It wasn't a great performance by any means, but it was decent enough and gives Andre Villas-Boas food for thought
On paper, a game against a team just relegated from the Norwegian Premier League should be the perfect outing for a team smarting from a drubbing from one Manchester giant, just before it plays the other.
But if you factor in that this would include a flight to the Artic Circle, a game on a frozen plastic pitch, AND teaching a team regularly enjoying 60-70% possession to remember how to find the back of the net again, well any kind of win will do.
To that extent, Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas will be happy enough with his sides performance and result. His side have traveled to Russia, Moldova and the North Pole (well almost) and have won every game, as well as their two home games, to sit top of their Europa League group with 15 points out of 15.
Look a little closer, and he may uncover some positive things about his team. Not all positive mind:
Having a great squad is only any use if you play the right players, in the right formation, to win games
With pretty much a second string eleven playing, at least 3/4 of the players on display were almost as good as those ahead of them in the team. This makes for a really strong squad of twenty-five, but a consistently uncertain and unsettled first eleven. Roberto Soldado (more on him later, rather predictably), who seems to be the manager's first choice striker, doesn't look at home in the employed formation at all, and if Villas-Boas jumbles the team again to try and find a way of accommodating him, well that's another few weeks of acclimatising.
Moussa Dembele is a much more influential player in an attacking midfield position
Earlier on in the match both, Dembele and Etienne Capoue were sitting relatively deep as the match struggled to spark into life. In the second half, with a series of yellows being flashed to Spurs players and the match getting a little feistier, Dembele pushed up a little more. He quickly showed what a player of his ability, his pace, strength and dribbling, can do bursting through a defence, first to score, and then to hit the post. Who the better player is out of him and Paulinho is open to debate, but the Belgian should be considered for the number 10 role he played at Fulham.
The Man City result was a bad result, but it's not all doom and gloom
Calls for Villas-Boas' head are quite frankly ridiculous when you consider Spurs are just one point behind Sunday's visitors and champions Man United. Spurs are also in the quarter-finals in the League Cup and have won every game in the Europa League. True, performances haven't been great, but this Tottenham team is a jigsaw waiting to be put together, and it seems very likely that at some point there will be a "a-ha!" moment, when the way forward suddenly becomes clear. If Spurs beat United on Sunday, everything will all of a sudden look much better again.
The striker conundrum
Having said that, the striker problem is perhaps the hardest piece to place in the puzzle. Especially as it looks like a couple of other things seem to be accentuating the problem. The wingers playing on the opposing wing, and the uncertainty about who should play behind the striker, might be the things that need to be adjusted to fix that forward problem. Undoubtedly, Soldado, Defoe and Adebayor are all quality strikers, but Spurs three best wingers all play best on the right-hand side, while Sigurdsson is good enough to stick with on the left. This seems to be leading some uncertainty on who to play, and what side to play them. The Spurs boss should go with the players that will get the results, even if that unsettles some in the short term. But should a manager change the way he feels football should be played to get results? Or should the team persevere until it gets results? The only thing that is consistent there is that the sooner the results come the better.
It's all about Christmas
Before the result against City, all of Spurs defeats had come after Europa league matches. As that competition goes into hibernation over winter we'll see Tottenham go through an intensive period that will likely deposit them in a place capable of challenging for the top four, or leave AVB teetering on the cusp of the sack. The media seems to have whipped up the fans into thinking they actually had a title shot in this open season, and of course, they did, but now they should just concentrate on being around that top four heading into the New Year. Of course it doesn't help that "the other North London team" have been the ones that have seized that title shot. Spurs should ignore all that, and concentrate on aiming for third and fourth. Everything will be much clearer come FA Cup third round weekend.
image: © wonker