Brad Friedel is displeased
Well, that was a bit of a roller coaster ride.
After Mark Albrighton's tap-in goal, I thought that Spurs were going to be in for a very long match. When Emile Heskey got hurt and was substituted for John Carew, I thought "maybe we'll get a point out of this." When Rafael van der Vaart scored the equalizer at the end of the first half, I thought "we've got a decent shot at winning this match." When Roman Pavlyuchenko was substituted off for Aaron Lennon at halftime, I thought "we're going to win, Villa are screwed." And I was right.
Villa's only goal came in the 16th minute on a comedy of errors by Spurs defense. Benoit Assou-Ekotto was caught out of position, Sebastian Bassong failed to make an easy clearance, and Alan Hutton got burned. After skinning Bassong, Heskey made a great cross to Albrighton who just had to tap it in. It was a sequence that exposed the makeshift nature of Spurs' backline, even if fill-in center back Tom Huddlestone wasn't at fault.
Spurs found the equalizer right before the halftime whistle. Roman Pavlyuchenko played a ball up to the head of Peter Crouch, who nodded the ball over towards Rafael van der Vaart who climbed above Richard Dunne to win the ball and level the score. The three attackers had created plenty of opportunities for themselves and each other during the match, and their goal was well deserved.
The substitution of Aaron Lennon for Pavlyuchenko at halftime was the catalyst Spurs needed to take control of the game. They played considerably better football in the second half, having about 60% of the possession after having a minority of the possession in the first half. His inclusion gave the team more width and allowed van der Vaart to have less defensive responsibilities in a central attacking role.
The Dutchman would get his brace and the winner for Spurs in the 75th minute. The move was started when Jermaine Jenas played a brilliant 50 yard ball wide to Lennon. Lennon hit a cross for Crouch, who knocked the ball down to van der Vaart. Spurs' £8m signing made no mistake about slamming the ball into the back of the net, putting the icing on the cake of his best performance thus far in a Spurs shirt.
The win was an important three points earned for Spurs as they moved up the table, past Aston Villa, into fifth place.
Some other notes from the game:
-Other than the ball described above, Jermaine Jenas was back to his useless ways. With him and Palacios providing next to nothing, is it time for Sandro to get his shot?
-The Crouch-Pavlyuchenko pairing does not work. It has to be one or the other in the side.
-Luka Modric didn't have his best game in the center of midfield. I think he can play with a holding midfielder and VDV in front of him, though. He just needs to get his form back. Only time will tell.
-Tom Huddlestone was surprisingly good at center back. Still, he's a much better midfielder and we need some of these guys to get healthy fast.
-John Carew was really, really bad for Villa. The momentum of the game shifted drastically when he came on for Heskey. I don't know if I've ever seen a substitution have such an obvious and sudden negative impact.
-Mark Albrighton is going to be an absolute superstar in a couple of years.
-Stiliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker suck. The fact that we didn't get punished for playing Jenas and Modric in the center of midfield is absurd. I know that Stephen Ireland has played poorly in a Villa shirt and box-to-box midfielder is not his natural position, but it can't possibly be a worse setup than Petrov and NRC. They were useless.
-Finally, when everyone gets healthy, this Spurs team has the potential to be really, really nasty. My only concern is that I don't think we can play our best with Crouch, Defoe, and van der Vaart in the same side. Trying to get all three of those guys into the same side is likely to be a tactical CF. van der Vaart has not looked great when he is asked to play on the wings. When he cuts inside, he leaves the fullback to essentially do two jobs, and we don't have a Daniel Alves or Ashley Cole. For now, our first choice team should have van der Vaart behind Crouch with Bale and Lennon on the wings. Hopefully, after Spurs' performance in the second half today, Harry realizes that.
No Europe, no cup, and an international break. Gross. No Spurs until October 16th. What are we going to do with ourselves? Write outrageously speculative posts with almost no basis in reality? Of course that's what we're going to do! See ya'll on Monday.