And so it begins...
Here we go then. Season 2013 is upon us. You ready?
Modric is still with us. Just about. Should be gone any day now if you believe the latest 'news' suggesting Madrid upped their bid (a day after we supposedly accepted a far lower one) and that Spurs are asking for some time to confirm a replacement. Which sounds ridiculous. None of it matters really, aside from the official club statements which will tell all. I'm still confident Luka will be gone, Adebayor will arrive and another player or two. But for now, we look forwards with what we definitely know to have in Lilywhite.
Couple of things here to discuss then.
Firstly, patience. Without it we're doomed (I'm being over-dramatic because we don't do things by half measures). It's going to be bad enough to have Redknapp's soundbites and the media's agenda on our back - let's not meltdown early doors. A lot being discussed about how we've massively cocked-up by not getting all our business done before the first game of the season and how we could lose several points like we did against the Manc sides. Except this season is not in any way comparable to the last. We have a new coach, therefore all the prep work and training ethics will take time (hopefully not too much time) to bed in. There's so much you can get out of pre-season. It's also not comparable because Villas-Boas is unlikely to start a player equivalents to Niko in the middle of the park and leave us beyond light-weight in a key position.
Positivity is the key on and off the pitch. VB will hopefully not fully commit to the high-line set-up (mainly because we still don't have a keeper that can play it). I think the main difference I'm hoping to see is the player instructions and how the team push up, pressure and pass the ball. What type of tempo we'll be playing with and how we counter attack. For example, will Bale stay on the left, swap wings, roam? How will Sig or vdV fit into the hole behind the lone forward? How will that lone forward link in with the midfield? No Adebayor (not yet, any day now), who was superb at dropping deep and holding the ball up. We've got Defoe, altogether a different type of forward, not as complete and robust as Adebayor and for some arguably not a long term first team choice (has he ever been that?). Still he's one with confidence after his England goal. Kane will be on the bench. That more or less illustrates the work required for the next couple of weeks.
Plenty of questions then, although it is only the first game and it is away at a place where we traditionally don't get too much from. It's going to make great viewing. That goes without say. It's Spurs.
So how should we shape up for it?
Defence selects itself with Brad, Walker, Kaboul, Vertonghen and Benny. Sandro (or Livermore) as holding midfielder alongside either Livermore or Tom Huddlestone (as a replacement of sorts for Modric). He's not a like for like replacement obviously but he's got a range of passing that will add an offensive touch to our player in what would otherwise be a pedestrian central midfield. No Luka to recycle possession so Tom will give us another type of dimension to our play. Alternatives? Jenas? I won't go there. Of course, there's a chance Sandro won't play as his pre-season consisted of a silver medal and not much training field work with the gaffer. But his quality should be enough to allow him to 'get stuck in' for the shirt. Livermore can stake a claim off the back of last season's mature performances (on occasions) and his England call up. Would still opt for Sandro.
The three players sitting behind the forward will be Lennon and Bale on the wings and either van der Vaart or Sig spearheading the threesome. Perhaps for continuation of familiarity, he'll opt for Rafa. Will have plenty of work to do, supporting Defoe. The good thing here is, both Rafa and Sig are not goal shy players and are sweet at positioning and finishing.
The rest, the flow and pace of the side, the movement...that's for us to sit back and be entertained with. Either way or draw, I'll be getting smashed afterwards.
Enjoy your Saturday.
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