Tottenham 2-1 QPR: AVB's First Home Win Needed a Tactical Turnaround
They may have needed a couple of fortuitous bounces, a tactical reshuffle and a willingness to agitate the French national team for at least another week, but Tottenham cashed in for their first Premier League home win in a 2-1 win over QPR on Sunday.
The Hoops put Spurs on the back foot from the time Jose Bosingwa was forced off with a hamstring pull and were up 0-1 before halftime when Bobby Zamora was sent through by Alejandro Faurlin and finally beat Brad Friedel.
Friedel, before then, had only denied Clint Hill and Junior Hoilett with the kind of reflex saves that made Hugo Lloris, a man 15 years his junior, cringe in his comfy chair.
But there were certainly things worth noting between the two halves in the land of cause and effect that Spurs might want to have a look at before trying to shackle Manchester United next week.
To start, Tottenham ran Gareth Bale in as left back for a day (hopefully not for longer) with both Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Kyle Naughton laid-up with injury.
Clint Dempsey started down the left and the rest of the lineup remained unchanged from the previous week against Reading.
QPR, on paper, played a 4-4-2 that defended as a 4-5-1 and was initially shaky with Bosingwa getting roasted by Aaron Lennon and pulling up lame.
Bosingwa having to come off, however, may have been the best thing for QPR, as it saw Mark Hughes shift Nedum Onuoha over to the left and Kieron Dyer come on to the right.
Lennon’s pace was summarily no longer as viable a threat with the much quicker Onuoha now on that side of the pitch.
Dyer was hardly challenged in the first half due to Dempsey not seemingly sure of where to go and what to do.
He might have been looking for the overlapping Bale, but the Welshman was being abused by Shaun Wright-Phillips.
This may have been the single most disappointing facet of the first half. Bale was either told not to advance hard down the left or was unsure of how to avoid trying to beat the pint-sized winger.
In fact, it took until nearly halftime for any Tottenham player to finally get the better of Wright-Phillips, and that was Jan Vertonghen.
With the left flank effectively being shut off with man-to-man coverage, it squeezed the pitch down to size and meant that Lennon and Kyle Walker were continually crowded out.
Walker, for what it is worth, might have had his poorest defensive showing in Tottenham lilywhite in the first half as he looked utterly helpless at times.
QPR had the run of the flanks for the entire half and it was partially because the wingers were forced to defend so deep that the visitors snagged their goal.
Mousa Dembele, for all his endeavor, allowed Faurlin to slip past him before the Argentine slipped a ball that bamboozled Vertonghen and saw Zamora flick a shot over the rushing Friedel.
Bale was tucked in towards the box and Dempsey was not in the area for once, meaning that Dembele was running at Faurlin because no one else was in the vicinity to do so.
It capped what must have been a wonderfully frustrating first half for Tottenham, which found no rhythm to speak of, was crowded out of the midfield and right flank, found the front duo lacking any sort of service and whose defense looked at sixes and sevens for long stretches.
QPR’s midfield design was certainly part of the problem Tottenham faced.
With Hoilett dropping back, Faurlin and Esteban Granero patrolled the area and handled Dembele or Sandro whenever the latter charged through, while Park Ji-Sung was able to cut Walker off for most of the half.
Faurlin was far more delicate; Granero was far more insidious. The fact that he only picked up a booking due to apparent verbal misconduct was quite….interesting.
The match changed on two very smart Andre Villas-Boas maneuvers.
First, Villas-Boas added Steven Caulker to the defensive line, pushed Vertonghen out to left back and sent Bale up to his far more comfortable left-sided attacking position.
This tactic cannot be understated as it calmed the left flank down and added a direct line of attack.
Now, Dyer was not able to simply size up Dempsey and was always going to be in trouble with Bale now on the attack.
Dempsey, meanwhile, was moved to a more comfortable spot behind Defoe in roughly the same position as Hoilett was for QPR.
Dempsey was showing some signs of having played that midweek match against Lazio in his pressing but certainly looked more of a threat, with a long-range arrow of a strike sending a warning to untested QPR backstop Julio Cesar.
With the intent of attacking QPR rather than playing around them, Tottenham charged forward and put in a far more fluid and fun 45-minute shift.
The goals eventually came, though it would have been a brave man to suggest the first would come in the manner it did after Caulker, who had already won one header in the Hoops' box, won a second that Faurlin turned in with his shoulder.
The second also should not be discounted for its fortuitousness.
Vertonghen led a three-man charge with a piercing dribble that forced the QPR defense into a spot of bother with Bale and Defoe running alongside the defender.
The Belgian made the correct choice to go to Bale, whose shot was tipped and crashed off the bar but right into the midriff of Defoe, who potted the chance for his fourth league goal this term.
Of course, there was a collision in the build-up that put Mark Hughes on the defensive and he certainly showed some kettle in describing it as a missed call:
"I was very disappointed with the referee," Hughes said. "There was a clear foul on [Esteban] Granero and even more blatant one on Nedum Onuoha. So there were two incidents leading up to that goal."
(There is no truth to the rumor that ESPNFC sent a black pot to ask the question, however.)
Tottenham were rampant on the break with Dyer offering hardly any challenges to Bale, and the Welshman, along with Defoe, was denied only by Julio Cesar being a pretty good keeper in his own right.
There was one moment of dire concern, however, and it nearly proved costly.
With around 20 minutes remaining, Spurs were caught out in possession by Zamora, who teed up Hoilett while Gallas was taking a nap, I believe.
Only Hoilett’s dithering cost QPR what should have been a fantastic chance to level when Vertonghen flew in from the left and slid in on the Canadian’s attempt to shoot.
It proved to be the last real chance of the match for QPR, discounting that Granero’s curling effort near the end went well wide.
It should be painfully apparent that Tottenham need to get things sorted on the flanks before trying to upstage Manchester United at Old Trafford next weekend.
Bale is no longer really suited for defensive duty unless there are no other options. Walker needs to snap out of the funk he was in for Sunday’s match and Gallas needs to be reminded that they do not stop play for the aged.
Gylfi Sigurdsson might find himself unfortunate to be constantly the man removed from matches but he’s going to need to find a way to have more of an impact when things are not going in the manner that Spurs desire.
Dempsey also needs to get into the swing of things quicker. Playing time will be dictated by his ability to man multiple different positions, and if he has trouble on the flanks, he could find his time limited.
A home win is a home win, however, and Tottenham, along with Villas-Boas, showed a willingness to make the right changes and fight back from what could have been a sticky situation.
QPR, meanwhile, are showing signs that their current league position is a mirage.
With the quality on show at White Hart Lane one week after holding Chelsea at bay at Loftus Road, the Hoops are, much like Tottenham, showing signs of gelling and will make a far more formidable foe later in the campaign.
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