Tag Archives: Gomes

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.

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His Masters Voice Aston Villa 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2

I feel duly robbed for having been brave and suggesting a 3-1 victory we have a perfectly good goal ruled out in a majestic first half performance that would have seen me rewarded. The more annoying thing was that the same official also waved his flag to suggest to Martin Atkinson that Jermain Defoe should be red carded for taking out James Collins with an elbow. 

Collins must have thought he was concussed when he got to his feet for he could not believe that JD had been shown a straight red card. Let’s understand what happened here. Tall strapping centre back who most West Ham fans would still have in their back four flattened by the little bloke who it was rumoured won a header early on in his career – I think it was at Charlton. Standing side by side Collins might be forgiven for mistaking JD as his mascot for the afternoon. Unfortunately one of the truly ridiculous decisions that seem to get made more and more often these days by officials panicking to get decent scores from their panel.

What could have destroyed Spurs chances actually upped the performance level and the first half concluded with a session of keep ball that bordered on the astonishing and reminded me of the 1981 second half cup performance at Chelsea. This had everything but the goals but the ease with which we held the ball was an absolute joy to watch. Now Villa are not a side to set the Premier League on fire this season and even I was surprised at their starting midfield quartet but all we can do is play against that what is put in front of us and that is what we did.

We all know what Bale, Van Der Vaart, Modric and Lennon can do and recently we’ve learnt what Palacios cannot. But at Villa Park Wilson sprung back into life and played out of his skin nearly scoring as Friedel made a super save which the officials deemed to be a goal kick. It was as if Billy had had his boots returned in Roy of the Rovers.

With the exception of a somewhat subdued Bale our outfield first half performance was astounding with a top draw goal to show for our efforts. Modric saw a cross field channel and hit a fantastic pass from left to right which Hutton picked up before sending a low cross across the six yard line which Van Der Vaart nipped off Defoe’s toe passing it into the corner of the net.

It was Van Der Vaart who was running the show. Dropping deep to take the ball, linking well with Modric and Palacios and releasing Defoe into shooting opportunities. When he plays like this it is difficult to stop the team and impossible to mark all our men. Bale may well have run out of room a couple of times and struggled to cause his normal devastation but with our other weapons we can afford a quiet start from him on occasions.

Our only other doubt was Gomes. Unfortunately he began in the manner he finished at Chelsea and was lucky to not concede an early penalty when punching through Heskey. Soon afterwards a shot from Agbonlahor bounced from his hands ala Drogba and he then spooned the follow up out for what looked like an unnecessary corner. Once more he looks nervous on corners and crosses and possibly in need of a break. 

We’ve seen this before from him but I am beginning to doubt whether he has sufficient of what it takes to keep goal for a “top top side.” The difficulties we have seen so far this season have cost us points and then there are the injury breaks which appear do little for the rhythm of the team. 

I also felt his positioning for Villa’s consolation goal was inconclusive. The cross from Albrighton was first class and put pressure upon our defence. Collins who was now playing as an attacker was the man most likely to get a head on the ball. For me a defensive head was needed to get to the ball first for if Collins heads it Gomes has no chance. But if, like these crosses do on occasions, the ball eludes everyone the keeper has to give himself a chance to take the ball. He did neither and ends up with an element of blame for the goal.

So having played so well in the first half how did we do in the second? Unsurprisingly Villa made an immediate change and bringing in Petrov helped to turn the half in their favour. Whilst we conceded much possession we continued to play sensibly and also on occasions to play our way out of trouble when a larrup might have been more appropriate. However, this allowed us to score a second goal of exceptional quality as the ball came to Van Der Vaart whose sublime flick allowed Bale to push it on with the outside of the boot and hare off into space. 

His cross field pass to Lennon allowed him a chance but he saw Van Der Vaart arriving and a square ball saw him able to guide the ball into the corner. In my Chelsea piece I talked of no one arriving to follow up on the break and this is why Rafa has scored so many. It is a natural part of his game whereas it comes harder to Modric, Huddlestone, Jenas or Palacios. Yes they can do it but not to an 8 chances out of 10.

I should also mention Peter Crouch who came on and replaced Rafa for the last 16 minutes. He did nothing up front but tracked back and marked Collins getting his head on nearly everything that was thrown into the box. As a temporary centre back he did a good jib alongside Dawson and Kaboul who were pretty solid throughout.

So a fine away win that keeps our pressure on the top 4 leaders and it certainly was the Van Der Vaart show. The difference between us with him on the pitch against it with him absent is noticeable such a talisman he has become. What he does for the others is immense, making himself available to take the ball and then give it back to them and his coolness in front of goal is worth a sack load of points. 

Defoe was unlucky and will be disappointed that he did not see the game out as he would have fancied a goal from a Rafa pass. Quite how Rafa did not make the Real Madrid side amazes me for in North London we bow to his master’s voice.    

Spurs player ratings against Sunderland

The player ratings are provided by Young Mac (aged 15) who watched the game on a stream. These were the notes on each Spurs player I came home to:

Gomes 7 – Not called upon often. Booked for a definite foul and conceded from a one on one but that’s not really his fault.

Hutton 7 – Some good attacking runs and play with Bentley.

Gallas 7 – Looked solid until his costly mistake with Kaboul that led to the goal.

Kaboul 7 –  Gallas and him both looked solid until the mistake which led to the goal

Ekotto 7 – Defended well and worked well with Bale. May have commited himself a couple of times and got beat.

Bale 7 – No master class from him tonight. But you can’t really expect that every game.  Some good attacking runs.

Modric  7 – Looked good to begin with but towards the end started making sloppy passes.

Huddlestone 7 – Got beat by Welbeck a couple of times and for the goal but sprayed the ball about nicely.

Bentley 6 – Wasn’t impressed with him tonight. His specialty is the cross for a target man to head  goal bound. Pav isn’t this man. Couple of poor shots and a poor free kick from a good  position. Definate penalty when he went down. But when Crouch came on he looked better.

Van der Vaart 8 – Impressive performance. Sprayed the ball about nicely. Scored and had a few chances well saved. Linked up well with Crouch but not so much with Pav. If Van der Vaart plays Crouch has to too.

Pavlyuchenko 6 – Didn’t link up well at all with Van der Vaart. One good bit of play when he turned and shot just wide but that’s about it. Gave the ball away a bit.

Crouch 7 – Linked up well with Van der Vaart when he came on. Got a assist. When he plays. Bentley is the best at putting the high ball in for him.

You can see all the player ratings for those games watched this season in the sidebar at all times or by clicking this link: Player Ratings