Tottenham Hotspur: Picking Tottenham's Strongest XI This Season
Tottenham Hotspur is off to a good start this season. They can attribute much of their success to a number of players who have stepped up their game under new manager André Villas-Boas.
Many players have distinguished themselves this season and have worked their way into or cemented their spot in Tottenham’s starting XI.
GK: Brad Friedel
Tottenham can put their trust in veteran Brad Friedel.
Friedel has time and again proven that he deserves a spot in the starting lineup. Although his run of consecutive games played was recently ended due to being benched against Aston Villa, Friedel still holds the record for consecutive EPL matches played with 320.
This season, Friedel has played in all but three games, and in his six starts, he has made 15 saves.
Friedel faces heavy competition from recent acquisition Hugo Lloris. However, Andre Villas Boas has more often than not picked Friedel over the French international.
Until the time comes when Friedel is not up to the task, he will always be favored to start.
Right Back: Kyle Walker
Last season, Kyle Walker won PFA’s Young Player of the Year Award. He was certainly deserving of this high praise as he was a brick wall in defense and brought consistency to the back line.
This season, Walker has again earned his spot as Tottenham’s starting right back. His abilities as a defender and as an attacker make him a valuable asset to Tottenham.
Before the season began, Walker said, “As an attacking full-back, I'm excited to work with [Villas-Boas]. He's going to give another dimension to my game.”
Walker’s has definitely added this extra dimension to his game. He has often moved up the field to join the attack, and his attacking play was rewarded with an assist against Reading.
At just 22 years of age, Walker’s future is bright. He will be a key component to both his club and country moving forward.
Center Back: Steven Caulker
Steven Caulker has outplayed last season’s captain Michael Dawson for the starting spot in center defense.
Caulker has started four games for Tottenham this season, and has scored one very lucky goal.
Caulker benefited from his great play during the Olympics. “The Olympics has been the perfect way for me to show the new manager what I can do and to make sure I am not out of sight,” he told the Daily Star.
His play during the Olympics and his early success for Spurs has clearly won the respect of his new manager.
Villas-Boas recently said, “We certainly believe a lot in the player. That's why we decided to extend his career and that's why he played at Old Trafford and against Lazio. I think he is showing exactly the competence and the talent that he has and he will triumph in the future.”
This high praise from the new manager can only lead to more playing time moving forward.
Center Back: William Gallas
William Gallas has played quite well to begin this season. He has provided leadership as captain, and he has been a brick wall as a defender.
Gallas was injured for the majority of last season. He played in just 19 games last year, but he has already proven that he is back in full form.
More than great defending, Gallas provides vocal leadership to a team that is currently in the midst of a major overhaul. With the loss of Luka Modrić and Rafael van der Vaart and the addition of a new coach in AVB, this team certainly needed a leader.
Gallas has proven time and again this season that he is willing to speak up to defend and praise his teammates, and to assure fans that the team is moving in the right direction.
Left Back: Jan Vertonghen
Recent transfer Jan Vertonghen has had a fantastic start to his career at White Hart Lane.
Vertonghen has proved to be a solid replacement for the injured Benoit Assou-Ekotto at left back. Fans are in awe of his abilities as a defender and his poise as an attacking left back.
In his eight starts for Tottenham, Vertonghen has scored one goal, which came from a fantastic run through Manchester United’s defense.
AVB has praised Vertonghen for his versatility as both a defender and attacker.
He said, “[Jan] can emerge as a big talent here. Jan is very comfortable with the ball and as long as his ambition is displayed within reason and the team is balanced, you have to allow players to express themselves. This is why I say he is capable of making a big impact."
Comments like this may make fans question whether Assou-Ekotto will be able to win his starting job back from the Belgian defender.
Spurs fans will hope Vertonghen can continue his incredible play this season, as he will clearly be a key to Tottenham’s future success.
Right Midfielder: Aaron Lennon
Aaron Lennon’s speed gives Tottenham a distinct advantage against any team they play.
