3 Things Tottenham Hotspur Must Do to Beat Aston Villa
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However, as Arsene Wenger and Manuel Pellegrini discovered through their respective defeats (3-1, 2-1), this is easier said than done, with Villa proving to be a well-marshaled, threatening outfit under Paul Lambert's leadership.
Couple this impressive form with Lambert's revelation that Christian Benteke could be available for selection (after three weeks on the sidelines), and the prospect of a trip to Villa Park becomes an even greater challenge.
Nevertheless, if this new-look Tottenham side can rectify a few recurring tactical deficiencies, then the victory is a realistic target.
Let's explore three areas that Tottenham must address if they are to prevail over The Villans.
Keep the width
Tottenham's attacking impotence against West Ham was, in part, a consequence of their lack of width.
As evidenced by the "player influence" graphic below, the central third was noticeably congested, with the majority of Tottenham's midfielders neglecting to exploit the available space on the wings.
While Kyle Walker and Andros Townsend provided width on the right flank, Kyle Naughton assumed sole responsibility on the opposite flank, owing to Sigurdsson's proclivity to drift inside and adopt a more central position.
A narrow approach to build-up play resulted in the premature breakdown of numerous attacks, as West Ham consistently dispossessed Tottenham midfielders in front of their own 18-yard box (see graphic, below).
This failure to stretch the play largely stems from the fact that both Gylfi Sigurdsson and Kyle Naughton are right-footed players, and as such, are averse to driving towards the touchline with their weaker foot.
Danny Rose's reintroduction is a natural solution; however, Andre Villas-Boas revealed in Friday’s press conference that Rose won't be risked against Villa. Per Ben Pearce of the Tottenham & Wood Green Journal, Villas-Boas said, "On Danny Rose, we made a substantial development [during the international break] but unfortunately not enough to make him risk playing this game – but, again, hopefully we’ll see him back in training within the next week."
Another alternative would be to deploy Townsend on the left and Erik Lamela on the right. This would enable the £30 million man to feature as a starter, while ensuring the retainment of width on both wings.
Inevitably, this system results in Sigurdsson losing his place—a sacrifice that might be necessary considering his dysfunctional partnership with Naughton.
Provide better service to the front men
The service up to Tottenham’s lone striker in the past couple of fixtures (West Ham and Chelsea) has been insufficient to say the least.
The graphics below illustrate this observation in three obvious shortcomings:
- An inability to involve the No. 9's—as evidenced by the limited number of received passes.
- A lack of completed crosses directed towards the front men.
- A failure to distribute in the final fifth of the pitch—note the scarcity of received passes in close proximity to the penalty box.
Comparing Soldado’s stat map with Fernando Torres’ (below) from the same fixture—which shows countless passes received around the penalty box—serves to further illuminate the issue.
It's clear that Tottenham's wide men need to increase their crossing output while tempering their tendencies to cut infield into traffic.
Specifically, this would play into Soldado's strengths as a natural poacher with intelligent movement—all 24 of his goals last season came from within the penalty box.
Neutralise Villa's unique strengths
Tottenham need to be acutely aware of Villa's own unique strengths if they are to depart from Birmingham with the maximum points.
Chief among these strengths is the ability to launch quick, incisive counter-attacks that leave opposing teams short at the back.
Gabriel Agbonlahor's electric pace in such scenarios could be a real problem for Tottenham, especially if, as expected, Spurs dominate possession and leave a high defensive line susceptible to a counter blow.
In light of this, Sandro should be afforded his first start of the season, to provide a much-needed buffer to the rearguard. It would also give Totteham's more offensively inclined personnel the license to venture forward by reducing their defensive duties.
Villa’s other key strength is quite simply, their talismanic forward, Christian Benteke.
It goes without saying that the towering Belgian will be looking to impose his physicality onto the Tottenham centre-backs. As such, a fit Younes Kaboul would've been a useful asset in this fixture, so it's a shame—at least for Tottenham's sake—that he's still carrying a knock.
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