Inside Lane: Is AVB now being too bold with his Spurs tactics?
Tottenham blogger Chris Miller examines Andre Villas-Boas’ recent selections and substitutions following Sunday’s defeat at Everton.
In recent weeks it seems to have become a ploy of Andres Villas-Boas to attempt to soak up pressure at certain points in games, and to catch teams on the counter.
However, in some of our recent matches we may have pushed our luck too far, culminating in Sunday’s defeat at Everton.
Against Liverpool we conceded 65 per cent possession, at home, and basically relied on them scoring fewer goals than us - it was almost Ardiles-esque!
We went with Clint Dempsey close to Jermain Defoe, and he did not seem to have been specifically asked to stop Joe Allen getting on the ball - Liverpool’s anchor man made 23 more passes than any of our players (Mousa Dembele made 46 to Allen’s 69).
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Liverpool created chances but failed to finish them and, rather than bringing on a midfield player to shore things up, AVB took a chance - and while it paid off, it seemed to be more through luck than judgment.
The Fulham game was a little different - we scored at perfect times and took control in the second half - but there were certain parts of the Panathinaikos game that followed similar patterns to the match against Liverpool.
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When the Greek side switched to a 4-3-3 system in the second half, AVB elected to see the game out with the 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 formation that he had started with.
Despite the away team having plenty of possession at the start of the second half, scoring an equaliser and looking threatening, he stuck to his guns.
Again, it paid off when Dempsey’s header went in (via the crossbar and goalkeeper), and Aaron Lennon then made a wonderful break forward and picked out Defoe for the third.
It was a bold decision from Villas-Boas, who had shown the same sort of bravery with both his initial selection and his in-game changes against Arsenal.
However, I felt that Sunday’s match away at the fortress that is Goodison Park was the time for pragmatism.
Whilst many Spurs fans advocated the selections of Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor together, tweeting the Spurs motto “Audere Est Facere” (roughly translated, of course, as “to dare is to do”), I had a bad feeling.
I felt this was an occasion where we should have matched Everton’s hard-working five-man midfield, with one of the strikers sacrificed and an extra midfielder of our own included.
Whilst not ideal, Jake Livermore would have been my choice for his bite and energy - and of course he was excellent against Everton last year.
I wanted to see us try to keep it tight for 60 minutes, and then to bring on another forward - probably Defoe - and try to steal three points.
With 89 minutes gone, I thought Villas-Boas had proved me wrong yet again - we soaked up a lot of Everton pressure and rode our luck on numerous occasions, but we were ahead.
However, our head coach chose the last few minutes to make his pragmatic changes - bringing on Tom Huddlestone, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Yago Falque for Lennon, Dembele and Defoe.
His use of substitutions have been a bone of contention with many fans, and these were far from successful.
Huddlestone, presumably brought on to help control possession and add calmness, completed just 58 per cent of his passes - a very poor effort for a man who looks terribly out of sorts and well off his standard of two years ago.
I always saw Villas-Boas as someone who would attempt to maintain the status quo for the opening of games, and to try to nick a goal late on, and I have been surprised by his boldness.
However, I do think that he has been lucky in certain games, particularly Liverpool, and that a little pragmatism - although unpopular - could go a long way.
Follow me on Twitter @WindyCOYS