Pleat happy to win by odd one in seven

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There was a demonstration to the press by an internet specialist at White Hart Lane yesterday, showing journalists how best to dispatch their reports in the most efficient way, cutting out such previously vital elements as telephones.

With nine goals conceded in Tottenham's last three games, getting the message across to his defence is something David Pleat would appear to need to do quick-sharp. Yet Spurs' caretaker manager is in no hurry to abandon a style of play that has also seen his side notch up 11 goals in those matches.

Entertaining does not do justice right now to the men from London N17: 3-4, 4-3 and, most recently, 4-2, have been the scorelines in Spurs' last three games. It has been an unlikely series of results that might even make the most diehard Arsenal fan cock one ear tomorrow afternoon and find out what possible mayhem has occurred when Tottenham host Leicester City.

That 3-4 defeat, against Manchester City, has already gone down in FA Cup lore, a fourth-round home replay that could have irretrievably scarred Tottenham for the rest of what has already been a traumatic season.

Yet, somewhat improbably, their riposte was to beat Portsmouth 4-3 three days later, also at home. Their away win over Charlton 10 days ago was humdrum by comparison. After all, it only finished 4-2 in Spurs' favour.

But Pleat, the north Londoners' caretaker until the summer, has a taste for all this action now. Asked if he would prefer to stop winning 4-3, he joked: "We'd rather win 10-4."

With no game last weekend, leading to the enforced long break, Pleat claims he has not tried to change what he now sees as a winning formula. Tottenham fans will, for the most part, be glad to hear he is sticking by Spurs' tradition of open, attacking football. There will clearly be no battening down the hatches around these parts.

As Pleat said: "We haven't done any tightening. We haven't played anyone to tighten against. We don't want the Leicester game to be a bore-draw because we got criticised for that, during the first five or six games [when I took over] when we tightened the defence. We were playing mundane, Sky-Television matches, so I was reading.

"We have got more attack-oriented, or appear to have done, if you believe the scorelines. The scorelines can lie a little bit. It might not be a poor defence, just a lazy forward line not getting back enough."

Frédéric Kanouté, returning this week from African Nations Cup duty with Mali, might raise an eyebrow at that, especially when Spurs would appear to have just the person to shore up their defence. In Ledley King, English football's flavour of the week after his showing in midweek against Portugal, Pleat has a ready-made, apparently international-class central defender.

Ever the contrarian, Pleat is going to keep King in his customary position for Spurs, in a defensive central midfield role, rather than slot him in at the back to replace the injured Anthony Gardner.

King, who scored England's only goal in the friendly in Faro, actually started his career at Spurs as a centre-half, and then played there for the England Under-21 side. The 23-year-old also stated his preference, after facing Portugal in what was his full international debut, to play in defence in the long term.

However, Pleat confirmed yesterday: "Ledley King is our midfield player. He's a very fine player and has had a regular position there since he's been at Tottenham. But because he's a fine player he can play in several positions. One of his best performances here was once at left-back."

Playing in one position for his club and another for his country is not something that King feels will benefit his international prospects. However, Pleat was at pains to talk up the youngster's ability to cross that particular divide, citing two of the Premiership's greatest current central midfielders.

"Sometimes you can be a victim of being a utility player, although he isn't really that," Pleat said. "If you are a very, very good player you can play in several positions. Patrick Vieira [of Arsenal] would walk it at centre-back. He's got so much energy, ability and two feet, and that's what King's got.

"That should be maximised, and Roy Keane [of Manchester United] is a perfect example of that as well, of someone who has played at centre-half when he had to. He gets forward and scores goals, and Ledley's getting more goal-conscious. I had a long chat with him yesterday and the England experience will be good for him. I'm very proud of him and I'm sure his mother is too."

As a way of getting the message over to encourage King to persevere in midfield, citing Vieira and Keane could do wonders for his rapidly increasing confidence. And should there be any more of those 4-3 scorelines, staying there could be the best bet of all.

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