Captain’s Log, star-date 1,0,7,9 point 12. We’re interrupting our 5-year mission to head back to Earth for the North London derby. Exploring the final frontier can wait.
Watching the game at the weekend I couldn’t help but think that this is the worst Villa side I’ve seen since David O’Leary was in charge. Having said that, they don’t get routinely smashed 5-0. We hammered them because as bad as they were we were excellent in every department. What was so pleasing to see was that we made such short work of them. We’re a top team and we looked like it.
Coquelin was outstanding again. He was very pro-active with and without the ball. What I like about him is that when the ball is passed anywhere near him by the opposition he’ll slide in to try and get it. If it’s possible to reach it then he will. I also liked how the other midfielders didn’t just leave the defending to him. During the game all four of the other midfielders took turns beside him when we didn’t have the ball.
On paper we had a 4-1-4-1 shape, however (as previously mentioned) Coquelin had a partner next to him quite often and Özil and Theo were constantly moving from out wide to central positions and back again, causing confusion for the opposition full backs and making them very hard to pick up. Most of the time there was no point trying to define our formation because of the fluid nature of our attacks. The effect was to distort Villas defensive shape and when we countered them we exploited the gaps left by this distortion. Watch the first three goals especially because they demonstrated this perfectly.
My favourite goal was Theo’s, because it showed what a natural finisher he is. If you look closely you’ll see that he didn’t even look directly at the goal prior to striking the ball, he just knew where the keeper was and more importantly, where the corner was. I also noticed that we seemed to let Carlos Sanchez have the ball, and for good reason, he was terrible in possession. His passing was shocking too. There’s not point in using energy to close down a player who’s only going to give the ball away. Villa have Chelsea next and I fear for them.
I think that Lloris could well be the difference in this game. He’s one of the best keepers in the world and when he leaves spurs it’ll be every bit as bad a losing Bale. I’m just praying that Real Madrid can’t get De Gea and further exploit the ‘special relationship’ the two clubs have sooner rather than later. (Of course if Madrid do get De Gea then United will be in the market for a new keeper).
What can we expect?
The spurs forward line is almost as interchangeable as ours. They play with inverted wingers in Erikson and Lamela who love to cut inside and drag their full backs around. Dembele playing as a central attacking midfielder is working really well for them too. He is technically good and strong as an ox, so he can muscle his way into a good position and pick out a good pass.
I think they’ll target Bellerin from the off. As good as he’s been he is still young and inexperienced. Erikson and Kane tend to dovetail on the left side and I expect them to try to double up on him. If that doesn’t work then Kane will simply use his strength to knock him out of the way. Bellerin is going to need help from Coquelin and/or whoever plays on our right, be it Walcott or someone else.
Any free kicks given away near our area will be dangerous. Erikson is a killer in dead ball situations.
As for the defensive side of their game, the work-rate offered by Mason and Paulinho is very impressive, but their discipline isn’t. Paulinho likes to get involved in attacks and that could leave Mason exposed. If we exploit this to the full then we’ll have a lot of freedom in the central positions that Cazorla likes to work in.
Apparently he’s out of the game. Obviously he’s a huge loss for us if it’s true. I wouldn’t be overly surprised if he’s named on the bench because having him come on as a substitute will ruin their game plan. They’ll be prepared for it in theory, but seeing him come on during the game will be a morale boost for us and morale bust for them.
They say that form goes out the window in big derby games. This is true to an extent but it’s more applicable when one of the teams is in bad form and the other is in good form. In this case spurs are in decent form and we’re in great form so it means very little and I expect us to be slightly better overall despite being away from home.
Defensively spurs can be a little suspect. Vertonghen has the same kamikaze habit of abandoning his defensive line that Vermaelen had. This can mostly be put down to covering for Paulinho, but it’s a weakness we’ll look to exploit.
Win, lose or draw? I certainly think we can win this game. I’ll be surprised if we lose and I will be happy with a draw to an extent. I’m going to stick my neck out and say we’ll come away with all three points. If the United and Southampton games go our way we could finish the weekend in 3rd. (Wishful thinking I know).
Just a quick word on Leicester. They set up as 4-4-2 at Old Trafford. If they do that at the Emirates they’ll get destroyed. They tend to lose their shape easily and Özil will have a field day with the space he’ll be afforded.
Cambiaso is still quality though so we’ll have to keep an eye on him and Huth will improve their defence, but not by much.