For many years Spurs were conspicuous for their inability to play their best football when travelling, and although this has changed a little in their successful recent years, there was still a clear disparity between the confident side at White Hart Lane and the team that went on the road.
This year, however, this has been turned on its head. Spurs have often played their best football when away, winning two out of three matches and generally looking more threatening, whilst sluggish performances at the Lane have yielded only two wins from their first five games there.
This is partly due to the formation Spurs have adopted under Andre Villas-Boas, but is more to do with new players taking a little time to settle in. With the 4-2-3-1 it is easy to settle into a counter-attacking rhythm, and this naturally yields better results when away from home, as the opponents are generally happier to attack Spurs. In broken play, players like Bale, Lennon and Defoe can be devastating with their pace and directness. At home they are often up against two banks of four, and rarely get the space to exploit that they do when away.
But this is something that has been true of Spurs for years, and hasn't stopped them dominating sides at the Lane. The difference may be that Spurs players' haven't become entirely confident in the formation, meaning they are standing off sides a little too much. When playing 4-2-3-1 against sides who are happy to defend all match, Spurs have to push their whole side further up the pitch, with the full backs drawing in line with the likes of Sandro and Dembele to try and win the ball in the opponents half. Villas-Boas was frequently criticised for playing a high line at Chelsea, but is hasn't been readily apparent at Spurs, and is an integral part of the formation he is playing at home.
Linking up the midfield with the lone striker requires the whole midfield to move up the pitch, sitting back and trying to create space for the likes of Bale only works if the other team is prepared to come onto you. Spurs must throw caution to the wind and shift their team forwards as a unit to press sides at White Hart Lane. At the moment teams are forcing all the play to happen in front of them, with Bale, Lennon and Dempsey playing passes thrity yards from goal. It needs to be Dembele, Sandro, Walker and whoever is at left back that operate in that area, freeing up the attackers to make runs in front of them.
This style of play requires confidence, and so it should be something that happens naturally as the players settle in the system. Nothing creates confidence like winning in front of your fans, if Spurs can win their next two home games against Wigan and Maribor, and show more adventure in those games than before, they should be able to start playing their best football at home once again.
image: © TottenhamFan