Tottenham Hotspur Players with a Point to Prove Against South China
Manager Andre Villas-Boas has voiced his concern about the torrential rain that has plagued the Barclays Asia Trophy so far—and perhaps contributed to an injury suffered by Jan Vertonghen against Sunderland.
"The conditions are extremely poor, we have lost one player through injury," Villas-Boas told a press conference for the tournament in Hong Kong, as quoted by Jamie Jackson in his Guardian report.
"Not just because of the conditions, but it is a factor and I would ideally like to avoid circumstances like this."
A chance to test themselves against Premier League opposition in Manchester City may have prompted a greater focus and effort this weekend.
In the circumstances, a less intense effort from Spurs in their third-place playoff would not be surprising.
South China have proved they are no walkover—only losing 1-0 to Manchester City, and even beating Spurs back in 2009. For several players, the encounter with them is still a valuable opportunity to impress.
Villas-Boas told TottenhamHotspur.com that the likes of Gareth Bale, Lewis Holtby and Sandro are close to a return to action. New signing Nacer Chadli is also scheduled to make his bow against Monaco next week.
Competition for places is about to heat up, and South China offers one of the last chances for several players to show why they should be a starter this season.
Against Sunderland, there was little to dissuade this notion. Accordingly, it has reiterated the battle Benoit Assou-Ekotto has on his hands to remain Spurs' main man in the position.
Struggles with form and injury last season have led the 29-year-old to a point where his position is under threat. Despite being far from awful, it was one of the weaker campaigns of his White Hart Lane career.
Still, Assou-Ekotto remains a fine full-back. He is a resilient defender and a lively contributor in attack (though not an especially dangerous one), and remains a strong option for Villas-Boas.
Lackadaisical though Assou-Ekotto may sometimes appear, he would not have lasted as long as he has at Spurs without a determination to succeed.
That essence of character has to come to the fore if he is to hold off the challenge of Rose.
Should he play, the South China game offers Assou-Ekotto a chance to begin proving he is the superior player.
Like Rose, Andros Townsend was one of Tottenham's standout players against Colchester United.
His second-half cameo against Sunderland reinforced his charms, but also underlined he remains a work in progress.
One passage of play late in the game particularly emphasized this.
After losing the ball in his half, Townsend quickly and successfully sought to win it back—admirably, this is not a player who lets his head drop after a mistake.
The winger then launched into a run deep into the opposition half, displaying impressive speed and control on the quagmire of the Hong Kong National Stadium pitch. Disappointingly, he rejected some good passing options, and his selfishness saw him dispossessed.
Townsend showed he is capable of excelling in the Premier League on loan at Queens Park Rangers last season. He has more than enough about him that he should see involvement this time around in North London.
Nacer Chadli's signing has, however, added to the competition for places out on the flanks.
For Townsend, South China is a vital opportunity for him to strut his stuff. Not only to show he can contribute as a backup, but also that he might be someone who can be relied on to start games too.
Gylfi Sigurdsson's Tottenham career thus far has seen him be something of an auxiliary option for Villas-Boas. The Icelandic international is the manager's utility man who can do a job where needed.
Given the scarcity of starting places at top Premier League clubs, this is not a role to be sniffed at. Sigurdsson performed it decently last season, especially later on when injuries took their toll throughout the Spurs squad.
If he wants a more substantial role—at least in the short term—he needs to start involving himself in games more than he does.
Sigurdsson's goal against Sunderland was an example of the intelligence and threat he offers. He got himself into a good position and did enough to put away Kyle Walker's cross.
Such moments are the more noticeable ones that can enhance Sigurdsson's reputation in the eyes of Villas-Boas.
More of them might arise if he can demand more of the ball and make the most of the footballing brain he evidently has.
Clint Dempsey was not unlike Sigurdsson in occasionally being deployed to accommodate others last season.
As the more experienced player, however, the 30-year-old was granted the luxury of more consistency in a specific role—notably the attacking midfield position he primarily occupied.
Dempsey's chances of being a regular starter there again (or elsewhere for that matter) are going to be tougher this time around.
Gareth Bale's deployment in a central role already saw a gradual limitation of Dempsey's chances late on in 2012-13.
The arrival of players like Chadli and Paulinho—and a possible move away from the 4-2-3-1 formation Villas-Boas favored last season—may mean those chances are even harder to come by.
Of all the players listed in this article, making an impression against South China is most imperative for the United States international—with the aforementioned, and others like Mousa Dembele and Lewis Holtby close to making their preseason bow.
Villas-Boas knows Dempsey's quality. However, unless he is persuaded otherwise by concrete evidence, the Portuguese may decide others can offer more to his team.
Villas-Boas admitted at a press conference earlier in the week, covered here by SkySports.com, that Spurs have "been looking for a striker to strengthen our squad and to have more strength in depth."
Be it Soldado or someone else, Spurs' current set of attackers is likely soon to have a new competitor in the tussle to start upfront.
Emmanuel Adebayor has come under particular scrutiny from fans for what was—despite an impressive resurgence in the spring—a largely disappointing 2012-13 campaign.
The lack of a proper preseason last summer, as he waited to complete a permanent move to Totteham, did not give him an ideal preparation. His fitness suffered as a consequence, with niggling injuries and struggles with form following.
The striker's talent is not in question. Against Sunderland there were examples of his exemplary touch and ability to influence proceedings when he gets involved.
His doing this frequently enough is the issue. Soldado is a player who seemingly has been deemed to be capable of producing this consistency for Spurs—something the evidence provides a strong case for.
South China could prove to be one of Adebayor's last chances to start convincing Villas-Boas he can be Spurs' main goal threat.