Tottenham are out to 13/10 sixth-favourites to qualify for the top four this season after their 3-0 home loss to West Ham saw them drop three places to sixth in the Premier League.
Andre Villas-Boas described the result as a ‘wake-up call’ and here are three things he has to smell the coffee about if he is to stand any chance of leading his club into the Champions League next season.
Find a way to get Sandro back in the starting line-up.
The disappointment felt by Lilywhites fans when their ‘Beast’ crumpled into an injured heap at Loftus Road last January was understandable, as the 17-times capped Brazilian had begun to form a fruitful partnership with Mousa Dembele deep in midfield and Spurs had won seven of their last nine league matches coming into the game against QPR.
Fellow Brazilian Paulinho has taken his international teammate’s spot next to Dembele and although the former Corinthians man has impressed with his deft touches and range of passing, the midfield lacks the presence Sandro’s 6ft 2in frame adds when he is selected.
Dembele has started all of the north Londoners’ games this season and Spurs have a 100% record in the two matches Sandro has started alongside the Belgian – with a combined score of five goals for and none conceded – whereas Paulinho’s eight matches so far have included the losses against Arsenal and West Ham and the home draw with Chelsea.
Drop Michael Dawson.
The Tottenham captain forced his way back into AVB’s plans after rejecting a move to QPR in the summer of 2012 and has proved himself to be an excellent organiser. But, he has always struggled against fast forwards, has a poor touch and was walked past by Ravel Morrison for West Ham’s third goal.
Younes Kaboul’s continuing injury problems could give Leeds native Dawson a stay of execution, with new signing Vlad Chiriches only deemed worthy of Europa League football at this stage, but when the French international returns to first team action he should be lining up next to Jan Vertonghen in the Spurs defence.
Formulate a Plan B up front.
Only the bottom five teams in the Premier League have scored less goals than sixth-placed Spurs so far this term and countering that damning statistic by replacing 5ft 10in Roberto Soldado in the starting line-up with 5ft 5in Jermaine Defoe – as AVB did against the Hammers – is hardly an inspired strategic move, particularly considering the coach’s preferred formation requires a striker to battle up front alone.
If the Portuguese’s relationship with target-man striker Emmanuel Adebayor has broken down so irrevocably that the Toga native cannot even be trusted on the bench then an alternative must be sought, while in the meantime 6ft winger Erik Lamela – who scored 15 Serie A goals last season – could be utilised as a distinct option up front.