandro scored an absolute stunner, and Soldado even had some nice moments shared with Paulinho. For the first time all year, we looked like a team brimming with versatility.
Which is why I believe AVB needs to continue to push, and continue to create the team that embodies his ideas. To the regret of many, I think Michael Dawson is next in line to be dropped. He’s just far too one-dimensional. His love of long diagonals rarely comes off as intended, and I find myself wondering if in his old age he forgets Peter Crouch is no longer our striker. A poor showing against City was not a one-off, and the high-line that AVB has implemented is obviously not to blame. Rather, it was Dawson occupying a role in that high-line that undercuts its efficiency, and leaves us exposed when faced with nothing more than a simple through-ball behind the defense and a pacey striker. Even though his leadership and potential communication skills are crucial, Kaboul has a wealth of experience as well, and has proven himself to be a tremendous leader. Not to mention he is a fantastic athlete that, when paired with Vertonghen, becomes part of what I believe to be the best pairing in the league. Our ability to be undone by quick strikers points to the cruciality of Michael Dawson passing on his spot to Younes Kaboul, once Younes is fully fit. Kaboul’s penchant for powerful headers could even add a goal or two, an offensive element we have yet to exploit this season. The restoration of Kaboul to the defense would complete AVB’s vision of a consistently balanced defense, one that has pace to keep up with quick strikers like Aguero, and still has the muscle to be a powerful presence in opposition to powerful No. 9’s like Negredo. Overall the Dawson situation is becoming a milder form of the Gallas problems last year, and we can’t afford to sacrifice footballing and overall defensive quality for the sake of sentimentality again. Dropping Gallas last year was the best thing that happened to the team, and I think Dawson’s gradual phasing-out will only lead to good things.
But even despite inconsistency throughout the season, it seems we’re certainly getting there. Our midfield against United was the most versatile and balanced one I’ve seen all year on paper, and it didn’t disappoint. For the first time, it looked a cohesive unit. But evidenced by our shocking November, adjusting the team week in and week out in simply no longer an option. We must maintain consistency in the starting XI and not undermine confidence and momentum by always trying new things out. If it worked against Manchester United, the Champions of England, it certainly deserves a chance again. After all, the strength of this team is no longer in one player, in an unpredictability at the expense of consistency. Rather, this team is about versatile unity, starting with a midfield capable of melting into attack or equally sliding into defense, and building a team that eventually becomes one unit, flowing and adapting to any situation with equal ease. We have the players that can do it, now all we need is a little consistency in team selection to reveal the potential AVB’s vision, and this team, has always had.
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