Tough and congested fixtures left AVB in dilemma of squad selection on Thursday night. The Portuguese once again emphasise their focus in Europa League, despite knowing their main priority is to return to Champions League. The former Europa champion manager believes that top teams do have the mentality to thrive in the congested mid-week fixtures. Whether these “trainings” could bring improvement to Tottenham, who surprised AC Milan in 2010 but failed to get back to Champions League, will only be known by the end of the season.
While Sergio Aguero was at the O2 arena to support his country Tennis hero Del Potro, Tottenham had to labour at home, with Sunday match against Manchester City in mind. With two days less to rest and having to give way to Chelsea and Liverpool, Tottenham may argue that the lunchtime Sunday slot is a bit unfair. However, it was their lacklustre performance at Slovenia and Greece that left them in the must-win position tonight.
Playing without Sandro and Dembele, AVB turned to the more aggressive 4-4-2 formation, handing young Thomas Carroll the start in midfield. Adebayor and Defoe started together for the first time this season, while they would have different persons in mind to impress. Since his return, Adebayor have not won the trust of AVB yet and would be keen to impress in his rare opportunity to start. Fans favourite Defoe was unhappy with his short spell against Wigan. His form has indeed declined lately and would be determined to rediscover his goal-scoring touch.
However, it was Gareth Bale who was the sharpest early in the game. The game plan was simple and clear — feed Bale as early as possible. Tom Huddlestone’s diagonal passes targeted Bale accurately and the left winger utilised his speed and footwork to give right back Milec a horrific night. When his cross finally found Defoe, the poacher skilfully guided the cross towards the bottom corner and beat keeper Handanovic.
Without much pressure from the Slovenian side, Tom Huddlestone mastered the midfield with his composure and passing range. With Thomas Carroll shaking off then nerve, Tottenham gradually dominated and an easy victory was in sight. However, young full back Kyle Naughton’s suicidal back pass victimised Lloris and gave Maribor a moment to cheer.
The fans paid tribute to Fabricio Muamba at half time, while AVB was busy to re-energise the team in search for their first European victory this season. They did not spend long to regain the lead. Carroll’s through pass found Defoe and the English striker scored his second with another poacher effort. He may not have as many starts in his career as he has this season, but the 30-year old shows he still has something left in the tank to stay as their first-choice striker.
Lenient officiating left Bale and Defoe frustrated, but with Huddlestone and Carroll controlling the possession and Adebayor, though not at his best, linking up plays with his technique and physicality, Tottenham displayed fluent attacking football in the second half. The combination of Huddlestone, Gareth Bale and Defoe sealed the victory and granted Defoe the game ball.
The furious celebration by AVB showed how much he wanted the victory. It is a much needed one to re-gather the morale of the team ahead of their tough fixtures. Tottenham finished the night on a high note and would be looking to reproduce this confident performance at Manchester coming Sunday afternoon.
The Brilliant TomTom
Tom Huddlestone and Thomas Carroll are not well-known of their work-rate, but they shone in the night which Maribor hardly challenged them. The two Toms showcased their passing and ball-control skills and distributed the ball wisely and timely all across the field. Their first-time passes had led to Tottenham’s second and third goals of the game. Their performance tonight made Dembele’s absence forgettable and AVB would require Huddlestone to be at his best again on Sunday.
4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2?
Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon make their 4-4-2 very penetrating, but they undoubtedly need the workhorses Sandro and Dembele in the midfield to make this effective in Premier League. Adebayor is also the key in this formation, with his ability to shield his partnering striker and create space with his height and skills. It would not be surprised to see AVB restore to the 4-2-3-1 against Manchester City, in order to crowd the midfield, but 4-4-2 maybe a better alternative to clinch matches against weaker teams. The results tonight is the best proof.