Small reactions don’t matter Andre – time for change?

After the Newcastle defeat Andre Villas-Boas had another defeat to go into an international break where many of his new players jetted off to represent their countries. That defeat put our season so far into perspective. A poor first half in which after a bright start we conceded and then couldn’t really get going followed by a second half in which we threw the kitchen sink at them only for the keeper to continue his fine first half ending up with 14 saves.

Krul was great there is no denying that but two of our best chances in that second half were struck straight at the keeper and one clearance from a free kick would be sliced into the net 8 out of 10 times. Sometimes games go like that and you could excuse it if we were scoring freely in the remainder of our fixtures. Unfortunately that is not the case and so when you hear interview comments like the “result was unfair on Spurs” you can be forgiven for thinking that we’re losing the plot.

The real issue that never seemed to be tackled was whether we would have played in the manner we did in the second half had we done better and gone in at 0-0 in the first? It was my opinion that we wouldn’t have done so and that this therefore points to the serious flaws in the Head Coaches tactics.

Our concession of the goal was pretty typical of our sloppiness. As I recall (and WindyCOYS will probably confirm) Dembele lost control of the ball and instead of letting the ball run out for a throw stopped it on the line conceded possession, we got it back, booted it into the centre circle where Paulinho gave up on a 50/50 ball allowing a ball to be played through the defence leaving Remy to sprint into the space provided by the high line round the keeper and score.

I was told as we left at the end that Lloris would have been out quicker but we should remember that he was sidelined after risking his life at Everton. So another disappointing afternoon left us looking at three uphill fixtures and little time to prepare for them.

So what do I think is wrong? When appointed I recall hearing about a high line and pressing game. I hate the high line and I don’t think it can work in an English style game because so many 50/50 balls exist. If I am defending I’m looking at the opponents goal and if I don’t win that ball there is space behind me for my opponent to run into while I turn around and give chase. 

We just don’t press. Teams press us and we can’t function. Well maybe apart from Sandro. We play the midfield deep and too many don’t participate when we haven’t got the ball. If we were to press Paulinho, an AVB favourite, would be seen in shot much more often. For me he is a problem. He arrives in the box too late to consider his attempt and often misses and doesn’t appear to have any change of pace. But he keeps getting picked. 

Then our lack of urgency is a massive problem. All season our build up play has been slow and laboured and most of the time it is like a practice match. We can’t keep this up and furthermore we have to ask our midfield to do more and our defenders to do less. Midfield players have to take responsibility and try and carve out opportunities rather than just push and move. That shouldn’t mean trying to do too much as Townsend has done but it also means being a bit more adventurous than the remainder currently are. 

We’ve played too many players out of position or used tactics that haven’t involved some of our players in games at all. As a consequence we end up not being fluent when we do go forward and it also allows our opponents to get the whole team back to defend our attempt when it comes. On top of that our substitutions rarely provide the desired effect with the replacement often not getting a kick.

Then we can’t score. But do you score if you don’t play tactics that help the type of strikers we have. 

So after a number of difficult performances the players look to have a level of anxiety about them and don’t want to try things in case it robs them of their place in the side. In many respects an unfortunate international injury might have proved a positive thing and Eriksen was the man who got it. If we recall when Modric got injured Kranjcar came in and played a run of games culminating in a great performance against Man City at the Lane when he scored twice. That was probably because he knew the chance to show was his and after Modric came back Niko was never the same. 

So as we came into today’s game against Manchester City Holtby had the shirt and possibly for a period of time whilst Eriksen recovers giving us the chance to see what he can do. Unfortunately he only lasted the half – though he wasn’t the worst – so we are no closer to knowing. Nothing learned there then.

The team itself saw Lennon return to the right – a big benefit in my mind – and Lamella come onto the left. I saw him play against Tromso and he looked awful though the club have said he does need time and he did little to tell me they were mistaken in this thought. The team was based upon those players who had been at the club during the break allowing those who had travelled some extra time. 

So was Capoue not available to partner Sandro and rule out the early City threat? Clearly not but overall it looked a decent side. But that wasn’t the case and once again we showed the Nation how bloody awful we can be. 15 seconds was all it took for us to get the ball into our net following a kick off with a goal as crass as the one at The Emirates when Fabregas scored from our kick off. 

