Spurs take step forward but still under pressure

Posted by Dan Fitch

Sunday's game against Manchester United was a big test for this Tottenham team. Spurs displayed real mental weakness against Manchester City last weekend. Could they bounce back from that disappointment with a positive result?

Spurs passed the test with a 2-2 draw against the defending Premier League champions, but you wouldn't say that they did so with flying colours. It was a match that contained both positives and negatives for Andre Villas-Boas' team.

AVB made a few changes, and some worked better than others. Vlad Chiriches gave another impressive performance, and when Danny Rose returns, it should be the Romanian who partners with Jan Vertonghen in central defence. Michael Dawson had another poor game and is increasingly looking like he's past his sell-by date.

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The other changes worked less well. Paulinho was pushed forward closer to Roberto Soldado, with Mousa Dembele coming in alongside Sandro. As a trio they provided a very solid base in midfield, but Paulinho didn't look comfortable in the role. He lacks the guile and skill needed to play the No. 10 role and is more dangerous when running into the box from deep.

A big surprise was Nacer Chadli coming into the side on the left. Chadli is the one summer signing I can't see making it at White Hart Lane, and he did little to change my opinion. Brought into the team to provide pace and height, Chadli had a very quiet game, aside from one exquisite exchange with Soldado.

The Spanish striker again drew a blank but had a good game, especially in the first half. It's been said that he can't hold the ball up, yet that ignores his ability to play the ball off the first time. When Soldado has players near him, his interactions with them are impressive, but he's very often left isolated.

Soldado might not have scored, but the team did twice, from unlikely circumstances. I scoffed when Kyle Walker stepped up to take a first-half free kick just outside the area, only to be left eating my words, as his sweetly hit set piece went under the jumping wall and into the net to give Tottenham the lead.

Spurs took the lead for a second time through a spectacular long-range effort from Sandro. It came early on in the second half during a passage of play in which Tottenham were looking short of ideas. Most of Sandro's shots end up in Row Z, so the crowd was momentarily stunned when this one flew into the net.

As impressive as it is for the team to have scored twice, they weren't the sort of goals that would necessarily convince you that the attacking unit is starting to jell. Spurs did create chances, but the two goals were both examples of the individual shining rather than the collective.

The draw was a fair result but Tottenham gifted Manchester United both goals. Having scored the opener, Walker turned provider for the visitors, making a dreadful error to present Wayne Rooney with a chance.

United's second equaliser came when Hugo Lloris gave away a penalty. From my vantage point it did look like a foul, and an unnecessary one. Lloris didn't need to come out for it and always looked second favourite to reach the ball.

Without such suicidal tendencies Spurs could have won. That's both a reason to be cheerful and a cause for concern.

This was a step in the right direction but not a big enough leap to take the pressure off the manager and players. Victory at Fulham is now vital for a side that has not won in four league games.


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