Tottenham – ADB’s Midfield Problems


With injuries piling up, Spurs’ 1-0 loss against the Latics has highlighted the midfield deficiencies in the Portuguese manager’s squad and the need for January reinforcements. Although Tottenham recruited the likes of Sigurdsson, Dempsey & Dembele in the summer, they were not able to fill the role of a pass-master after shipping out Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart. The North London club started the season badly but then recovered for a brief period before embarking on a 3-game losing streak in the EPL in addition to being win-less in Europe and getting knocked out of the League Cup. It can be argued that this bad run is due to an injury to Dembele but the main problem still remains, that Spurs desperately need an influential playmaker. Ewan Roberts delves into this topic in detail:

Bile rained down on Andre Villas-Boas as he oversaw a second successive home defeat, this time against lowly Wigan rather than the reigning European champions, which compounded a miserable week for Tottenham.

Knocked out of the Capital One Cup in mid-week, winless in Europe and home form verging on diabolical, fears abound in the terraces that this is the “real” AVB, and he’s Actually Very Bad.

Yet Spurs sit in fifth spot in the league table, level on points with Everton, and remain very much in contention for that much-desired Champions League berth despite being gripped by an injury crisis almost unparalleled in the division.

There is a ludicrous notion that Villas-Boas has deliberately opposed Spurs’ lofty allusions (or should that be delusions?), that he’s chosen for his side to play turgid, impotent football. That’s simply not the case.

Spurs have a chronic lack of options up front and in midfield, and against Wigan they were forced to field Tom Huddlestone (who was on his way out of the club until he failed a medical at Stoke) and Gylfi Sigurdsson in midfield.

Two slow, immobile players incapable of pressing aggressively in the manner that Sandro and Dembele have done so successfully, and that was becoming Spurs’ calling card under Villas-Boas.

Villas-Boas’ problem is one of personnel, not philosophy. His preferred style of play is totally akin to what Tottenham fans want and expect, “the Tottenham way” is as much a part of his DNA as it is the Tottenham faithful’s.

But he does not have the players capable of playing that brand of football. Without a deeper playmaker, of the Joao Moutinho mould for example, Spurs are rudderless, an orchestra without a composer, incapable of sustained, penetrative final third possession.

And without another of Villas-Boas’ primary targets, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian attacker Willian, they have no one who flourishes between the lines, no one capable of unlocking defences or linking play in tight space. Instead the ex-Porto boss must rely on last-minute panic-buy Dempsey.

Even Dembele, so impressive at Tottenham (who have won just once without him, and have a 100% win record with him), does not fit the blueprint of player that Spurs so desperately require – namely a brave, progressive passer and midfield metronome.

Meanwhile, until Spurs are able to bring in a player in the Moutinho mould, they will continue to be over-reliant on Dembele, with whom they have won every Premier League game in which he has started, as analyzed by EPLIndex in their article on the topic. What do you think? Should Tottenham strengthen their midfield in the January window? If yes, which players should they realistically target?

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