Aftermath thoughts on Saturday's game.
If we're missing Dembele we have no natural cover to play alongside Sandro. Huddlestone and Livermore are not replacements. Tommy has been out of action for a prolonged period of time and I'm not sure he's adaptable to specific roles that Villas-Boas might seek from him. Play him in a deep sitting role or one pushed further up-field, but he'll never be a box-to-box engine player and can't keep up with the pace that's required. He's got vision, he's a brilliant passer of the ball but the formation has to be one that benefits his talents, which might be to the detriment of the side. Under AVB, it's about the formation and tactics and the personnel has to fit into it perfectly. Tommy is not robust enough. I still think he has something offer. But if you dared to experiment with him in the position Sig or Dempsey sit in...that opens up further questions on what we're meant to do with three 'offensive' players?
Interestingly (my memory might be playing tricks) but I'm certain there was a league game against Chelsea a few seasons back where he completely dominated the midfield and was supremely influential. The problem here is that every player has his day (see Jenas for the occasional master-class of effort) but Huddlestone has been consistent for us in the past. Livermore is not quite to the standard of a Sandro. He offers hope but doesn't possess the quality. However he's enjoyed similar cameos (okay, perhaps one) and until Parker is available again we'll have to place faith in the training ground and AVB's selection.
Parker, a brilliant 'dirty work' player, chasing down balls - but his passing is not for the long term in a Villas-Boas inspired midfield.
Back to Sign and Demps - Both Sig and Dempsey still feel outside looking in. I've cited 'mojo' and 'groove' and both are lacking that spark. I really don't think we can be dismissive of this role in the team and how vital it is. If van der Vaart was still in the team (although he's erratic and enjoys to roam) he'd provide that missing spark - although he might not aid in other areas vital to the system. Both Sig and Dempsey are not quite offering a final product yet. Now for a second, imagine their influence if firing on all cylinders. Sig has to put the sexy into Siggy and Dempsey needs to discover the dynamism that he's known for.
Brad v Hugo
There is no contest here (for me). Hugo Lloris is simply a far better goal keeper and footballer. He attacks the ball, he reads the game with intelligence and runs out of his six yard box (to tackle/save) and his distribution is superb. Interestingly, you might compare the striking issue (Defoe or Adebayor?) and wonder how much on current form goes towards selecting the players. Villas-Boas does not favour certain players. That's what we've witnessed so far in his tenure. He plays the best players suited for the job. Regarding the strikers, Adebayor had no pre-season, was injured and Defoe is in form (be it not the perfect all round footballer to compliment our play when not in possession). With the keepers, Lloris fits the bill better allowing for cohesiveness and fluidity from keeper to defence to midfield to attack.
Big test on Villas-Boas this. Loyalty to the long term rather than to single individuals. Lloris needs to start as number one.
Kyle Walker hasn't shown any signs of improvement. Struggling with his positioning, decision making and lacking discipline. Does he need a rest? Does he need competition? Does he need instructions on perhaps holding back from the offensive mind-set all the time and try to focus on the basics to rebuild his faith in himself? All questions I don't have to answer. The coaching staff are responsible for the player and the effect it has on the team. Naughton could provide the competition and rest-bite.
Gallas, a player that I believed to be spent at the end of last season has shown how valuable his experience can be then let's himself (and us) down with a fairly shoddy performance (clearances and possession, lack of). Long term, Jan Vertonghen has to partner Caulker in the centre with BAE back at left-back. I've mentioned this in the match report - when we have Kaboul available there is strength in abundance there. Gallas can still offer his experience on the training pitch but too often time appears to be catching up with him out on the pitch. If we're making sacrifices to aid our progression and style under AVB, then surely there is no reason to not line-up with the players that we hope to see cement their positions long term for us. However - all of this is once more dependent on player fitness.
Caulker and Vert = athleticism and pace. Good on the ball. Perfect for the fabled high line.
I guess here, it would be easy to cite 'we need more defenders' - when the reality is we'll have too many when everyone is available. So the nearest short term alternative is...Dawson for Gallas?
You're struggling with that one.
Defoe and Adebayor
European game up next. Will Adebayor get a start? Is he 100% fit? Feels like we need to see 90 minutes from him to actually gauge whether all the talk of him being the better player for the system is actually up to scratch. Adebayor, on song, will bring movement to our play - when in or without possession. We know he can work the channels, we know he can drop back and allow the midfield to push forward. The disadvantage is that (goals disallowed aside) he is not always as instinctive as Defoe is. I'm trying to remain balanced here. Both have their advantages and their negatives. Like for like, Adebayor should displace Defoe - but the player has to prove this to the coach and to us.
Do we need a third striker? Like a crack head needs a smoke.