Cardiff vs. Tottenham: 6 Things We Learned
The Brazilian's first Premier League goal was a deserved reward for a game Tottenham had dominated, accounting for 63 percent of possession.
Andre Villas-Boas' team had got off 29 attempts at goal and might have scored one of the earlier 12 on target but for the goalkeeping brilliance of Cardiff's David Marshall.
With five matches played, Spurs sit second in the table, with Cardiff down to 16th place. Here are a few things we learned from Sunday's meeting.
Tottenham Need to Improve Their Productivity at Corner Kicks
A byproduct of Tottenham's generally greater share of possession in games—and from the number of long-range shots they have been taking as part of this (more on which later)—is that they are getting a decent number of corner kicks per game.
This season they have won 59 of them in all competitions, with a season-high 12 coming in the win over Cardiff.
Spurs have yet to score from any.
The North London club were largely impotent from corners last season too.
Part of the problem has been the inconsistent quality of deliveries. There is hope Christian Eriksen's firmly struck balls in could herald more chances, but even then, what those crosses are finding in the box is severely lacking.
Aerially, Spurs may not be among the most dominant in the Premier League. But they have height in Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen, while Paulinho and Roberto Soldado are among those who can get headers in on goal.
Spurs rarely look like scoring from corners, though. Given the amount of them they are getting, it is an area Andre Villas-Boas and his coaching staff should attempt to get more from.
Dembele and Paulinho Deserve Their Chance to Take on Chelsea
Following on from great performances versus Norwich City last weekend, Mousa Dembele and Paulinho were once again impressive in their control of midfield.
Cardiff occasionally found their way through to the Spurs' final third, but in and around the centre circle, it was Spurs' midfield partnership that were strongest.
While the more defensively inclined Sandro impressed similarly against (the admittedly lesser opposition of) Tromso in the Europa League, Dembele and Paulinho deserve the chance to prove their own defensive credentials against their Chelsea counterparts Saturday.
Over the last two matches, the latter pair has demonstrated its ability to win the ball back for its team. Similar competitiveness will be needed against the likes of Frank Lampard, Ramires and Oscar.
Optimistically for Spurs, they will give Chelsea something to think about on the attacking front too.
Dembele is again matching the dynamism he so often displayed last season. Paulinho has settled in quickly in England, proving himself an assured and canny performer—as shown by a match-winning goal that was testament to his general alertness to the rhythm of the game throughout the afternoon.
Odemwingie Will Give Cardiff an Extra Edge in Attack
The frustrating thing about the way Peter Odemwingie's time at West Bromwich Albion ended was that it had begun so fruitfully.
After a dispiriting spell in Russia, the Nigerian forward took very well to life in England. Ten goals in his first two seasons with the Baggies played a key role in them cementing their Premier League status.
Even in an unsettled campaign last year, he still netted a further five times. At least up until the farcical non-move to Queens Park Rangers last January, he was still a solid contributor for West Brom.
Against Tottenham, Odemwingie showed signs he could be that for Cardiff too.
Malky Mackay brought him on with just over 20 minutes remaining, and it helped instigate a spell in which the Bluebirds upped the pressure on the visitors.
Even at 32, Odemwingie has a nice burst of acceleration on him. He demonstrated it in running at the Spurs defense—a couple of times threateningly getting in behind them.
One of these latter moments saw him tee up Aron Gunnarsson for a chance the midfielder really should have put away.
Fraizer Campbell and Craig Bellamy have fared decently enough going forward for Cardiff, while the support from midfield has been fine too.
It is the evergreen Odemwingie, though, who has the potential to become their most potent threat in attack.
An Absent Rose Makes Things Interesting for Villas-Boas
Five Premier League matches in, Tottenham have still conceded only one goal this season.
That strike came in the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal and was undoubtedly Spurs' iffiest moment at the back so far. Besides that, there has been little to criticise.
The absence of the injured left-back Danny Rose forced Villas-Boas into a change versus Cardiff. The selection of Kyle Naughton as his replacement was an initial surprise to this writer at least, having last Thursday suggested his future involvement lay solely at right-back.
Naughton's near-complete lack of a left foot caused problems for Spurs, notably when maneuvering onto his right boot he played an under-hit ball that caused problems for Hugo Lloris.
Nearly always having to switch to his natural side too often leads to uncomfortable moments for him and his teammates. But for this defect, Naughton is an otherwise solid full-back.
Despite this, it is hard to disagree with Villas-Boas' decision to keep his central defensive partnership intact.
Dawson and Vertonghen rarely allowed Cardiff a look in. After the chopping and changing in the position last season, the consistency there is looking like benefiting Spurs.
It is unclear how long it will be before Rose returns. Should he miss any more games, Villas-Boas will have some thinking to do about what his best for his defense.
Does Soldado Need a Foil?
Roberto Soldado had one of his livelier outings for Spurs this season versus Cardiff.
Three of his four shots were on target. If you were being a little harsh, you could say he should have have scored at least one of them. That, though, would be a disservice to a superb performance from David Marshall in the Cardiff goal.
Overall it was a positive display from Soldado. The striker got into some terrific scoring positions and on a couple of occasions displayed superb reactions—notably for a rebound to Gylfi Sigurdsson's shot off the crossbar that almost caught Marshall out.
Spurs still need to find a way of involving the Spaniard more.
It is encouraging so many of their midfielders are comfortable in firing off long shots. It offers a different aspect to the Spurs attack beyond their main passing game (particularly with Gareth Bale now gone) and ensures they retain a threat even against tough defenses.
Occasionally though, a little more patience in possession would certainly be appreciated by the Spaniard. In these moments he is getting bypassed, and for that passage of play it renders him temporarily obsolete.
Still, it is early days and it would be overly harsh to knock Spurs' work going forward, especially after a win.
One option Villas-Boas might consider in helping Soldado if things do not improve is by providing a foil for him to work off of.
The chief candidate here might be Harry Kane.
The England youth striker came on for the last 12 minutes wide left in attack. As well as providing a mobile physical presence, he linked up well with his teammates as Spurs took hold of the game again following a Cardiff-heavy period of play.
With Emmanuel Adebayor out of favour right now, Kane has a chance to prove himself. At least as an impact substitution, using him might be a decision Villas-Boas begins to make more frequently.
Marshall Will Keep Cardiff Solid as the Defense Improves
The end result will mean that David Marshall does not regard this performance fondly, but his display against Tottenham was one he should be proud of.
Cardiff had defended decently, but could have lost the game a lot earlier than they did, but for the Scotsman's heroics.
Marshall made 11 saves, showing great variety to deny Soldado, Sigurdsson and Andros Townsend (among others) from a range of distances.
When he was finally beaten by Paulinho, there was little he could do to stop a well-crafted Tottenham move.
As Malky Mackay continues to work to improve his young defense, the presence of Marshall should help him rest easy in the meantime.
Former England Under-21 goalkeeper Joe Lewis will keep Marshall on his toes. The 28-year-old has been around a while now though, and if this game is anything to go by, he is relishing his chance in the Premier League.
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