This is where Andre starts to earn his money

When we were watching MoTD last night young Mac and I started constructing some stats about our performances during 2012 – annoyingly Sky got to publishing it first (but they do this for a living!) – and of course 2012 is a split period in terms of management. Consequently we then did the previous two calendar years to see how our fortunes have turned once the New Year chimes have been heard. 

Anecdotally we all know that Spurs performances in the business period of the season has been worse than the first part leaving us at best disappointed at worst totally frustrated. But how bad has it been and what does our current manager have to do to improve our situation come the end of the season? The stats for the years 2012 to 2010 are as follows:

 

P

W

D

L

GF

GA

Points

2012

             

2011/12

20

8

6

6

31

21

30

2012/13

20

11

3

6

36

26

36

 

40

19

9

12

67

47

66

2011

             

2010/11

19

7

8

4

26

23

29

2011/12

18

12

3

3

35

20

39

 

37

19

11

7

61

43

68

2010

             

2009/10

18

10

3

5

25

19

33

2010/11

19

9

6

4

29

23

33

 

37

19

9

9

54

42

66

avbAs a result of the Everton cancellation we ended up playing 40 games during 2012 and managed to win 19 drew 9 and lost 12. Interestingly the number of losses is equal at 6 for Harry and Andre but as we ground to a halt in 2011/12 Harry had double the draws with 6.

Interestingly to me we scored 36 goals in the current season which is the most of all of the periods shown and so whilst this is  good sign it does show our vulnerability in games by not capitalising on periods of advantage. It was certainly a problem last year where we missed a hatful of chances and has continued this season where I feel that the lack of a creative player has reduced the chances created making it even more important to put them away. 

In my opinion perennial top 4 qualifiers like Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal continue to be in the Champions League because of their ability to convert their chances which forces opponents open up in an effort to get back into the game allowing themselves to be hit and punished once again.

For us winning points still remains the prime objective without showing the same ruthlessness yet at the seasons end goal difference will be the key determinant as to who qualifies for which competition. Maybe that is the difference between paying £140,000 and £70,000 for the best players in Europe? Maybe not.     

Of these years 2010 is the only year in which we fared better at the end of the season against the start of it. This suggests that for us to make Champions League that Andre must get the team to a level of performance not seen for some time. Entirely possible with the talent we have but is a creative midfielder required to link all those elements together so that the back four don’t have to look for the 60 yard cross field pass. I think it is. To set out why this is take a look at the same period at White Hart Lane.

WHL

             

 

P

W

D

L

GF

GA

Points

2012

             

2011/12

11

7

2

2

22

9

23

2012/13

10

5

3

2

14

10

18

 

21

12

5

4

36

19

41

2011

             

2010/11

9

4

5

0

14

10

17

2011/12

8

6

1

1

17

8

19

 

17

10

6

1

31

18

36

2010

             

2009/10

9

7

2

0

14

4

23

2010/11

10

5

4

1

16

9

19

 

19

12

6

1

30

13

42

What we can see is that fortress White Hart Lane has diminished in terms of the defeats in 2012 and because of the flair on show for our own fans over the whole period we have become accustomed to opponents playing two banks of four with occasional counters. We must accept that teams know that if they come and attack they are likely to get beat so only Manchester United, City and Chelsea play their home game these days.

Having said that if we could win 7 home games between now and the end of the season it would provide us with a decent platform for the top 4 so it must be on the road where improvement would really count.

ROAD

             

 

P

W

D

L

GF

GA

Points

2012

             

2011/12

9

1

4

4

9

12

7

2012/13

10

6

0

4

22

16

18

 

19

7

4

8

31

28

25

2011

             

2010/11

10

3

3

4

12

13

12

2011/12

10

6

2

2

18

12

20

 

20

9

5

6

30

25

32

2010

             

2009/10

9

3

1

5

11

15

10

2010/11

9

4

2

3

13

14

14

 

18

7

3

8

24

29

24

What this shows is an improvement away from home in terms of wins though the number of defeats has increased through our inability to scratch out draw so far this term. If we don’t do better than last season between now and the end of the season its likely that there will be no Europe next season at all and this may well be the reason that the managerial change occurred.  

