Last season, whilst Mousa Dembele was out for a month, Tottenham were only able to win one of five games during the 26-year-old’s absence, losing the other four. Upon reflection, it could have contributed to their failure to secure a top-four finish. The Belgian brings composure and the ability to play a killer-pass, something that sets him apart from his fellow team-mates within the Spurs’ midfield. As a result, it will be even more important to keep him fit with the future of Gareth Bale far from determined. With the uncertainty over the Welshman’s future and André Villas-Boas looking for a more collective effort, as opposed to relying on one key player, Dembele’s creativity will be vital for creating chances for new man Roberto Soldado up top, as will his partnership with Paulinho in the heart of the midfield. The pair already look to have a good understanding.
It may have only been a one-nil scoreline in a game that Tottenham were expected to win comfortably, but in truth, they did, barring the final few nervy moments. Perhaps they could have been more ruthless but with the amount of new signings in the team, it may take a bit of time to for the new-look side to gel. Villas-Boas set his side up extremely well with a strong core – Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen at centre-half through to Soldado leading the line. With three of last year’s top-four changing manager and Arsenal yet to spend, Villas-Boas’ men could compete. The Portuguese has strengthened considerably bringing in the likes of Soldado, Nacer Chadli, Paulinho and Etienne Capoue. With these recruits, Spurs now have the strength in depth required to challenge. The situation surrounding Bale will be key, but even without the Welshman, the squad looks strong and will be determined to show they can push until the end of this season. Fourth place will be the priority, but don’t be surprised if Spurs are in the mix at the end of the season.
With Ian Holloway expecting Spurs to come and dominate the possession at Selhurst Park, the Palace manager looked to get men behind the ball and try and hit their visitors on the break. Crucial to this game plan was club captain Mile Jedinak. The big Aussie will be vital to the Eagles’ chances of staying up. His ability to read the game from midfield is exceptional, and along with Kagisho Dikgacoi, gives the Palace midfield a real presence. The skipper made numerous vital tackles and interceptions which stopped Tottenham getting forward, while also setting up attacks for Palace to break. Jedinak is already a fans’ favourite having won the club’s player of the year award last season, with his simple playing style giving the likes of Yannick Bolasie, Wilfrid Zaha and Glenn Murray the chance to claim the headlines for what they were able to do further up the pitch.
Even against a side who were heavy favourites and duly delivered, the Palace fans were jubilant throughout. The Eagles are odds-on with the bookies to finish bottom and that isn’t surprising with their lack of top level experience and quality. But they do have one thing going for them: determination. Holloway has stuck with largely the same side that gained promotion, with club record signing Dwight Gayle the only starter who was not with the club last time out. Palace’s players will give their all to prove they are up to standard at this level but the support they receive, especially when at home, will be vital. The fans will have to expect defeat most weeks, but if they are able to go into each game in similar voice as they were on Sunday, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Eagles are able to cause a few upsets at Selhurst Park this season, something they will have to do if they are to stay up.
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