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!