Tottenham vs. Tromso: 6 Things We Learned
Tottenham Hotspur kicked off their Europa League Group K campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Norwegian side Tromso.
Jermain Defoe made the most of two perfectly timed assists from Erik Lamela and Lewis Holtby to put the North London club two up.
Coming off the bench in the second half, Christian Eriksen made it three with an expertly placed long-range effort.
Spurs' joy was tempered somewhat by injuries to Younes Kaboul, Danny Rose and Mousa Dembele. In a post-match TV interview with broadcaster ITV, manager Andre Villas-Boas said the latter two would be more thoroughly assessed in the morning.
Read on for a few more things taken from Spurs' latest European encounter.
Dembele Is Finding Form After a Slow Start to the Season
Mousa Dembele has taken a little time to settle down this season. Though not helped by his manager's experimentation with Tottenham's different midfield personnel (the Belgian included), he was also a tad sluggish by his own dynamic standards.
Over the past two matches the signs have been there that Dembele is finding form—a timely development for him given the competition for places in his position right now.
Well it seemed to be, before the conspiratorially named Lars Gunnar Johnsen caused the Spurs midfielder to be stretchered off in the second half (at the time of writing his injury status had not been confirmed).
Operating from a deeper starting position in the wins over both Norwich City and Tromso, the greater scope to influence proceedings here had been beneficial to Dembele's game. Rather than the more forward role he primarily found himself in against Arsenal.
In the latter match especially, he enjoyed being able to run at the Norwegian side after a quick surveying of the options in front of him. In both, he dictated play succinctly and positively.
Arguably, most promising from the win over Norwich was how Dembele and Paulinho combined such play with equally valuable defensive work. All afternoon they helped swiftly deny many a hopeful attempt by the Canaries to create and advance.
The hope now is Dembele will not be too long (if at all) denied the opportunity to continue this developing vein of form.
Lamela Has Given Villas-Boas Food for Thought
Making his first start for Tottenham, Erik Lamela will have given Villas-Boas food for thought with an encouraging showing.
Tromso struggled to keep track of the Argentinian's movements from his base position on the right wing. This most notably manifested itself in Spurs' opener when he picked out Jermain Defoe's run with a first-time pass having drifted inside.
Besides that, Lamela was generally lively and linked tidily with his teammates throughout the evening.
Villas-Boas will find it difficult to judge how successfully Lamela is acclimatising to his new environment just from this game. Tromso defended earnestly but did not overly challenge Spurs in the final third.
As he seeks to integrate Lamela further, Villas-Boas will be considering what approach he takes from here.
In the manager's mind, was Thursday's game sufficient enough an exercise for the player to now give him his first Premier League start?
Or, does he continue with in-form players Gylfi Sigurdsson and Andros Townsend out wide for the time being?
Eriksen Is Fast Becoming a Hero to the Spurs Faithful
He was on for less than 30 minutes, but Christian Eriksen further endeared himself to the Tottenham supporters with a sparkling cameo.
Capped off by his tremendous first goal for Spurs, the Dane once again was involved in some of his team's brighter play.
Given the game was by then petering out, his arrival served to inject a respectful modicum of purpose to the night's final moments.
Greater challenges are to come for Eriksen at Spurs, but he is on track right now to become one of White Hart Lane's big new heroes.
Naughton Is at a Crossroads in His Career
Kyle Naughton continued his role as Tottenham's go-to cover at full-back against Tromso.
He was largely untested defensively, though he was there to intercept on one of the visitor's few decent attacks.
Going forward, Naughton was on hand to offer support, though he was largely unrequired. Having teed up Christian Eriksen, he will be able to claim an assist for the Dane's superb long-range goal.
As someone who can come in and deputise at full-back, Naughton certainly offers value to Spurs. However, at 24, the defender is reaching something of a crossroads in his career.
He is relied upon enough that he will get plenty more cup outings this season. But with Danny Rose, Jan Vertonghen and possibly Ezekiel Fryers preferred at left-back, he is really waiting on Kyle Walker missing out on the opposite flank for him to get a chance.
That could be quite a wait, and Naughton will be at a point where he must decide if that is something he is willing to do much longer.
Spurs Are Looking Up for the Cup
Excusing the wording of the above heading (it's harder to rhyme with Europa League than with it's old title, the UEFA Cup), the sentiment at least appears to be true.
Tottenham tailed off after the interval knowing their work was all but done. However, in the first half Villas-Boas' side performed with an enthusiasm that suggests they want to do well in this competition.
Albeit having not played in the playoff round last season, Spurs were largely uninspired in the group stage. They drew four of their six matches, winning the other two to safely qualify, but it rarely captivated.
The routing of Dinamo Tbilisi may or may not have helped fire up their desire this time around. Either way, the efforts of the first half against Tromso were encouragingly more proactive.
More of the same against Anzhi Makhachkala next month will help them on their way to sealing qualification at the earliest possible opportunity.
Cardiff Could Be a Shock to the System After Tromso
One of the key jobs of Villas-Boas and his coaching staff over the coming days will be getting the players suitably prepared for a thoroughly different task on Sunday.
Accompanying the challenge posed by Malky Mackay's eager team will be a vociferous home crowd certain to provide a hostile atmosphere.
Back at their old Ninian Park ground in the FA Cup third round in 2007, the Cardiff fans helped to scare the life out of Spurs as the Welsh club held them to a 0-0 draw.
Circumstances for the latter have improved somewhat since then when, as a lower division side, they were subsequently thrashed 4-0 in the replay. Still, though, they possess a vocal support capable of intimidating even the mightiest of visitors (as Man City found out).
After the home comforts of taking on Tromso, Tottenham must get ready for a much tougher test.