Tottenham Hotspur's 0-0 draw away at Queens Park Rangers was a frustrating afternoon's work for the North London outfit. It was a game they might have won, but based on the home team's efforts, the result was probably fair.
With the second half of the season now underway, we will begin to see how the Portuguese intends to use his squad—one of the best in the Premier League outside of Chelsea and the two Manchester clubs.
Naturally he has his favorites and an idea of his best team, as do those watching.
But it was in sticking so vehemently to his favored 11 that Harry Redknapp's aspirations for Tottenham partly came undone last season.
The level of tiredness that contributed to the team's late-season woes are not easily avoided, and the worry is that resting players can leave a team weakened. Here is where managers have to earn their wages, though—picking and choosing the times to make a change and the players to come in.
Villas-Boas is fortunate in that he has some good options to choose from. A situation was forced on him Saturday at Loftus Road when Sandro went off injured in the first half. Not many managers would be able to call on a player the caliber of Scott Parker, as he was able to.
The situation that led to Parker's early involvement yesterday are the type Tottenham will hope to avoid. However, it did show how a player can come in and contribute when needed.
The England international may not be as dominant defensively as his Brazilian teammate, but his endeavor in the task cannot be questioned. Parker slotted in comfortably alongside Mousa Dembele, while his sporadic surging runs forward were some of the rare times Spurs genuinely took the game to QPR.
How do you judge when to change things when a situation is not forced?
Tottenham's first-choice wing pair of Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon are that for a reason. But even given their superiority over others in the position, there is evidence to suggest changing up regular starters can help sometimes.
Bale especially has so much expectation and hope attached to him that it can be viewed as sacrilegious to even contemplate removing him from the side. Spurs have generally looked worse off without the Welshman, too.
Obviously he has to start matches like the upcoming Man United fixture. What Villas-Boas and his coaching staff have to be alert to is when a rest or even a motivational kick up the backside can be administered by removing players for a short spell—for Bale or whomever.
Late on in the winter of the 2010-11 campaign, Bale was injured, and both Niko Kranjcar and Steven Pienaar came in the side to tremendous effect.
They were both performances worthy of a further start or two and keeping one or both in the side, given the confidence gained from their showings, would have helped the team maintain the run it was on. Instead, Redknapp restored Bale to the side as soon as he was fit, and that gathering momentum was lost.
It was an error of judgement that played a part in a costly dip in form for the side. Rather than keep going with healthy, in-form players, Redknapp opted for a player lacking valuable match fitness. Bale would have inevitably gotten back into the starting lineup and in the meantime could have been utilized as a weapon off the substitute's bench.
With all due respect to Redknapp (who got it tactically right in denying his former side in their meeting this past weekend), Villas-Boas has seemed more willing to vary his selections, even at the risk of upsetting egos.
It is not always easy when you have players as talented as a Bale or an Emmanuel Adebayor or Clint Dempsey (to name a few). But it is almost certain there will be points before the season is out when changes are necessary for the benefit of the team.
We are still getting to know Villas-Boas as Spurs manager, heck, even as a coach in general. In England, we have not had the chance to see how he plays out the final months of a Premier League campaign.
His team selections will be one part of that journey. Soon enough, we will begin to see what Villas-Boas has in mind for his team as Tottenham chase a Champions League place and possibly more.
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