Tottenham Hotspur Benefit from Selection Consistency in Win over Stoke City

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Tottenham Hotspur Benefit from Selection Consistency in Win over Stoke City
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Tim Sherwood salutes the travelling Tottenham supporters after their 1-0 win over Stoke City.

Tottenham Hotspur's 1-0 win over Stoke City on Saturday—coming by way of a Danny Rose goal—made it 10 points from the north London club's last four matches.

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Aaron Lennon and Danny Rose celebrate the goal that would give Spurs a third win from their last four games.

Coming off sides in the Premier League's bottom half, such a return might be the least expected of a top-four challenger. Still, it has been close to a perfect response results-wise following the 4-0 loss to Liverpool which concluded a rough March.

Given Tottenham's form against the teams above them in the table this season (including losses to Chelsea and Arsenal in the aforementioned period), perhaps there was never going to be much manager Tim Sherwood could do about his side's inferiority.

It is no coincidence, however, Spurs have benefited in April from fielding a virtually unchanged side:

Captain Michael Dawson's return at centre-back to the above starting line-up for Saturday's game followed Zeki Fryers coming in last week for Vlad Chiriches as the only changes Sherwood has made this month.

Prior to the 3-1 win over Fulham, the 45-year-old had admitted being uncertain as to the best combination of the players at his disposal:

Indeed, part of this recent starting XI has been dictated by circumstances rather than him settling on something close to a so-called "best" team.

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Kyle Naughton has made the most of Kyle Walker's injury-enforced absence at right-back.

The absence of Dawson (prior to the past fortnight) and Jan Vertonghen has allowed Younes Kaboul to maintain his first substantial starting run since spring 2012 after a torrid time with injuries. Kyle Naughton has similarly benefited with Kyle Walker out.

Roberto Soldado's hamstring injury gave Harry Kane his chance versus Sunderland, one he has firmly taken with three goals since then, and another solid outing against Stoke.

There was tactical consideration to the latter's selection too, though, with a move to two up front following the timid attacking display versus Liverpool. Nacer Chadli and Paulinho's midfield partnership was certainly initially designed to also provide more oomph going forward.

Whatever the reasoning behind it all, it is working for Spurs right now.

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Younes Kaboul's desire for Spurs of late has helped them on their good run.

Even without the captain's armband at the Britannia Stadium, Kaboul again displayed the qualities of desire and leadership which have come to the fore over recent weeks.

Defensively, it was seen in his dispossessing Peter Odemwingie in threatening moments either side of half-time, as well as an even more crucial stop of Marko Arnautovic through on goal. Arguably, though, it was best typified by a sequence on the 90th minute when the Frenchman won the ball, charged forward, took on Marc Wilson twice and teed up Kane for a shooting opportunity the striker was unlucky not to convert.

The burgeoning understanding between Kane and Emmanuel Adebayor was shown in the latter's assist for Rose's winner. Kane moved toward his strike-partner and distracted the Stoke defence just enough to allow Adebayor to float a perfect cross for Rose to head home.

The Chadli-Paulinho duo is the least solid aspect of the recent consistency in the Spurs team.

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Nacer Chadli (pictured) and Paulinho are not Spurs' strongest midfield pair from a defensive perspective.

Arnautovic, Stephen Ireland and Steven N'Zonzi were among the Potters able to run at a defence often left too exposed by the midfield in front of them.

More positively, in Spurs' better passages of play the familiarity between Chadli, Paulinho and those around them was demonstrated by awareness and good anticipation of each other's movements. For example, if Kane dropped off, he knew a team-mate—be it the Brazilian or Christian Eriksen—would be there to link up with him or move into the space he vacated.
Harry Kane's heat map of movements versus Stoke.

Spurs struggle to handle Stoke or impose themselves on the home side in the aftermath of Ryan Shawcross' 51st minute sending off showed it is not a perfect setup. A better team than Mark Hughes' side may have hurt them. Of course, two weeks ago West Bromwich Albion did make the most of similar inadequacies in the two clubs' 3-3 draw.

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Spurs did not respond to Shawcross' sending off quite as well as they would have hoped.

Stoke's strong home form—including wins over Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United—proves the Britannia Stadium remains a difficult place to win at, even with last summer's managerial change.

Spurs and Sherwood should be commended for their overall efforts in the 1-0 win which keeps their hopes of finishing higher than their current sixth place alive. noted on Saturday evening that Ryan Giggs' team selection for Manchester United's game with Norwich City meant the Red Devils "have named a different starting line-up in every single competitive match (52) this season."

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Changes to the Tottenham team have not been as drastic throughout the campaign. Still, it is intriguing to wonder what might have been achievable with a little more consistency in the club's starting line-up.

The number of changes to the first-team squad and Sherwood's admittance as to not knowing his best side underline experimentation was always going to take place. But the recent benefits of the players knowing who is going to be around them should serve a notice as to the kind of familiarity Spurs should aspire to if they want to seriously compete at the top of the table.

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