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.
Posted in Birmingham Wolves West Brom Stoke, League Game, Tottenham Hotspur Match Reports
Tagged Crouch, Dawson, Defoe, Dos Santos, Harry Redknapp, Huddlestone, Keane, Modric, Tottenham Hotspur Match Reports, Wolves
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.
It was this fixture last year when Ledley got himself into trouble with the Police having returned to London and then gone out on the town. I was totally surprised by this figuring him to be a first class professional and with a knee like his a night staggering around would be from the pain and swelling at his home rather than night clubs and the street. Thankfully a Sunday night presents less opportunities to our night clubbing, world cup/champions league wannabes and certainly for Ledley who remains unfit but don’t rule out some sort of embarrassment in the press!
After our Carling Cup headshake we return to league action and a ground that has provided two nil nil draws on our last visits. With Everton’s fitness crisis David Moyes joked that he might get a game himself so we should be able to get on the score sheet this time round. If we play anything like we did in the second half at Villa we should win at a canter but let’s not get carried away.
Having proved themselves unworthy of a place in the week Harry has no selection problems and is likely to revert to the side that started at Aston Villa. It will be interesting to see if Luka Modric makes the bench as the Spurs website is now picturing him back in training or whether the forthcoming home games against Wolves and Manchester City offer him more opportunity.
With the way Niko Kranjcar has settled into the side of late it no longer looks a straight swap and Tom Huddlestone will need to put in a decent performance to avoid becoming the casualty when Luka resurfaces.
Everton are always decent opponents. Their recent record at WHL has been outstanding – barring the Carling cup game earlier in the season – but are more vulnerable at home against us. After seeing the results today we need to get at least a point to keep distance on Man City, Liverpool and Villa and a win will see us return to third place. Can we win this – Yes we certainly can and I predict we will do 2-0.