...and the effect it's had on the players
So with the signing of Paulinho apparently only waiting for the frivolities of goal bonuses and yearly salary raise and so on, I feel that this signing (or attempt at) is a very clear statement on the system that AVB is implementing into the central midfield: Three all rounded "box-to-box" midfielders exchanging roles and positioning fluidly, creating a midfield that is as equally defensively sound as it is offensively creative and unpredictable. Here are a few points as to why I see this to be the case.
- Dembele - Dembele is essentially the mold for this role. We have all seen his stats watched his play, and he usually completes just as many tackles and interceptions as he does dribbles, through balls, and key passes. He is just as comfortable sitting back as he is taking the ball and moving vertically with his sleek dribbling. We saw the ability to play this role a great deal last fall in the pairing with Sandro that produced a very well balanced midfield pairing. They would take it in turns moving forward or covering, prevent opposition midfielders from marking them out of the passing game, as one of the two would always be open. Dembele, while not one of the best players in the world, is a perfect fit for this role. Again the quote "How well he plays is significantly less important than how he plays." (Lennon's Eyebrow) really rings true for this player on this team.
Sandro - Before this seasons, the only thoughts of Sandro were that of BEAST. You, an unaware opposition player attempting to dribble the ball or receive a pass, immediately had doubts of your ability to get professionally paid to play a kickball sport once Sandro slid and took the ball away with force and guile. Recall AC Milan. He was a bruiser with a good positional sense, but last season we saw his game grow under AVB, showing his abilities at dribbling and passes in behind full backs. This was integral to his pairing with Dembele, which requires two midfielders with ability to bring the ball forward into the final third. I feel that this part of Sandro's game will continue to grow and we will see his ability open up more as he feels more comfortable in this new role, but I fully believe that he has the ability and talent to make this change.
Parker - For better or worse, we saw Scott Parker take on a more offensive role while in the team after Sandro's season ended through injury. Scott Parker was very much a box-to-box player earlier in his career, but as he has aged and recovered from injury his lack of dribbling ability has been exposed due to his lack of athleticism. This was even more obvious being a part of a midfield that does not have clear tactical roles. He is now a midfield anchor man, which he played very effectively when paired with Modric, creating a midfield with rigid roles between attack and defense. However, I do not think that he has the ability and positional sense to be a part of this new midfield, which I believe is why he seemed so out of depth last season. Maybe years ago he would make that jump, recall his assist against Arsenal, and I still believe that he could be very effective if he went to a team needing a strict defensive midfielder. Honestly, he could work well with Huddlestone on a midtable team, which means to say I do not see him with a future in this new midfield.
Tom Carroll - What little we saw of Little Tom impressed a large portion of Spurs fans. His passing range, field vision, and penchant for ball retention are the necessary attributes to be a classic playmaker, but we've seen more rounded game from Carroll. Some of us may remember that even in his short appearances, he has been able and willing to track back and do the defensive work, often being the first pass on counterattacks. While he is not by any means a large player, he is able to slide in and put a toe onto the ball to break up play. I feel that in a different midfield under a different coach Carroll could have little defensive responsibility but have the bulk of creative responsibility, but in AVB's midfield he will grow offensively and defensively, learning how to use his small frame in a more effective way.
Huddlestone - Well, Huddlestone. We all know his positives and his negatives, and because of them we saw Tom used mostly as an impact sub last season. He just does not have the fitness or tackling ability to be a part of the new fluid midfield of well rounded midfielders. A foil to Parker, he is far too offensively minded. If he stays next year, his role will remain much the same as an impact sub late in the game. If he moves he will need a midfield pairing or trio that is built around his lack of mobility, much like how the Juventus midfield is built around Pirlo, who requires two all round midfielders with a high mobility and endurance.
- Paulinho - Our (possible) new signing, will from my understanding fit into this midfield perfectly. He is a tireless defensive midfielder who can give our midfield lateral and vertical movement while also providing another player unafraid to dig in and do the dirty work. His late runs into the box are Lampard-esque, but he can also retain the ball well and even make some key passes as well. His signing is a clear designation of the midfield that AVB hopes to create.