After the Newcastle defeat Andre Villas-Boas had another defeat to go into an international break where many of his new players jetted off to represent their countries. That defeat put our season so far into perspective. A poor first half in which after a bright start we conceded and then couldn’t really get going followed by a second half in which we threw the kitchen sink at them only for the keeper to continue his fine first half ending up with 14 saves.
Krul was great there is no denying that but two of our best chances in that second half were struck straight at the keeper and one clearance from a free kick would be sliced into the net 8 out of 10 times. Sometimes games go like that and you could excuse it if we were scoring freely in the remainder of our fixtures. Unfortunately that is not the case and so when you hear interview comments like the “result was unfair on Spurs” you can be forgiven for thinking that we’re losing the plot.
The real issue that never seemed to be tackled was whether we would have played in the manner we did in the second half had we done better and gone in at 0-0 in the first? It was my opinion that we wouldn’t have done so and that this therefore points to the serious flaws in the Head Coaches tactics.
Our concession of the goal was pretty typical of our sloppiness. As I recall (and WindyCOYS will probably confirm) Dembele lost control of the ball and instead of letting the ball run out for a throw stopped it on the line conceded possession, we got it back, booted it into the centre circle where Paulinho gave up on a 50/50 ball allowing a ball to be played through the defence leaving Remy to sprint into the space provided by the high line round the keeper and score.
I was told as we left at the end that Lloris would have been out quicker but we should remember that he was sidelined after risking his life at Everton. So another disappointing afternoon left us looking at three uphill fixtures and little time to prepare for them.
So what do I think is wrong? When appointed I recall hearing about a high line and pressing game. I hate the high line and I don’t think it can work in an English style game because so many 50/50 balls exist. If I am defending I’m looking at the opponents goal and if I don’t win that ball there is space behind me for my opponent to run into while I turn around and give chase.
We just don’t press. Teams press us and we can’t function. Well maybe apart from Sandro. We play the midfield deep and too many don’t participate when we haven’t got the ball. If we were to press Paulinho, an AVB favourite, would be seen in shot much more often. For me he is a problem. He arrives in the box too late to consider his attempt and often misses and doesn’t appear to have any change of pace. But he keeps getting picked.
Then our lack of urgency is a massive problem. All season our build up play has been slow and laboured and most of the time it is like a practice match. We can’t keep this up and furthermore we have to ask our midfield to do more and our defenders to do less. Midfield players have to take responsibility and try and carve out opportunities rather than just push and move. That shouldn’t mean trying to do too much as Townsend has done but it also means being a bit more adventurous than the remainder currently are.
We’ve played too many players out of position or used tactics that haven’t involved some of our players in games at all. As a consequence we end up not being fluent when we do go forward and it also allows our opponents to get the whole team back to defend our attempt when it comes. On top of that our substitutions rarely provide the desired effect with the replacement often not getting a kick.
Then we can’t score. But do you score if you don’t play tactics that help the type of strikers we have.
So after a number of difficult performances the players look to have a level of anxiety about them and don’t want to try things in case it robs them of their place in the side. In many respects an unfortunate international injury might have proved a positive thing and Eriksen was the man who got it. If we recall when Modric got injured Kranjcar came in and played a run of games culminating in a great performance against Man City at the Lane when he scored twice. That was probably because he knew the chance to show was his and after Modric came back Niko was never the same.
So as we came into today’s game against Manchester City Holtby had the shirt and possibly for a period of time whilst Eriksen recovers giving us the chance to see what he can do. Unfortunately he only lasted the half – though he wasn’t the worst – so we are no closer to knowing. Nothing learned there then.
The team itself saw Lennon return to the right – a big benefit in my mind – and Lamella come onto the left. I saw him play against Tromso and he looked awful though the club have said he does need time and he did little to tell me they were mistaken in this thought. The team was based upon those players who had been at the club during the break allowing those who had travelled some extra time.
So was Capoue not available to partner Sandro and rule out the early City threat? Clearly not but overall it looked a decent side. But that wasn’t the case and once again we showed the Nation how bloody awful we can be. 15 seconds was all it took for us to get the ball into our net following a kick off with a goal as crass as the one at The Emirates when Fabregas scored from our kick off.
Kaboul wasn’t ready, Lloris wasn’t ready none of us were ready. But to be fair we stuck to our task and created a chance which we maybe should have converted before asking Hugo to have another go with similarly farcical results. Then to cap it off we concede a third before half time to leave us all shell shocked and many of us pleased we didn’t try for tickets.
Andre is not the first manager who has conceded a number of goals in a period of play but he is the first one for some time that has absolutely no chance of getting a couple back so by half time the game was gone. If changes were needed then we needed to plug the defence so that the Norwich score wasn’t beaten.
But no, Adebayor comes out for the second half taking the place of Holtby. We did this against West Ham replacing Eriksen with Soldado and that was a mistake. How do you create chances for two strikers when you haven’t done that for a sole striker when you are taking off the playmaker to get the second striker on? It just can’t work – well it doesn’t for us. Throughout AVB’s reign we have brought on another striker – normally JD – and often they haven’t had a kick at the goal for the 30 minutes they’ve been on. Bale covered this up with his goals but without him it’s there for all to see.
The second half shouldn’t be dwelled on too much. Suffice it to say they missed as many good chances as they scored and we should have conceded more than the 8 at Derby in 1976 and I think big Pat was in goal for that one. But did we do any better?
Andre thinks we had a reasonable period after the fifth goal and Dembele was OK when he came on. That’s as maybe but by then City were satisfied and allowed the pace to slow to our comfortable level but when they upped it again the sixth went in.
There is no doubt that today was not good enough and as a result we have to go back to the drawing board and reconsider everything about our style of play to determine what we can salvage before the top 4 and maybe even the Europa League are too far away. I am not a great fan of AVB and I don’t think that he will be able to turn it around but I would love him to prove me wrong.
Today’s defeat must make him realise that he is not only barking up the wrong tree but that the players will be starting to lose heart with tactics that are clearly not working. This is the second big side we have played away and no points no goals and seven conceded is where we thought we were getting away from. At Chelsea he didn’t recognise these signs and paid with his job. Has he learned his lesson? He may try to show he has but does he know any other way to play? I don’t think that he does and that’s a big elephant in the room.
Business issues also exist. West Ham started development work on the Olympic Stadium last week. Sainsburys is now open in Tottenham and our own development needs to start taking place. We need someone to sponsor the Stadium and they won’t rush in whilst we are in disarray, not winning or playing attractive football. That’s a problem as the board will not want our capacity to be third highest in our area.
So my message to Andre tonight is to seriously think about changing his tactics to improve our play and give us more chances to score. Without that I think we will be looking for a new manager quite soon. If he concedes to such demands and fails at least he will be giving it a go and the result is no worse than what awaits by continuing as he is.
In any case we need at least a draw against Man Utd and Liverpool in our upcoming games. Both are home games and we should be looking for 6 points. Without Ferguson I thought we could beat United but from what I’ve seen this season I’m no longer sure. As I said earlier Andre, prove me wrong.