Category Archives: League Game

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.  

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.                                  

Win, draw no we’ve lost! Everton 2 Spurs 1

Goodison Wall of fameIts 262 miles back from the scrap yard car park right next to Goodison Park to Colchester but it still wasn’t far enough for us to quite understand how we lost the game. As we pulled up on the drive we concluded; this is Tottenham Hotspur and it’s the type of result we specialise in.

You can say what you want about substitutions, formations, managers and individual players we’ve seen it so many times before but have normally not waited till time added on to start throwing it away! MoTD2 was quite helpful in showing the goals in their full glory as we walked back into the house as our seats prevented Goodisonus from getting a decent view of the action. As the ball rose up in the air it disappeared from view for most of the game and for the winner a post obstructed my view of the overhead kick so all I saw was Lloris diving again and thinking “that’s that then.” 

It certainly brought the stadium to life for it had been a little lacking in atmosphere previously but of course he who laughs last laughs longest and we were put to the sword by amongst others a couple of 11 year olds at the final whistle. Earlier the biggest outpouring came following the handballs that never were – clearly not for they never made the MoTD cut. Cue an extended hand ball retort from the Spurs fans which left the locals bemused at best, confused at worst, “they’re funny folk them lot from London.”

However, if Kevin Friend had awarded a penalty for Dempsey’s arm controlling the ball no one would have been surprised and having realised his error given a more dubious appeal against Gallas we could have gone in one down at the break. The fact we didn’t was down to a controlled performance that lacked a final ball to provide a chance in front of goal for us to capitalise upon.  

In midfield Dembele and Sandro were providing our defenders with decent protection and forcing Everton to float balls over the top for the front men to chase. Too many times our offside trap caught them out and Lloris was only forced once to charge out of his goal to intercept. We were a little vulnerable again down our left flank with Mirallas putting in some decent work and as the half wore on Baines and Pienaar began linking well.

As the second half began the introduction of Naismith was welcomed for the loss of Mirallas and he immediately missed a chance from which hitting the target was the minimum requirement. Yet even though Everton tried to step it up we didn’t seem in too much difficulty and were able to clear our lines reasonably comfortably.  

Then when Dempsey chipped in from outside the box I wasn’t sure it had gone in as the net didn’t appear to ripple much. Clint was delighted as he came across to the Spurs fans and after a difficult period he is starting to look a better prospect though with Adebayor back to full fitness his starting opportunities will be more limited.

This wasn’t the greatest of days for Defoe or Lennon. Apart from a superb interception that robbed JD of a shooting chance in the first half his day was limited to a yellow card for dissent. Lennon fared better but Baines was in top form and handled him well. He made way for Tom Huddlestone who played a more central role and Sigurdsson replaced Dembele who I thought as the game wore on held onto the ball a little too long before trying to release it.

For me Gylfi has been very poor thus far and had his curling shot put the victory beyond doubt it would have been his best moment for us but do he and Tom have the physical presence on the pitch to put fear in the opposition at the end of a game? I’m not convinced by that so is anyone else? Had this game come later and Parker been fit again it might have been a different story. 

And so to the fateful 90 seconds. Those at home or with a better view said Lloris called but once more Caulker ignored him. His fluffed clearance came back and was poorly headed by an out of position Vertonghen allowing a crossing opportunity under no pressure and the arrival of Pienaar to beat Lloris at the far post. Should the keeper have saved it? Possibly but by then it was a holocaust of errors…

What followed was typical Tottenham. When a bad goal goes in it often gets followed by a second in quick succession and so it proved once more. A quick throw allowed Gibson to float a hopeful ball towards the box that gets flicked on by an overhead kick allowing Jelavic to react first and nip between Gallas and Walker to prod it home.  

So three points becomes none in a minute and irrespective of either sides performance we turned a win into a loss without trying too hard. We’ve done it before; we’ll probably do it again. We have to understand that we have no divine right to win games and that Everton, or whoever we are playing, should throw everything at us until the final whistle in an effort to win but the crowd’s reaction and that of David Moyes made it clear that they had expected a defeat.

So what positives can be drawn? Kyle Walker is starting to look the player of last season and put in a good shift and with the exception of the time added on Gallas and Caulker played well and both made important clearances. Dembele makes the midfield tick and Sandro once again had a good day in the tackle.    

One has to ask if Vertonghen gets dragged out of position away from home being either too far forward or away from the line giving our opponents too many chances to cross and I would maybe question Lloris’s instructions in the box. Did Caulker not hear or understand his call?

Lloris3What I did see during the warm up was Tony Parks and Brad warming up together with the Frenchman nowhere to be seen. When he did come out some minutes later he spoke not a word to them as he caught up his jogging and stretches until Parks spoke to him. He then smiled and joined in with the group but he does look an isolated character.  

Since his arrival there have been repeated newspaper talk particularly after an international break and one wonders whether the transfer has gone well for him. I think he will settle and become a good goalkeeper. He rushes off the line effectively and is willing to come for crosses. I not sure about his palming punches but can live with them if they don’t lead to goals.

Don’t get me wrong I am not trying to excuse Caulker and throw blame upon him, far from it but he seems maybe a quiet and reserved guy – not the sort of keeper we are used to in the English league!          

Goodison SeatsSo if you’ve not been to Goodison what would you make of it? An old stadium like ours but with much a poorer view of the game. The wooden seats reminded me of the 1970’s footage that gets shown in the opening MoTD titles but the Wall of Fame which stretched all round the ground was impressive. Finally the Christmas card inside the programme was a nice touch, it was a shame that they snatched back the present just as we were starting to unwrap it!