Tottenham Hotspur: Pearls of Wisdom and Truths to Consider
After getting slathered by another team from North London on Saturday, Tottenham could officially be described as "reeling."
A promising start to the match with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium quickly descended into chaos after goalscorer Emmanuel Adebayor decided to hit the showers early by trying to remove Santi Cazorla's leg.
After going downhill at lightning speed from there, Spurs decided to raise the stakes further with a formation change that at least signaled that Andre Villas-Boas was willing to gamble for any result, even if at times the desired effect did not occur.
There was the odd positive note in the match, but if one is to be fair, no real good came from Round 12 on the Premier League fixture list.
The day did, however, reveal some essential truths that Tottenham might want to take note of, before they decide to sink any further into the middle of the league table.
Moussa Dembele Is the First Name in the Starting XI Once Healthy.....
Moussa Dembele has not played in the last five Tottenham matches, in which they've managed only a solitary win.
Before that, Dembele had been the anchor that propelled the white half of North London to four straight wins.
There is no coincidence here: Dembele added a dimension to the Tottenham attack that, quite frankly, has not been replicated, save for the match against Maribor in the Europa League.
Without the Belgian, Spurs are shorn of any sort of midfield influence, and that has been extremely costly.
Even against Arsenal, there is no guarantee that the outcome would have been the same, namely a win for the hosts.
In effect, the Gunners did exactly what Tottenham was doing with Dembele in the lineup: playing through three zones and eventually overwhelming the opposition.
It's little wonder that through 12 matches, Dembele has been the key cog in Spurs' attacking machine.
The sooner he returns, the better.
...Until Then, Tom Carroll Should Be in the Starting XI (Maybe After That, Too)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Remember that last mention about Maribor? Tottenham actually had an attacking impetus in that match not seen for quite some time.
A lot of people will point to the starting of Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor up top.
Those that do are missing the lot.
Tom Carroll sat in the midfield and—gasp!—passed the ball forward. Really, he did.
Against Arsenal, Carroll had provided more thrust from the midfield in 20 minutes than Tom Huddlestone mustered in 70.
Until further notice, Carroll needs to be given some matches to show that he can do this consistently. Huddlestone is not adding anything, other than a long-range sniper shot and the odd free kick.
Given Tottenham's current malaise and lack of center-of-the-park threat, Carroll could be just the ticket, should Dembele fail to return soon.
In fact, even when Dembele does come back, perhaps Spurs can experiment with Dembele pushed slightly forward and Carroll holding the "Moutinho" role for a while.
Feed the Attack and They Will Score
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
One thing that's good right now is the group of players available in attack.
While at times they've been akin to flopping fish, it is worth remembering the famous phrase of Yakubu:
"Feed the Yak and he will score."
Likewise, once Tottenham start feeding the attacking players with passes that give them a chance to make a play, it's likely that said players will be converting those chances.
The two assists for Spurs against Arsenal were passes with far more direct intent than the white-clad warriors have shown since the match against Maribor.
In saying this, Tottenham need players on the pitch who are willing to make the killer pass.
Carroll and Dembele are willing and able. Put them on the pitch and let them feed the players upfront.
The goals will flow in shortly thereafter.
In Absentia, Steven Caulker Might Have Assured Himself a Starting Berth
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Given their stout defending for much of the match last weekend against Manchester City, it was a bit of a shock to see Spurs so shambolic at the back against Arsenal.
What the performance did do was distinguish the fact that Steven Caulker might be the best central defender in Tottenham at the moment.
Sure, there are bound to be growing pains with a 20-year-old central defender, but his performances so far this term have dwarfed the rest of the offerings on show.
On Saturday, Spurs could have done with the aerial ability of the England defender, who likely would have been picking up Per Mertesacker when the big German powered a header past Hugo Lloris.
With Younes Kaboul still some time away from the pitch, Caulker should be the second name on the team sheet for every match.
William Gallas' On/Off Switch Is Short Circuiting
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
As much as Caulker has done to earn his keep so far, Gallas has failed to convince when the play is not directly in front of him.
No moment in the match against Arsenal sums this up better than the fourth goal, as Gallas knew Lukas Podolski was just off to his right and was sent through by Theo Walcott.
Gallas had to know what was coming: Podolski was moving along the outside while Walcott was running, as Gallas, Dawson and Vertonghen were tracking back.
Gallas is looked directly at Podolski, knew Podolski was going to try to blow by him and yet did little to actually prevent the move from happening.
For the guy that is supposed to be the old, experienced head, Gallas' inability to hold focus for 90 minutes is frustrating and frightening all at once.
If they want Gallas to play in the Europa League, fine. But where the results currently matter most, anyone else will do for now.
Memo No. 1 to Andre Villas-Boas: Forget the Europa League
Clive Rose/Getty Images
As if he needs reminding, Villas-Boas was hired not to win the Europa League but to get Tottenham into the Champions League.
I get the idea that winning breeds winning, but at some point one has to look at what is truly important this season and begin to settle attention on that one thing.
Currently, Tottenham are in danger of falling to the middle of the Premier League table. That's not exactly where the bosses were expecting Spurs to be at this time of the season.
Granted, two or three clubs are putting in some surprising early shifts, but if the results do not start adding up, there will be pressure from the top to forgo any competition aside from the league itself, regardless of what Villas-Boas thinks.
Memo No. 2 to Andre Villas-Boas: A Little Humility Will Go a Long Way
Clive Rose/Getty Images
In his post-match comments, Villas-Boas was....delusional?
First, the lines of contention, via The Mail:
'We were very, very good from the first minute to the last with 11 men and with 10 men,’ said Villas-Boas.
'We feel it could have gone either way. We were in control from the first minute to the last, we’re proud of what we have done.'
‘The feeling about the result is indifferent when we played so well and we took the risk in the second half to be so bold and play with three at the back.’
These are the lines of someone who was on the winning side, not a manager who was on the end of a 5-2 battering.
It's okay to defend a club's performance; it's quite another to think that somehow, the squad was in the ascendancy when they were clearly not.
Outside of the first 10 minutes and perhaps a few spot moments in the second half, Tottenham were fourth best, behind Arsenal, the parking lot staff and the stewards in the stands.
A more realistic line or two would do well. Implying that Spurs had the match for the taking is just a bit rich for most people's imaginations.