December 9 2013 Latest news:
By Chris Miller
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Tottenham blogger Chris Miller dissects Spurs’ rearguard in the aftermath of Sunday’s 3-0 home defeat against West Ham.
A resolute start to the season for Tottenham - in which they conceded just two goals in their first 11 matches - came to abrupt end on Sunday, when West Ham put three past Hugo Lloris at White Hart Lane.
Nine clean sheets from 12 matches is not to be sniffed at, but the nature of the goals conceded thus far will frustrate head coach Andre Villas-Boas - all were avoidable.
Against Arsenal, a lack of communication between the centre-backs led to Michael Dawson playing Theo Walcott onside, and he crossed for Olivier Giroud to convert at the near post.
Chelsea scored from a set piece when Mousa Dembele played John Terry onside, and he profited by getting between Dawson and Jan Vertonghen to guide a header home.
Against West Ham, there were a variety of different goals: a scruffy Winston Reid goal from a set piece, when Vertonghen was caught under the ball, and the New Zealand international converted at the second attempt; a lucky rebound for Ricardo Vaz Te after Mark Noble pounced on a loose Andros Townsend pass and took advantage of Kyle Walker having galloped forward on the overlap to find the winger with a through ball; and a fantastic Ravel Morrison solo effort after both Vertonghen and Dembele committed themselves when well upfield, leaving Dawson horribly exposed and floundering as Morrison beat him with ease.
Many fans are pointing the finger at Dawson for his errors, but his elegant defensive partner has been just as culpable.
Being such a technically gifted footballer, Vertonghen often gets an easier ride from supporters, but his defending can be naive at times, and he is prone to unnecessarily diving into challenges high up the pitch.
However, both have mostly performed well, and calls for new boy Vlad Chiriches to be drafted in for Dawson seem premature. That said, there is a legitimate case for using the Romanian while Danny Rose is absent through injury.
Kyle Naughton is clearly not comfortable at left-back, from both a defensive perspective, where he’s prone to blunders, and from an attacking angle, where he constantly cuts inside and does not often overlap. It would surely make sense to use him as a back-up right-back, or not at all.
Vertonghen could offer cover at left-back, with Chiriches partnering Dawson, or youngster Zeki Fryers could be brought in.
While 21-year-old Fryers lacks experience and know-how, he offers more balance and is willing to overlap, which is absolutely vital with the current team shape, which consists of inverted wingers on both sides.
The role of the full-back has changed drastically in recent times and, under Villas-Boas, the full-backs are positioned exceptionally high up the pitch.
With the wide men playing on their ‘wrong’ side, the full-backs provide the width and are required to get up and down the pitch quickly and efficiently.
Walker and Rose suit this role well - both are good at running with the ball and frequently carry it long distances, but they also have their weaknesses.
Both could do with improving their final pass - although Walker’s cross for Nacer Chadli against Anzhi Makhachkala was encouraging - and both could learn something when it comes to giving away needless free-kicks. But they are only 23, and have time to learn and improve.
Naughton, though, is ill-suited to the system. He does not carry the ball particularly well, is not a naturally attack-minded player, and does not seem willing to offer himself as an outlet on the overlap. It makes one wonder what Benoit Assou-Ekotto did to upset AVB and end up on loan at Queens Park Rangers.
Sunday’s match was, hopefully, just a bad day at the office for the majority of the players - tired, perhaps from the 3,400-mile round trip to Kaspiysk - and if they can cut out the individual errors, Spurs look a good defensive unit, and a team that is increasingly difficult to break down in open play.
Follow me on Twitter @WindyCOYS