Tottenham's nightmare start to the season is over. All it took was a trip up to the Molineux to give Spurs their first win and points on the season with a strong 2-0 win. The line-up was rebuilt from the side that was thrashed by Manchester City in its last league fixture, as Emanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker debuted... and our website's namesake, the legendary Ledley King returned from injury.
There were some definite bright spots in the game, as Tottenham demonstrated a fluidity in attack and defensive stability not seen yet this season. But who really impacted Tottenham on the game, and who was just along for the ride?
Let's again go to the chalkboards to find out the real story behind Tottenham's season-opening win over Tottenham:
1. Luka Runs the Middle
After seeing Luka Modric's half-hearted effort against Manchester City in the end of August, I am sure I was not the only Tottenham viewer who felt that they have just seen the Croatian's last game as a Lilywhite. But the window came and went, but somewhat shockingly, Luka Modric remained in North London. With his future now settled and Daniel Levy's proclamation proven to be true, Modric seemed to be in the position to regain his Talisman-status at Tottenham.
And a Talisman he was for Tottenham, as he bossed the Wolves midfield in passing straight through them. The numbers off the bat tell the tale: Luka Modric passed at a very poor 77.5% completion rate versus City. Against Wolves? The rate jumped to 89.2% complete passing against Wolves. Obviously, the poorer competition helped, but it seems clear that an emotionally healthy Modric is a more precise Modric.
Even still, the charts may tell more than the numbers. Against City with new holding partner in midfield, Modric was dragged from side to side, as his passing moved away from the tactically necessary center of the pitch. With a true holding partner though, Modric stayed put in the center of the pitch, bossing possession and distributing out to attacking players forwards and wide.
Tottenham needs Luka in the center of the pitch, holding possession away from the opposition midfield and exploiting inefficiencies in their defense. With the assurance of a true holding midfielder behind him, Luka should return to his status as the fulcrum of the Tottenham side.
2. Parker Gets Deep
I wrote another chalkboard piece last week trying to figure out what Scott Parker could mean for Tottenham. Well, it's nice to feel validated as a writer, because Parker had an absolute blinder in his Tottenham debut. Parker is the best pure defensive midfielder to put on a Tottenham shirt since Edgar Davids was playing in White Hart Lane, (and yes, Sandro may soon be there).
What Parker did against Wolves was show a tactical discipline and skill lacking from the Croation duo that manned the central midfield against City. Parker's passing was precise, but also primarily coming drom deep in the midfield, where he needed to operate. But Parker is mobile, and was able to get forward in the run of play and do some very accurate passing in the attacking half, only missing one of these passes. And of course, he played in a lovely through ball to Emanuel Adebayor to assist in Tottenham's opening goal.
But Parker is resolute in defense, and was successful in all of his attempted tackles in the ground (only failing on one air attempt for the fairly short midfielder). This precision in tackling, both in pressing up the pitch and sitting deep, should do well to improve the the Tottenham defense that had been torn asunder by the Manchester clubs so far this season.
3. Ade Cares
Tip of the hat to The Guardian's Ian McCourt who brought this chart to my attention. We all know that Emanuel Adebayor is a class of striker missing at White Hart Lane since Dimitar Berbatov departed for Manchester United. Adebayor is a class finisher, strong, pacey, and can dominate competition. The question though, has always been Adebayor's effort levels.
This chart does well to explain how Tottenham can get the most out of Adebayor. Against Wolves nearly a year ago with a talented Manchester City side, Adebayor was wildly disinterested. Adebayor drifted in and out of the game and this was shown on the chart, as Adebayor only passed 31 times as Wolves upset City 2-1.
Against Wolves Saturday though, Adebayor was a completely different proposition. Adebayor passed 48% more times to the tune of a 86.9% completion rate, a vast improvement over his 70% completion rate a year before. Adebayor's effort shows on the chart--he was helping out defensively in his own half, unlike his cherry-picking ways at City.
Of course, the biggest thing Adebayor did was score, and that is why Daniel Levy is willing to pay unprecedented wages to have the Togolese striker on the squad. But while Adebayor will have his eventual goal droughts, judge his effort levels to figure out Adebayor shall soon return to excellence or if he has been lost to his prior seen island of disinterest.