Tag Archives: Dawson

Half Term Report – dealing with multiple fronts, keepers and defenders

It’s not that long ago when Spurs fans were demanding wholesale changes each and every transfer window as a consequence of going whole months without adding to points totals and handing over leads in closing minutes to snatch defeats from the jaws of victory. But from the start of the Jol years continual improvement has been the name of the game, barring the post Carling Cup win period under Ramos, to a point where Harry’s skills as a football manager rather than the other suggestion he strongly refutes require little change to the playing staff in the January 2011 window.  

Standing in fifth place in the Premier League and having secured a Champions League knock out place as Group A champions with the level of injury we have had at the club is a superb first half to the 2010/11 season. And with players returning to fitness we look to be in a decent position to push on towards the business end of the season. I expected Chelsea to beat Bolton but to have actually been ahead of them after their start to the season is something we would take to be improbable but shows that if we keep producing results we can indeed put in a real challenge.

So the question to ponder, having played all of our games for 2010, is “Does our squad have satisfactory talent to see out the season challenging for honours?” 

Dealing with multiple fronts

The trouble with Spurs is that we’ve never shown the consistency to challenge for the big prize. We’ve come close since 1960-61 but never been able to do just enough over the 38-42 games. Our skill has been more geared to lifting our performance for cup games or having a run of home ties against lower calibre opposition. 

This may be our undoing this season as we try to compete week in week out in the Premier League whilst getting an FA Cup run going and trying to progress in the Champions League. Our home form suggests we can give the very best a game at White Hart Lane and this offers us the opportunity of an FA Cup run and a chance over two legs in the Champions League. 

What it cannot ignore is our need to win away points to secure a large enough total in the Premier League to re-qualify for next season’s Champions League. Ultimately this will be our test for the remainder of the season and if we can continue to secure points our challenge is maintained. To do this we need to be firing on all cylinders in every department. Whether we are able to do so remains to be seen.  

Goalkeepers

The goal keeper is an important specialist position which when played at its best controls the defence, keeps out the best efforts of the opposition and turns defence into attack in a slick movement. We’ve had a number of goal keepers since Pat Jennings graced the stage and none of them have bettered his performance. It’s doubtful whether anyone ever will. 

Of our current trio Gomes remains the best shot stopper but his confidence can suffer crisis and it is my opinion that at the present time he is suffering. I’m actually torn to decide whether he should stay between the posts or allow Cudicini another stint. His decision making at corners and for crosses is often shot, the punch he offers is weak and we haven’t even considered his rash challenges in the box. 

When he plays like this he reminds of the firing squad leader in Blackadder series 4, the gabbler, “Ready-Aim-fire! No style no finesse, but it gets the job done, eh boys.” Unfortunately for Heurelho he has discovered since arriving at Spurs that it rarely does. A pause for breath or thought would often improve his keeping and provide more confidence throughout the team. But is it possible?

Gomes greatest problem may rest with his physique. Rarely a game goes by without a visit from the trainer so the threat of injury must always be in his mind. As a result he may well be acting under blind terror on occasions. My concern is that he will cost us further points between now and the end of the season that may measure the difference between success and failure.

So would Cudicini be any better? I’m not altogether sure but I would not be concerned if he had to play. I think both are an improvement upon Robinson so both signings took us forward but if we have to be ruthless in our quest of the top four slot and then actually putting in challenges to win the tournaments a stronger goalkeeper may be needed. 

Targets? I’m not the greatest in knowing the names of targets but if we want to buy in January it needs to be someone with Premier League experience. This suggests holding onto till the summer unless Shay Given is available. I cannot believe he would be allowed to join us.

Defence

Every day the National Press link us to a centre back despite the fact we already have seven players who can play the position and now they all know each other most of play it very well. Granted two of this corp are disaster areas when it comes to injury and I do question how long we can continue throwing them back into the team rather than putting them onto the bench as back ups.

Last season Dawson put his marker upon lead position at centre back and he also ended up with the captaincy. For a long time Dawson had been uncomfortable with the lead role and like Sol Campbell before him tried to do too much often leaving himself too thin in an effort to support others. Last year that changed and he deservedly won player of the year. This year injury has restricted his opportunities but injury to Gallas led to a return against Chelsea and a fine first performance. I expect him to continue.

