Johnson: Dembele should have started

  • Last Updated: September 2 2012, 18:20 BST

Norwich midfielder Bradley Johnson thinks Andre Villas-Boas missed a huge opportunity on Saturday by starting Moussa Dembele on the Tottenham bench.

Moussa Dembele: Benched for debut against Norwich

Villas-Boas is still waiting for his first win as Tottenham manager after the London club drew 1-1 with Norwich in a very poor display at White Hart Lane.

The Portuguese asked the club's fans who booed them off at half-time, and at the final whistle, to be patient following the draw, which could well have been a defeat had it not been for an excellent performance from goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

The Spurs boss cited Dembele as one of the reasons to be optimistic after the £15million signing excelled when he came off the bench, scoring Tottenham's opener after 68 minutes.

The Belgium international tore Norwich apart on the opening day of the season for Fulham in a 5-0 thrashing and Johnson admits the Canaries players were delighted to see the 25-year-old was not in Villas-Boas' starting XI on Saturday.

"A few of us thought that he would start after the Fulham game two weeks ago because he ran the show then," Johnson said.

"It was good to see him on the bench, it was a relief because he's a world-class player.

"Every time I have played against him at Fulham he has done well and he changed the game for them when he came on."

The enthusiasm that greeted Villas-Boas' arrival appeared to be slowly eroding at White Hart Lane yesterday and it was easy to see why.

Tottenham endured a difficult start to the 2011-12 season, but unlike last term, this team on current form looks like having no chance of replicating the 13-match unbeaten run which propelled the north London club to near the top of the Barclays Premier League.

Yesterday they lacked cohesion and penetration, with Friedel by far the busiest of the two goalkeepers.

Norwich, who won 2-1 at White Hart Lane last season, were helped in part by the home fans' decision to boo their team off at half-time, according to Johnson.

"It's always a bonus for the away team when the home fans don't get behind their team," Johnson added.

"We knew that if we got in their faces then we would get them under pressure and we did that. We have come here twice recently and got two good results."

Despite being second best for most of the game, Spurs went ahead through Dembele's second-half strike, but just like they did at home against West Brom last week, Villas-Boas' men crumbled at the death under pressure, allowing Robert Snodgrass to score an equaliser after Tottenham failed to clear their lines.

The draw proved to be sweet for Sebastien Bassong, who performed well against his old club after being sold to Carrow Road for £3million last month.

Bassong struggled to get a run in the first team at White Hart Lane, but he kept Jermain Defoe quiet yesterday and impressed Johnson highly.

Johnson said: "He (Bassong) was over the moon. It's always nice to come back to your old club and put in a performance like he did today. He kept them quiet."

One of Bassong's former defensive colleagues Michael Dawson has endured a hard time at Spurs since Bassong left.

Dawson, the club captain, dropped to fifth-choice centre-back following Villas-Boas' arrival and had been told he could leave for QPR before the deal fell through.

Dawson was not on the Spurs bench on Saturday, but Villas-Boas has challenged the England centre-half to win back his place in the team following a serious knee injury to Younes Kaboul.

"We have chatted," the Portuguese said.

"There is extreme competition for that central defence position.

"Younes' operation will take him out for three to four months and it is up to Michael to compete.

"I'm sure he will come good. He is an extremely good professional and a club captain. He is looking forward to getting back into the team."