It has been a hectic summer for fans of Tottenham, drastic squad reshaping and not to mention the Bale saga has seen a very different looking Spurs side enter the new Premier League season. A move to a 3-man midfield has allowed Villas-Boas’ side to stifle opposition early on this term; do Spurs now have a midfield to instil fear into anyone?
The moves Spurs have made so far in the window would seem to add weight to suggestions that Andre Villas-Boas will now revert to the 4-3-3 system that proved so successful for him during his time at Porto. Relying on extremely athletic box-to-box midfielders as well as dynamic defensive options, the system will see a flat midfield 3 that flexibly offers cover for the wingbacks, and also rotationally poses an attacking threat of its own.
Villas-Boas confirmed such a ploy was used during Sunday’s 1-0 victory over Swansea City, with Dembele, Paulinho and Capoue initially setting up as a flat midfield 3. Capoue did an excellent job of screening the back-line whilst the other two were given the freedom to attack in turn.
Swansea have been renowned for and extremely successful when playing a free flowing possession based game. Last season they went to White Hart Lane and managed to take a lion’s share of the possession. On Sunday they simply couldn’t string more than a couple of passes together in succession, and this was in no doubt down to the pressing game the Tottenham midfield were able to employ.
As soon as Swansea got a foot on the ball in midfield they were immediately hounded off it by one of the Tottenham heavies. It is no wonder Swansea struggled to create meaningful openings when Spurs were able to turn over possession so readily.
Tottenham sides of the past have often been criticised for their soft centres, teams often able to drive straight through their core. The team Villas-Boas is building now has a real edge to it, that will see it stand up against even the most physical of opponents.
There is no doubting that Roberto Soldado represents the marquee signing so far, but in terms of importance the captures of Paulinho and Capoue are right up there as well. Add to these the returning beast that is Sandro Raniere and Spurs clearly have the physicality in the middle of the park to rival any.
Don’t mistake this crop for being a collection of hard-hitting thugs, the midfield Villas-Boas is building displays the kind of balance that any midfield should aspire towards. Etienne Capoue already looks to be a complete rock who reads the game well and breaks up play constantly. Paulinho and Sandro on the other hand perfectly marry the brutish strength of an English midfielder with the creative flair that can be expected of a Brazilian. Whilst it is early days for Paulinho, a number of clever flicks and pieces of link up play with Soldado represent the kind of things Spurs fans can expect to see going forward.
The manager himself is clear just as excited by this prospect as fans are, commenting on the club’s website post match:
“We deserved to win, created lots of chances, were sound defensively and that’s why we had so much of the ball against a team that normally dominates other teams. Our shape was tremendous, Capoue protecting and Paulinho’s workrate was immense. I’m really happy with the performance.”
With the current midfield set-up it is unlikely that Spurs will offer up much in the way of opportunities to any opposing side. Already having demonstrated their ability to terrorise a more rugged Crystal Palace midfield, how must the likes of Wilshere and Ramsey be feeling ahead of the upcoming North London derby?
A side notorious for being lightweight and bereft of that hard-hitting midfielder, do Spurs now have the side to dominate the ‘gunners’ in the middle of the park?
I think you would now struggle to find a central midfield to match the physicality of Tottenham’s. Trips to places like Stoke and Sunderland will no longer carry the same fear for fans, safe in the knowledge that they have the resources to compete physically whilst maintaining the creative dominance which has already been there for many years.
Villas-Boas’ focus on midfield this summer has perhaps been unsurprising, now he possesses the tools to crush any opposition attack before it even begins, Spurs have a wealth of talent in the middle of the park. Will the likes of Wilshere feel the effects of the developing midfield menace at Tottenham?
Do Spurs now have the most intimidating midfield in the League?