Lennon is arguably the fastest player in the league. He is always a threat on the wing, and his vicious speed allows him the opportunity to beat defenders inside or outside.
Lennon has started this campaign with one goal and a nifty assist to a Jermain Defoe goal.
Lennon has the ability to make runs that open lanes for players such as Defoe and Dempsey.
This season, Lennon has become one of AVB’s favorite new toys as he allows the new boss many different options in attack.
Lennon’s stellar play has not gone unnoticed. He was recently called up to the English national team and will be given the opportunity to compete for a starting spot in the squad.
Lennon will need to continue his run of good form if Tottenham are going to beat league leaders Chelsea in their upcoming fixture.
Left Midfielder: Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale has been the symbol of consistency for Spurs over the last few seasons.
Bale has recently played with the form that is expected of him as one of the best players in the Premier League.
He has already scored two goals this season and registered an assist.
One of Bale’s two goals this season came against against Manchester United. Bale starred in this fixture against the Red Devils. Bale ran rampant over the weakened Manchester United defense and seemed to exert his dominance at will.
Bale’s ability to use his strength and speed to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates makes him an irreplaceable part of Tottenham’s starting lineup.
Center Defensive Midfielder: Sandro
Sandro is certainly Tottenham’s top defensive midfielder.
He has flourished under AVB’s newly instituted attacking system. While he was hamstrung at times last season under Harry Redknapp's more defensive-oriented strategy, Sandro has been given free reign to float as an attacker under Villas-Boas.
Tottenham can attribute much of their success to Sandro’s incredibly smart play. He has a great sense for when to hold back in defense and when to push forward with the attack. He has made runs this season that simply overwhelm defenses that can lose him amongst his teammates.
Sandro will continue to flourish under AVB’s newly instituted style of play, and with reports that he is finally getting settled in London, opponents should be wary of having to play against him.
Center Attacking Midfielder: Mousa Dembélé
Villas-Boas has recently favored a lineup that pairs the more offensive-minded Mousa Dembélé with the more defensive-minded Sandro.
The recent acquisition from Fulham has more than earned his spot in the starting squad.
Dembélé has already found net once and assisted two other goals. His goal against Norwich was a crucial one, as it leveled the game and salvaged a draw. He has proven to be the final puzzle piece to AVB’s new look Spurs offense. He has the ability to push the ball up the pitch, and is a wonderful link between defense and attack.
The question that most Spurs fans will have is whether or not he will keep his starting spot when incumbent midfielder Scott Parker returns from his Achilles tendon injury.
If Dembélé can continue to be the engine that drives Tottenham’s offense, it will be hard for Parker to usurp him in the starting lineup.
Striker: Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey has already settled in well with the Spurs.
He found net against Manchester United, and he has filled a hole in the attack.
Dempsey’s strength lies in his ability to play with the ball at his feet. In that way, he is not a traditional striker. He is, however, not a traditional midfielder either.
Dempsey plays the role of a roaming striker, and it is a role that he plays very well. He can float behind a traditional striker and play the ball up the field with Dembélé, Bale and Lennon.
He has shown offensive awareness that is necessary for a goal scorer of his caliber. His goal at Old Trafford was created by his ability to be at the right place at the right time to clean up Gareth Bale’s rebounded shot.
AVB clearly brought Dempsey to White Hart Lane for a purpose. As the season continues to unfold, look for Dempsey to be one of the players that shines for Spurs as he fulfills that purpose.
Striker: Jermain Defoe
Jermain Defoe has been a goal-scoring machine for Tottenham this season. He has already scored four goals and registered one assist.
He has been instrumental in each of Tottenham’s wins this season, and his efforts have been rewarded by AVB, who has given him plenty of playing time.
Defoe has been stellar this season, and he credits his great form to this extra playing time given to him.
He recently said, “My form this season has been the result of the manager playing me for the whole game. [Having this extra playtime] means I can relax, make sure my movement is good and not panic that I am going to be substituted. I think it is just a case of the manager getting minutes under my belt.”
Defoe seems to have been rejuvenated by this extra playtime, and fans should expect more goals moving forward.