Tottenham Hotspur: 5 Players Who Need to Up Their Game
After an extremely frustrating few weeks for all involved with Tottenham Hotspur, the last fortnight has seen a turnaround in form for the north London outfit.
Three wins in a row leaves Andre Villas-Boas' men sitting fourth place in the Premier League, with Everton on the horizon this weekend and the chance to qualify for the knockout round of the Europa League with a positive result against Panathinaikos on Thursday.
The recent improvement has featured a host of pleasing individual performances, with a couple of standout ones too.
However there remains a few notable members of the Tottenham squad who could do with upping their game, both to strengthen their chance of a regular place and play their role in what is sure to be an extremely hectic December.
The players mentioned are far from hopeless, and have made positive (or even better) contributions of their own already this season.
Nonetheless, Spurs could do with seeing a little from each of these players.
Emmanuel Adebayor's first season at Tottenham Hotspur couldn't have gone much better individually.
The striker scored 18 and set up 11 and played the sort of football we all knew him capable of.
They were performances from a player who knew he was wanted.
Adebayor was still wanted this season, hence Tottenham sticking with the long-winded negotiations needed to pry him away from Manchester City.
An unfortunate consequence of that wait was the lack of a proper preseason with his new (sort of) team, something that left him unfit for the first month of the campaign and prone to the slight injuries he soon succumbed to.
It was strange therefore to read stories in October suggesting Adebayor could quit the club over a lack of first-team football when there were reasons why he hadn't been starting.
The starts that have come since then have done little to convince he should be playing regularly at the top of a 4-2-3-1, especially with Jermain Defoe playing so well.
A decent first half at Manchester City was a solid enough return, and when he opened the scoring at Arsenal the hope was he had finally found his feet for the season.
His sending off minutes later killed off that hope, and with it Spurs' chances for the game.
Adebayor's three-game suspension has finished now, and it is likely he'll make his return against Panathinaikos, if only to rest Defoe.
An improvement in his attitude needs to be seen, as while he is exceptionally talented, he has no right to waltz into the team.
With plenty of games coming up Adebayor should get his chances, but he himself needs to show he wants to take them.
One of the Premier League's best players over the second half of last season, the start of Gylfi Sigurdsson's time at Tottenham has not gone as well.
A bright performance in the away win at Reading was probably his best early on, but the failure to make a substantial and immediate impact meant the midfielder lost out in the battle for places to the new arrivals from Fulham—Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey.
Sigurdsson found the net in cup games at Carlisle United and Maribor, but the quality he had shown at Swansea and in preseason at Spurs were mostly consigned to occasional flashes of skill or a well-picked out pass.
The Iceland international's substitute appearance in the recent win at Fulham was his most impressive for some time, with his assist for Jermain Defoe's first goal an example of his ability to take the game to the opposition.
Spurs supporters would be wrong to write Sigurdsson off too early, but all the same, he needs to perform more akin to that Fulham cameo if he is to get into the side.
An impressive year out on loan with Norwich City last season showed Kyle Naughton to be a capable performer at Premier League level.
Whether he would have been part of Harry Redknapp's plans is unknown, but Villas-Boas has certainly taken to the full-back, giving him eight stars altogether so far this season.
The most recent of those, in the 3-0 win against Fulham, was at his most comfortable position of right-back.
Naturally right-sided, Naughton fared far better than he had in his experiences at left-back.
The problem was, the 24-year-old is so one-sided that anyone who attacked him on his weaker side caused him problems.
Unfortunately, the Premier League is not the place to learn how to play at full-back on the side of your lesser foot, and against better wingers (such as Theo Walcott) he was severely exposed.
The categorization of Naughton as a player who needs to up his game is in the respect that his best position is clearly right-back.
He has Kyle Walker to contend with there, and displacing the England international permanently will not be easy.
Naughton played well enough against Fulham that he is sure to get a look in there again at some point, how he responds to those opportunities will define his short-term prospects at White Hart Lane.
First and foremost, it should be noted that Clint Dempsey has played quite well over the past week or so.
Tottenham had to see an improvement from the American as he had endured an especially poor couple of weeks and was dire out in Lazio.
Dempsey was anonymous on that night in Rome, so it has been a good sign to see him more involved in the three games since then.
For whatever reason (and there are probably a few), it hasn't clicked for the versatile attacking midfielder quite in the way anybody would have hoped since his transfer from Fulham.
But the key here is to get in the game.
Dempsey's assists in Tottenham's recent wins have been shining examples of his quality, and perhaps a sign that he is beginning to find a rhythm with his new teammates.
He undoubtedly has competition to contend with, so will need to keep at it if he wants to retain his place.
It has been a funny old season for William Gallas so far.
Few Tottenham supporters anticipated him being one of Villas-Boas' first-choice defenders, but that he was, and he stayed as one until a couple of weekends ago.
The best and worst of the Frenchman has been on display.
There was his part in the heroic last stand of Old Trafford, when Gallas was one of Spurs' stars in the often last-ditch effort to keep out the swarming Manchester United hoards.
But then there was the shambolic showing against Arsenal, where the Gunners so frequently were allowed to waltz into the Spurs penalty box unnoticed and unattended.
That performance was a catalyst for change, and Gallas made way for Michael Dawson, whose selection undoubtedly restored a sense of organization to the previously porous Tottenham defence.
How long the injury Dawson suffered at Fulham will keep him out for remains to be seen, but regardless of if it is this week or next month, Spurs could do with seeing more of the Gallas that shined so brightly in Manchester.
At age 35, maybe Gallas is set in his ways.
But the issues with the veteran are not so much his defensive abilities but his instincts.
If he can improve his concentration and the level of communication with his fellow defenders it will be of benefit not just to his team, but him also.