COMMENTARY | Tottenham Hotspur would have more depth and a better overall squad once the club completed all summer business, including the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.
This was the mantra/line fed to Spurs supporters throughout what felt like the never-ending Bale transfer saga, one that saw the so-called Magnificent Seven arrive at White Hart Lane before the Welsh wonder was allowed to make his move to the Spanish Giants. A few weeks after Bale's departure and roughly 24 hours after Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas called Tuesday's Capital One Cup showdown with Aston Villa an "impossible game," Spurs picked up their third victory in six days, routing Villa 4-0 and, in the process, showing what the team has outside of AVB's first-choice lineup.
Before looking at how the Tottenham squad has changed from a year ago, credit must first be given to Villas-Boas for the way that he selected his lineups during a congested portion of the schedule. He wisely held out back line cornerstone Jan Vertonghen and striker Roberto Soldado last Thursday when Tottenham hosted Tromso in Europa League action, and both players rewarded their manager with solid efforts on Sunday when Spurs ultimately won at the death at Cardiff City. AVB's rotating of midfield maestros Gylfi Sigurdsson, Sandro, Christian Eriksen, Paulinho and Lewis Holtby was nothing short of masterful over the past week, keeping players as fresh as possible and also exposing them to multiple opportunities.
The AVB era at Tottenham has largely been about players earning chances for more playing time. Villas-Boas did it with the likes of Brad Friedel and Michael Dawson last season, and neither man disappointed. This fall, it's the Tottenham midfield that is AVB's project, one that is going smoothly in the early stages of the campaign.
Tottenham supporters were thrilled with the signing of Erik Lamela, a 21-year old star in the making believed by many to be better than was Bale at that age. Lamela has been impressive in his several appearances with the club, but it is Eriksen who has been the team's true play-maker of the month. Eriksen's skill on the ball and his vision has brought to mind flashes of former Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric, and Eriksen's ability to create both for himself and for teammates is something Spurs have been missing since Modric departed to Real Madrid in the summer of 2012.
Holtby and front man Jermain Defoe may be the saddest of any Tottenham players to see this run of games come to an end. Holtby had a hand in a single goal in the team's victory over Tromso, and he notched a hat-trick of assists in Tottenham's rout of Villa. His top highlight of the week came in first half stoppage time of the Villa game, when he delivered a precise chip into the penalty area that was met by the head of Defoe to open the game's scoring.
Defoe, a striker who battles with consistency on a yearly basis, is putting Soldado on notice. In just three starts, the England international has netted six tallies. Soldado, on the other hand, has only scored from the spot on two occasions in Premier League play this season. Villas-Boas is likely hoping that Soldado knowing that an in-form Defoe is right there yearning for more playing time will be the spark that his No. 9, who hasn't played poorly despite not finding the back of the net in EPL action, needs.
There is also Emmanuel Adebayor, who probably couldn't buy his way into the first team at this point.
I went back and looked at last September's Manchester United vs. Spurs stat sheet. There were not, at the time, questions about the team's starting XI. It was Tottenham's depth that was a concern. On that night, Spurs had Michael Dawson, Ryan Mason, Tom Huddlestone, Sigurdsson, Yago Falque and Andros Townsend as subs. Compare that with AVB's bench options in his team's last three victories.
Against Tromso: Vertonghen, Paulinho, Townsend, Eriksen, Soldado, Harry Kane.
Against Cardiff: Vlad Chiriches, Ezekiel Fryers, Holtby, Sandro, Lamela, Kane.
Against Villa: Kyle Naughton, Dawson, Townsend, Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli (who scored coming off the bench), Soldado.
It's understandable that it was difficult for some to believe that Spurs could be better off after losing their best attacking player for the second consecutive summer. Granted, we are still very early into a long season, and Tottenham fans know as well as anybody how quickly things can go terribly wrong. That group also has plenty of reasons to be optimistic heading into this weekend's Tottenham vs. Chelsea clash.
Zac has been covering the USMNT, Holland, Tottenham Hotspur, New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer and other soccer leagues for Yahoo Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tottenham Hotspur
- Gareth Bale
- Aston Villa
- Real Madrid
- Roberto Soldado