Spurs left sided weakness

The season is one week away and Spurs have a major problem, no fit central defenders.

The situation is to put it mildly is far from ideal, with Dawson, who didn't take part in a training ground friendly yesterday against Enfield Town, arguably the only central defender likely to be fit for Saturday.

We are going to have the situation again where Spurs start the season with a weakened eleven through injury and not getting players through the door in time.

There is a week to go to get in a left back but it is looking increasingly likely that we are going to have to play Zeki Fryers and Danny Rose on the left hand side of our defence. That is a huge concern and a big weak spot.

Any manager worth his salt will devise a game plan to attack us in that area. Fryers will probably have to deputise centrally, with Vertonghen highly unlikely to make it back from injury in time, although he retains some hope. Ball and Stewart don't have the experience required, not that Fryers has much either.

Kaboul and Sandro, as expected, are not fit which weakens the spine of our side but it's the left where we are likely to concede if we do.

Danny Rose has huge trouble with the ball played inside him as we have seen in the pre-season friendlies he has played. He is not sure whether to step up, go with a runner or stand his ground, whatever he has chosen so far hasn't worked. The problem is his positional play, he is to far from his central defender, he needs to shorten the gap between them.

If the player on the ball  hasn't been pushed in midfield then Rose needs to make him play wide. Aaron Lennon worked on last season and is working on in pre-season cutting in behind the full-back to a ball played inside him, which is exactly how Rose gets caught out regularly.

A player will often look down at the ball before he plays the pass, so as a defender if you can read the game you'll know what's about to happen and can move that split second earlier to prevent it. If you can't read the game then you are simply reacting to what has already happened and you will struggle. If you combine that with allowing the ball to be played inside you, you are on a hiding to nothing and that's Rose's biggest weakness.

The main principle of 4-3-3 defending is to not ball watch, cover dangerous space and keep an eye on your opponent while adjusting, you want to push them, where you want them and not let them dictate to you.

The responsibilities of the full-back defensively are:
a) Quick pressure on the ball when wide forward is in possession
b) Strong and confident tackles; no diving in
c) Stay compact to support central defenders and close down dangerous space
d) Provide depth and balance on opposite side of attack; cover for otherʼs mistakes.
e) Scan the field to make certain all players are marked; no ball watching!

The responsibilities of the central defenders are:
a) Constant communication with back line; play as one
b) Delay central attack, don't dive in; be strong and decisive tackling
c) Quick pressure on he ball with partner in supportive space
d) Stay compact in centre, cover dangerous space
e) Cover for outside defenders if they are beat
f) Be strong in the air clearing high balls

If the gap between full-back and central defender is to big that creates problems for the defence.

Zeki Fryers is a left-back so playing on the left of central defence (Dawson plays right) part of his role is covering for the left back. He is inexperienced centrally so it is hardly surprising the pair of them are disjointed in their approach and not functioning as a unit. Espanyol tomorrow will be another opportunity to develop a little more understanding, if Rose and Fryers play together.

There is another option and that is to play Kyle Naughton. In the behind closed doors friendly against Enfield Town Naughton played left-back for the whole 90 minutes while Rose got 45 minutes as a right-back. In the pre-season games Rose has featured but I have a feeling that Naughton may well start left back a week on Saturday, if not against Espanyol.

He is not ideal either but at least he had some experience there for us and AVB last season. We have to make the best of it and Naughton is probably a better defender than Rose, whilst Rose might offer more when attacking. Naughton has greater defensive positional sense, without which any full-back will struggle and Fryers will need the strongest defensive left-back we have.

Somewhat surprising therefore that Benoit Assou-Ekotto has hardly been seen in pre-season. It doesn't take a genius to work out AVB doesn't like him and when he has occasionally given him a little bit of game time Benny has sometimes gone through the motions. But in the squad as it is at the moment he is the best we have and surely his experience would be of huge benefit to Fryers.

The other option is to buy an experienced left back and reports suggest Fabio Coentrao will be signing next week for around £13 million, but no point in counting chickens until it happens, fingers crossed it does though.

Newly promoted teams give it their all at the start of their Premier League adventures and Palace are going to be on the box as well. We can not afford to be stumbling against sides like this but our weakness on the left and then from set pieces is a concern. It gives them an opportunity they shouldn't have.

One tactic to counter the threat is to push the player with the ball inside in midfield. If we are playing 4-3-3, and that's not a certainty, Dembele on the left of a midfield three and Chadli would have to work together to stop them exploiting the weak spot in the system, out wide. Pushing the opposition more central gives us a numerical advantage and makes defending easier then.

Last year Everton used a tactic effectively, drawing us to our right with a winger staying wide on the left touch line and then Leighton Baines playing long cross field balls to him level with our penalty area, he then had time and space to attack our left back. It's a tactic I can see Crystal Palace using, give a winger time and space to run at a defender and potentially you are in trouble, it's exactly the situation we would want to get Lennon into.

Up until now we haven't seen Paulinho and Dembele together so hopefully the Espanyol game will give us an indication of how we'll be playing this season. I'll be enjoying the game but I'll also be looking to see how we deal with our left sided weakness.





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