Spurs v Swansea: Llorente’s impact

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Fernando Llorente – walesonline.co.uk

Fernando Llorente made a huge difference when he came on against Crystal Palace last week. He grabbed both the equalizer and winner in injury time, but also occupied defenders and that helped Leroy Fer score twice at the back-post just after he came on.

Llorente contributed more in that half hour than he did in his previous 10 appearances for the Swans. He has started eight games so far and it may be that he performs better when he comes off the bench and Swansea can afford to throw players forward in support of him later in games. In the first half, midfielders tend to be more disciplined and therefore strikers can be isolated.

It remains to be seen whether Llorente has the pace to start up top on his own, especially against fifth place Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino’s side have only lost once and with Danny Rose returning from suspension to replace the suspect Kevin Wimmer at left-back, they boast arguably the best defence in England.

Unfortunately, such consistency at the back is yet to be augmented by quality in possession. Last season, Moussa Dembele was winning the ball back for Spurs, then holding onto it under pressure in midfield, allowing more attacking players to get into good positions. Victor Wanyama offers the same physical presence but other areas of his game are more limited and a fully fit Dembele was the player holding everything together.

Harry Kane has scored five of the 13 Premier League goals Tottenham have scored when the 22-year-old has played. Heung Min-Son is the second top league scorer with four, Dele Alli the third with three yet neither have netted in the last six weeks. Christian Eriksen scored an impressive long-range strike at Chelsea and one hopes that catalyses an improvement in form from the Dane, because Tottenham are relying too heavily on Kane.

Swansea have not been reliant on any strikers this season, but instead two attacking midfielders. Fer and Gylfi Sigurdsson have looked their most likely sources of goals and both perform best when they are given a free attacking role in front of the midfield.

The dilemma for Bob Bradley is which one to start in their best position. If Sigurdsson, he must choose whether to drop Fer further back at the expense of Jack Cork or the impressive Jay Fulton. If Fer plays in the hole, he must decide whether to use Sigurdsson as a false nine at the expense of Llorente, or start the latter up top and shoehorn the Icelander into a wide position.

To maintain some defensive balance in North London, sacrifices must be made.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-0

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