Five Spurs stars who could make the difference at Villa Park.
Spurs signed no few than seven new players in the summer, leaving boss Andre Villas-Boas with plenty of options to choose from, particularly in midfield.
The Portuguese has kept almost the same line-up for every league match so far this season but following the humiliating 3-0 home defeat to West Ham, the 36-year-old must be tempted to mix things up for the trip to Villa Park on Sunday.
We consider five players Villas-Boas could add to his starting line-up.
Spurs faced criticism for being a one-man team last season but prior to January, that one man was Sandro ‘the Beast’ Ranieri. Before tearing his cruciate ligament, the Brazilian was more important to Tottenham than even Gareth Bale and had he not been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign, there’s reason to think Spurs would have pipped Arsenal to fourth spot.
But Villas-Boas has so far resisted starting Sandro in the league this season, preferring Paulinho alongside Mousa Dembele (since the injury to Etienne Capoue). While the duo have been solid, the Spurs defence missed Sandro’s protection against West Ham and their creative players needed the platform the 24-year-old provides in the second half of September’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea.
Villas-Boas is reluctant to change a winning formula but after the embarrassing Hammers defeat, the Portuguese must decide whether to reinstate the Brazil international for the visit to Villa Park.
On his day, sublime; the rest of the time, lazy and infuriating. After bagging 17 goals on loan at Spurs under Harry Redknapp, the Togolese scored just five times last season having signed a permanent deal and spent most of his 25 league appearances looking utterly disinterested.
When it mattered, Adebayor reminded Villas-Boas of just what a good player he is, scoring a stunner and creating another in the 2-2 draw at Chelsea in May – but it was too little too late. But having resisted his manager’s attempts to force him out of North London this summer, the former Arsenal striker is back in first team training, whether Villas-Boas likes it or not.
With Roberto Soldado struggling and Jermain Defoe enhancing his reputation as a cup specialist with a beige showing against West Ham, Villas-Boas may turn back to Adebayor for the trip to Villa. The forward is lacking match fitness but remains capable of leading the line alone and linking up with Tottenham’s host of talented attacking midfielders. If the manager can swallow some pride, Adebayor’s return could prove a masterstroke.
Like Sandro, Kaboul is yet to start a league game this term after recovering from a knee injury that ruled him out of almost all of last season. With less than 12 months remaining on his contract and doubts remaining over his fitness, there are fears the 27-year-old’s spell in N17 could peter out disappointingly.
And yet, when fit, Kaboul has all the attributes to be one of the division’s finest centre halves and many Spurs fans would prefer to see the Frenchman replace Michael Dawson in the heart of the defence. The club captain is as likeable a character as any in English football and is a committed and dedicated professional but lacks the quality and finesse of Kaboul.
Dawson was left on the turf by Fernando Torres during Chelsea’s visit to the Lane and Ravel Morrison skipped round the 29-year-old with worrying ease a week later. Kaboul may not yet be fully fit but there is compelling evidence that Villas-Boas should turn to a player who has started just one league match since the Portuguese was appointed boss.
With Spurs splashing the cash on a host of expensive midfielders this summer, it was easy to forget the club spent a modest £2m to bring in a young German international playmaker in January.
Holtby struggled to settle or find a position in his first six months at White Hart Lane and an injury in pre-season, plus the arrival of Christian Eriksen, made it odd-ons the 23-year-old would continue to struggle to make an impact this term. But in the four Europa League matches he’s played, as well as in the briefest of cameos against Cardiff City, Holtby has been influential, forming a brilliant relationship with Defoe and proving that Mesut Ozil is not the only German playmaker in North London who can pick a pass.
Against West Ham, Spurs lacked intensity and looked too ponderous on the ball; Holtby’s scampering urgency would have troubled the Hammers and Villas-Boas should seriously consider finding a place for the versatile midfielder at Villa.
There will have been few Englishmen who felt uncomfortable watching Andros Townsend’s right wing masterclass for England this week; Theo Walcott was most probably one – and Lennon another. Spurs’ second longest serving player has gone from being a guaranteed starter to facing competition not only from two new signings in Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela, the latter of whom cost of cool £30m, but also Townsend.
Lennon is a player who divides opinion, with most Spurs fans admiring his ability to bamboozle full backs with a sharp change of pace but frustrated by his consistently poor final ball, which is no better at 26 than it was when he broke into the first team as a teenager.
But for all his inconsistencies, Lennon is capable of stretching teams with his pace and his work rate is a major asset, particularly with question marks remaining over the defensive qualities of Kyle Walker. Villas-Boas is undoubtedly an admirer of Lennon, who captained the side in a number of Europa League fixtures last season, and the Portuguese must be tempted to partner the fully fit Yorkshireman with Townsend either side of Eriksen, in what would be a devastating counter-attacking line-up.