Tottenham: Who Are the Best XI for Spurs?
Tottenham has started the season 13-2-2 in all competitions and is undefeated outside the Barclays Premier League. The grueling schedule of Thursday Europa League games and Sunday Premier League games has forced Andre Villas-Boas to use his whole roster and we've seen almost every player. Emmanuel Adebayor and Heurelho Gomes are the only players that haven't seen the pitch yet this season.
With all the transfer acquisitions seeing time through European or domestic play, Villas-Boas has probably selected a tentative best XI, but how long will it be before we see that squad on the pitch together?
The amount of games on the schedule likely won't allow for the best XI to play together before the international break. The Manchester City fixture looks like the one opportunity for Villas-Boas to show the full power of the side before the even more demanding December set of fixtures. Qualification for the knockout stage of the Europa League certainly increases the chance of seeing the best XI sooner rather than later.
Here is the best XI for Tottenham Hotspur using the 4-2-3-1 formation used this season.
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris
There has been no competition in goal this season for Spurs. Hugo Lloris has been fantastic and has done everything you could ask of a goalkeeper.
Lloris has started all 10 Premier League games and has kept seven clean sheets. His "sweeper keeper" style has been very effective for a Tottenham defense that has kept a high line quite often this season.
Aside from a few close calls, Lloris has had a great start to the season. He picked up a yellow card against Norwich for a handball outside the box. Another similar play against Cardiff City on the edge of the box could have easily gone the other way and seen Lloris sent off.
Lloris suffered a concussion last week against Everton. Lloris came out to deny Romelu Lukaku a breakaway and covered the ball, but Lukaku's knee hit Lloris square on the head and knocked him out cold. Lloris was down for several minutes while medical staff attended to him, but he got up and stayed on the pitch.
Brad Friedel started in place of Lloris against Sheriff, but the French goalkeeper should be back in goal from here on out.
Right Back: Kyle Walker
Kyle Walker recently signed an extension with Spurs, solidifying the right back position for the next five years. Walker hasn't had the greatest start to the season, but has helped the defense keep the ball out of the net.
Walker has had difficulties getting crosses into the box in dangerous areas. The introduction of Andros Townsend on the right side has helped by adding more pace, but the quality balls needed to set up scoring opportunities are not there. Walker and Townsend should get better together over time, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
There is no apparent competition for the right back spot and there should be. Not necessarily to take Walker's place because Walker can be a special player, but to motivate him to play better. Spurs have invested the money in him, so now it's up to Walker and Andre Villas-Boas to work together and find a working formula.
Tottenham have been much improved with Walker at right back, but he needs to step up and help contribute in the attacking zone.
Centre Back: Michael Dawson
If there were doubts in Tottenham's four defensive spots, Michael Dawson certainly isn't part of that. Dawson has enjoyed a great start to the season as the anchor at centre-back.
Dawson will never be a flashy footballer and will probably never see his name up among the best in the world. He simply gets the job done. He is always in the right place at the right time to intercept passes or block shots. His positioning is nearly perfect and you really can't ask much more from him as the captain.
Dawson is another player who recently signed a new contract. The new three-year deal will see Dawson's run with Spurs extended till 2016. That will see him pass the decade mark at Tottenham, which will be a great accomplishment for a player who deserves everything he gets.
As the captain on a young squad, Dawson's vital experience will be key especially in the tough games ahead as the brutal December schedule quickly approaches.
Centre Back: Vlad Chiriches
With so many new players coming in during the transfer window, Vlad Chiriches took a back seat to some of the bigger money signings. The Romanian defender has started to see the field more consistently the last few weeks and has delivered with some great defensive plays.
Chiriches is still adjusting to the speed and toughness of the Premier League and has been pressed a few times. He has a knack for making well timed tackles which will need to continue as he settles into the back four.
From an attacking standpoint, Chiriches is another option to go forward because he is very instinctive and good with the ball. While there hasn't been a breakthrough from the defense, the willingness to move forward has been better and Chiriches has added more unpredictability to who will be initiating the attack from the back.
Left Back: Jan Vertonghen
Before the introduction of Vlad Chiriches and the injury to Danny Rose, Jan Vertonghen was playing alongside Michael Dawson at centre-back.
Vertonghen isn't your typical left-back and the majority of his experience is at centre-back. It is a bit of a risk to put Vertonghen on the left side when he has been so successful at centre-back, but he's smart with the ball and can thread the ball anywhere on the pitch.
While Vertonghen isn't the quickest player on the field, he does have size and his instincts on the ball are fantastic. Everything he does looks effortless and his skills on the ball are very underrated.
It is only a matter of time before Vertonghen settles into the position and starts setting up goals on a consistent basis.
Defensive Midfielder: Paulinho
Paulinho's transition into European football has been almost seamless. The Brazilian midfielder is in his first year at Tottenham, but he already has three goals and two assists in all competitions.
The best moment for Paulinho this season was the goal he scored late into stoppage time against Cardiff City. This was a massive victory for Spurs and it showed that there was still some resilience in the squad. For a team that relied on Gareth Bale in the late minutes last season, it was a true team effort that paid off with a clutch goal and three more crucial points.
