Spurs: Holtby Must Play With Eriksen & Lamela For Title Glory

An impressive win against Villa last night showed that we have real strength in depth and that in Holtby we have the man who could be our key this season...
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It's been 4 years since Spurs had a decent cup run, when our emotional and exciting route to the final was halted by Portsmouth in the semis of the FA Cup. Since lifting the League Cup in 2008, Spurs' cup games have been a feast of goals. 41 games since the start of the 2007-8 campaign and Spurs have scored three goals or more 16 times.

Without sounding like a 'typical' Spurs fan, this could be our year. Not for any kind of mystical prediction or magical fortune, like winning the FA Cup whenever the year ends in one (after all, in 2011 we lost 4-0 to Fulham in the 4th round). My faith is that we are fighting on 4 fronts this season and, having finished in the top 5 for the past 4 years, the Premier League performance should be to the same standard without requiring too much good luck.

The cup competitions are where there is a good chance to earn AVB some silverware. In the League Cup, we know that those clubs that consider themselves to be in the cabal of the 'Sky Four' (Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City) are more likely to play their second string players. In last night's win, only Fernandinho was retained by City after their derby win. If Spurs approach the League Cup like they approach the Europa League, by fielding strong sides throughout all stages of the competition, they might just come out on top.

Although Brad Friedel, Ezekiel Fryers and Harry Kane started against Villa, it was still a very strong side. Fielding the tough-tackling and tidy passing Paulinho and Sandro playing deep together for the first time suggested a defensive approach against a team without several key players, including Christian Benteke. That in itself could have been seen as a crazy approach as, without the Belgian, Villa were very little threat last season and their results this season have done much to change that perception.


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In the end, Spurs were far from defensive – they were positively rampant! In Lewis Holtby, who might be considered amongst that group of fringe players, we appear to have someone who can provide the spark that seemed to be missing from the Arsenal game. His cute passes and tireless work rate opened up the game for Defoe’s opener and his corner led to Paulinho’s strike just after the break. Erik Lamela got through another game playing an important role, linking up play, creating chances and generally settling into the team.

Paul Lambert felt aggrieved about a comedy moment where Nicklas Helenius (who?), on for Libor Kozak (who?), chased down Matt Lowton’s pass. Jan Vertonghen, who was caught out for pace, sprinted back to close down, slipped and pulled Helenius’ shorts down as he fell. If the Dane hadn’t stayed on his feet and fired the ball off target, he might have earned a penalty and forced Jon Moss to show Vertonghen a straight red.

Thankfully for Spurs, he chose to play advantage and, after some changes, Spurs killed the game off with two late goals, another set up by Holtby. Spurs 14 shots to Villa’s 5 showed just how strong the away team were in attack, hopefully putting doubts in the minds of their detractors.

The only downsides were Spurs’ marginally lower possession percentage (41% to 59%) and the scrappy nature of the opening passage of play when there were 17 free kicks in the first 40 minutes. Yet, those kind of issues are irrelevant if you’re 4-0 up when the final whistle goes.

So long as we avoid Manchester United, who beat us in cup competitions four times in the past 6 seasons, Spurs could string together another solid cup challenge.

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