Tottenham 2 Man United 2: Four talking points
Tottenham 2 Man United 2: Four talking points as Wayne Rooney nets a brace at White Hart Lane
Tottenham’s deeper defensive line
Andre Villas-Boas is famed for his penchant for the high defensive line – something that directly opposes the make-up and limited skill set of Michael Dawson – but he has persevered nonetheless. After being shown up at Manchester City last week, the Spurs back four were visibly deeper today which allowed them to cope against an in-form United attack and pick up a deserved point. The only time Tottenham’s rearguard looked in danger was when they allowed Wayne Rooney and co in behind. Hugo Lloris’ error for the penalty highlighted this more than anything else. Vlad Chiriches is proving a worthwhile investment and Villas-Boas has a decent mix of experience, pace and youth at the back. What the two games against the Manchester clubs has shown is that Spurs must learn to adapt game by game depending on their opposition. A bespoke system of caution against the better sides makes sense and certainly helped the north London club come away with a share of the points today.
United’s run rolls on
David Moyes’ men are now 12 games unbeaten in all competitions and, after the early season doubts, the Scot has managed to get to grips with the squad and vice-versa. Antonio Valencia is a typical Moyes player, direct and, relentless and unshakable. Phil Jones is blossoming in midfield and Shinji Kagawa is finally making a room for himself in midfield. Yet Moyes’ greatest accomplishment has been the rejuvenation of Rooney. With Robin van Persie’s form and fitness existing in spurts, United have relied on Rooney to spearhead the side – and he has delivered. Despite being deployed as the lone front-man today Rooney, with help from Danny Welbeck, was still able to drop deep and influence from midfield and yet be in the box when it mattered. Another two goals today took him to 12 for the season and his form has seen United creep closer and closer to their title rivals. With the busy festive schedule nearing, Moyes will be hoping this form from Rooney and the side will continue to propel the club towards a title challenge.
Why is the jury still out on AVB?
So much has been talked about on Villas-Boas of late that the discussion has become a talking point is itself. Is he a tactical whizz, or a clueless charlatan who has charmed his way into a career through a gruff voice and some magnificent facial hair? It all seems pretty extreme. In truth, he has become a victim of his own success last season and a belief that spending £107m buys you a title challenge. He has a useful squad, both in size and quality, which is good enough to eventually push for the top four or five places. Success is relative and early season optimism twinned with last year’s form has meant that Villas-Boas has been fighting to get his squad up to speed to meet the expectations of the fans and the board. This isn’t healthy. Nor is it achievable. After losing their best player and spending the cash on quantity rather than pure quality Villas-Boas’s new side will take time to gel. The White Hart Lane faithful need patience and also a realistic understanding that they haven’t bought championship winning players. What they have got is a squad that can compete with the top sides as today proved. City last week was a blip and Villas-Boas must be given time with the club to get the maximum return from their summer investments.
Soldado improving everything but his goal tally
You could see it coming a mile off. Roberto Soldado, after being neatly put through midway through the first half, aimed the sighter on his right foot across David De Gea before picking out one of the many groaning Tottenham fans sat high up behind the goal. It was to prove the only chance that fell his way in the game before trudging off to be replaced by Jermain Defoe late on. The Soldado inquest will roll on but this was one of his better games for a while. Energetic and lively in the first half, the Spanish striker was neat on the ball and brought others in during attacks with flicks and one-twos. Aaron Lennon added a much need spark to the attack, which he would have enjoyed, but not enough crosses were bent in or by-lines attacked for a player who clearly prefers his game to operate inside the box than be praised for his out elsewhere. Spurs’ languid attack hasn’t helped all season and a quicker, more direct approach should aid the goal tally and Soldado will hope he keeps his place long enough to reap those rewards himself.