With a few of the recent signings struggling, Paulinho looks like money well spent. The former record breaking signing has been a solid option in the attack and is not a liability defensively.
If Paulinho can continue his form, Andre Villas-Boas will have him in the squad more often than not, even with the depth in midfield.
Defensive Midfielder: Sandro/Mousa Dembele
This is the only spot on the squad that there hasn't been a player seeing consistent caps. Entienne Capoue started the season alongside Paulinho, but was injured just three games into the season. Mousa Dembele has appeared in every Premier League match, but some have been off the bench. Sandro has recently returned from injury and has started the last three matches.
Capoue is back training with the team and had a good performance against Sheriff. It is likely that he will see some more playing time, but the depth at the position makes that very unpredictable. For now it is most likely that Sandro and Dembele will split time, as they have the last few games.
The decision for Andre Villas-Boas will be based on matchups. Sandro did very well against Christian Benteke a few weeks ago in the Aston Villa match. Benteke was substituted into the game in the second half and it was as if Sandro was shadowing him the whole time. Sandro's tenacity and aggressiveness works better against bigger strikers so look for AVB to use him against teams with size up front.
Dembele has been disappointing so far this season, but his conditioning allows for him to be very durable during a grueling schedule. Dembele is another player with some attacking potential at the defensive midfield spot. Spurs have struggled to score this season and starting Dembele more often may be the answer to the goal scoring dilemma.
Chances are there may not be a consistent starter to play the other defensive midfield spot. Villas-Boas may choose to rotate Sandro, Dembele and Capoue, especially while European and domestic cup ties litter the mid-week schedule for the next few months.
Right Midfielder: Andros Townsend
It seems that during every international break another young player is thrust into the spotlight. That is what happened to Andros Townsend last month and the Spurs winger responded, after his goal for England against Montenegro. A goal against Aston Villa continued Townsend's great run of form.
There is no question about Townsend's potential as time goes on, but if Townsend wants to play at the World Cup this summer then his play needs to be more consistent. Townsend, like Kyle Walker, has struggled to feed the strikers and get crosses into the box. In order for the strikers to find space in the middle, Townsend will need to stretch the opposing defense on the right side of midfield.
He has been compared to Gareth Bale for his willingness to challenge defenders one on one. His pace and dribbling skill is best utilized when taking players on and he's been the only player willing or able to isolate players on the dribble. This will need to continue in order to mix up a very stale Tottenham attack.
With Erik Lamela's good performance against Sheriff there may be some pressure on Townsend to perform, but for now his spot should not be in question.
Left Midfielder: Gylfi Sigurdsson
Gylfi Sigurdsson continues to score great goals and challenge for a starting spot more consistently. Based on his goal production this season, he needs to be in the lineup more often than not.
Chances are with Aaron Lennon coming back, Sigurdsson will split time with him, but Sigurdsson is a bigger threat to score goals having already scored three this season.
Most of Sigurdsson's goals have come from the left side of the pitch. That seems to be where he is most effective. While the left side of midfield isn't his natural position, there isn't much room at the attacking midfield spot.
The stark contrast in pace between the right and left sides of the lineup could actually be a strength instead of a weakness. Spurs have not used the left side of the field as much as the right in the attack, which has led to their becoming predictable. Using the left side more often with Siggurdsson and Jan Vertonghen could help free up some space for Townsend and Walker. If Andre-Villas Boas switches the left and right midfielders during the match, that could confuse and disrupt the opposition even further.
Purely based on results so far, Sigurdsson looks the more promising option for the time being.
Attacking Midfielder: Christian Eriksen
Christian Eriksen showed what he can do for Spurs in the first Europa League group match against Tromso. Since then Eriksen has been adjusting to his new team, but shows signs of brilliance befitting his reputation as one of football's brightest young players.
Eriksen's ability to set up and find other players in space makes him a valuable asset even when he is not scoring goals. The Dane has seen limited Premier League time so far this season, but there is no doubt that he is the best attacking midfielder on the Tottenham roster.
It remains to be seen if Andre Villas-Boas will use Eriksen in European competition or in the Premier League. If Villas-Boas needs a player in the center to control the attack, Eriksen is the option with the most control and creativity.
Striker: Roberto Soldado
The striker position has been a question mark all season and so far Roberto Soldado has seen the majority of the playing time. Soldado has scored four goals in the Premier League, but only one of those has come from open play.
The Spanish striker has been good outside of the box moving the ball around, but going forward and making key runs has been an issue. Some have been calling for Jermaine Defoe to see more time in Premier League games, but Soldado has been the only consistent player used up top for Andre Villas-Boas.
As of now, Defoe looks like the Europa League striker and backup Premier League striker for Tottenham. He deserves a chance to start more games, but the amount of money spent on Soldado almost ensures that Defoe will be the backup this season.
Soldado needs to make more deep runs that put pressure on the defense in order to free up space for the midfielders behind him. When the middle isn't open Soldado needs to put his head on the ball and put the ball in the back of the net. He did it last year with Valencia and now it is time to step up and carry the scoring load for Spurs.