You, the community, have spoken in a series of polls. I present the Cartilage Free Captain community starting XI for Tottenham Hotspur's match today against Chelsea. The midfield poll was posted assuming that Moussa Dembele was not fit to start before we heard the news that he might, in fact, be fit to start, hence his absence.
This is pretty 'conventional wisdom' across the board from y'all. I thought we might see more calls for Vertonghen at left back or someone other than Aaron Lennon, but you guys went chalk. There was, however, a late push from the community for Tom Carroll's involvement.
Below, our writers submit their preferred teams.
4-2-3-1: Lloris; Assou-Ekotto, Vertonghen, Dawson, Walker; Carroll, Parker; Bale, Holtby, Lennon; Adebayor.
Two factors underpin this highly optimistic XI. The first is faith in the potential of a Carroll-Parker pivot, which I think could function very similarly to Scotty's partnership with Modric last season. With an outlet shadowing him around the pitch constantly looking to receive the ball and circulate it on, Parker will hopefully feel less of a need to go on long, fruitless dribbles or attempt crop circle manoeuvres as he struggles to make a decision on who to lay off to. This will mean he can concentrate more on playing that pure destroyer role that we used to love him in, which could make him a huge asset for winning the midfield battle in this game.
The second key factor is Holtby's influence. We know he brings a certain tenacity to the game every time he plays, and we know (more from his Schalke days) that he's a handy creator when he's not got to focus on tracking back so much. This could make him a terrible nuisance to Chelsea, between the lines in an area where they've left perhaps a little too much space at times this season.
For me, this lineup solves a lot of problems that Spurs have had in recent weeks. The metronomic efforts of Carroll could mean that the whole side ends up looking a lot more fluid and joined up, an effect magnified by using Holtby, who's a much more natural bridge between midfield and attack than someone like Bale or Dempsey, in the No.10 role. It would help us to keep getting the ball to our most dangerous players, Bale and Lennon, and would keep the pressure on Chelsea high up the pitch, potentially allowing us to sting them for early goals.
It is also something AVB has zero chance of implementing today. Sigh.
4-3-3: Lloris; Assou-Ekotto, Vertonghen, Dawson, Walker; Huddlestone, Parker, Holtby; Dempsey, Adebayor, Bale
In a game like this, where we HAVE to win, it does us no good to use a two-man midfield. With Chelsea's abundance of wealth in midfield, we'll get run over from start to finish. It's time to go big, or go home. This lineup is contingent on a couple of things, most crucially the injuries to Lennon and Dembele. If neither of them are fit to start, then I go with the lineup above. If one or both are 90 minutes fit, then Lennon slots in for Dempsey on the right and Dembele in for Parker. We've gone back and forth over Tom Carroll on the site, but for my money, you keep him in reserve as a 60th minute impact sub and pray that we don't Spurs things up too badly before then.
4-2-3-1: Lloris; Vertonghen, Caulker, Dawson, Walker; Dembele, Huddlestone; Bale, Dempsey, Lennon; Adebayor
Look, this goes against everything I believe in, but this is the best XI we can play. I would love for us to play 4-3-3, but at a certain point you have to (as my dad would say) "dance with the one that brung you." That means 4-2-3-1. My only concession is playing Huddlestone over Parker, because I can't stand to see more spinning in circles. Sure, I want Tom Carroll in the lineup and I'd love to play Sigurdsson or Holtby over Dempsey, but I can't. Clint may not work to hard and he may be anonymous at times, but damn does he score important goals at important times. As for the defensive choices: This group has been our best four defenders all season. Benoit Assou-Ekotto hasn't been so good that I have qualms about dropping him. Granted, all this assumes that both Dembele and Lennon are fully fit. If not, let's plug in Carroll and Holtby and go 4-3-3.
4-3-3: Lloris; Assou-Ekotto, Vertonghen, Dawson, Walker; Huddlestone, Parker, Carroll; Sigurdsson, Adebayor, Bale
Benny's been bad, but he's the best left back we have. And honestly, his defensive displays haven't been that atrocious. His biggest failing last match was attempting too many stupid wayward passes, but I maintain that this was a product of a disfunctional midfield that failed to generate any offense on their own. With Hudd sitting deep and Carroll metronoming, I think the midfield will be able to engage in much more progressive play. I like Holtby coming in for the last 30 minutes in place of Parker, but I don't think he has the fitness to do his rabid terrier act for 90 minutes. The other benefit of the three man midfield is it keeps Bale from camping out in a central role behind the striker where I don't think he's effective. Ideally he starts in wide areas on the right and comes inside to devastating effect. On the other flank, I've put Sigurdsson for his ball retention, set pieces, and goal scoring ability. (Sorry Lennon, I still love you, and I look forward to seeing you run at tired legs late in the game). Adebayor gives the team more than Defoe, and if we still need a late goal, Defoe coming on against worn out defenders is the best bet.
4-2-3-1: Lloris: Assou-Ekotto, Caulker, Vertonghen, Walker; Huddlestone, Dembele; Bale, Dempsey, Sigurdsson; Adebayor
Don't care about Benny's form really, if there were one guy I could say, "Hey, this guys sucked for five games, but with his mentality he could bounce back with a MotM performance at any time," it's Benny because of his mentality. I would like Caulker to start, because set pieces could really be important today, not to mention I like his higher athleticism against Chelsea than I do Dawson. Defoe shouldn't sniff the field unless Adebayor is truly horrendous, because he can not only score, but play Gylfi and Bale in to score. I have Dempsey starting ahead of Holtby, because we need to keep subs available, and you can earmark Holtby for a sub that that's no good being able to adjust with only two subs. In all honesty, I could start Lennon ahead of Gylfi, but Lennon is the kind of super sub this game might need, and Gylfi ties in to my set piece concern with Caulker. I have Carroll on the bench because I'm sorry, no matter how good he is I don't like the idea of throwing him into to start in a game he had no preparation for. If he needs to sub for Dembele, then he will. I also keep Scott Parker away from this match at all costs.
If it all goes to pot, then I would love to see Bale put in at CF, sub Lennon in for Dempsey, Holtby for Huddlestone, and Caroll for Dembele. Move Vertonghen to DM. 3-1-4-2. NO FUCKS GIVEN!
4-3-3: Lloris; Vertonghen, Caulker, Dawson, Walker; Huddlestone, Parker, Carroll; Sigurdsson, Adebayor, Bale
I'm joining Bryan in picking Johnny Verts as a left back. He's not much better or worse than Benny defensively, but I like having both him and Caulker in the game for set pieces on both ends. I'm all aboard the Tom Carroll bandwagon and I'm not sure what people have seen to suggest that Lewis Holtby is ready to start in a game of this magnitude and provide something positive for Spurs, but Carroll is not. With Parker and Huddlestone in the game, I am unconcerned about his lack of size, defensive ability and big-game experience. Obviously I'm not a doctor, but I'm erring on the side of Dembele and Lennon not being fully fit.