Kaboul wasn’t ready, Lloris wasn’t ready none of us were ready. But to be fair we stuck to our task and created a chance which we maybe should have converted before asking Hugo to have another go with similarly farcical results. Then to cap it off we concede a third before half time to leave us all shell shocked and many of us pleased we didn’t try for tickets.

Andre is not the first manager who has conceded a number of goals in a period of play but he is the first one for some time that has absolutely no chance of getting a couple back so by half time the game was gone. If changes were needed then we needed to plug the defence so that the Norwich score wasn’t beaten. 

But no, Adebayor comes out for the second half taking the place of Holtby. We did this against West Ham replacing Eriksen with Soldado and that was a mistake. How do you create chances for two strikers when you haven’t done that for a sole striker when you are taking off the playmaker to get the second striker on? It just can’t work – well it doesn’t for us. Throughout AVB’s reign we have brought on another striker – normally JD – and often they haven’t had a kick at the goal for the 30 minutes they’ve been on. Bale covered this up with his goals but without him it’s there for all to see.     

The second half shouldn’t be dwelled on too much. Suffice it to say they missed as many good chances as they scored and we should have conceded more than the 8 at Derby in 1976 and I think big Pat was in goal for that one. But did we do any better? 

Andre thinks we had a reasonable period after the fifth goal and Dembele was OK when he came on. That’s as maybe but by then City were satisfied and allowed the pace to slow to our comfortable level but when they upped it again the sixth went in. 

There is no doubt that today was not good enough and as a result we have to go back to the drawing board and reconsider everything about our style of play to determine what we can salvage before the top 4 and maybe even the Europa League are too far away. I am not a great fan of AVB and I don’t think that he will be able to turn it around but I would love him to prove me wrong. 

Today’s defeat must make him realise that he is not only barking up the wrong tree but that the players will be starting to lose heart with tactics that are clearly not working. This is the second big side we have played away and no points no goals and seven conceded is where we thought we were getting away from. At Chelsea he didn’t recognise these signs and paid with his job. Has he learned his lesson? He may try to show he has but does he know any other way to play? I don’t think that he does and that’s a big elephant in the room.

Business issues also exist. West Ham started development work on the Olympic Stadium last week. Sainsburys is now open in Tottenham and our own development needs to start taking place. We need someone to sponsor the Stadium and they won’t rush in whilst we are in disarray, not winning or playing attractive football. That’s  a problem as the board will not want our capacity to be third highest in our area. 

So my message to Andre tonight is to seriously think about changing his tactics to improve our play and give us more chances to score. Without that I think we will be looking for a new manager quite soon. If he concedes to such demands and fails at least he will be giving it a go and the result is no worse than what awaits by continuing as he is.

In any case we need at least a draw against Man Utd and Liverpool in our upcoming games. Both are home games and we should be looking for 6 points. Without Ferguson I thought we could beat United but from what I’ve seen this season I’m no longer sure. As I said earlier Andre, prove me wrong.  

Now hang on a minute Andre!

I’ve just arrived back in Colchester after witnessing another 90 minutes devoid of entertainment to hear that the tactical genius who is our Head Coach has criticised the White Hart Lane crowd for making it like an away fixture. To be fair the atmosphere was more than a little muted today but this is the first home game since the Club sent out its questionnaire asking for our views on the Y word argument so maybe there had been some reflection.

We are accused of creating “much anxiety” on the pitch which provided “negative energy” to the players on the field. My own view, for what its worth, is that the tactics we have been employing have created much anxiety in the stands to the point where we are nervous about any game. For at least three years teams have been employing the same “good strategy” to combat our play and in all of that time we have learnt nothing at all about how to overcome it.

It cost Harry his job for had he worked it out we would have made the Champions League and it threatens our current management squad who despite a reputation for strong preparation appeared totally surprised and without another option to use when teams don’t roll over and accept a beating.

Andre suggests the Hull employed a “great work rate” so why didn’t we? I hear every week positive things about Paulinho but for me he slows us down every time he takes possession and appears to be trying to fulfil a role he is unfamiliar with. Like Sandro when he joined he looks a bit overawed by the English game and needs time to get up to the pace but should it be in the public eye all of the time. 

All of our midfield appears to like to take the ball deep. Whoever plays up front is totally isolated and for most of the games the centre forward has not received any service whatsoever. We focus on the high line and most of the time lack width so we reduce the pitch to such a small box that it becomes easy to defend against and hard to break down. 

