Tom ‘Thud’ Huddlestone, has not played since November 9. In this space of time Tottenham’s fortunes have gone up but more recently they have come down. With his return to fitness around the corner I am hoping that a fresh face on the pitch, and a different type of player, might give the players a bit of a lift they need. They are no doubt in a lull and need to play at their very best for the remainder of the season, if they are going to finish in the top 4. But where will Tom Huddlestone fit into Tottenham’s team?
In Huddlestone’s absence, Sandro has been impressive playing as a defensive midfielder. Most noticeably against AC Milan, Sandro showed his defensive capabilities. He has partnered Luka Modric in the centre of midfield. In these big European games, this has served Tottenham well and there is every reason to suggest that Huddlestone will have a tough time in regaining his first team place.
Huddlestone’s weaknesses are in his defensive play. He lacks the agility to make tackles and does not work as hard as others; he is a bit of a bollard. Furthermore, he is not great at evading a tackle and lacks the craftiness to beat men in the congested areas; he does not retain possession as well as a player like Modric.
There is no doubt that he has great passing range. But he has to occupy the less crowded space in order to operate effectively. This means playing from deeper in midfield. Sadly this is a position that Sandro has been playing in. So where does Huddlestone fit in?
To put it simply, Sandro is a more defensive option and Huddlestone is the more attacking option. Tottenham’s defence has looked more stable in recent weeks (Bernabeu excluded) and Sandro definitely has an influence on this. But since the brilliant defence display at White Hart Lane against Milan there has been a shift; Spurs have stopped scoring goals. One of Tottenham’s main strengths lies in the pace of Bale and Lennon, a player like Huddlestone will get the best out of them. He has the long passing ability to throw balls out in front of Lennon and Bale and exploit team’s full backs most effectively. Tottenham need this.
When faced with games against Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, Harry Redknapp will have a dilemma. Does he start with Sandro and try and keep it tight? Or does he start with Huddlestone and look to attack from the outset? Does he play both and use Bale at left back and Modric on the left of midfield? These are the questions that Redknapp will be asking himself. If one thing is for sure, it is that Huddlestone’s return to fitness will see Jenas playing less often, and that is a good thing.
As the season comes to a climax, I think Tottenham are going to be most successful if they try and regain the attacking prowess that seems to have seeped out of them in recent weeks. This will mean using Huddlestone and dropping Sandro. Sandro has improved so much and no doubt will continue to improve. But I think the key for Tottenham lies in attack. Playing Huddlestone might mean exposing the defence more often but it will also see Tottenham play a more direct and attacking game. I have more confidence in Tottenham winning an open game than a closed game. This means playing Huddlestone in the holding role and, although it saddens me to say it, dropping Sandro.
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