Tottenham vs. Everton Preview: Predicting the Spurs Starting XI for EPL Opener
Premier League junkies around the world should be close to maximum excitement levels as we approach the opening weekend for the 2011-2012 season. We all know what comes along with a new season—predictions. Surfing the Internet proves that predictions can be a dime a dozen, but here, on Bleacher Report, we take pride in making educated guesses.
I'm about to do my best Nostradamus impression and predict the starting XI for Tottenham's game this weekend against Everton at White Hart Lane. Cue the dramatic music as I introduce the men in white.
Goalkeeper: Brad Friedel
I make no secrets about how little I care for Heurelho Gomes. Yes, he has the ability to make brilliant stops, but he also has some of the worst mental breakdowns I've ever seen from a 'keeper. Because of this, I'm going with the American, Brad Friedel. A solid goalie is one of the areas Tottenham has been lacking and I think the Yank is here to help. He is totally capable of making those brilliant saves that Gomes can, while still focusing for the easy ones.
A solid start to a starting eleven. Let's see who's next...
Right Back: Vedran Corluka
Right back is probably not one of Spurs' strongest positions, but, on a good day, Corluka and Hutton are reasonable options, and with youngster Kyle Walker fighting to get in there, it could be worse. Of the three natural options for the position, I have to give my vote to Corluka. In defense, consistency is key.
Alan Hutton is a great player but is prone to mental lapses. Corluka is consistent in defense, very strong in the physical game, and produces a decent ball when he gets into the final third. For now, Corluka is my starting right back.
Center Back: Michael Dawson
Dawson was the natural choice for captain in Ledley King's absence, and I think he has done enough to earn the position permanently. With the heart of a lion and the fortitude to take on any attacker, this England international could outwork the competition into any starting XI in the Premier League. His age and his durability make him a better choice than his predecessor, King.
Center Back: William Gallas
Okay, all you old, bitter Spurs fans who still hate him because of his Arsenal days, William Gallas has to be in the starting XI. Yes, he is certainly insane and yes, he is his own boss. But when he is on his game, he is an outstanding defender. His goal-line last-stands are Hollywood film worthy.
Hopefully, he is fully recovered from his injury that kept him out of the Tottenham preseason and is ready to show his worth. Maybe he doesn't have the heart of his partner in central defense, but with his talent, he doesn't seem to need it. Until Spurs can come up with a healthy Ledley King or a decent young center back, Gallas is the choice.
Left Back: Benoit Assou-Ekotto
Consistency, consistency, consistency. With defenders, consistency is one of the most important traits. Assou-Ekotto has improved over the last season. The Cameroon international has shown the footballing world that he is here to stay and play a consistent part in Tottenham's back line. So what, if he publicly says that he only plays football for a paycheck? As long as he keeps turning in consistent performances, he can play football for whatever reason he likes.
Pop-quiz: How many times is consistency in this slide? Yes, it's that important.
Right Midfield: Aaron Lennon
One of the shortest players in the Premier League, Lennon is also one of the quickest. The crafty little winger certainly has what it takes to pick apart teams on the right side. He can have his off games, but who doesn't? As long as Lennon is given the opportunity each week, he won't disappoint. Left backs literally tremble when they think of matching up with Aaron Lennon. His constant attacking and dribbling into defenses wears defenders down, which can tire teams out and force subs or, even better, goals.
Central Midfielder: Tom Huddlestone
Tom Huddlestone had a bit of a shaky '10-'11 season, but now he's back and his injuries are hopefully gone for good. A no-nonsense holding midfielder, Huddlestone is a strong tackler with good passing ability. His partnership and communication with the defense and his fellow midfielders is key.
He is expected to beat out Jermaine Jenas and Wilson Palacios for the defensive role in midfield. The injury to Sandro makes it an easier choice. If Sandro were fit, I'd have to give it to the Brazilian, but he's not, so Huddlestone takes it. As long as he can stay fit, Huddlestone is a personality that will do well on the pitch for Tottenham.
Central Midfield: Luka Modric
Why all the fuss about Modric this transfer window? He is the ultimate playmaker. Passing: Excellent. Vision: Superb. Work Rate: Unbelievable. He is a master tactician in the body of the highest quality athlete. This little Croatian is quite literally wanted by every team in the Premier League, and, as long as Spurs can keep him, he's going to have a good year at White Hart Lane. Enough said.
Left Midfield: Gareth Bale
Coming off of a season that served as his debut to stardom, Bale has a lot to do this year. First, he must beat out Steven Pienaar every week. Then, he must prove to the world that his speed, power and accuracy are here to stay at the world class level. His partnership with the frontmen and the attacking midfielders will be key to Tottenham's success this season.
A recurring theme in any article about Tottenham is the term "injury-prone." As long as Bale stays off the treatment table and on the pitch, Spurs will do just fine.
Attacking Midfielder: Rafael Van Der Vaart
I could go on and on about the Van der Vaart bargain buy and his success at the Lane. Frankly, I have done so. But there is no question about the fact that Tottenham is a better team with VdV on the pitch. Paired with the right kind of striker, he could be legendary. Currently, he is in a battle for fitness and hoping to face Everton at the weekend. Whether or not he plays could drastically affect my prediction for the game.
One thing, though, is for certain: He is a skilled player with just the right amount of attitude to make him a dangerous attacker.
Striker: Roman Pavlyuchenko
Ah, the mind-numbing debate concerning Tottenham's strikers. With no great options, Super Pav seems to be the best choice. Toward the end of last season, Peter Crouch was the man to beat, but it's a new season and anything can happen.
For his height, Crouch is phenomenally athletic on the pitch and is a good target man, but that's not what Spurs need. They need a versatile striker who can play one-twos with Van der Vaart, use the crosses from the wings and the supply from Modric. As far as I can tell, Pavlyuchenko is the closest thing Spurs have right now. Unless Mr. Redknapp can pull off a miracle move for a striker in the next few days, this is my choice.
Spurs vs. Everton
Everton is a good side that took some of the top teams by surprise last season. For this weekend, Spurs need to contain Tim Cahill, Jermaine Beckford, Louis Saha, or whoever else is fielded by the Toffees up front.
As long as Tottenham is strong at the back and can attack well from the wings, there shouldn't be any doubt about winning the game. If Van der Vaart is healthy and can attack with the ball, I predict a 2-1 victory for Tottenham, with Van der Vaart and Pavlyuchenko scoring for Spurs and Louis Saha scoring for Everton.