Tottenham Hotspur head to Hull City this Saturday, firmly with the intention of moving on from their midweek capitulation to Manchester City. That was the line to the club's official website from the understandably despondent manager Tim Sherwood following the 5-1 humbling:
And it is, indeed, the only conceivable response following a performance that was disappointing, but not as bad as the scoreline suggested.
Tottenham showed plenty of guts for 70 minutes, but glory was nowhere to be seen from their perspective.
Sherwood's side worked hard to get into the game after an early period spent chasing Man City's shadows and marked by Sergio Aguero's brilliantly fashioned opener. Michael Dawson's disallowed goal was a blow, but the real killer was the wrongful sending off of Danny Rose following the left-back's tackle on Edin Dzeko.
Yaya Toure's subsequent penalty undermined Spurs' decent start to the second half. Thereafter, Man City's superiority—clear, but not entirely allowed all on its own way up to that point—was given even greater room to breathe.
Battered into a state of near-somnambulism by the visitors' constant, often exquisite movement on and off the ball, Tottenham's momentary resistance before and following Etienne Capoue's goal gave way in the game's final quarter.
Had luck gone their way, a different scoreline, though perhaps not a different result, might have been forthcoming. As it is, Sherwood and his coaching staff will be analysing how Spurs can avoid similar devastating outcomes in the big matches still to come this season.
More pressingly, they will be deciding what can be done to get back on track at Hull this weekend.
In goal is one area where change does not need to be considered. Hugo Lloris did his utmost to stop Man City from reaching double figures, producing a couple of terrific saves in the process.
Centre-back pairing Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson were given the run around by Manuel Pellegrini's expensively assembled attack. For a good half hour between their opponents' first and second goal, though, they did well in imposing themselves on Aguero and Dzeko.
Ultimately undermined by a lack of help from their midfield—and the fact that City are just that good—Sherwood will likely acknowledge that in sticking with Chiriches and Dawson for now. With Younes Kaboul and, particularly, Jan Vertonghen approaching full fitness, the options for change are available again moving forward.
At full-back Kyle Walker is an almost certainty to continue on the right, while Zeki Fryers is the sensible like-for-like replacement for the suspended Danny Rose on the opposite flank (though BBC Sport have reported that Spurs have launched an appeal against his straight red card).
At the time of writing, Mousa Dembele's fitness status was not available. The Belgian appeared to be hobbling prior to his half-time substitution on Wednesday. A change in midfield for Hull would seem a distinct possibility, regardless.
Manchester City had been identified as a fixture in which Nabil Bentaleb's progress would be thoroughly examined. The 19-year-old has done decently since coming into the first team, but he struggled to comprehend the patterns weaved by David Silva, Fernandinho and Toure.
Bentaleb's chance will come again, but it would not be a surprise to see Sherwood use Hull as an opportunity to rest the teenager and try someone else. Despite his own difficulties stopping the Man City midfield, that man might be Spurs' goalscorer on the night:
Capoue has been the subject of intense transfer speculation of late—the latest report coming courtesy of The Guardian's David Hytner. Assuming he does not go on the January window's deadline day, Sherwood could see fit to give him a starting opportunity against Hull.
Capoue would provide a more defensive-minded presence in midfield with the manager unlikely to want to start both Paulinho and Sandro—the Brazilian duo both just coming back to fitness. Paulinho, though, could be brought in for a further change of pace in midfield, even if Dembele is fit.
A return to a more recognisable 4-4-2 formation seems a good bet for Hull.
Despite lacklustre showings this week, Sherwood could again select Christian Eriksen and Aaron Lennon, hoping they fare better against less glamorous opponents. In keeping with the general theme of things right now, one or both of an almost fit-again Erik Lamela and Andros Townsend will be waiting in the wings should they not perform (or perhaps Nacer Chadli). Having played even worse than those two, Gylfi Sigurdsson has more to do to convince whenever his next chance comes.
The lone forward option tested against Swansea City was indeed deployed against Man City. In the interest of getting Spurs back among the goals, Roberto Soldado is likely to be drafted back in alongside Emmanuel Adebayor.
The latter worked hard for scraps against his former club. Yet without another striker to occupy Vincent Kompany and Co., Adebayor understandably found it harder to produce against them. Soldado may be struggling for goals, but he is not someone any defence can afford to leave unchecked.
Following their previous thrashings this season, Spurs bounced back with positive results and displays. With chances to earn a top-four place increasingly running out, the North London club cannot afford for that not to be the case again.
Predicted Tottenham line-up vs. Hull City:
Lloris; Walker, Dawson (c), Chiriches, Fryers; Lennon, Paulinho, Capoue, Eriksen; Adebayor, Soldado.
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