Category Archives: Birmingham Wolves West Brom Stoke

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.                                  

Heroes to Zeros? West Brom, Everton and Wolves

Tottenham Hotspur champions of England? A popular thought after Wednesday night’s win over Everton but an unlikely thought looking at the string of away games against the top sides. Of course we would like to win it and as it stood at 3 o’clock on Saturday we might never have a better chance but let’s make sure of Champions League qualification first and then look further.

As Spurs fans we are pretty realistic about our chances but once the whistle blows emotions take over and there was a fair amount of frustration at the Lane yesterday. In truth we were a little off with some of our passing and a returning Parker was certainly off the pace but is that a reason for some of criticism handed out?

In my predicted line up Livermore kept his place before giving way with the game won for Parker to get a run out for the last half hour. I thought he had deserved to after an excellent performance against Everton but Harry wanted his top line up so Jake gave way. No doubt gutted but with Parker having been our revelation player this season an understandable move to fit him in a game before the Etihad next week.

Dawson too looked a little uncomfortable after a strong return, maybe a little tired after a midweek game but on occasions some of our passes were a little under hit and put players under unnecessary pressure. The fact is you can’t play well in every game and when your opponents remain disciplined in their defending it is not easy.

West Brom had set out the example of what we should accept for the majority of January. A fixed formation of 10-1 that forced us to work hard to create the necessary opening for the victory. When it came courtesy of Jermain Defoe it looked an unlikely goal but a brilliant turn allowed him to guide the ball home with defenders all around.

Of the three league games Everton was by far the best performance with Rafa putting on a superb show for the whole 90 minutes. That may in some way be due to Everton contributing to a decent game and providing more ambition than both West Brom and Wolves.

Both these sides need points to escape relegation and trying to keep things tight provides them with a greater opportunity to do so. We will see more of this when Wigan arrive in town and they recall the consequences of not doing so when we ran them through 9-1.

Our job is to break down such resistance and yesterday we couldn’t do it. Once again we were not helped by the officials with a corner being wrongly awarded from which we conceded and then our equaliser being ruled out for offside – a decision which provoked much unfair criticism of Adebayor.

Lennon’s earlier absence had led to Rafa taking the right midfield berth and on top of that Bale adopting a greater free role. Whilst it provided an excellent goal away at Norwich since then it has drawn us to play in a narrower fashion that may make it easier to defend against us.

Bale has also taken it upon himself to shoot more often sometimes when everyone else is well placed for a cross. Yesterday provided an ideal example of this in the second half and the effort flew harmlessly over the bar. I’m not trying to do him down as the lad has it all but deciding when to use it might be that extra experience learnt this season.

Another thing that concerns me a little is Kaboul’s regular sojourns up the pitch. It was a trend of his first season and then he got caught out on occasions in his defensive duties, this term he has been excellent on the whole but the occasional lapse still exists. Early in the Everton game and the cross for the Wolves goal are maybe examples of this type of misunderstanding.

Personally I’d prefer to stick with Luka and Rafa having free roles and Bale and Lennon (if fit) to provide the width bringing Benny and Kyle Walker into the overlaps if needed. Both full backs have been putting in terrific performances with Walker showing how well he can defend and Benny getting up and back, decent crosses a fabulous cross field pass to Lennon for the first goal and a great strike for a well deserved goal against Everton.

The toughest task that we have between now and the season’s end is to work out how we begin to convert more of the chances we’ve been creating this season. I’m still impressed with Adebayor who is receiving much attention from defenders in the centre of the park. Yet he misses a hatful of opportunities.

Yesterday a number of shooting chances fell to Luka on the edge of the box. He took one, which maybe Hennessey should have saved, but I never fancy he will score and often his natural reaction is to control and put it wide. Rafa on the other hand is the most likely to put it away if he is able to get up front and have a little space to work with. Lennon might have scored a difficult chance yesterday where he was stretching and converted the first against Everton when it looked like he had overrun it and missed the chance.

Our dead ball situations might also need some improvement. From corners all too often we don’t deliver it to the right spot and when we do our central defenders lack a little potency. Free kicks present a range of opinions but all too often the net doesn’t ripple where it might for Man Utd or City and penalties always present opportunities for embarrassment.

