Four goals in two games doesn't mean Spurs' problems are over

Posted by Dan Fitch

A managerial career can be made or broken by the finest of margins. When Spurs were 1-0 down to Fulham with under 15 minutes to go, it looked like Andre Villas-Boas would be dominating today's back pages for all the wrong reasons.

Instead, Tottenham scored two goals and snatched victory. The side moved up to sixth and AVB lived to fight another day, with another must-win match to come against Sunderland on Saturday.

- Delaney: Signs of life for Spurs, Fulham
- Report: Fulham 1-2 Tottenham

Spurs have now scored four goals in their last two games, but no one should be fooled into thinking that the team's attacking problems have been solved. Last night's late strikes by Vlad Chiriches and Lewis Holtby proved that the side are willing to fight till the end for AVB. Yet like the two goals against Manchester United, they were the product of individualism rather than team play.

No Tottenham striker has scored in open play since Harry Kane's effort against Hull in the Capital One Cup. That's seven games in which neither Roberto Soldado nor Jermain Defoe have found the net, aside from one solitary Defoe penalty.

They have had chances of course, but they come so rarely that the strikers -- both very good finishers -- are snatching at them. So what can be done to improve the supply line?

Firstly, we should address the issue of who is being supplied. At this moment in time it should be Soldado. Defoe looks likely to leave in January and Soldado is not going to find his form while sitting on the bench. Twenty-six million pounds has been spent on this player and that's not an investment that can be written off.

Soldado cuts an isolated figure. If Spurs had signed a player like Christian Benteke, it wouldn't be such an issue. Soldado needs the right type of service and support.

Villas-Boas has been criticised for his devotion to inverted wingers -- mainly by me. Yet recently, Aaron Lennon has been featuring on his natural right-side, where he's caused problems in the last two games. Lennon's delivery might not be great but he makes things happen by running at defenders.

I think that the best way to supply Soldado right now is to play Lennon on the right and Townsend on the left, which is how the side finished against Fulham. The other options on the left, such as Gylfi Sigurdsson and Nacer Chadli, both like to cut inside onto their right-foot. That might prove a useful option in the future, but without Danny Rose's thrust down the left, the team needs natural width.

It is imperative that whoever plays on the wings -- be it a natural winger or inverted – that they make an effort to get close to Soldado when they can.

There was an example against United when a lovely cross was delivered from the right that soared over the head of Soldado -- the only man in the box. The ball found its way to Chadli on the left, but the chance had been wasted. Chadli should have been busting a gut to get into the box when the ball was on the right.

Soldado's hold-up play has been criticised and it's true that the ball is never going to stick to his feet, while he outmuscles defenders like a Didier Drogba, or keeps them at bay with his skill, like a Dimitar Berbatov.

Yet what has been undervalued is Soldado's ability to lay the ball off first time. When he has players near him he can do this. We’ve seen Soldado get involved in the build-up play in two of Sigurdsson's goals this season and it’s up to the other wide players to drift inside when appropriate.

Of course, Soldado also needs support from midfield. Christian Eriksen, Holtby, Paulinho, Mousa Dembele and Sigurdsson have all tried in the number 10 role, with mixed results, but there is another player in Tottenham's ranks who started his career there.

That man is Erik Lamela. Before being shifted to the right at Roma, Lamela was employed centrally at River Plate. Playing Lamela in this position might just be the way to integrate him into the side, while also solving a problem in the team.

It is clearly going to take time for Lamela to get used to the defensive responsibilities that comes with playing in wide areas in the Premier League. If he were instead played just behind Soldado, he'd have more freedom to stay forward.

A trio of Lennon, Lamela and Townsend looks pretty tasty to me. It might represent a gamble, but when your next opponents are the bottom team in the league, surely that's the time to take a risk.

Spurs can't rely upon players scoring from 20 yards out every game. It's a striker's job to score goals and it's AVB's job to create the circumstances where that can happen.


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