Lewis Holtby: Rating His Early Performances for Tottenham
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During Tottenham Hotspur's Europa League win over Lyon there was a moment when Lewis Holtby angrily remonstrated with an opposition player he deemed to be play-acting on the ground.
A refreshing moment for those of us frequently exasperated by such methods, it was also in keeping with the general demeanor of eagerness Holtby has exhibited since joining Tottenham last month.
Andre Villas-Boas made the call to pay Schalke for the midfielder now rather than wait to get him on a free in the summer. Even this early into his time in the Premier League, Holtby has shown it has been money well spent.
The aforementioned eagerness was apparent from the off in his debut appearance away at Norwich City. Spurs were trailing 1-0 when he came on. Holtby's desire to get on the ball paid off as, dropping into his own half, he played a terrific flick pass to Jermain Defoe who laid it off for Gareth Bale to score a tremendous equalizer.
That keenness to get involved and get at the opposition was apparent against Lyon too. There was not as telling a contribution as the one he made against Norwich, but he gave the French side something to think about at a point when they were beginning to shape the game a bit more to their liking.
In between these two fixtures came two slightly different performances from Holtby. What both shared was the fact he played for more than half an hour at a time (in comparison to shorter spells in his other two games).
Once again his instincts for Spurs’ style of play (and indeed his overall aptitude) were shown in his part in the build-up to Bale’s winner. After linking up earlier in the game, Holtby drew a defender out of position, allowing the Welshman space to run into and get his shot off.
Despite so far appearing generally comfortable amid his new surroundings, there have been reminders too that the player still has plenty to learn.
After the West Brom match Holtby made his first start against Newcastle United. The German’s movement led to him getting into some decent shooting opportunities in a sparkling opening 20 minutes for Tottenham. The shots did not come off, but it seemed to bode well for what would be an influential performance.
Instead, just like his team fell away, Holtby’s presence waned. It was an eye-opener for the 22-year-old, highlighting the difficulty of having a sustained influence in matches in the fast-paced Premier League. The game passed him by and he was eventually substituted.
Holtby is still finding his feet in a new playing environment. Although he is well-versed in the characteristics of the English game (being half-English), knowing about it cannot compare to being part of it.
Off the pitch, Holtby's charm has not done him any harm. In an interview with British television broadcaster ITV prior to the Lyon game, he came across as likable, and once again hit upon his delight at being at Spurs and in England (as expressed previously, here via the London Evening Standard).
Back then in 2008, the midfielder (who this week rejoined Blackburn Rovers on loan) recounted a story to Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday about how driving outside White Hart Lane he saw a fan wearing a club shirt with his name and number. Such was Bentley's excitement, he pulled over and asked the fan if he could sign his shirt for him.
Bentley's arrival at Spurs was in different circumstances to Holtby. However, his subsequent struggles serve as a cautionary tale for the younger man. For all of his welcome enthusiasm about his new club, he must remember to back this up with application from here on out as it is only going to get tougher.
The remainder of the season is likely to be a hit-and-miss experience for Holtby. Getting used to new teammates and all the other aspects of starting up in a different league is never easy. Especially when joining in the middle of the season.
It is clear already, though, that he is ready to contribute. For Villas-Boas it is now a case of making the most of this readiness while preparing his new charge for a greater role in (hopefully) seasons to come.
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