So what do we need in the remainder of the window to put these things right? Samba might fix the attacking option but is he better at the back than who we have? I doubt it somehow otherwise Blackburn might not be struggling.

I do think a striker on our books who can win the ball in the air is a necessity to help cover should Adebayor move on elsewhere but don’t ask me who to get this January. My feeling is that a new player to the league is unlikely to put in the necessary immediate impact needed so maybe waiting would be better.

I’d like to see Pienaar and Pav move on to make room; it was a bit like finishing with 9 men on Wednesday. I cannot see them making the starting line up without a host of injuries and if that is the case what is the point of keeping them?

For now we need to keep creating the chances and hope that we can be a little more clinical. Against City we will be allowed to play so our opportunity to impress will exist and with YaYa Toure and Kompany being missing I fancy we can do better than our last game against City.

In honesty I’m not surprised by a draw coming along but I wouldn’t fault the efforts of the players on the day. We kept going for the whole game and whilst Wolves presented some danger their role was to reduce our threat, particularly in the second half. Having been behind at least we got a point and whilst yet again the officials have been a thorn in our side moaning about it is not going to change anything.

We are still playing some super football that continues to be a joy to watch so let’s enjoy that and hope that a strong performance in Manchester gives us at least a point.

Come On You Spurs

Don’t leave it too late! Spurs 2 Birmingham City 1

White Hart Lane is not a ground to get relegated at particularly if you are dressed as a banana. It is great to get into the party spirit but when some of the away fans look like items from Andy’s toy box in Toy Story it is hard to accept they took seriously that relegation was a real risk. 

The team, however, were quite different with Curtis Davis playing a prominent role in central defence as another typical afternoon full of chances turned into victory with practically the last kick of the match. That shot from Pav was deflected into the net off the after an excellent opening goal from him and a resounding return in the form of a Craig Gardiner volley.

Pav had come on to replace the injured Crouch and in typical fashion produces one of his moments of brilliance to open the scoring. I doubt it will be enough to save him that opportunity exists if the Chairman sets his price too high. 

Once again our stats show us to be significantly superior in attack 22 attempts against 7 but unable to convert chances. Birmingham had a lot of say in that with a strong rearguard performance but typically for the lowest scorer in the Division not a lot at the other end of the field. 

This wasn’t a poor performance but it wasn’t a dynamic one either. Ledley King played back to back for the first time since the end of last season and kept Birmingham under control with the aid of Michael Dawson. Danny Rose continued and looked our best player from the start of the game and takes from my mind the need to buy another left back. 

In midfield Sandro continued to shine pushing forward more with Huddlestone’s inclusion and making the keeper make two decent saves in the first half. Tommy’s return pushed Luka out left in the line up but he orchestrated things from a central position as he has all season keeping our play moving and deservedly picked up the player of the season award after the game. 

Out right Lennon showed some pace and was twice tackled perfectly by Davies when he was likely to score or set up a goal had he beaten the challenge.

So at the final whistle we had secured fifth place and an automatice entry into the Europa League and as a result the players holiday plans remain in tact. In truth it allows the pre season tour to go ahead as planned and Management to get their heads together deciding upon player trading in an effort to build up the squad.

Sunday showed how close the league is at the foot of the table with Wigan and Wolves escaping at the death. Whilst these teams have stumbled through the season the points they have taken have also proved costly for those at the top. 

As it stands today United and Chelsea look stronger than the rest and City, Arsenal, Liverpool and ourselves capable of beating everybody yet capable of a silly slip up here and there. With our new found belief against these opponents having won points at both Arsenal and Anfield I think we can challenge for third place next season as long as we add the real deal in terms of goal threat and maybe some consistency between the posts. 

Having said this it remains to be seen what damage City’s riches will do in this the last year of outrageous spending and with Liverpool also maybe having deep pockets we may need to change more players than we expect as at today’s date. 

Despite a disappointing 2011 this has been a satisfying season. Yes it has had moments to be rightly disappointed about but overall much more good  moments than bad. There are times when Harry “bigs” it up too much but he has much to be pleased about.

Those of us Spurs fans who are getting longer in the tooth will recognise that traditionally we have been more about being a cup side than mounting a consistent run to mount a season long challenge. When we’ve been good this year by golly we’ve been good but on the road we’ve still excelled at being bad on occasions. I fancy next year Sandro might have a bit more to say about that!