Tom Carroll has long been heralded as one of our most talented young players, a neat passing playmaker with an eye for a killer ball.
After a handful of appearances in the Europa League during Harry Redknapp’s last term in charge and a loan stint at Derby, it seemed as if he was progressing nicely.
Last season he could have gone out on loan again, but Andre Villas-Boas kept him at the Lane. The head coach handed him some more starts in the Europa League, as well as introducing him to the Premier League from the substitutes bench.
Carroll’s first taste of the top division came in our 1-0 loss to Wigan. That day saw us have plenty of the ball but fail to break down a resolute Latics side that sat deep and made itself compact.
Wigan weren’t the only side that played that way at the Lane, as teams tried to prevent us getting in behind with our speed and pace on the counter.
The signing of Paulinho and the pursuit of Christian Benteke indicate that Andre Villas-Boas is looking to go in to the power game this season. Sandro’s ability to stop anything in its tracks, Gareth Bale’s direct runs and Moussa Dembele’s dribble-drives will now have the added hustle of Paulinho’s box-to-box style, which could potentially be combined with Benteke’s presence in the penalty area.
Last season opposing teams made it difficult for us to get in-behind them. This term, a mixture of speed, strength and power could well overrun them.
On the surface it leaves very little space for Tom Carroll to get a look in. His pure passing style would seem to be at odds with what Andre Villas-Boas is looking to create. However, one thing we have learnt during the Portuguese’s first season in charge is that he always has a plan B. We’ve seen a number of game-changing substitutions that have swung matches and when the power game isn’t working, Tom Carroll could prove to be the key to unlocking opposition defences.
Last season, Tom Huddlestone carved out a role as an emergency quarterback. AVB would bring him in to matches in order to increase the tempo in which the play was transferred from back to front. Huddlestone’s ability to move the ball accurately meant we could turn games against tiring opponents by quickly altering the point of attack.
His performance against Man City was an excellent example of this. He came on and looked to move the ball over distance down the channels and out to the flanks, as well as playing a perfectly weighted through ball to Gareth Bale to score.
With Tom Huddlestone reported to be on the transfer list, Tom Carroll could well find himself in the role of providing the change of pace this season.
He showed last term that he has the ability to move the ball up the field, with 72% of his passes being forward.
His calculated and vertical passing style was in evidence in a number of matches as he tried to find team mates running behind opposition defences.
Tom Carroll vertical passing style
Tom Carroll was handed his first start in the Europa League this season at home to Maribor and he didn’t disappoint.
He not only controlled much of the flow of the game, but his ability to move the ball accurately forward helped carve open the Slovenian side’s defence.
His top passing targets were Gareth Bale and Emmanuel Adebayor, as we heavily attacked down the left side of the field. The length of some of his passing lines show how he moved the ball quickly over distance in order to deliver it to them. His main focus was trying to get in behind through the inside left channel with diagonal passes that eventually saw him assist on Jermain Defoe’s second goal.
It wasn’t just against Maribor where his vertical passing has been on display. He’s also been brought on in Premier League games to unlock defences with his through balls.
With us chasing the game against Fulham, Tom Carroll was introduced with 24 minutes to go and immediately looked to unpick their deep-sitting defence. Although all six of his through passes failed to find their targets, the intent to quicken the tempo with vertical passing and change the game was there.
At home to Everton, he was brought on with minutes remaining as we went in search of a winner. Just as against Maribor, his attempts to unlock the defence with right to left diagonal passing through the inside channels was in evidence once again.
Tom Carroll – the change of pace to the power game?
After getting his first taste of the Premier League last season, Tom Carroll would have been looking to gain more playing time this term.
The addition of Paulinho to an already congested midfield indicates that Andre Villas-Boas is looking to bring an even more physical, athletic style to Spurs this season. While this will mean fewer chances to start for Tom Carroll, it may also provide him with an opportunity to impact games from the bench.
AVB used Tom Huddlestone for that role at times last season and if he is on his way out of White Hart Lane, Carroll has shown that he could step right in. His ability to move the ball quickly and accurately, often over distance, will change the pace and also style of matches to unpick teams that can resist the power game.
Last season, Andre Villas-Boas showed that he was willing to change his tactics mid-match. Whilst Tom Carroll may not be plan A in this campaign, he could well prove to be a very decent plan B.