Boos rang round White Hart Lane at half time on Sunday afternoon – a sound that has sadly become all too familiar in recent weeks. Tottenham had just been played off the park by a very lively QPR team that Spurs had made look like Barcelona.
It was a worrying first 45 minutes. But for a couple of very good saves from Brad Friedel, the game could well have been beyond us at half time. There was no cohesion in the team, the play was too slow and deliberate and the players looked like they were strangers. A number of them looked uninterested, with Clint Dempsey a primary example. Asked to play in an unfamiliar position on the left he looked as if he would rather be in Liverpool than out on the pitch.
At half time Andre Villas Boas (AVB) had to decide how to turn the game around. It has often been said that AVB can be a stubborn man, someone who would rather prove a personal point than opting for the tactical change that the game is crying out for. On Sunday he got this decision spot on. It could be argued that he should have gone with the team that came out in the second half from the off, but at least he took the decision to make the changes at half time. There were numerous occasions in Redknapp’s reign where everyone in the ground could see the simple tactical improvements that could change the game in our favour apart from the man in charge himself.
By bringing on Steven Caulker to play at centre back, it allowed Jan Vertonghen to move to left-back (a position he is accustomed to in the Belgian national team) so that Gareth Bale could take up his natural position on the left-wing. This in turn allowed Dempsey to play a more familiar position in a more advanced role alongside Defoe.
The team instantly looked more balanced and were able to take the game to QPR. While the first goal had more than a hint of good fortune, the second was from a fast paced break that we have grown accustomed to at the lane. Dembele won the ball well on the edge of his own box to start the attack with men pouring forward.
The change in personnel at half time saw Spurs play to their strengths. This is summed up perfectly by looking at some of the player dashboards that are available from the Stats Zone app. The contrast in Dempsey’s performance in the second half compared to the first is staggering. In a more familiar position he posed far greater danger to the QPR defence, using his ability in the air to good effect and testing Julio Cesar on a couple of occasions.
Dempsey First Half Attacking Performance Dempsey Second Half Performance
Next Page: Spurs’ Left Hand Side Performance vs Queens Park Rangers (Bale / Vertonghen stats analysis) and a look at Vertonghen’s tackling stats!
It is also interesting to look at the difference in the left hand side from first to second half. The intention of playing Bale at left back was most likely as he can offer a threat running from deep rather than for his defensive prowess. He was unable to get forward in the first half as his dashboard shows. If we compare this to his 2nd half dashboard as well as Vertonghan’s attacking dashboard for the same half, we can see how much more attacking threat we possessed down the left hand side.
Left Hand Side Performance
The question for AVB now is how to line up against Manchester United at the weekend. Does AVB stick with the side that started the second half against QPR? I would say yes. Caulker has been an accomplished centre back and Vertonghen excelled at left back – the trouble is he has also been our best performing centre back. He was won all of the tackles that he has made this season, none more so important that a last-ditch tackle at the weekend when it looked like an unmarked Hoilett was poised to score.
Vertonghen Tackling Stats
AVB has taken a considerable amount of stick from the media after replacing their darling Harry Redknapp. Despite this, we are only 1 point behind Arsenal who is being tipped as title contenders. Admittedly we have had an easier start (on paper) but people tend to forget that Arsenal struggled to find the net in their opening two games resulting in goalless draws.
We have a number of key players to come back into the squad with the likes of Kaboul, Parker and Adebayor all currently out. With the players we lost in the summer it was always going to be a test to replace them and this season can be seen as a period of transition.
One thing is vitally important though, the crowd has to get behind the team and support them through thick and thin – this booing is helping no one…