Whether it was the full moon on Sunday night, I will never know but the superstitious part of me believes it, but Tottenham Hotspur did not play with the motific high line. It has been a stalwart for us this season and last. Never leaving our side. In the three games since we beat Cardiff 1-0 in Cardiff, we’ve caught opponents offside 19 times. an average of 6.3 offsides per game.
Against Villa we caught two opponents offside. Two.
It’s also noticeable how much closer to our own goal that Chiricheş and particularly Dawson are compared to other games.
To cut a long story short,
because of the full moon for whatever reason Tottenham didn’t play the high line versus Aston Villa.
This is really, really good. It’s the first sign that Villas Boas is becoming tactically flexible.
Tactically inflexibility cost us:
The biggest qualm I have had with Villas-Boas over the last year was his tactically inflexibility. It is admirable in some cases but good managers can only play one way or are afraid to play any other way. Great managers can and aren’t scared to play in multiple different styles. They change their game play to suit the opponent and to suit what they have at their disposal. This is what has impressed me about Brendan Rodgers and Pep Guardiola this season. Both don’t have fetish for possession any more and are more willing fall back onto a plan B or C. A long ball or a mazy dribble. When that plan B is giving the ball to Franck Ribéry or Arjen Robben you can see why it’s working out.
In football, you have a game plan
unless you’re Alan Pardew. Like everything else, there is a way to anaesthetise that game plan. West Ham executed that 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately, we’re not Barcelona even though that is what Villas-Boas has in his vision for us long term. We cannot bulldoze over teams if our game plan isn’t working.
Not even Barcelona:
Not even Barcelona can afford to be tactically inflexible. Even Barcelona can’t bulldoze over a team now with a defunct game plan. Gerardo Martino has freed up Barcelona. They now play the odd, very odd, long ball or go on a mazy dribble. It isn’t pass-pass-pass until the ball is in the net. The point is, it’s easy to find the anaesthetic. Bayern found it last season. You needed to play really, really physically and cross the ball a lot. When Bayern beat Barcelona. 5 goals came through crosses. 1 was a ludicrous foul on Jordi Alba by Arjen Robben and the other was a moment of brilliance by Arjen Robben.
This is why I genuinely think West Ham would beat Barcelona (last season). But whatever.
The point is it’s easy to find an anaesthetic for any team no matter how good.
I’m going to try and second guess AVB here.
I believe that Villas-Boas saw that Aston Villa are phenomenal on the break, one of the best counter attacking teams in Europe and the best in the Premier League and decided it would suicidal to play a high line against this team.
Which it would be.
I believe he also saw that Jan Vertonghen would be up against Andreas Weimann. Vertonghen is incredibly talented but very slow and carrying a bit of timber. Vertonghen struggles against direct opponents because of his lack of mobility and pace.
Which Weimann is.
Agbonlahor and Weimann are speed merchants and Kožak is nothing to be snuffed at. Villas-Boas also thought that Christian Benteke would return from injury.
This is the first sign that Villas-Boas is finally becoming tactically aware and flexible and it’s the best thing to happen all season.