The Andre Villas-Boas era at Tottenham Hotspur is, minus the team's dramatic victory at Manchester United, becoming a "wash, rinse, repeat" cycle that has to be stopped if Spurs are going to both advance in Europa League play and also contend for a top four spot in the Premier League table. Tottenham once again came out of the tunnel a flat side, this time when away to Maribor, and 45 minutes of what was largely missable football from the visitors landed Spurs down a goal at the halftime break. AVB's team, as they've done multiple times this season, did well to answer the bell in the second half, but they just weren't good enough to locate a match-winner. Today's result is hardly a disaster for Spurs for multiple reasons.
That doesn't mean, however, that it's acceptable.
Maribor 1-1 Spurs: Question answered
The Tottenham defense has been forced to deal with several injury setbacks during the first couple of months of the current campaign. That, along with the fact that Jan Vertonghen has been an absolute boss at left back while filling in for Benoit Assou-Ekotto, had some Spurs supporters wondering if Tom Huddlestone could start at CB if necessary. We got our answer on Thursday, and the answer is a very clear "no."
Huddlestone was a liability in the defensive third in both halves of play, and it was his halfhearted challenge in the left portion of the Tottenham penalty area that allowed Maribor's Dejan Mezga to skip free of any markers and then connect with Robert Beric. Beric tapped the ball past Hugo Lloris for a shocking match-opener just a few minutes before halftime, a goal Spurs eventually answered 13 minutes after the break.
Huddlestone looked out of sorts and unable to keep up during two runs of play in the second half that probably would have seen Maribor reclaim/extend their lead if not for the assistant referee raising his flag. I'm more than willing to accept that any player can have an off night while out on the pitch. Still, today's match offered little evidence that Huddlestone should feature in AVB's back line anytime soon.
Maribor 1-1 Spurs: Right place at right time
For the second time in non-EPL action, Gylfi Sigurdsson found himself at the right spot at the right time to notch a tally that will hopefully help him grab some confidence heading into November. Sandro played a looping pass across the face of goal in the 58th minute, and Yago Falqué let the ball take a bounce before heading it to Sigurdsson. Sigurdsson returned the ball to Falqué, and the Spaniard completed a short run in the box before testing goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic. Handanovic got a hand to the attempt but he was unable to keep control of the ball, Jermain Defoe fired a rebound strike that was luckily cleared off the line by a defender, and Sigurdsson then got a half-touch that sent the ball slowly bouncing over the line.
Sigurdsson looked like a different player after that goal. He was much more lively both on and off the ball, and I'd argue that he was Tottenham's best overall attacking player during his final 17 minutes on the pitch (he was subbed off for Clint Dempsey in the 75th minute). It's likely that he'll again get the nod next week when Spurs are away to Norwich City for a Capital One Cup clash. The Sigurdsson that was on the field in the second half of today's game could prove to be a key man for Spurs on October 31.
Maribor 1-1 Spurs: Most important player?
Sandro was, for my money, the man of the match, a box-to-box player who, on a different day, could have been responsible for creating at least two additional goals in the final half-hour of play. Tottenham's most important player may, however, have been the previously mentioned Falqué. Falqué and not Dempsey or Jake Livermore was given a chance to insert life into the Tottenham attack following the break, and the 22-year old did that and then some. While Andros Townsend was largely an invisible man in the first half, Falqué created problems down the left wing and in the attacking third up through the start of stoppage time, during which Spurs looked like a side that was more than happy to accept the draw.
Villas-Boas has made it clear since summer that he's serious about Spurs going after multiple trophies this season. For that to happen, the Tottenham manager will have to rotate players throughout 3-4 competitions. Spurs will host Maribor in a Europa League rematch on November 8. I'd have no problem with AVB choosing Falqué for the team's starting eleven when that day comes.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?
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