When Mousa Dembele failed to reappear for Belgium in the second half of their match with Scotland there were a few eyebrows raised amongst Spurs fans. However an Andre Villas-Boas press conference later that week initially assured them that there were no new injuries, giving hope that lasted until the morning of the Chelsea match, when Dembele was ruled out of the game.
Since then information has been unclear about the severity of the injury, with plenty of hope he would play against Maribor, then Southampton, then Norwich, but now it seems likely that the lay-off will be longer than first feared. Reports today have suggested Dembele could be out until mid-December, and with Scott Parker facing a similar period on the side-lines, how should Spurs set up their side for the next few weeks?
Tom Huddlestone is the man in possession of the position, and his first half display against Southampton gave hope that he could be producing some of his better form again. However Huddlestone will always have the problem with mobility on the pitch, and against quick teams like Chelsea, he can leave the back four hopelessly exposed. When Spurs are setting up for a game they can dominate in the midfield, then Huddlestone is an option, but with most teams also playing similar systems to Spurs' 4-2-3-1, he can look overwhelmed in a crowded midfield.
Another route for Spurs could be to move Gylfi Sigurdsson next to Sandro. Whilst he has generally played in a more attacking role, he has the movement and passing ability to start play up from a deeper role. Sigurdsson has looked short on confidence at times this season, but giving him a few games in the position may bring back the assured player that Swansea had last season. The main worry will be the defensive aspect of his game, but with Sandro next to him, he may have a little freedom in that regard.
The last option I'm going to look at would be for Spurs to change to a 4-4-2, with Adebayor coming in to partner Defoe, and one of Dempsey, Sigurdsson and Huddlestone in the middle with Sandro. This route would give Spurs plenty of attacking threat, and perhaps give more room for Bale and Lennon to exploit as they make their runs from deeper. Reverting to 4-4-2 doesn't look a likely option for Villas-Boas, he has set up his squad to play with a lone striker and plenty of attacking midfielders, but given the lack of Dembele and Parker, it's something that could be considered a short term solution.
What do you think Spurs should do in the absence of Dembele?
image: © apasciuto