I’ve had some time to reflect after the Madrid defeat before sitting down to write a review. In truth the moment has passed to reflect on the match as normal so I thought that I would think as much about the campaign as the game.
We’ve a long and hard battle to try and qualify once again for next year’s competition and if we fail to do that when might our next opportunity be? Spurs have been nothing less than sensational in this year’s competition setting a standard for open play and attractive football throughout. The trouble is that Manchester City could do the same next year and with Liverpool once more coming back to life if we slip up we might have to wait a long time.
But then we could just as easily put a decent run together and qualify once more. That makes attracting the striker we need much easier to convert the chances created and keep us competing not just for the top 4 but maybe the top spot. Harry Redknapp talked this way when we were playing well before Christmas and if we make are able to buy well in the summer and keep the squad together that has to be the aim for next season.
Had our current strikers been more on the money we could have worked Casillas harder and maybe won the tie. It would have been fitting. After being a little sloppy at the start we got going and put Madrid under some pressure. We were unlucky not to be awarded at least one penalty but based on current penalty form could we be trusted to convert it? Pav did his best but was a little wasteful with a decent chance in front of goal and headed just over in the second half and we were extremely unlucky that the official flagged for offside when Bale despatched a shot into the net.
Most disappointing was the way in which we conceded with Gomes allowing a shot from Ronaldo (of all people) to slip through his fingers and into the net. Like Hercules he slips from hero to zero and back again quite rapidly. We love him we hate him but we don’t. He is a great keeper but error prone at the wrong moment. The trouble is, as Arsenal have shown, you can’t win things with a dodgy keeper.
We had it with Robinson before and Gomes is better and I can recall Ray Clemence letting in a goal like this latest mistake – maybe at the same end – in an important game which maybe also finished 0-1. Yet look around the league and the number of excellent goalkeepers who may want to move are not that many.
For me a great striker might mean we can stick with Gomes for at least another season in the hope that we score enough to make the odd mishap less painful. Yet throughout the campaign he has performed well. It was our defensive display at Young Boys that put us 3 behind and a disastrous start at Inter that saw us 4 down at half time. Our only other disappointment was away at Twente where we got caught in typical Spurs fashion.
In the last three CL games Dawson has been immense at the back and the partnership with Gallas rocks. Even though I thought him out of position for away goals at Madrid his performance was outstanding and Rio must be starting to look over his shoulder.
So to Harry the man many like to criticise for his tactical naivety. Having got us into the competition I don’t feel it is my place to criticise him though I must confess to being a little surprised by Lennon’s substitution. He has improved a lot this season in my opinion and I can only presume that he was withdrawn for maximum rest before Arsenal once we had no chance of getting back into the tie.
Harry has some difficult decisions to make come the summer and none more so than deciding if we can continue to support Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate through their injuries when others like Kaboul and Bassong might want away for a lack of games. Bassong is certainly one for the future and Bassong does a useful job when called upon but if fit Ledley and Woody would probably get priority. But for how long before their injuries return?
This is certainly the most capable squad of players that Spurs have had since the days of the Clive Allen team and before and we need to keep them together. Bale and Modric are deemed to be the prime targets but the public speak from both is they are happy and want to stay together. Hopefully Harry will join them either turning down England or escaping from his tax evasion charges as he is more suited to working with players on a daily basis.
So a disappointing exit to the campaign but achieving the last 8 and after defeating the cream of Italy we played well in the second leg against Madrid. I believe we’ve learnt a lot from this and sincerely hope that we can secure the necessary number of points by the season’s end to get us back into the competition next year.