It certainly wasn´t pretty but in difficult conditions we eventually came away with an away win and two away goals to take into the second leg next week so half the job is done – probably the most difficult half – with home advantage to follow.
A few stand out performances with Harry Kane beginning to show the promise that his displays for the under 21s have not been a flash in the pan and Eric Lamela´s cameo at the end providing further proof that he is indeed a talent worth persevering with.
Lamela´s direct approach following his introduction was the key which unlocked the AEL Limasol defence allowing first Soldado and then Kane to strike so beautifully and give us that crucial advantage.
On the negative side Vertonghen was far from his best and obviously not fully fit while Paulinho seems to still be suffering from the malaise which affected his entire World Cup campaign. That they both contributed in equal measure to the Limassol goal should not be underestimated. Poor passing and control and then getting in each other´s way leaving an opponent with a free run on goal is not ideal but at least they got some game time and proper match practice.
But that is all in the past as we look to keep our Premier League campaign on track with yet another tricky London derby. The last time we played QPR at home in the League (two seasons ago) we managed a hard fought 2-1 victory and whilst the same result would be acceptable I cannot help but feel that this is one of those games where we need to dominate from the start and score a lot of goals.
In the past few seasons we have always – and I do mean always – managed to concede too many goals and score too few meaning our goal difference inevitably suffers. Winning by the odd goal is all well and good but then losing by four or five to the likes of Liverpool or Citeh – as we did twice to each last season – means we will always be playing catch up. The likes of Liverpool and Citeh would view a home match against a team like QPR as a hard fought three points first and foremost but then as a way of improving their goals for column.
And that is precisely what we must do. At home to any but the best teams in the League – and realistically there are only three or four that come into that category – we have to win convincingly. I do not even mean we need a good attractive display. At the moment I would take a scrappy game and a three or four goal margin over an impressive display and a narrow win.
So who would I entrust to such a job? And what formation?
Firstly there are really only three players whose names should appear on the team sheet without any question marks hanging over them – Lloris, Eriksen and Lamela. The first two were our outstanding performers last season and so far this season Lamela has shown that he has what it takes to be a regular.
In defence, with injuries to Walker and Chiriches and with Naughton suspended, it looks likely that Dier will be required to deputise at right back, so the centre back pairing will be a straight choice between two of Kaboul, Vertonghen and Dawson. QPR will opt for pace through the middle with Remy so we cannot go with Dawson. At left back we have the experience of Rose against the more youthful Davies and for the moment I would go for experience.
Assuming we stick with just one striker and five midfielders it then boils down to which five midfielders and their respective roles.
I am all for picking a team and a formation to play against a specific opposition and this is exactly a case in point. Do we need two defensive holding midfielders for a game like this – or will one be sufficient and if so who – Capoue, Bentaleb or Sandro?
A year ago I would have opted, without question, for the Beast but now I am not so sure. Off the pitch he is even more of a legend than he is on it – his kick-boxing and guitar playing are notorious on YouTube – but those on pitch performances have deteriorated as his catalogue of injuries have taken their toll. He publicly fell out of favour with Tim Sherwood and does not seem to feature in the plans of Pochettino with him only just making the squad for the trip to Cyprus.
Bentaleb has now played twice so is the man in possession but he seems more at home when playing alongside another holding player so for me Capoue is the ideal candidate to protect the back four and once in possession move the ball swiftly and effectively forward. As he showed for 60 minuutes last weekend he is also more adept at playing in a central defensive role so as and when we gain the upper hand we can switch quite easily to three at the back allowing the two full backs more freedom to roam forward.
I would, as I stated earlier, go with Lamela and Eriksen as part of an attacking midfield quartet but who to accompany them. At the start of last season I was looking forward to seeing what we could achieve with Lamela on one wing and Townsend on the other – both can play with both feet, both are tricky, have explosive pace and possess great shooting capabilities, coming off either wing or through the middle.
To accompany those three it is a choice between Dembele, Chadli, Paulinho or Holtby. All four offer something different. The first three are big and powerful but having returned late from World Cup duty they are lacking in fitness and with Pochettino demanding a high pressing game Holtby´s running and energy could give him the edge. If he runs out of steam one of the others can take over for the last 20 minutes.
Up front is where we continue to struggle – we have three very good strikers who on their day can be matchwinners. Unfortunately we never know when that day is going to come.
Adebayor is a world class player when fully on song and is a real handful for any defender, Soldado has not become a bad player simply on the back of one season where he received no service but Kane is the current in-form and confident player.
QPR will probably start with seasoned campaigner Ferdinand alongside new signing and former Spurs defender Caulker so who to ruffle their feathers. I would opt for Kane with either or both of the more experienced pair to come on for the last 30 minutes or so.
My team – if I were to pick it – would therefore be :
Dier Kaboul Vertonghen Rose
Lamela Eriksen Holtby Townsend
This is only my suggestion – what would yours be?