Quite who partners Daws is more difficult. Bassong is unlikely to get the nod full time but has done little wrong when called upon. Understandably he recognises his lack of first team opportunities and he has suggested that he would consider offers from specific clubs. For Seb to make a sensible decision he needs to understand the fitness of Ledley and Woodgate and how they might be used and then see how many games Gallas can manage. Seb’s problem is that the answer to these questions will not be known by 31 January 2011.

Ledley will always struggle with injury. Wonderful player of that there is no doubt but I still do question how long we can continue with project Ledley. Previously we wanted to put him back into the side but as others grow and improve is that still the situation? I’m not so sure. How can you get rhythm and consistency when we play pass the parcel with our important positions. And then if we play 4-4-2 who plays alongside Ledley. I’m happy he stays with us but maybe more as a squad player rather than being looked upon as a starter.

The same goes for Woody. Once again a long injury has cost him a large chunk of his career and he returns to fitness without a registered squad number. The talk is that he will go out on loan but is this for a month or the rest of the season? If it is for a month then I see him also as a back up who can come into the side if needed. He certainly has valuable experience in the Champions League to fall back on.

The arrival of Billy Gallas found favour with me and he can play both centre and full back. If Ekotto falls foul to injury then Gallas can certainly come in on the left and play as he did at Chelsea. His early games suggested that he had gone past his best but after an astonishing display at The Emirates – and as skipper – he played his best football until a hamstring injury robbed us for the Chelsea game.  I have no qualms about seeing Gallas partner Dawson as I feel this will be a decent pairing but what of Kaboul?

Younes has strength of that there is no doubt. And he has ball skills and puts the ball in the back of the net better than any of our centre backs. Since his return from Portsmouth he has put in some super performances which leave me in no doubt that in a couple of years he will cement a centre back spot alongside Dawson. Last season he had a couple of run outs at right back and used his ball skills successfully in this position. It may be for specific games that Kaboul will take the right back position and Gallas the left to allow a strong back four of centre backs to be used.

However, it will be difficult to drop our existing full backs as both Hutton and Ekotto have performed extremely well this season. There are always complaints about the full backs and both do have weaknesses but as it stands they are adding to the qualities of the side and in doing so Hutton has kept Corluka back as an able deputy. 

Charlie was very good at right back last season and performed well with Aaron Lennon. This season he has been less assured and whilst I am happy to see his name on the team sheet I did feel last timie out that he gave too much room and allowed crosses to be made into the box.  

As a consequence I believe that we have sufficient difficulty in picking our centre back pairing without adding other names to the list and as it stands we have some of the best defenders who need a few more clean sheets to their credit to get the recognition they deserve. Now that they know each others games better it might be possible.

Coming up tomorrow Midfield, Attack and our Management and Ownership teams. Let me know what your thoughts are this half term on the above.

Advertisements

Spurs Vs Wolves Review

This was the second “one of these days” home games this season but different to the Stoke game. We gave Wolves the lead inside three minutes and failed to create clear cut chances of note despite much industry throughout. There are going to be games like this as we transform ourselves from relegation certainties when Harry was appointed to  champions league qualifier if we do achieve this. What the team has to learn is how to deal with opposition who are not going to let you play and so far this season we have not yet done that.

Yesterday Hahnemann sat back in the dressing room thinking about how that could have been much much worse for apart from getting a deserved booking for time wasting he had really had little to do thanks to the great work of his centre backs. When the teams were announced I could not see the Wolves back line holding out but give them credit they stuck to their jobs really well and two lines of four stayed deep all afternoon allowing us little opportunities in front of goal.  Even the introduction of Peter Crouch did little to upset although the referee was looking away an awful lot when man handling was going on and Crouchy did not get much rub of the green.

Our build up play was slow, too slow in my opinion. As a consequence when we were ready to strike or get the ball to Lennon Wolves were back and in position to close us out. These games also call for a piece of individual creativity and whilst Lennon is often the provider of such magic it does not always have to be him. Step up Tom Huddlestone who played some beautifully weighted long balls but did not really ever threaten going goalwards carrying the ball instead always looking to the flanks.

I thought Michael Dawson played well at the back and some of his long passes across to the left were both accurate and perfectly weighted. It is an area he has struggled with but yesterday he was on form. Often his colleagues were not at the same level of performance. Keane and Defoe linked but not as we would like and when Crouch came on and won aerial battles JD was never well positioned for the knock down.

