Tottenham Hotspur 6 Celtic 1: 6 Things We Learned from Spurs' Friendly Win
Spurs kept their unbeaten pre-season run going with a 6-1 win over Celtic in Helsinki.
Goals from Harry Kane, Roberto Soldado and Lewis Holtby produced a 3-1 lead at half-time before Erik Lamela made it four with a long-distance shot early in the second half. It took a significant deflection en route but continued an impressive pre-season from the Argentine.
Christian Eriksen left his mark on the match with a brilliant free-kick before Emmanuel Adebayor scored his first goal of the pre-season from the penalty spot.
Spurs continue to show improvement in their pressing as well as their quick ball-movement as Mauricio Pochettino’s philosophy really begins to take root.
Celtic were poor, but Spurs looked sharp throughout, putting in their most complete performance of the pre-season.
Lewis Holtby Is Worthy of a Squad Place... at Least
Lewis Holtby was the star of the opening half of Spurs’ win in Helsinki. He scored one goal and created another as he made a great case for retention in Pochettino’s squad.
Holtby has been one of the players whose Spurs career appeared to be at a crossroads. Farmed out on loan to Fulham by Tim Sherwood and not really utilised by Andre Villas-Boas, Holtby’s third Spurs manager needed to be impressed.
Holtby is a fine player when playing at full speed. His instincts are sharp and his assist for Roberto Soldado’s opening goal showed as much. Making a clever run beyond Harry Kane on the edge of the area, Holtby picked up the ball before jabbing a square pass to Soldado. It was everything that endears him to so many Spurs fans.
His goal was brilliantly taken. Again moving into an advanced position, he pulled away from his defender before slipping his left-footed shot under the sprawling Celtic keeper. If the team for Spurs’ opening day fixture was chosen today, Holtby would be a certain starter.
Pochettino's Philosophy Matches Spurs' Traditions
Tottenham fans, to a fault, favour flair. Attacking football is a necessity, and it is telling that Andre Villas-Boas was never truly embraced. His record points tally insufficient recompense for a stifling, functional approach to football.
For years now, Spurs have been a slow build-up side. Even at their best under Villas-Boas, it was a considered approach. And when Tim Sherwood took charge, things barely improved.
That is no longer the case. Against Celtic, Spurs’ players refused to dwell on the ball as they buzzed around the pitch. Clearly instructed to take few touches, the movement of the players was a refreshing improvement on the last two years’ efforts.
It meant that even when Celtic dropped off to defend deep, they were forced to constantly move around. This is an important development, given the difficulty that Spurs have had against defensive teams in recent seasons.
Tottenham also continued a recurring feature of their play in this pre-season: risk.
Spurs are being coached to build from the back and take risks with the ball. They will likely concede a few silly goals this season as a result, but they immediately put the opposition under pressure now and are beginning to look comfortable with this risky approach.
... but It Remains a Work in Progress
Spurs have fully embraced the pressing style. They produced numerous half-chances as Celtic panicked under pressure, but there were moments when the players overindulged. Pressing needs to be measured to be most effective. At times, Spurs looked a little headless as they converged on the player in possession.
The separation between Spurs' holding pair and attacking quartet was also something of a cause for alarm. Celtic were occasionally able to escape the first line of pressing and move into space. A better team might have punished Spurs for this lapse.
This is not an indictment of Pochettino’s approach but an acknowledgement that this group of players are still learning the system.
Pochettino Is Having an Impact on Andros Townsend
Andros Townsend is still only 23. He is only a year older than Theo Walcott was when he was infamously described as having "no football brain." He is also less experienced than Walcott was at that age, so the criticisms levelled at him are often unfair.
Finally playing for a coach committed to developing young players seems to be having an impact on him. His huge potential is evident, and Pochettino is the man to bring out his best.
Townsend's performance in the first half showed poise and maturity, two attributes that he has rarely been accused of possessing.
His assist for Harry Kane’s opening goal showed all the qualities that he has often lacked. From a similarly considered move late in the half, he probably should have had a second assist.
This development, in combination with his significant pace and close control, will see Townsend push for a regular starting place in Pochettino’s Tottenham side. If he can become a more rounded player, the comparisons with Gareth Bale will seem a little less laughable.
Spurs' Strikers Are Yet to Impress
Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor both scored against Celtic. This is undoubtedly a positive, but neither has yet done enough to demand the starting role.
Adebayor, in his return from a bout of malaria, looked impressive as he dropped deep to pick up possession and eagerly indulged in the pass-and-move style that Pochettino is seeking to deploy. He scored a fine penalty to add polish to his performance.
Soldado was quiet and only managed to score his goal on the second attempt. In saying that, he scored and was well-positioned to do so. It seems churlish to quibble about the manner in which he did it.
The Spaniard has been quietly impressive in pre-season, but this was a performance that was more quiet and less impressive. He needs to be more involved to retain his starting place ahead of Adebayor.
No Matter the Formation, Eriksen Is a Star
Christian Eriksen was Spurs' finest player last season. In his first year in England, the young Dane was a rare bright spot in an otherwise dismal campaign. Despite his heroics, the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino threatened to undermine his position as he does not fit easily the Argentine's favoured system.
Eriksen's second-half performance showed that these fears are groundless. A fantastic free-kick was the final flourish in an excellent performance.
As one of the three behind Emmanuel Adebayor, Eriksen was free to drift in concert with Erik Lamela and Aaron Lennon. This is the second time that Pochettino has used the trio in this role, and it has been highly effective on both occasions.
Eriksen's skills and vision make him a perfect player in this forward line while Lennon and Lamela possess the pace to get the best out of him.
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