Spurs: Tim's Insistence On Building Team Around Bentaleb Is Madness
With an hour gone at White Hart Lane yesterday it was hard not to see the game as a battle of the also-rans between two ‘quite good’ teams. Each had one or two fine players, each was playing some good stuff sporadically but neither looked remotely good enough to finish higher than the fifth and sixth positions they occupied in the Premier League.
The personification of this not bad standard was Stephen Pienaar, a man who has played for both sides and is a decidedly OK footballer. He’ll have the odd really good game but generally his performance levels don’t rise beyond the decent. In this game he didn’t quite achieve reasonable and was withdrawn on 64 minutes, just before Adebayor showed an incongruous bit of excellence in burying a half chance to settle the game.
Despite the evident similarities between the two teams on display there is one glaring difference and that is to do with expectation. Everton are perceived as over-achieving because they started the season with a new manager and were, as usual, out spent by the big clubs in the summer. Top seven was their realistic ambition. Spurs, despite the loss of Gareth Bale, had higher aspirations. Entering into the second season under AVB - who’d broken Tottenham’s Premier League points record in his first - with 100 million pounds worth of new talent in the squad, it was hoped they would be mixing it with the very best.
Which is why as a Spurs fan there was something faintly depressing about the proceedings at least until Adebayor’s goal. Tim Sherwood’s team selection was curious. He’d played 442 away at Hull in the previous game but dropped Soldado to accomodate the returning Dembélé who seemed to be playing the furthest forward of the midfield three in front of Paulinho and first-name-on-the-team-sheet Nabil Bentaleb. This meant that Christian Eriksen, a born number ten, was once again exiled out on the left wing where fit again England winger Townsend could have started. There’s nothing wrong with Bentaleb, in fact his emergence has been a welcome positive in a season not brimming with them, but Sherwood seems intent on building the team around him, excluding more accomplished players or playing them out of position. Both Ericksen and Paulinho were substituted as Sunday’s game progressed while untouchable Bentaleb remained on the pitch.
Nevertheless, Sherwood got the result in a game that could have gone either way and consequently the possibility of a top four finish, however unlikely, remains. If Sherwood persists with strange team selections to accommodate Bentaleb, and sends them out devoid of nuanced tactical instruction to play uninspiring football for the rest of the season it might not matter if he continues to win ugly and clamber in to the the top four. As long as it doesn’t mean he keeps his job.