Spurs coach: Holding midfielders are overrated - just look at Man City
PUBLISHED: 07:45 28 January 2014
EXCLUSIVE: Tottenham coach Les Ferdinand believes that holding midfielders are overrated – and he feels free-scoring Manchester City are proving that theory.
Andre Villas-Boas followed the fashion of playing with at least one designated defensive midfielder during his time in charge at Spurs.
However, since Tim Sherwood, Ferdinand and Chris Ramsey were promoted from the development squad to take charge of first-team affairs, the Lilywhites have been bucking the trend.
Eyebrows were raised when 19-year-old Nabil Bentaleb was picked ahead of Etienne Capoue in the FA Cup tie at Arsenal on January 4, leaving Spurs without a ‘destroyer’ in front of their back four – and while they lost 2-0 that day, they have continued with that policy in the last two games against Crystal Palace and Swansea.
The Lilywhites have won both of those Premier League matches, scoring five goals while only conceding one - and Ferdinand has suggested that the north Londoners will keep asking their midfielders to take turns to shield the defence, rather than picking a designated player for the role.
“I know there’s a lot of talk about holding midfield players, and I’m always arguing with Tim and Chris about this – and they agree,” he said.
“I don’t like holding midfield players. I like players to understand that if one goes forward, the other one tucks in for them. I don’t want someone who just sits in front of the back four and doesn’t go anywhere, but that’s just my own personal view.
“I was saying to William Gallas when he was here, the worst thing that happened in this league was Claude Makelele.
“When he came into this country he wasn’t a holding midfield player. He was a player who had the intelligence to say ‘Frank [Lampard], you can score more goals than me so if you go I’m going to tuck in here for you, and I’ll hold. You keep going forward’.
“Then everyone went ‘right, we’ve got to have a holding midfield player’ - and what we’ve done is produce a crop of players who don’t want to go over the halfway line, who don’t want to pass over the halfway line and are happy to just sit in front of the back four.
“Having played the game, I know that if you’re a right winger and you come back and sit on the toes of the full-back, he won’t push you on. He’s happy to have that protection.
“It’s the same all around the field. If you’ve got a player who defends - a player that will come and sit in front of you and make the centre forward’s life difficult - he’s happy to have that, rather than defend on his own.”
Tottenham host Manchester City at White Hart Lane tomorrow night, and Ferdinand believes that the free-scoring title challengers underline his point.
“Do Man City play with one [a holding midfielder]? They’ve still scored 100-odd goals,” he said.
“People say Yaya Toure is a holding midfielder. No he isn’t, he’s getting forward and getting goals - but if someone else goes he’ll stay in there.
“Fernandinho’s scoring goals. Why? Because he’s a holding player? No. They’ve just got an understanding: ‘If he goes, I’ll hold, and if I go he’ll hold’.”
Tottenham know all about City’s capabilities, having been thrashed 6-0 at the Etihad in November – and Manuel Pellegrini’s side have netted 110 goals in their 36 games in all competitions this season.
Ferdinand said: “When we went up to Man City they embarrassed us, and as players you never forget that, so hopefully the boys will hold onto that.
“All you want is a performance – a very good performance, playing to the capabilities that we know we’re capable of playing - and we’ll give Man City a very good game.”
Spurs will have to keep a close eye on Sergio Aguero, who has immediately returned to top form after recovering from injury.
The Argentine hitman has scored six goals in the four games since his return – including a hat-trick in Saturday’s FA Cup victory over Watford – to take his tally to 25 goals in 24 games.
Meanwhile, Spanish striker Alvaro Negredo has registered 23 times for his club since arriving from Sevilla in the summer.
That is in stark contrast to his countryman Roberto Soldado, who has mustered just 10 goals for Spurs since his £26million move from Valencia. Half of them have been in the Europa League, and four of his five Premier League goals have come from the penalty spot.
The 28-year-old has only scored once in his last 10 top-flight fixtures, so Tottenham fans will be hoping that he is inspired by the occasion against City – and that their talismanic frontman Emmanuel Adebayor continues the form that has produced six goals in eight games.
“I’ve always known that Ade’s a quality player,” said Ferdinand. “He’s come into the side and done exceptionally well for us.
“He’s done what we know he’s capable of doing. The question that people throw at Adebayor is ‘how long for?’ We’ll just keep playing him as long as he’s doing what he does.
“On the other side [with Soldado], I always believe that players coming into this country struggle in their first year, adapting to the pace of it.
“We know he’s a goalscorer. Unfortunately he’s not been doing that and when you haven’t had the opportunities your confidence can sometimes drop - and he’ll admit himself that he’s still getting used to the pace of the football.
“Last year, with [Olivier] Giroud and [Per] Mertesacker at Arsenal, people were saying that these boys weren’t good enough. This year they’re two of their better players, so it takes a while to settle in.”
Ferdinand added: “We just want him [Soldado] to continue doing what he’s doing. The confidence will come back once he gets something and sticks it in the net again.
“We know he can score goals. He’s just got to start remembering that he can score goals, because I’ve been there and I’ve been a centre forward and when you’re not scoring it becomes isolating and you lose confidence.
“You want that extra touch to make sure of things, and in the Premier League you don’t get the chance to get that extra touch. But something will bounce off him, go in the back of the net, and it will just come back.”
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