As Tottenham Hotspur wrap up their pre-season tour of America, new boss Andre Villas-Boas will have a few things to mull over on his return to the UK.
Spurs play the last of three matches when they take on New York Red Bulls in the early hours of Wednesday morning and Villas-Boas will come back to London with plenty of positives, but also one glaring weakness to sort out.
Following Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool, the former Chelsea boss declared himself ‘extremely pleased’ with the performance and effort of his side in the sweltering Baltimore heat, but the draw with the Merseysiders was more notable for the tackle on Gareth Bale by Charlie Adam and the subsequent verbal outburst from the injured Welshman than any footballing action that happened on the pitch.
Although Tottenham did have the better of the few chances, their defensive solidity pleased the Portuguese, who was happy with the improvement he saw from the 1-1 draw with LA Galaxy.
But AVB is bound to be worried about the team’s lack of goals. Yes, at this stage of pre-season nobody expects free-flowing goal-fests, but Tottenham have looked shot shy and the lack of out-and-out senior forwards at the club is a concern.
The most recognised striker, Jermain Defoe, sadly had to leave the US to return home after a family bereavement, which, in the absence of Emmanuel Adebayor (still negotiating his transfer from Manchester City) and Roman Pavyluchenko (sold to Lokomotiv Moscow), means Spurs are relying on young Harry Kane to lead the line.
It is a situation that Villas-Boas will need to address before the transfer window closes, but in the meantime it could pay to take advantage of the Lilywhites’ striking problems with the bookies.
Tottenham are priced up as 4/5 favourites with bwin, with New York at 14/5 and the draw at 12/5, but it may be worth looking towards goals markets for a profit on this one.
The Red Bulls boast some names familiar to English fans, none more so than former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry (so often the scourge of Tottenham in the past) and new acquisition Tim Cahill, signed last week from Everton for £1 million, and their mix of overseas talent and American stars is providing a good combination as they sit top of the Eastern Section of the MLS, one point above Houston Dynamo.
Coach Hans Backe, who enjoyed a trophy-laden stint as manager of Danish side Copenhagen in the early noughties, has a pretty much full squad to choose from for the first time this season and as we have seen from the American sides who have faced Premier League opposition over the summer, the Red Bulls will be taking this friendly extremely seriously.
And because I’m expecting a competitive match, I like the even money that there are under 2.5 goals. Anyone backing this selection with their free £20 bet upon registering with bwin would pocket £40 if successful.
Five of New York’s last eight home games have finished with two goals or less (three of them have been 1-0 home victories), while Tottenham’s lack of attacking options – as well as their striker crisis, Spurs have big doubts over Bale and the injured Rafael van der Vaart, while the want-away Luka Modric is still absent – and three goals in three friendly matches doesn’t have me rushing into that odds-on price about Spurs.
Instead, the evens on two goals or less is my advice, especially as Spurs have looked solid during pre-season and have no desire to chase goals at this stage of the summer.
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