COMMENTARY | Mind the collapse? As American football commentator Lee Corso would say: Not so fast, my friend.
Tottenham Hotspur boss Andre Villas-Boas has been an easy target for unhappy Spurs fans as his club has fallen out of the Champions League spots of the Premier League table. He "cared too much" about the NIT of European football and cost Tottenham Premier League points in the process, his unjustified faith in out-of-form and perhaps out-of-interest striker Emmanuel Adebayor left Spurs without a true front man in multiple matches, and his handling of the team's goalkeepers may have kept Tottenham from hoisting a trophy this spring.
When Villas-Boas has gotten things right on Tottenham matchdays, however, the results have been glorious. That was again the case on Sunday afternoon, when Spurs completed a magical rally against soon to be uncrowned league champs Manchester City thanks largely to their manager. AVB outclassed counterpart Roberto Mancini when it mattered most, giving his side the necessary pieces to remain in charge of their Champions League fate.
With the hosts down a goal and a half-hour left in regulation, Villas-Boas exchanged Lewis Holtby for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Tom Huddlestone for Scott Parker, thus switching Tottenham's formation to AVB's famous (or infamous depending on how you view the manager) 4-3-3. The changes did not start well for Spurs. Huddlestone was cautioned within five minutes of being on the pitch, and Tottenham continued to struggle putting together anything of real quality in the attacking third.
Then came AVB's final critical decision. Adebayor, mostly an invisible man against City, was taken off for Jermain Defoe. Tottenham immediately improved with the England international up top, and they found a deserved equalizer 15 minutes from time thanks to some superb work from their Player of the Year candidate. Gareth Bale was given more than enough space to play a low far-post cross via the outside of his left foot, and Clint Dempsey timed his run perfectly to remain onside and beat his defender and City goalkeeper Joe Hart to the ball. The American slid the ball into the back of the net, and the rally was on.
Little did anybody know that the result was all-but determined after that goal.
Four minutes later, Holtby, who showed as much controlled energy since joining Spurs as he has since making his January move, played Defoe down the left wing. City defender Vincent Kompany allowed Defoe to tee the ball up on his favorite right foot, and the Tottenham forward curled a perfectly struck ball into the far corner of the net. The Spurs faithful at the Lane barely had time to take in what had occurred before Bale tracked down a brilliant through-ball from Huddlestone and chipped a shot over the sliding Hart for Tottenham's third goal in seven minutes.
Spurs remain in fifth place in the league table and on 61 points, one point behind Chelsea and two points behind Arsenal. Tottenham's most exhilarating win of the Villas-Boas era came when Spurs have a game in hand over their north London rivals. That match happens to be against Chelsea, a contest that could, all things considered, end up being the most crucial single Premier League game played this season.
Tottenham's latest heart-stopping win could force the hand of Villas-Boas in a couple of ways when Spurs are away to Wigan next Saturday. That a healthy Defoe is a better option than is any version of this season's Adebayor is no longer an opinion. The other situation, however, is not as much of a no-brainer.
The Tottenham midfield was a completely different unit in only a positive way once Huddlestone entered the game, and he has performed very well during his limited opportunities in 2013. Parker, on the other hand, has rarely looked like the player of old since returning from an Achilles injury last December. Villas-Boas could elect to reward Huddlestone with a start on April 27, or he could decide to again leave the midfielder as a potential super-sub.
Following what occurred at the Lane on Sunday, I'm willing to put my trust in the squad-selection process of Villas-Boas; that is, of course, until kickoff at the DW Stadium next Saturday.
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, RBNY, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Emmanuel Adebayor
- Tom Huddlestone