My gut feel is that the top sides will post the number of away wins we have recorded in the first half of the season and we therefore have to do the same. The opportunity to do so exists as teams have to attack at home and we can therefore Bale2attack on the counter exploiting our pace. To do this we need to give the ball to Bale and Lennon whilst they are on the move rather than to feet so that they can open up and use their pace to frighten. With all of the ex player support for Bale today it would seem likely that better protection will be offered by officials to Gareth in the remaining games so that may bode well.   

To date Andre has suggested that little money will be spent in the window. If that is the case we need to keep a better tempo in midfield, get the ball to the wingers in Daniel Levydangerous position and put away the chances we create. If we want to do that Ade needs to play more down the middle and work tighter with Defoe if they are both to keep playing. Whatever happens, having felt the need to make the change Daniel Levy will be watching closely to see whether Andre earns his money.

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!  

Anything but easy! Tottenham 2 Liverpool 1

Back to back victories provide us with 6 points and once again our season is on the march. But that doesn’t tell the real story of this game. After a blistering start which led us to a two goal start we then succumbed to Liverpool’s pressing game got thrown off our rhythm and many of us were wondering how we ended up winning. In essence it may have something to do with Liverpool being wasteful in front of goal or adopting some unusual tactics.

For example, why was Steven Gerrard chained to the back four? He spent most of the game very deep and whilst he made some intelligent passes on the occasions he got into our box pandemonium set in and Dembele made a brave challenge before Walker cleared off the line in amazing fashion and then when he stopped taking the corners his header saw Lennon smash the ball into Bale’s face for what turned out to be the consolation.

Then they have a poor winger playing at left back and the left back playing on the wing. That certainly aided our first goal as Downing didn’t know where his man was and Lennon was free to tap in Bale’s cross and seemed  bizarre decision not aimed to assist when you have a flying man coming at you down the wing.

Thirdly what does Joe Allen do apart from running around? Whilst he fills you with no fear Suarez is a different kettle of fish altogether. His first touches were often outstanding and he missed a chance in the second half you would expect him to bury. Overall the Liverpool team did press like Brendan wanted them to in the TV programme and in the end it thwarted us and made us wasteful in possession.

We shouldn’t complain. At one times victories over Liverpool were extremely rare occurances but in recent times that has all changed.

Dembele, after a bright start, had a difficult second period and it might have been down to a lack of match fitness or just the constant pressure our players were put under to find a man in a white shirt. The game had started differently with Defoe picking Gerrard’s pocket to send Bale away for a blistering run and shot that was close.

Soon after another great run produced a back post cross that produced for Lennon the easiest of tap ins. The same Lennon that I was told doesn’t score enough goals in the Spurs shop before the game and that is true of most of our midfielders. The same can’t be said for Gareth Bale who had the bit between his teeth during our ascendancy hammering home a free kick that seemed to take a deflection off the wall to wrong foot Reina.

Winning a free kick is becoming like the Ronaldo show with Bale taking full responsibility and it may be for that reason why he went down so easily to earn his yellow card. The ball had gone dead for Gareth and the TV indicated maybe the slightest of touches on his boot so down he went. Don’t do it Gareth you’re better than that and we may end up missing on real free kicks if you don’t.

Gallas returned at the back to partner Dawson and we were lucky not to give away a first half own goal when Dawson smashed a clearance onto him. Lloris also continued and was lucky not to concede when he was out of his area before Henderson missed the target and apart from that it was fairly tidy performance from the keeper.

So our passing was off key and we failed to produce much in the final third during the second half but we come out with a win. I would put this down once again as a game in which our performance was forgettable for a large part yet outstanding to get us a 2 goal lead.

Maybe it was Liverpool proving to be better than West Ham or Reading that stopped us being good throughout but if we are to mount a really strong challenge we will have to be better than this to secure all three points. As an example if you gave Walker 10 goes at his goal line clearance how many would he execute as well as he did last night?

Maybe the quality of the Premier League is slipping while teams concentrate on keeping possession rather than scoring goals as Man City and Chelsea have demonstrated so far this season but we don’t consistently look like a top 4 side at the present time. I’ll take a spot if we secure it but I think we’ve got to look better than we are at the moment to really make sides frightened of us. Yesterday we started well but we need to keep it going and prevent our opponents from imposing themselves.

We know this Liverpool aren’t the side of old yet they should have had something from the game. At 2 up surely we should press for the third and an easy win in the time left and we were trying but got bogged down. When appointed I thought AVB promised a similar pressing game but it was nothing like Liverpools.

Final question of the night. If we play in all white and they play in all red why does the Ref have the red shirt on?