Tottenham have finally procured their first home win of the season and some of the early pressure that seemed to be building around the club seems to have dissipated. Spurs found themselves 2-1 winners over Queens Park Rangers, despite a pretty dominant performance from the visitors.
Tottenham's first half was pretty poor and as a result manager Andre Villas-Boas was forced to make a change at halftime. That change meant moving Gareth Bale from left back to his usual left wing position and Clint Dempsey from the left wing into the hole behind the striker. Following the change Tottenham looked much better, but it was an Alejandro Faurlin own goal that provided the spark that Spurs needed.
The formation change was exactly what Tottenham needed to turn the game. However, let's take a look at how both teams started the game.
The obvious problem here is where to put some of the people that changed around. Gareth Bale did not remain at left back. The most problematic is Jose Bosingwa who left the game after only three minutes. His withdrawal shifted Nedum Onuoha to left back and brought on Kieron Dyer to play right back. So, to reflect all this Tottenham are shown in the way that they played throughout the first half, whereas QPR, specifically Bosingwa and Onuoha are shown in positions that reflect where the right backs and left backs played throughout the match.
The biggest problem in the first half won't show up in the stats. Tottenham's entire left flank looked extremely uncomfortable in their positions. I think we can all put this Gareth Bale as a wing back idea to rest. Bale was beaten by Shaun Wright-Phillips twice in the early going yesterday and was caught out of position on several other occasions. Ahead of him, Clint Dempsey, who is more accustomed to playing in a 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2 seemed to be genuinely lost at times. Both settled down in the second half, but only Bale had any real impact on the game.
Kyle Walker's stats look good, especially his defensive numbers. He had two tackles and five interceptions, but what's not shown in the numbers is how Junior Hoilett abused him in the first 45 minutes. Heck, Holiett even beat Walker in the air. Walker's defending has not been good this year, not that it was ever that good, but it certainly hasn't improved.
Gylfi Sigurdsson continued his run of disappointing performances, though in fairness he only had 45 minutes to make an impact. Sigurdsson is consistently the first Tottenham player to be subbed off and I'm beginning to wonder just how secure his role in this team is, especially when you consider that Scott Parker will soon be back from injury. Aaron Lennon, however, continued his excellent run of form and put in another solid shift for Spurs. The diminutive right winger seems to have found a new lease on life under Villas-Boas. Despite his frustrating lack of desire to shoot Lennon has been a big threat with his pace and passing this season.
Jermain Defoe scored a goal, but had very little impact on the game in any other way. Defoe had 17 touches (one less than Sigurdsson managed in only a half of football) and attempted only five passes. Sure, Defoe completed all five of those passes, but that doesn't mean that much. Defoe has been in great form thus far this season, having scored 4 goals, but he doesn't bring the rest of the Tottenham attack into the game. I'm happy to roll with him while he's the hot hand, but Spurs definitely need Emmanuel Adebayor to get back to match fitness.
Wow, look at those passing numbers. I said in the match report that Queens Park Rangers dominated possession and some of you called me out for that in the comments. So, uh, what now? In seriousness though, Tottenham saw more of the ball for only a couple stretches during the course of the match. Even when Spurs were scoring their goals QPR still had the ball more. If you take a look at the individual numbers you see that Rangers had four players that completed more passes than any Tottenham Hotspur player. Granted a midfield of Faurlin and Esteban Granero is a pretty good one it should not have been good enough to dominate the ball like it did.
Jan Vertonghen's passing numbers jump out at me right away. The big Belgian has been the model of consistency of late for Spurs (as has his partner in central defense, William Gallas). Vertonghen was asked to play left back in the second half of today's match and he led a couple of excellent counter attacks, including the one that eventually lead to the winning goal.
Brad Friedel's numbers jump out at me for another reason. His pass completion numbers have been consistently low this season. Certainly the lack of a target forward is a huge part of this, but if you know you don't have someone to aim long balls to, why even bother with them? Tottenham Hotspur have such amazing pace and skill in the wide positions it makes much more sense, to me, for Friedel to distribute quickly to the fullbacks and let them push the ball forward.
This was an excellent counterattacking performance from Spurs. It looked, in the first half, that Tottenham could be in for another poor match, but Andre Villas-Boas made exactly the right change at half-time and the players responded well. Many in the media have leveled criticism at Villas-Boas for his inability to adjust his in-game tactics, but this match seemed to be an excellent example of the opposite side of that argument.
Tottenham now have two consecutive league victories and are within touching distance of the top four. The next league match for Spurs is a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United. This will be Spurs toughest test of the season thus far and will help provide a measuring stick for where Tottenham are in relation to the other big clubs in the league.