This afternoon in the first half we focused on trying a myriad of intricate flicks in an effort to break through and lo and behold none of them came off. Those of you who go to White Hat Lane will know about the warm up game that the 10 onfield players undertake during the warm up. Our games are becoming like that. 

Our tempo is slow and each game starts to look like a pre season friendly. We end up playing the ball across the back to the midfield and then return it to the back four. It’s comfortable but ineffective. In my book the centre backs are asked to participate too much. I appreciate that the game is changing but the midfield has to take responsibility for moving the ball not the other way round. This was always my beef against Jenas and Huddlestone when they played together but it seems to me that our current crop is drifting that way.

The exception is Townsend who has taken his chance and run at defences creating havoc in earlier games. Today wasn’t his best performance but he is still young and won’t play brilliantly every week particularly as he gets used to more attention. Last year we got used to the brilliance of Bale but in truth it wasn’t great for the team. But I couldn’t work out who was in charge. Bale or AVB? 

Bale started the season on the left, beat men crossed for no one to get on the end of it and then started to play more through the middle hitting shots and converting free kicks. He clearly had no faith in the forward man. At the end of the season he played on the right cutting inside for moments of brilliance. By the last game we were waiting for it as much as he was – no one else was going to.

This year the influx of new players provides us with a greater platform for a team effort and I accept that will take time to do. But so far we have seen a repeat of last year with Townsend replacing Bale and with Lennon injured Sigurdsson playing out left. Only he doesn’t do that creeping inside at every opportunity. Granted he has scored goals and wants to play a more central role but isn’t he in to provide chances for Soldado? 

Today Lennon was back and started on the left. He has played there before but it is not his best position. When it wasn’t working should they not have swapped to allow him to get out wide right and work with Walker who he knows well? It did happen but only in the second half.  

We complain like mad about Steve Harper wasting time or players going down injured but we waste half the game before we put players on the correct wings to create crosses for a centre forward that I would like to work out is better than Defoe or not. We will never know if we carry on playing as we have been. 

But this isn’t the only crime committed. Playing Naughton at left back was nonsense as he appears to have never kicked a ball with his left foot. It just can’t work effectively and he has now dropped to the bench. But the worse bit for me is actually sending Naughton out to his death in the first place. How does that help his confidence in the long run? My Father always told me a one legged man would be no good at an arse kicking contest but I fancy that Andre might try it a few times before accepting it!


Sandro also started today and wasn’t at his best giving the ball away a few times. He was replaced at half time and whilst it called for a half time substitution should Dembele not have come on for Paulinho to reunite their successful partnership of last year or Eriksen come on to play further up the field allowing Holtby to come deeper alongside Sandro who needs playing time. What we miss is a number 10 and we had a good one of them before allowing him to leave last season for a former club. 

In conclusion I think that this squad has the ability to be something quite special but I fear that the tactics being employed are preventing them from fulfilling their potential. To quote Andre we need what Hull had today, “good strategy” and “great work rate” so that the team get the crowd onside by reducing their anxiety. In Hoddle’s reign I thought the players became confused by the tactics employed and began to look anxious and unhappy. Looking at Vertonghen today that seems to be returning. 

Us fans get paid wages for the jobs we do and have ordinary mundane lives. We come to The Lane to be entertained by the team and support those we believe in and those who try – as demonstrated by Townsend’s reappearance on the field – so Andre if you do your part of the bargain then we will do ours without reservation.

It’s your job to get the tactics right to give us something to cheer and clap. Spurs have become boring to watch and it is your job to fix it. If you don’t goal difference will be your undoing come the season’s end!

He might have scored that! West Bromwich Albion 0 Tottenham Hotspur 1

West Brom2A first visit to the highest Premiership ground above sea level saw three more points accumulated as a result of Gareth Bales fabulous strike on the hour. But this game hinged on a moment, maybe two moments, of madness that killed off any chance West Brom had of winning this game although we did our best to give them some injury time hope by conceding a sloppy free kick! 

The first moment could be said to have taken place on Thursday night when Odemwingie took it upon himself to drive to London in a last ditch effort to get QPR to sign him. The first half of this game saw the Spurs fan reminding their counterparts at every opportunity about this incident and the irony could not have been lost on them. How they must have wished for a minibus from Wigan first game after this embarrassing incident rather than a full take up from North London.

The problem is the joke backfired upon us when Jermain Defoe turned over his ankle and limped from the field so we added that to our list of Odemwingie chants whilst making a point to the Chairman about his lack of a striker during the window.

