The unfortunate injury to Christian Eriksen whilst on international duty could leave the door open for Lewis Holtby to step up.
The German has had opportunities to play in the Europa League and Capital One Cup, whilst also getting some recent game time against Villa, Everton and Hull.
Whilst he and Christian Eriksen appear to be vying for the same role at the head of our midfield trio, the two offer slightly different qualities to the team. Eriksen is more of a direct dribbling number ten who has an eye for a pass, but can also shoot. Holtby on the other hand seems to have a better feel for playing incisive vertical balls.
Lewis Holtby going vertical
Although the competition hasn’t been as tough, Lewis Holtby has shown in the Europa League and Capital One Cup his ability to move the ball quickly up the pitch.
These injections of tempo often catch defences on their heels and allow us to execute our plan to hit a runner through the defence.
In Spurs 3 Dinamo Tbilisi 0 at the Lane he did just this on Jermain Defoe’s opener, as he quickly moved the ball forward in to the path of the striker.
Away at Anzhi, his ability to hit a vertical pass played a major part in our 2-0 win.
Jermain Defoe was once again the target as he slipped off his marker. However, Holtby’s vision to move the ball north-south fashioned the opportunity in amongst a crowded Anzhi defence.
The second goal in that game also arrived after Holtby’s ability to move the ball quickly forward.
Erik Lamela came short to pull the Anzhi full back out of position, allowing Kyle Walker to fire forward on the overlap. Holtby’s awareness and vision saw him ping a long ball to Kyle jetting in-behind.
Walker then squared for Nacer Chadli to roll home, but Lewis Holtby quickly moving the ball vertically up the pitch to Walker caught out a defence that was sitting deep.
At home to Tromso, Lewis Holtby was at it once again. His quick vertical pass found Jermain Defoe to score his second of the evening. What impressed was not only his ability to move the ball north, but also to shift it whilst in amongst a crowd.
But it’s not just been in the Europa League that Lewis Holtby’s more vertical style of passing has been effective. Against Aston Villa, a slightly higher standard of defence, the German was at it once more.
Again the target was Jermain Defoe, but Holtby’s beautifully lofted pass in to the striker has arguably been our pass of the season so far. His ability and vision to move the ball quickly up the field against an on-rushing defence was simply sublime.
To add to that pass, with the game won at 3-0, he also found Defoe to add a fourth goal. This time the vertical pass was against just one man as we broke quickly. However, the passage of play also highlighted Holtby’s ability to win the ball back in midfield and then to hit the right pass for the easy score.
Can Lewis Holtby combine with Roberto Soldado?
The million-dollar question right now.
With Lewis Holtby playing the majority of his minutes in the Europa League and Capital One Cup, he has struck up a good relationship with Jermain Defoe. What we’ve not seen yet is that kind of link up play with Roberto Soldado.
The two haven’t played that many minutes together and so any understanding really has only had time to blossom on the training pitch. There were some signs against Everton and Hull that the two were getting on the same wavelength, but nothing concrete.
Soldado does like the ball to be put in or through to him early, so (on paper), the two should combine well together.
Time for Lewis Holtby to shine?
AVB’s plans with regards to Lewis Holtby remain unclear as to whether he sees him as a true number ten or if he’ll set up slightly deeper. For the foreseeable future, it seems as if he’s going to be Christian Eriksen’s back up once the Dane is healthy and acclimatised to the Premier League.
What we also don’t know is whether in the light of Eriksen’s injury, AVB will replace the Dane with a similar player or if he’ll revert back to the big, power midfield? This was the one that we saw earlier in the season when Sandro or Etienne Capoue was teamed-up with Moussa Dembele and Paulinho. However, whilst this midfield was strong and excellent in the defensive phase, it wasn’t that creative.
What we do know is that Lewis Holtby offers us something different and his incisive vertical balls may just be the thing to get us moving quicker in the final third.