Andre Villas-Boas defends Tottenham’s lack of creativity after derby loss

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LONDON — Andre Villas-Boas was understandably upset following Tottenham’s narrow 1-0 defeat against Arsenal in the North London derby on Sunday.

And as the Portuguese manager oversees one of the biggest overhauls in Spurs’ recent history, there will be more days like this ahead.

For much of the second half Tottenham pinned the Gunners back as they desperately searched for an equalizer. Full of power, determination and speed, Spurs just couldn’t carve out a decent goalscoring opportunity.

AVB stood hands on hips on the edge of his technical area for most of the game. In stoppage time he ran down the touchline in desperation to instruct Kyle Walker to launch a long-throw into Arsenal’s box. But Spurs came up short, as that cutting edge and creativity that Gareth Bale often delivered late in games last season has vanished.

(MORE: Official; Gareth Bale joins Real Madrid in word record $132 million deal)

Spurs’ manager felt his side deserved more from the game.

“The second half was all ours,” Villas-Boas said. “Great credit to the players for putting them under pressure, for really pushing Arsenal against their goal. But there were not enough clear-cut chances to get that 1-1. There were some positives there for the determination, the ambition, the ability to come to a place like the Emirates and make Arsenal finish with four full backs on the pitch and three defensive midfielders.”

But it just wasn’t enough.

That final pass, a telling cross or extravagant link up play on the edge of the box was missing. In the first half Nacer Chadli and Andros Townsend showed promise down the flanks but Arsenal dealt with their crosses quite comfortably and Spurs hardly got in behind the Gunners defense.

But you know what, that’s okay. It’s to be expected. And there will be plenty more of that in the coming weeks and months as Villas-Boas tries to bed in the seven new signings he acquired after selling Bale to Real Madrid.

source: Reuters
How can AVB conjure more creativity from his new Spurs side?

Does AVB worry about bringing in so many new players at once? Arsene Wenger mentioned earlier this weekend that it could take time for so many new faces to gel…

“No, I’m not concerned,” Villas-Boas said. “But I do agree with his [Wenger] perspective. But it’s not a concern because when you have this quality individually it can only help you achieve things.”

However the former FC Porto and Chelsea manager conceded it will take time to work out the kinks which were evident in Tottenham’s attacking play.

“It’s not a concern but it’s something that we have to work on,” Villas-Boas added. “It’s very difficult with all the stops for international duty, most of our players will go away. But I think it will come through time, through matches and I’m very, very confident because the ability is there from all the players.”

In the post-game press conference I specifically asked AVB about the lack of cutting edge in the first few games of the season, as Tottenham have scored just twice in three games, with both goals coming from the penalty spot.

Is there a lack of creativity?

“I think that is a false question,” Villas-Boas replied. “I don’t think there is a good argument. We came to Arsenal and created lots of chances, obviously there are players that are different from others. There are players that are box-to-box, players that are more creative and have that ability to link up with others.”

(MORE: Tottenham’s sensational rebuild continues as Lamela, Chiriches arrive with others on the way)

AVB started with Moussa Dembele, Etienne Capoue and Paulinho in central midfield. Three imposing figures who were strong in the air, covered a huge amount of ground yet failed to have any real impact on the game going forward.

Tottenham’s 35-year-old manager acknowledged that he must adapt his team as he sees fit. But I can’t help but think were going to see a more robust psychical and powerful Spurs side this season.

Surely that results in reduced creativity in the offensive third?

“You saw two very different teams today with Arsenal and Tottenham but in another way you can reach success through different types of players,” Villas-Boas said. “So I think we have the ability in our squad. And we have both types of players… we just have to choose the right type of strategy for each game.”

One new addition could change Tottenham’s attacking outlook, with Danish international Christian Eriksen signing from Ajax on Friday. The 21-year-old midfielder plays in the number 10 role Spurs are actively experimenting with and AVB believes Eriksen could provide the answer.

“Eriksen is a wonderfully creative player,” Villas-Boas said. “He is a great solution for our number 10 position. I think Christian brings that flair and creativity that we saw at Ajax for these last few years, great ability to see a pass and a player that is used to playing in a high level in Europe. I am extremely pleased to have him.”

Tottenham’s rebuild needs a creative figure to help it flourish. Eriksen could be that man. And now that Bale has officially left… someone has to be.

CCL wrap: FC Dallas disappoints; Club America struts (video)

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The CONCACAF Champions League returned Tuesday with Toronto FC’s 2-0 quarterfinal first leg win in Colorado, and a trio of ties began Wednesday across Panama, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Tauro 1-0 FC Dallas

Veteran striker Edwin Aguilar scored a big goal, and goalkeeper Oscar McFarlane did plenty of good things as the Panamanian side struck a wild first blow against its MLS visitors.

Here’s a random fact underscoring how remarkable of a failure this would be for FC Dallas: Only six of Tauro’s roster members have their own Wikipedia page.