The first half was fairly even with the better chances probably falling to West Brom. Bale forced a great save from Foster whilst Hugo was off his line sharpish on occasions to collect or clear his lines. Hugo is extremely positive in this area and also doesn’t mind getting involved in crosses. Apart from one early clearance to Walker that put us in trouble after a fat clearance from Dawson he did very well. 

Bale had a more central birth leaving Dempsey out on the left and this provided implications for the team performance. I didn’t think that Benny had a good start to the afternoon and some of that comes from having little playing time with Dempsey. He and Bale have developed a good understanding over previous seasons and I felt Benny looked uncomfortable. I accept it is early days after his injury so set up to help him rather than put doubt into his mind.

Having got used to pace on the flanks seeing someone without it seems to hamper the side and Clint doesn’t have enough to do any damage in that position. On top of that we need to consider what help a free roving Bale gives the rest of the side. His tempo is good and welcomed by Lennon and Defoe and as at Leeds Lennon provided a great cross to see Clint miss again. Not as clear cut as last week but it still looked like he might have been disappointed.

Bale2The risk is that we become a one man team and quite easy to stop. Having got us a point with a fantastic goal at Norwich Gareth again collected us the three points with another unstoppable shot. Yes he is quite brilliant and can do quite outrageous things but we need to build a team or we have a Real Madrid scenario on our hands. He can’t do it all on his own so he doesn’t chase back much and that can, particularly away from home, put us under pressure to crosses from which we have conceded goals. 

picresized_th_1360001922_Holtby FreundMany are criticising Defoe for not scoring but once again he didn’t get any ball in the right areas to capitalise upon and his injury is now a worry. I had hoped to see Holtby start after his impact at Norwich but Villas-Boas decided to keep him on the bench once again. I cannot understand what this actually does unless it is for the benefit of the man he will replace but we paid money to get him early so let’s get him on the pitch. 

What I wanted to see was if he could create some opportunities for JD to pounce upon but we will be waiting a couple of weeks to see that now. My impression of the boy was that he looks a bit special and must start from now on. After his introduction Bale took a more left flank approach and it helped Benny get some confidence. He also fizzed the ball around and kept the tempo up. 

I fancy that this is going to be a problem. The more I see of Dembele the more I think he is competing with Sandro and Parker for a place not necessarily alongside them. He can hold onto the ball but like Clint it does seem a little pedestrian. Alongside him Scott Parker looks short of his best in terms of first touch but again its early days after his injury. 

And so the other moment of madness, the red card for Popov. I had no idea the reason for it during the game but it certainly brought it crashing down on West Brom and left it being a bit of a training ground game for us thereafter. Loads of possession, the threat of Lukaku removed from the action but little end product to show for it.

As when we played at Aston Villa we won a multitude of corners yet threatened very little from any of them. I don’t think any made the MoTD2 highlights last night. Holtby took a number of them and learned that his colleagues have no clue about scoring from them. 

Can I be the only Spurs supporter who thinks that this has to change? These periods of concerted pressure mean nothing if the opponent knock it behind their goal because they know we have no chance of converting. It’s the opposite of giving Stoke a throw on. I fancy training probably finishes at around 1 o’clock latest so couldn’t the players take it upon themselves to use an hour each day to work out who takes them and what we do to attack them.

Irrespective of that we won the game in got the three points and after Chelsea’s slip up we are now only a point behind challenging for third place. I still don’t think we put enough space between ourselves and our opponents to look comfortable and see the games out well even if we have huge possession advantages and loads of poor shots to show for ourselves. 

Yesterday saw a break from a West Brom attack near the end of the game which turned into keep possession at the half way line. From there we became negative despite our crowd baying for us to stop mucking about and get a second goal. We also saw the negative Lennon substitution for Sigurdsson that gives the opponents hope for believe it or not I fancy they fear Lennon’s pace at the end of the game.

West Brom3And what of West Bromwich itself? Two miles off the M6 and then just off the turning. Parking was easy to get way from the ground so the return journey wasn’t too disastrous apart from being sent away from the stadium on the wrong side. The ground itself is nothing like you imagine it from camera angles and our view was very good. We even had a wooden floor under the stand which looked very nice indeed!   

Next week an in form freshened up Newcastle side in what promises to be a lively encounter. We may need to be at our best to overcome them. Try and remember Gazza on minute 8.