In amongst all of the goings on at the Emirates on Saturday, Tom Carroll coming in to the game for Tom Huddlestone may have gone largely unnoticed.
The 20 year-old has been climbing the ladder and after going on loan over the past two seasons, he received several starts under Harry Redknapp in the Europa League.
It wasn’t until this term that he made his Premier League bow and after coming on for his debut against Wigan, Carroll enjoyed another 19 minutes against the Gooners.
Rather than just getting a run out in the cup competitions, Andre Villas-Boas has given youth a chance at the top level. Steven Caulker, Kyle Naughton, Jake Livermore and Andros Townsend have all enjoyed minutes in the Premier League. So, is it time for Tom Carroll to get a chance and at the expense of the man he replaced on Saturday?
The effect of Tom Huddlestone
Without Moussa Dembele partnering Sandro, our midfield has been very unbalanced.
When the Belgian is alongside the Brazilian, the two operate as a fluid interchangeable pair. When one goes forward, the other covers. Usually it is Dembele driving on and Sandro sitting in front of the defence, but if the Brazilian gets forward, then the Belgian drops in to mop up.
I’ve written before on the effect Tom Huddlestone has on the team due to the fact that he likes to drop deep to pick up the ball and spray long passes around. This forces Sandro up the field where he has to be more of a creative force more often. The Brazilian can get forward, as we saw when analysing “Sandro is more than a defensive machine,” but he shouldn’t be doing this for the majority of the game.
If we look at our match with Chelsea, we can see how Tom Huddlestone is playing the majority of his passes over distance from our half, whilst Sandro is operating up in theirs.
The effect of Tom Carroll
Tom Carroll has made a couple of brief appearances in the Premier League, but we’ve already seen from his Europa League exertions this season and last, that he plays higher up the park.
If we look at his 90 minutes against Maribor when he partnered Tom Huddlestone in our 4-4-2, we can see how the two operate.
There are a number of notable points.
The first is that whilst Tom Huddlestone is content to receive the ball deeper in the formation, Tom Carroll gets higher up the pitch in order to make his passes.
The second is the length of passes played by each man. Huddlestone pings longer balls from his deeper position and moves it left and right. A couple of his passes reach their targets on the edge of the opposition box, but these are played over great distance. Carroll on the other hand generally plays a lot shorter passes, but is also up in the opposition box looking to play through balls and put team mates in.
The third point elaborates on that and is the number of forward passes each player makes. Of Carroll’s 87 attempted passes in the match, 52 are forward and we can see the attacking nature of his game more clearly. Of Tom Huddlestone’s 66 passes in the game, only 33 are forward, but they are also more diagonal rather than vertical up the pitch.
Tom for Tom?
Since Moussa Dembele last appeared for us against Aston Villa, we’ve lost four out of five Premier League matches. Admittedly that run has included games with Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal, but the Spurs midfield has looked unbalanced since the Belgian has been out.
Tom Huddlestone can ping the ball about, but his tendency to drop deep is forcing Sandro to play further forward. Nowhere was this better illustrated than against Arsenal on Saturday, when the Brazilian’s headed through ball set up Gareth Bale’s goal.
The problem of when Sandro does get forward is that we need another capable player defensively to cover him to avoid being hit by a counter. Although Tom Huddlestone is sitting deeper, he is not in the same league as Moussa Dembele defensively at stopping the opposition. Neither is Tom Carroll for that matter, but he does get forward and offer a threat up the field. This would leave Sandro to play deeper and concentrate on defensive duties, rather than being forced in to the attacking third.
Andre Villas-Boas has given youth a chance this season in the Premier League, so until Moussa Dembele returns, why not give Tom Carroll a go alongside Sandro?