Tottenham Hotspur vs. Wolves: 5 Lessons Learned from Saturday's 1-1 Draw
There's an old saying that goes: "You learn much more from your failures than from your successes."
And so it proves true here. Tottenham battled hard, dominated possession, and looked capable of a impressive comeback after Luka Modric's equalizer in the 51st minute, but in the end it just wasn't to be.
However, their failure highlights a number of pointers and lessons that Tottenham's players and staff would do well to learn in the future.
Here they are.
Rotation, Rotation, Rotation
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I find it somewhat humorous how practically every major team in the world has fans who implore their teams' managers to avoid rotation, and yet Tottenham fans are constantly begging Harry Redknapp to use a little bit of rotation in his starting lineups.
Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Bayern Munich. What do all these teams have in common? They rarely play their strongest 11 for more than two consecutive games.
Obviously injuries factor into this, but there's also the simple fact that certain players play better against simple teams.
At Manchester United, for example, Dimitar Berbatov is renowned for his goal-scoring feats against the weaker teams of the EPL. Danny Welbeck, on the other hand, is viewed as a more complete forward and is preferred against the bigger teams of the EPL, such as Manchester City.
There's also the issues of fatigue, keeping everybody happy, playing the most in-form players, etc. For these reasons and more, the vast majority of managers in the world rotate their players. Sadly, Harry Redknapp refuses to follow this trend.
Today, our biggest weak spot was the poor form of our strikers, which I'll elaborate further on in the next slide. Even Gareth Bale looked like he could use a rest: his shot selection was poor, his trademark defense-piercing runs were absent and he wasn't able to get very many good crosses in.
Credit must go to Wolves for playing very tight defense on Bale throughout the game and preventing him from exerting his influence on the game, but it also must be said that Bale did not look on top form.
Giving guys like Giovanni dos Santos, Steven Pienaar or Niko Kranjcar a run-out when Bale has had an extended run of games would help Bale stay in top form and keep the non-starting squad members at Tottenham happy enough to avoid requesting a transfer.
Pick On-Form Strikers, Not Your Favorites Redknapp
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Rafael van der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor were absolutely woeful today.
Adebayor reminded me of exactly why Real Madrid decided not to pick up the option to sign him on a permanent basis. He's a great player no doubt, but if not at top form his touches can be heavy, and he can be easily removed from a game like he was today with good defending.
Rafael van der Vaart has scored once in his last 10 English Premier League matches. Though he brings more to the table than just scoring, when his scoring is off, so is the level of play, which was clearly evident today.
If I'm not mistaken, van der Vaart ended up getting in the way of a perfect scoring chance for Scott Parker towards the end of the game and made very few successful runs, if any, at Wolverhampton Wanderers' defense. And his shots were unimpressive as well.
To be completely honest, neither van der Vaart nor Adebayor are good enough to be untouchable the way Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney are at their respective clubs. When they aren't in good form, they should be dropped, or at least subbed out early on.
I've seen enough of Roman Pavlyuchenko to know that he can be a much more frustrating player than Adebayor or VDV. But given his recent goal-scoring exploits, and Adebayor's lack of goal-scoring exploits, it would've made sense to have taken Adebayor off early on in favor of the Russian.
The same applies with Defoe. It would've made sense to have brought him on earlier in favor of the misfiring Dutchman, or maybe even have benched VDV altogether and given Defoe the opportunity to continue banging goals in like he has proven he can do all season long.
Unfair Calls Cost Tottenham Another Win
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Very many Tottenham fans who watched the game will tell you that we were robbed of another win. A game that should've ended 2-0 ended 1-1 because of a couple refereeing errors.
The first of these errors came about in the 22nd minute when Referee Mike Jones awarded Wolverhampton Wanderers a corner despite replays showing clearly that a Wolves player, and not Kyle Walker, was last to touch the ball before it went out of bounds.
From this corner, Wolves were able to open the scoring thanks to slack defending from Tottenham's two center backs and a good tap-in from in-form Wolves striker Steven Fletcher.
The next error took place at the end of the first half, when Emmanuel Adebayor tapped in what looked like a goal-bound shot from Gareth Bale, only to see it ruled out for offside (same old story isn't it?).
Replays show that, even though it was a close call, Adebayor was probably played onside by a Wolves defender when Bale took the shot.
I feel compelled to bring up the referee errors simply to inform the readers of what went down. But, honestly, Tottenham's performance today was simply not good enough to warrant a 2-0 win, and Wolves deserved their bit of luck for the hard work they put in.
Tottenham always seem to be on the bad end of referee decisions given the number of times we've now dropped points because of referee mistakes. But the simple truth is that when you're playing for the 1-0 or 2-0 win, you run that risk quite often.
Tottenham have the players and talent to play near the level Manchester City was playing at at the start of the season, racking up three-plus goal margin wins on a regular basis. If they take their game up to that level, then these referee mistakes won't affect them.
However, as long as Tottenham continue to be a low-scoring, squeaky-bum type of winning team, they will always find themselves at risk of a bad referee decision here and there hurting their chances of success.
Maybe Christopher Samba Is Just the Guy for Spurs After All
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I'm a huge fan of Michael Dawson, and surely part of the flaws in his performance today must be down to rustiness, but it seems that Dawson just does not provide the same power in the air and assurance at the back that Ledley King did at the start of the season.
He's definitely a solid center back with many excellent qualities and an ability to rise to the challenge, but after watching him on various occasions this season it appears that there are limits to his ability.
While I would definitely hate to see Michael Dawson leave, and would like very much to see him to continue to contribute as a Spurs player for the foreseeable future, there is a part of me that feels a Christopher Samba-Younes Kaboul partnership could become one of the best in the EPL.
Admittedly, this expectation could be a bit premature—I've seen very little of Samba, aside from when he's played against the likes of Tottenham and the other "big" teams of the EPL.
But he has looked very impressive in those matches, and his size and power both on offense and defense would fit well with Spurs, especially since Spurs still utilize crosses frequently in their offense, and Samba is known for being an excellent producer of header goals.
King-Kaboul was possibly the best center back partnership I've ever seen in my time as a Tottenham fan. I have my doubts that Samba-Kaboul will be as good, but it certainly has great potential.
Well-Played by Wolverhampton Wanderers
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At the start of the season, most Tottenham fans said that these were the games that Tottenham needed to win to be successful. By "these," I'm referring to games against teams in the bottom half of the table.
Tottenham have surely improved at this, but today showed that Tottenham cannot grow content with the progress they've made, and must keep working to show that they are indeed good enough to regularly beat the weaker teams of the EPL.
There's a reason why the EPL is regarded by many as the most competitive league in the world (personally, I put it after the Bundesliga, but that may be just me). It's because, on their day, almost every team in the EPL has enough quality to procure a good result, if the determination and organization is there as well.
Wolves brought their A-game today. Tottenham didn't, and they didn't leave with all the points.
The two points dropped today likely won't hurt Tottenham in the long run too much. But hopefully, they will have taught Redknapp that he will need to rotate a bit more often if he wants to maintain the success Tottenham had in the first half of the season.
What do you think, were there any other lessons you picked up from the Spurs vs. Wolves matchup? How do you feel about the lessons listed here, which ones do you agree or disagree with? Make your opinion know in the comments section below.