Time for Lewis Holtby to get a chance as a number ten?

Lewis Holtby arrived at White Hart Lane and was expected to fill the creative void behind a central striker. After making his debut only days later at Norwich, the German international has had to be content with a place on the bench recently.

If one thing was highlighted in our loss to Fulham at the Lane on Sunday, it was the need for a passing number ten to unlock a stubborn defence. The Cottagers sat back, condensing the space between the lines, packing the middle of the park and were difficult to break down.

We’ve had difficulty opening up teams who have backed off at the Lane, so could Lewis Holtby be the answer?

Lewis Holtby for Schalke

Lewis Holtby started this season in the blue of Schalke. He was deployed as a number ten behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in their 4-2-3-1 formation and led the team in assists in both the Bundesliga and Champions League.

He was very much a vertical passer, who looked to get his striker in through the channels. If we take a look at two games just before he left, we can see just that.

Against Hannover he moves across the width of the pitch, but most of his passes are forwards. He plays in several balls down the channels in to the penalty area, with the inside left being particularly prosperous with two chance-creating key passes. These turned in to goals for Julian Draxler and Marco Hoger.


Lewis Holtby passes played Schalke vs Hannover.

A couple of matches earlier against Freiburg, he was at it once more, but creating through the inside right channel this time. The vertical nature of his passing was again prevalent as he created a goal for Jefferson Farfan, who was cutting inside from his position on the right.


Lewis Holtby passes played Schalke vs Freiburg.

Overall, Lewis Holtby had 7 assists in 19 Bundesliga matches for Schalke this season, whilst also scoring 4 goals.

Lewis Holtby for Spurs

After signing Lewis Holtby for Spurs, Andre Villas-Boas hailed him as “the bargain of the century,” lofty praise indeed. He also said that he would “fill the No.10 position, although he can play on the right or the left and he has also played in a holding role.”

Since his arrival at the Lane, Lewis Holtby has been used across the midfield on both the right and left sides, but very infrequently as a number ten.

It’s had a major effect on his game, making him less creative and also less adept at winning the ball back, one of his strengths in Germany.

For Schalke
For Spurs
Shots per game1.61.6
Key passes per game1.50.8
Dribbles per game1.40.2
Tackles per game2.51.2
Interceptions per game0.80.4

Whilst he is still averaging 1.6 shots per game in his brief time at Spurs, Lewis Holtby is only half as creative.

For Schalke he was creating 1.5 chances per game, whereas for us he is only making 0.8 opportunities per match.

Being played wide more often than not, his ability to win the ball back is also not being utilised to the fullest. For Schalke, he was making 2.5 successful tackles per game and 0.8 interceptions, whereas his numbers for Spurs are half of these figures.

The biggest fall off though is in successful dribbles per game.

Lewis Holtby is not a vertical driving dribbler like Moussa Dembele. The German uses his skills on the ball to evade defenders as he buzzes around the pitch, creating time and space for himself to pick a pass. It is this skill which is probbaly being utilised the least by playing him in wider areas.

Time for Lewis Holtby to get a chance as a number ten?

When he was signed in January, Lewis Holtby was supposed to be the creative spark that would set our strikers alight. Instead he’s been shifted around the midfield and he’s looked half the player he was in Germany.

Gareth Bale has been playing as the number ten in recent matches and whilst he is a more of a direct dribbler, Lewis Holtby is able to open up defences with his passing.

It is this that we were missing on Sunday for much of the match against Fulham. Someone who could create time and space in congested areas, then pick a pass to unlock the opposition.

He’s proved that he could do it in the Bundesliga and after having his transfer brought forward, should be given the chance to prove himself here.

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6 Responses to Time for Lewis Holtby to get a chance as a number ten?

  1. Afiq 21st March 2013 at 2:54 am #

    It’s so obvious that we are missing a creative no.10,and that person is Holtby. But AVB prefers Bale in that position right now,rather than Holtby,Siggy or even Dempsey. Hopefully AVB starts Holtby when we face Swansea this Sunday. Why Spurs sign him if he just keep warming the bench? Another question is,if Holtby do starts this Sunday at his no.10 position,where will Bale play?

    • Afiq 21st March 2013 at 2:58 am #

      #next week Sunday

      • Afiq 21st March 2013 at 3:03 am #

        #next week Saturday,sorry

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd March 2013 at 5:17 pm #

      I would like to see Bale moved to a wide forward role where he can cut in to the centre from the left. AVB likes fluidity in his side with players changing positions to keep opponents off guard and so we can hit them from different areas. Therefore he could also exchange positions with Holtby in the centre from time-to-time to keep the opposition off-balance.

  2. Chris 22nd March 2013 at 5:05 am #

    Need to be careful and not pile on these expectations for a guy who’s only just arrived (mid-season). Let him work his way into the team – with our current strikers, any purely creative player is going to struggle to create goals (creating chances, maybe, but goals…)!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 22nd March 2013 at 3:51 pm #

      I agree that you don’t want to just throw him in and he should be worked in to the team like Hugo Lloris was. Holtby has had a fair amount of time to work within AVB’s system now, so why did we £1.5m to bring him in January if we’re going to park him on the bench when he was going to come in the summer on a free anyway? We do need goals from a source other than Gareth Bale and he could be the one to get Defoe/Ade firing.