Spurs 1 Everton 1
We can sit here and debate many things. Had this game been played on Sunday for example, would we have had that extra zing to perhaps force the ball over the line a second time? Still don't quite grasp the reasoning for the 12:45pm Saturday kick-off after Wednesday nights drama in the San Siro. And although it's easy to knee-jerk and point the finger of blame at Sky, we obviously agreed to it and I can't remember reading any Harry complaints via tabloid sound-bites in the build-up to the game. Probably got drowned out in all the Rooney hullabaloo. You might have missed it but Pompey nearly went into liquidation. Just thought I'd share. In case you didn't read about it.
As for the game being played a couple of days after Bale sealed his £20M-£50M (cross out where applicable) via his superb solo display move to Old Trafford all I can say is; oh these gentle delicate modern days where footballers need to be constantly wrapped in cotton wool. In fairness, travelling back from Milan and then preparing for the Prem is never going to be easy, but then bully us for finishing fourth. Re: Bale. He needs a bit of a rest. Make sure he's nice and fresh for his meeting with Fergie in Jan. Because you know, United are now suddenly minted after Alex and Wayne merked the Glazers.
Harry did, if I remember correctly, cite that the players looked fine in training. So no pre-match ready made excuse. All that remained was to see if it translated onto the pitch.
Guess it depends on your own personal expectancy here, what with the need to avoid a Champions League hangover. Which we've managed to do fairly well so far, give or take a result. The game itself wasn't quite hair of the dog, more of hair ball of the cat. We purred a couple of times, but the game got scratchy the deeper it crawled towards full time. And in the end we coughed up just the one point.
Two points dropped, right?
We lined up like so: Gomes, Hutton, Kaboul, Gallas, Assou-Ekotto, Lennon, Palacios, Modric, Bale, Van der Vaart, Crouch.
vdV and Modric fresh and the latter wearing the captaincy. No Huddlestone and Crouch retained his place top end. Kaboul in at the back. Wilson in the starting line-up thanks to his mum.
We can sit here and debate many things (someone once said). Sure, there was a lack of zing but arguably we had enough about us first half to suggest we could win it. But Everton defended resolutely, scored a peach of an unsaveable free-kick and were good for their point. We are dropping points (when we drop them) thanks to our lack of intensity and top drawer forward. It's not just about getting the ball to the front-man. But more about the front-man creating space and chances. It's sometimes way too much effort but little to show for it in and around the box.
The lack of intensity has been a common issue so far this season. By intensity I'm talking about the way we took City apart in the opening 45 in the first game of the season. We were on it. The fact we didn't score (be it unlucky/be it no thanks to Hart) isn't so much evidence for that lack of a top drawer forward because I think Defoe will be a blessing when he returns. But JD wasn't exactly on fire prior to his injury and since he's been out, we've had to rely on our midfield. But a top drawer forward would change the game.
Nice irony that in the past our midfield hasn't chipped in, and now we have goals coming from that area - our forward(s) are not leading the line with great vengeance and furious anger. Crouch remains much maligned. 4-5-1 also raising eyebrows, but then how else do you fit in the players we have with world-class van der Vaart? Who was fairly quiet on Saturday. But scored regardless, because that's just his thing to do at White Hart Lane. Waiting-for-him-to-turn-world-class Luka who still needs to rediscover his dinking and deep play-making touch. Palacios subbed for Sandro upsetting mum in the stands. And the ref doing his best to kill the game with a rather average (below below average) display.
We were not fluid enough in the end to break Everton down. And it's the king of understatement to state that if we had a forward who had the same irrepressible determination and class of Rafael, we'd be laughing. Laughter of Cuban cigar smoking smugness rather than the type accompanied by the tears of a clown.
Simply put (IMO - feel free to disagree):
- We still haven't got into a cohesive run of swagger
- We are however, picking up the points
- We could regret the points dropped post-Christmas if we fail to change gear soon
- With the return of Defoe (soon) and the possibility of a new (much needed) forward in Jan, this could elevate us to the next level
- Nobody, other than Chelsea (thanks to their home form), look like storming it and even they don't look Mourinhoesque, which means the rest of the chasing pack (United/Arsenal) might not break away from the second chasing pack (Us/City)
We need to step it up and quickly because using the tired excuse that it's all okay because nobody is currently firing on all cylinders might find us with much regret when we stop using it with a ten point difference from the team just above us.
At some point, someone will start to fire. Let that be us.
Follow-up article scheduled for later on with more thoughts (re: player performances) from Saturday.