Deportivo Saprissa 1-5 Club America

Cecilio Dominguez and Mateus Uribe each bagged a brace, and Renato Ibarra also scored as the tournament’s top team sauntered into and out of Costa Rica on Wednesday. Club America has been to seven CCL finals, and one every single one.

Motagua vs. Club Tijuana — 10 a.m. ET

Honduran hosts hope to have a leg to stand on — pun intended — once the tie heads to Mexico.

West Ham to friendly neighbors Dag & Red: “Will help save our club”

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English Conference Premier side Dagenham and Redbridge has seen better days, and is getting a hand from a Premier League pal.

[ WATCH: Fred’s vicious free kick ]

West Ham United will pay a visit to Dag & Red as part of the latter’s #SaveTheDaggers campaign, and the March 21 date will cost fans between $7 and $21 to see a top flight side at 6,000-seat Victoria Road.

Dagenham and Redbridge chairman Paul Gwinn said, “It really will help save our club.”

“So please come on down to the Chigwell Construction Stadium for an additional night of football. Bring a friend, or two, or more and we can use the gate takings to help get us back on track,” reads a press release.

Dag & Red was founded in 1992 and climbed as high as League One in 2011, and plays just 2.5 miles from West Ham United’s training ground. Newcastle’s Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle are among Dag & Red alums in the Premier League.

It’s a terrific gesture from West Ham, and is even more impressive in the United States where the growing club game is increasingly cutthroat (especially between non-synced leagues).

Angry Di Francesco extremely quotable after Roma loss

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AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco absolutely roasted his charges after i Lupi tossed aside a Cenzig Under-inspired lead to fall 2-1 at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie on Wednesday.

Di Francesco had praise for Edin Dzeko, who assisted Under’s goal, as well as goalkeeper Alisson, but was mostly enraged by his side.

[ MORE: Recap + Fred’s vicious free kick ]

Rather than construct a narrative, we’re going to point out our five favorite selections from Di Francesco’s post-match talk.

4) “The difference was that in the first half we tried to hurt them while in the second we were looking to hold on – to what? I don’t know.”

— “To what? I don’t know” is hilarious. Di Francesco’s side has posted some serious wins this season, including killing off Chelsea 3-0 at home and coming back from 2-0 to draw the Blues at Stamford Bridge. He doesn’t preach sitting back.

3) “There were far too many schoolboy errors – even by players with a wealth of international experience.”

— Schoolboy errors!

2) “I saw two completely different teams out there today. There were lots of players I should have taken off after we conceded the first goal.”

— Again, one mistake by a number of players on Facundo Ferreyra is enough for Di Francesco. He’s not just happy to be here.

1) “I can’t imagine we’d get arrogant just because we’re winning an important game. It’s not as if Roma are used to reaching the final every year.”

— When you’re willing to essentially rip an entire club’s history — Roma’s been to just two UCL quarterfinals since losing the final to Liverpool in 1984 — you’re putting your footprints in new cement.

Europa League preview: Rating every second leg

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Christian Pulisic and Borussia Dortmund are one of many teams with their UEFA Europa League fates realistically in the balance come Thursday’s second legs of the Round of 32.

[ MORE: Sevilla 0-1 Man Utd | Mourinho reacts ]

Aside from a sextet of big teams posting blowouts, there’s still hope for the Round of 16 and a step closer to an automatic berth in the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League.

Basically done

Atletico Madrid 4-1 Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Lisbon 3-1 Astana — 1 p.m. ET
Arsenal 3-0 Ostersund — 3:05 p.m. ET
Milan 3-0 Ludogorets Razgrad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Spartak Moscow — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga 0-3 Marseille — 3:05 p.m. ET

In four of these cases, the heavy favorites emerged with multiple goal leads and at least three away goals.

Actually done

CSKA Moscow beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0 on Wednesday to win 1-0 on aggregate.

Unlikely, but big club lurks

RB Leipzig 3-1 Napoli — 1 p.m. ET
Villarreal 1-3 Lyon — 1 p.m. ET

In the case of Napoli, their 3-1 home loss to Leipzig was stunning but it’s impossible to rule out a club with such firepower. Villarreal trails by two to Lyon, but is home and dangerous.

Advantage one side, but anyone’s guess

Lokomotiv Moscow 3-2 Nice — 11 a.m. ET
Lazio 0-1 FCSB — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit Saint-Petersburg 0-1 Celtic — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg 2-2 Real Sociedad — 3:05 p.m. ET
Atalanta 2-3 Borussia Dortmund — 3:05 p.m. ET

Salzburg’s two away goals in a draw feels like a one-goal lead, and the one-goal matches are especially interesting. In the case of Atalanta, 1-0 to the Serie A side could undo Michy Batshuayi‘s first leg heroics for BVB.

Wide open

Plzen 1-1 Partizan Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 AEK Athens — 1 p.m. ET

Yes, nil-nil will get it done for the hosts, but there wasn’t a 0-0 in the entire group of first legs.