December 6 2013 Latest news:
By Ben Pearce, Tottemham correspondent
Thursday, October 24, 2013
When Tottenham splashed out over £100million to bolster their squad in the summer, it seemed their homegrown talents might find themselves on the fringes.
With Paulinho and Etienne Capoue arriving to supplement a central midfield roster that already included Mousa Dembele and Sandro, it was no surprise to see Tom Carroll and Jake Livermore departing on loan in search of regular first-team action.
And, with the Lilywhites bringing in two wide men in Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela – while already having Aaron Lennon and Gylfi Sigurdsson – Andros Townsend seemed to have his work cut out as he sought to make an impact with Spurs.
Yet, almost two months after the end of the transfer window, Townsend is the only one of that five who looks guaranteed to start Sunday’s top-flight fixture against Hull at White Hart Lane.
“We have five wingers for two places, so the competition is very high,” repeated Andre Villas-Boas after the victory at Aston Villa.
However, with every passing game, Townsend looks more secure on the right-hand side – and the knock-on effect is that there are now four wingers fighting for the berth on the left.
Of course, there are plenty of games to go around at the moment, and Spurs will play three times in the next week.
However, every player aspires to be involved in the biggest games, and they would surely prefer to be lining up against Hull at the Lane this weekend, rather than stepping out to face FC Sheriff in Moldova tonight. Foreign stars arrive in England stating their desire to play in the Premier League, not the Europa League.
While Villas-Boas has been rotating his squad, he is fielding his first-choice XI in the top flight, and the question is: Who will get the nod on the left?
Gylfi Sigurdsson has been that man for the last five league games but, having scored both goals in the 2-0 victory over Norwich and then struck the opener in the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, he has recently gone off the boil.
The Iceland international was replaced by Erik Lamela shortly after the hour-mark against West Ham, and he made way for Aaron Lennon in the 66th minute at Villa Park on Sunday, having struggled to make an impact on either game.
It is no secret that Sigurdsson prefers to operate in the No10 role, as he did at Swansea, so he likes to get involved in central areas.
That has resulted in three goals for Spurs this season as he has broken into the box – but the flip side is that he is generally ineffective near the touch-line, and that he narrows the pitch by naturally moving infield at every opportunity.
The men who have recently replaced him, Lennon and Lamela, offer more natural width.
Lennon has played on the left on the odd occasion, when he and Gareth Bale switched flanks to give their opponents a different problem – and he may now get his chance in that role after returning from injury. Yet he would also need to cut inside to be effective.
On the other hand, Lamela is predominantly left-footed – but he prefers to cut infield from the right, and the young Argentine is yet to start a Premier League game, or prove that he is ready to do so.
Ultimately, the only one of the candidates who would pick the left flank as his preferred position would be Chadli.
The summer signing has had a mixed and injury-hit start to his time at Spurs, but he scored two goals in three games before the international break – and he then played in both of Belgium’s World Cup qualifiers, but was missing from Tottenham’s matchday squad for Sunday’s trip to Villa.
Ultimately, it is an enviable problem as Villas-Boas weighs up the relative merits of his various international stars – but he faces a tough decision as he attempts to mirror Townsend’s explosive impact on the opposite flank.
Whatever happens, this will be a fight worth watching.
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