Tottenham Hotspur: Is Andre Villas-Boas Still Unsure What His Strongest Team Is?
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It was not only a chance to win three points in a feisty London derby, but also an opportunity to prevent another team chasing a Champions League spot from winning any.
So like the Arsenal game weeks before, it was not a time for experimenting. But like that match, it perhaps came too early in the season for Villas-Boas to know what his best lineup is.
As new signings settle in, squad players push for a starting place in league matches, and Etienne Capoue nears a return from injury next month, questions are emerging over who should be in that first-choice side.
Will someone have to give way so Erik Lamela can be included? Should Lewis Holtby and Jermain Defoe be rewarded for their impressive cup performances?
These are a couple of the questions Spurs fans are asking. A definite answer might come when Villas-Boas names his team for the match at Manchester City on November 24—the next time Tottenham take on a side expected to finish in one of the Champions League qualification spots.
Will he find the praise for Holtby too deafening to ignore? The German's determination and eye for a defence-splitting pass have stood out in Europa League and Capital One Cup games.
Likewise Defoe. In scoring six goals in these three matches, the striker has become the fifth highest scorer in the club's history.
But just fitting these two in the side could require some serious head-scratching from the Spurs coaching staff because of the quality of the players they would most naturally replace in the current formation, neither of whom are the bench-warming type.
Christian Eriksen is the current incumbent of Holtby's position, playing as an attacking midfielder providing creativity to compliment the ball-winning qualities of Moussa Dembele and Paulinho. Praise for the start the Dane has made to his Tottenham career has come from all quarters, including Tottenham legend Glenn Hoddle in his column for Bleacher Report UK.
Hoddle calls Eriksen "a player who can unlock doors—the type of player Tottenham haven't had for a very long time," but he then goes on to compliment Holtby, summing up the selection headache faced by Villas-Boas.
Selecting Defoe would mean dropping Roberto Soldado. How could anyone leave out a striker who scored 59 goals in 101 league appearances for Valencia, and who has looked sharp despite his only Premier League goals coming from two penalties?
But then how can Lamela, a highly talented Argentine who has been compared to Francesco Totti by the Italian himself, be ignored, and what of Sandro and Capoue as they return to full fitness?
Competition is fiercest in the midfield, but at the back, Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches are unlikely to settle for cup appearances.
Is there a single outfield player certain of their place in the team for the trip to the Etihad Stadium in two months time? When Villas-Boas names his lineup for that game, fans will be given the best indicator yet of what he sees as his best side for games against the Premier League's heavy-hitters.
But for the moment, he must be unsure what that team is.
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