Sunday, September 23, 2012
Tide turning for AVB as Spurs win again
Miguel Delaney, White Hart Lane
Andre Villas-Boas claimed that, at half-time at White Hart Lane, he was eminently calm. That may well be true but, either way, what he did during the break ensured he was anything but calm by the end of the game. The Spurs manager celebrated both of his team's goals against QPR as well as the ultimate 2-1 win in startlingly aggressive fashion, with assistant Steffen Freund possibly even more animated beside.
• Tottenham 2-1 QPR
If Villas-Boas didn't quite look possessed, he was certainly lost to the moment. Clearly, this meant a lot.
"I think it is important for the team," he said in more serene manner afterwards. "We really wanted to get this win for some time. We had to repay the fans with trust."
Many of those fans had been booing at half-time as Spurs trailed to Bobby Zamora's opener but, for the first time this season and, as such, his reign at the Lane, Villas-Boas managed to affect enough of a change to turn the game around entirely. It didn't just break a duck by bringing their first home win but also broke a pattern. In pretty much every other match this season, Spurs have started decently before fading. Here, though, it was the opposite. For much of the first half, they were limp. By the end, they were full of life, as even their management team illustrated.
Villas-Boas also emphasised that it was exactly that increased energy rather than any tactical tinkering that brought the turnaround, saying: "The desire made a big, big difference. We felt we needed to be more aggressive in the second half. The only thing we did at half-time was change to two strikers and played the defensive line higher."
That was undeniable. From a curious situation where Spurs were playing in a very withdrawn manner, in every sense, in the first half, the side pushed up on QPR to a much greater degree. It in turn brought a much greater sense of purpose, an awful lot more conviction and, ultimately, the three points.
Indeed, the winning goal came from another of Villas-Boas' switches. Having started at left-back, Gareth Bale was pushed upfield with the excellent Jan Vertonghen moved across. They combined for the rampaging counter that eventually saw the Welshman hit the bar and Jermain Defoe finish with the follow up.
Having seen his side just lose their lead through Alejandro Faurlin's unfortunate own goal, Mark Hughes had a less benign view of the winning strike.
"I was very disappointed with the referee," Hughes said. "There was a clear foul on [Esteban] Granero and even more blatant one on Nedum Onuoha. So there were two incidents leading up to that goal."
Despite that and the defeat, though, Hughes was generally quite upbeat. And, on all evidence, that was justified. Because, as impressive as Spurs were by the end, QPR put in a decent showing throughout. This was one of those odd games when the scoreline doesn't really tell the full story. Neither, it must be said, does the table. Although QPR remain winless and have only two points at second bottom in the table, this performance suggested that they won't be near there by the end and are certainly unlikely to endure a repeat of last season's battle for survival.
By contrast, despite so many changes to the squad, they were impressively cohesive here. Most notably, Granero and Faurlin constantly linked up superbly, with the latter providing an excellent reverse pass for Zamora to open the scoring in the first half. Hughes thought so too.
"I thought Esteban and Faurlin completely dominated the Spurs midfield," the Welshman said. "Given that they've only had two or three games together we're very pleased. I thought in the first half we dominated proceedings. Had it not been for Brad Friedel, we would have been comfortable. We were in a position where we could have taken it away from Spurs and seen it out. As it was, in the second half we knew they would make a change and they did - they weren't making an impression on us in any way, shape or form. We were quite comfortable in that first half. They went 4-4-2 and tried to press the game."
Spurs didn't just try, though. To their credit, they succeeded. They looked a completely different team.
"What made a difference in the second half was that QPR didn't find the gaps that they did in the first half, we were much more compact," Villas-Boas said. Admirably, he also admitted that he may have got an initial tactical move wrong. "In the beginning we thought giving QPR the initiative was the best solution and it proved wrong. In the second half, we were much more aggressive, pushed them very hard."
It was an interesting admission from a manager who is often seen as single-minded and unwilling to admit mistakes. Against QPR, he may have changed that perception as he also changed the game.
What happens next with Spurs may well be as interesting as Villas-Boas' celebrations.