The Rotation Question?
One of the biggest gripes about Harry Redknapp was that the didn't rotate enough, but AVB might be considered even more rigid in his selection.
At least with Harry we played the kids and squad players in Europe, whilst Villas-Boas, seems to prefer the regular picks game upon game, which could well come back to bite us very hard on the backside in the final third of the season. Of course Spurs made the decision to cut their losses on a number of players that weren't in the clubs long term plans and that has to be considered to be a sensible decision and I can imagine, or at least hope we do the same again with one or two permanent departures in the new year.
Getting rid of the deadwood is very sensible, but in the short term it does possibly mean we lack experience and numbers as and when we need to make changes. We do have some great youngsters coming through, but they are still learning their trade and I do wonder if AVB feels they are ready to make the final step up or perhaps he is simply being a little too cautious. Either way the mix of senior injuries and a lack of games for the kids, could well leave us regretting not resting one or two players when we did have the chance.
To date, I feel AVB has been a little unlucky in his ability to rotate and I also wonder if he is looking at getting a healthy mix of developing a tactical understanding and remaining competitive at the cost of a few tired legs later in the season? Long term losses of Parker, Kaboul, BAE, Adebayor and Dembele have massively restricted his options and perhaps the need to get Dempsey and Sigurdsson up to speed and also seemingly not really fancying the likes of Dawson and Huddlestone, he has left himself with little choice but to stick with his favoured group or play the kids.
Perhaps AVB has learned the lesson from Chelsea that he has to take time to make radical change and also has top get and keep the senior players on side. Is one of the best ways to keep the players happy, simply to play the big names and the rest have to wait their turn or for the transfer window to open once again. We all know that there is a pecking order in most squads, and playing Andros Townsend for example over one or both of Dempsey to Sigurdsson in an important game is a massive statement and one that risks unsettling a dressing room far easier and quicker than leaving out a young player that probably already see's his squad elevation as proof of his development.
In defence of AVB, it is no doubt far easier to drop the odd player into the team when they are playing well and full of confidence, but equally as fans, we talk about rotation, but only really shout about it, when things are not going well. Last season, everyone was talking the adage of sticking with a winning team and it was only when we were struggling for points, was there any real call for change and rotation. When a team is playing well, should you change things unless you have to and what is the best way to rotate a team? Do you change things game upon game or pick a best XI and only change that for Cups or when a player in injured or suspended? Should players feel they have to fight for their place as opposed to simply waiting their turn?
As fans we tend to be hypercritical and demand change when things aren't going as we want them, but when we win, we talk about picking a best team always, with the only exception being if our favourite isn't in or our pantomime villain is in. Problem is that we know from experience that playing the best team for 50+ games a season will only end in tears and that some rotation is essential. If we know it, I'm positive AVB knows it, therefore why isn't he doing it more? Perhaps with the returns of Kaboul, BAE and Parker, we will see the likes of Vertonghen and Sandro get well deserved rests, but we also appear to have a healthy mix of players who can and want to play every game, though sometimes players need saving from themselves.
With the usual busy Christmas and new year schedule, this can be the first indication of tired legs. With a few players returning from injury, is this an ideal opportunity to rest a few to keep them and us fresh. Facing a physically demanding Stoke for example, is that a perfect opportunity to rest William Gallas and start with Dawson at the back? Perhaps even go one further and play and Naughton, resting Walker for Villa. Sadly I have a feeling that Jan Vertonghen is undroppable until we get one or both of BAE and Kaboul back, However lets give him a week off in the build up to the FA up game against Coventry, if not sooner.
It has crossed my mind that we are not yet mentally ready to accept major rotation, partly because we are just about getting to grips with the new tactical demands of a manager and also have a squad that is used to either being in or out of the team. The likes of Man United are masters of making several changes and not detracting too much from the quality they can offer. Perhaps we are getting to a stage where we can rest almost anyone, but we are not quite there and perhaps have to get our minds more than bodies used to playing less and not take being rested in the same way as being dropped...