Tom Huddlestone’s Big Chance For Spurs v Carlisle

He hasn't started a competitive encounter for Spurs in over a year, but Huddlestone looks set to be handed a chance to impress Andre Villas-Boas in the upcoming Capital One Cup game with Carlisle United...
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He hasn't started a competitive encounter for Spurs in over a year, but Huddlestone looks set to be handed a chance to impress Andre Villas-Boas in the upcoming Capital One Cup game with Carlisle United...

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Waking up on Monday morning, albeit, a tad hungover was certainly a joy. Regardless of the disgustingly abysmal weather outside, a Tottenham Hotspur win the previous day made rolling out of bed that much easier. It wasn’t the prettiest of victories over Queen’s Park Rangers, but it was a massive three points nonetheless and the first at home in the Premiership since Andre Villas-Boas took over the reins.

Consecutive domestic wins, following on from the 3-1 triumph over Reading the previous week, has instilled a fragile confidence into the players and fans. However, it’s now time to look towards the Capital One Cup, formerly the League Cup, for all those unaware of the summer change.

It leaves plenty of room for innuendo, ‘Manchester United taste the glory of the COC’ for example, but also a chance for a number of fringe players to showcase their worth to Villas-Boas. One of those expected to start in the encounter is the man mountain himself; Tom Huddlestone.

The burly midfielder, to put it nicely, hasn’t endured the most successful of campaigns in recent years, making a combined 25 appearances since the beginning of the 2010/11 season. Successive ankle injuries to Huddlestone has all but seen him miss the past 18 months of competitive football and, as such, saw him come close to leaving Spurs this summer, albeit, on loan in order to gain match fitness.

Regardless of the disgustingly abysmal weather outside, a Tottenham Hotspur win the previous day made rolling out of bed that much easier

Any such move failed to materialise and saw Huddlestone remain at White Hart Lane, until January at least. The 25-year-old has featured sporadically under Villas-Boas, but his first impression will forever be a lasting one, both with the fans and the Portuguese tactician; he was brought on in the 81st minute during the 1-1 draw with Norwich City, before, perhaps harshly, receiving his marching orders eight minutes later for a foul on Canaries captain Jonny Howson.

The red card may’ve been rescinded by the Football Association, saving the midfielder from a three-match ban, but it would’ve done little to see him warrant a place in the starting XI. As such, Huddlestone has found himself starting the previous three games, a 0-0 draw with Lazio in the Europa League sandwiched in between the wins over Reading and QPR, on the bench.

He again emerged from the sidelines during the Premier League wins, but mustered a little over 20 minutes of football, solidifying the midfield as Spurs looked to grind out the result. Many have questioned his mobility, or lack thereof, as a reason for not starting a competitive encounter under Villas-Boas, but fans will quickly point out how imperative he was to finishing fourth during the 2009/10 season.

As one of the first names on the teamsheet under Harry Redknapp, Huddlestone provided the necessary steel in the middle of the park, allowing Luka Modric to push further forward and flex his creative muscles. His large physical stature may be the reason why he hasn’t started under Villas-Boas during his short reign in north London, with the 34-year-old often relying on his midfielders to put in all-action displays, ala Mousa Dembele and Sandro.

He was brought on in the 81st minute during the 1-1 draw with Norwich City, before, perhaps harshly, receiving his marching orders eight minutes

Nevertheless, what Huddlestone lacks in energetic performances, he certainly makes up for elsewhere. His vision, technical ability and passing accuracy are three key assets that Spurs could certainly utilise following their stuttering start to the season.

While Sandro and Dembele have the potential to form a dynamic partnership as the two midfielders behind the attacking quartet, the latter would be far better suited pushed further forward behind the striker. Yes, dribbling from deep has made the Belgian a threat to the opposition, but his qualities would be better utilised behind the lone front-man, where he can draw fouls from opposition defenders and reap havoc in the final third.

This leaves a space alongside Sandro which can be fully exploited by Huddlestone. Missing out on Joao Moutinho may’ve been a blow to Spurs, worsened by the departures of Rafael van der Vaart and Modric for Hamburg and Real Madrid, respectively.

However, as a deep lying playmaker, it’s a position built for the powerful midfielder, especially with his Brazilian team-mate alongside him. Spurs have lacked that real ability that Modric did so well in dispensing the ball to the wings. It opened up the pitch and brought Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon into the game, which is pivotal against stringent defences.

His vision, technical ability and passing accuracy are three key assets that Spurs could certainly utilise

With that in mind, the upcoming Capital One Cup encounter against Carlisle United is the perfect opportunity to bring Huddlestone back into the first-team fold. Spurs have a tendency to struggle against so-called “lesser opposition” in the domestic cups, especially away from home; evident during the dull 0-0 draw with Stevenage in the FA Cup last season.

Villas-Boas is likely to utilise the encounter with the League One side as a way of giving a number of fringe players that chance to shine. Michael Dawson, Andros Townsend and Hugo Lloris are all expected to be handed starts, all three of which have enough about them to form a decent platform to see Spurs progress to the next round of the competition.

The encounter is aching for a player like Huddlestone to leave a lasting impression on Villas-Boas, who continues to work out the kinks in his recently acquired Spurs machine. Fans are hopeful the midfielder will make a start, which would be his first since the 0-0 draw with Hearts in the Europa League last season.

The midfielder still has a lot to offer Spurs, especially this season where the games are beginning to come thick and fast, and a player of his calibre deserves the shot to prove his worth to his new manager, which is more than likely to come against Carlisle tonight.

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