As I am writing this, Tottenham have just slumped to yet another draw at White Hart Lane. Norwich, despite getting a late equaliser, played really well, especially in the first half. Robert Snodgrass looked a real threat and if it were not for a spectacular save by Brad Friedel, Norwich would have won. After that disappointing performance the question is: is Andre Villas-Boas making the same mistakes he made at Chelsea?
I know it is too early to debate about whether he has been a failure or success at Tottenham with just 3 games so far but in my opinion, the signs look eerily close to those at Chelsea. And coincidentally, both Chelsea and Tottenham’s 3rd Premier League match was against Norwich City at home. In both matches, Norwich deserved to have won, if it weren’t for some spectacular individual performances, AVB’s sides would have definitely succumbed to a defeat. In Chelsea’s case it was Cole and Ramires; in Tottenham’s case it was new boy Moussa Dembele.
Tottenham’s midfield was extremely lifeless. Gylfi Sigurdsson is definitely not living upto his billing in yet another disappointing performance. Jake Livermore, who I consider the English version of John Obi Mikel, was bullied by Grant Holt (who created the assist for Snodgrass). Gareth Bale still can’t pass to a teammate and despite Jermain Defoe being in better positions then him, was letting it fly from 20-22 yards. Sandro was not his usual self and hit what could be one of the poorest shots in the Premier League in the 37th minute. The passing in the midfield was not snappy and direct but was also the slow and pedestrian style of play that Chelsea were (in)famous for last season. The transition from defence to attack was not fast enough and Norwich fully took advantage of this and despite not possessing faster players, they passed the ball fast and were able to capitalise on Gallas’ lack of pace. The defenders, especially Garrido and former Spurs player Sebastien Bassong had an easy time in the first half because all they had to do was prevent Tottenham from getting the ball to Defoe and restrict them to long distance shots and optimistic crosses that Defoe is too short to get to.
Eventually AVB injected some life into this dull midfield by opting to replace the defense minded Sandro with the attacking Moussa Dembele. And Dembele picked off where he left off in the match against United last week. His darting runs and quicker passing changed the tempo of the game and he impacted on the midfield the same way he used to on the Fulham midfield week in week out (which is one of the reasons I think they lost 3-0 against West Ham). Villas-Boas then put on Adebayor for Sigurdsson which I thought was an excellent substitution because Adebayor would pressurise the Norwich defence with his imposing figure. Soon, the substitutes linked up with each other and Dembele skipped past Howson and put the ball into the bottom right corner. Then AVB undid all of the good work (and perhaps showed that he really is Mourinho’s understudy) by replacing Defoe with Huddlestone. Tottenham had the momentum, they had the ball, what was the need to replace a striker with a combative when you can always try to get another goal? By opting to go for Huddlestone, AVB broke up the flow of Tottenham’s game once again, and their play became slow and pedestrian once again. It is a different matter altogether that Huddlestone got himself sent off after being on the pitch for just 10 minutes. Norwich attacked that slow play and as a result Snodgrass capped off a brilliant performance with the equaliser. It was that goal which suddenly woke up Tottenham and in my opinion, had they played like that in the first half, they would have been atleast 2 goals up if not more. Once again, eerily like Chelsea who were exactly like this. (Example: the 3-3 draw against United where Chelsea had 77% of the possession after Hernandez equalised.)
Tottenham had the lions share of the possession for most of the match but were running out of ideas despite having a host of creative players on the pitch. It is definitely a far cry from the fast system employed under Harry Redknapp. AVB should look to use his experience at Chelsea and not repeat the same mistakes he made there. Fans in the Premier League can be really unforgiving and he got a glimpse of that when the Tottenham players were booed off the field at half time and full time. I know its still early days in the season but with just 2 points from 3 games, Tottenham need a change and fast. Right now, it is upto AVB to change his style of play or risk changing jobs.