We did see a welcome return for Luka Modric – who I expect to start against City in the week – and Giovanni Dos Santos who must get some playing time to see if he can replace Pav as fourth striker or be an asset come January. Otherwise he may become another moved on to increase the quality of the squad for the top 4 push. Unfortunately neither made much of an impression but it is tough coming on a goal down and with a well organised side in front of you.

Wednesday may be another matter. City will fancy their chances and play a more open game. Space will be easier to find and we may see a better spectacle. We can’t blame Wolves for playing as they did. They must get points to stay up and taking on a side who can score freely could for them pose problems on the road. Our responsibility is to use our guile to unlock these defences to make them come out and play a bit more. Against Stoke we were unlucky, yesterday the same cannot be said.

The last three weeks have been disappointing but we did get points on the road at Villa and Everton. We need to kick on now and get back to winning ways before we get detached. Thankfully most results went for us but because Villa won they leapfrogged us into third. If you look at the table and add on points for wins over Wolves and Stoke we’re right up in the mix but we haven’t and we’re on a bit of a slide. Last year we were in West Ham’s position – I’d still rather be where we are than where they are so let’s be grateful for what Harry has done and support him through this patch and into the January window.

Everton Vs Spurs Review – where was that singing fat lady?

After a somewhat scrappy first half in which Spurs were drawn into a physical battle that did into suit them Harry’s team talk – probably rechristened the “rollicking” – galvanised the second half into life with a typical Defoe strike from a quality Lennon cross. And when Michael Dawson scored with a brilliant diving header the points looked likely to come our way. So much so that we did not appear too concerned at missing opportunities to go three up or giving the ball away a little to easily in midfield.

 All of this gave Everton some hope and after adding major firepower up front in the form of Saha and Yakubu they replied when Bale was beaten a little too easily by the debutant right back Coleman who put in an astonishing debut performance for the Toffees. This turned the on switch for the crowd and they acted as 12th man to help Everton get back into the game and equalise when Cahill stooped to head home a well hit low cross from the left wing.

At that point there looked like only one winner – and it was not us – only for a decisive break to put Palacios in the clear in the box where he was bundled down by Hibbert and ended up damaging ribs requiring hospitalisation. After the delay Defoe stepped up to smash his penalty into Howard’s feet and Andre Mariner then blew up to prevent us conceding again.

Should we have won? Of course we should but that’s football and to be fair we did it against Arsenal and Aston Villa in recent seasons to snatch 4-4 draws. As Harry says this is the way we play – an open game. And to be fair it has produced some decent goal hauls in games. But it can also backfire, against the bigger clubs and in those away games where the supporters have a bit of passion and can lift their players. Everton is one such place.

On these occasions we have to be more careful with our distribution of the ball so that we keep it better and prevent ourselves getting put onto the back foot. We also have to stand up to the opposition – not in a nasty way – so that we don’t get done over like Assou-Ekotto did on Sunday. I did not think he was that proficient in the first half against Villa and in this game he was pretty poor. It’s a surprise as he is one of our consistent players at home but in the glare of away fans he needs to assert some confidence. Bale replaced him at half time and did OK but again he was beaten cheaply by a rookie on a number of occasions that allowed the centre backs to be put under pressure.

Tom Huddlestone is another player that needs to be a bit stronger. He is a decent passer at times but can still be caught in possession and sometimes is a bit weak at tackling back. This places a bit of pressure on Palacios and encourages him to do too much. If his injury is a problem we need a ball winner in his place. Wilson also needs to sharpen up his passing. On Sunday a needless larrup across field allowed the cross that ultimately led to the equaliser so we are paying for this loose play in goals.

Many suggested that Robbie should have been brought on for the penalty kick. I don’t agree. You cannot do this – what does it say to the players on the field plus would he have scored? Defoe has missed before and maybe should not have taken it but surely someone on the field could do the job. Huddlestone as an example but we should not lambast Defoe for missing. He was prepared to give it a go and whilst you should not miss his connection was a bit “fat” and Howard was able to block it with his feet.

At season’s end this might prove to be the costly game if two points separate us from fourth. Whilst we should have won against Villa and Stoke we were never ahead in the games but we were here and by 2 goals. I hope it does not pan out like this but I think we remain a little short to get into the top 4.