Spurs 3 QPR 1
There was talk pre-match that newly promoted QPR could be a potential headache what with past experience that has involved a no-show in such occasions and thus allowed frustration to plunge us into the abyss of disappointment.
I was hoping for something emphatic and convincing. In the first half that’s exactly what we got. Go on then, I’ll use my two favourite words in the English language; Swagger and swashbuckle. It was joyful to watch the passing and movement. Wide or narrow. Interchanging of wingers. A hard working forward that took up the right positions and held the ball up to allow others to attack the penalty area. A midfield that included an absolute peach of a box to box performance and another that illustrated the majesty of a winners mentality. The only downside at half time was that the game wasn’t being transferred to Blu-ray for the club shop to make available the next day. 2-0, should have been 4-0 or more.
This being Tottenham, the players failed to continue in the same vain (perhaps a little credit for QPR here) and the visitors had us under pressure resulting in a poorly defended goal. I say poorly because leading up to it we could have been far stronger as a defensive unit to clear it and push out. They hardly cut us open with slick football. It was untidy stuff.
But our reaction was not to capitulate. Why should we? We have the capacity these days to recover rather than switch off completely. We did react. Scored a third, could still have had more. Apart another moment of madness in injury time, overall, the performance was solid. Bread and butter games, the ones we lost/dropped points in last season are the very ones that cost us in the end.
So far so good this season. I know, I know...the smiling, the constant smiling...it can hurt a little. But it's acceptable pain.
What we got in this game that is worth highlighting are examples of the character traits this team has when it simmers along at boiling point. There is no doubt we could still look to retain ambition in the transfer market and sign competition for the flanks. Talk about a more long term replacement (for the irreplaceable) Ledley King another talking point. But in terms of our form since the two Manchester defeats and our Goslingesque penetration when attacking the opposition on Sunday, we in fact do possess that much maligned balance. Be it one that still requires a little fine tuning.
Having a forward like Adebayor equates to a work ethic that will compliment the attacking midfielder that roams a few steps behind him, and vice versa. Ade spears the attack, the team work the ball into the box be it via the flanks, cutting in or through the middle. Options are interchangeable. Ade might not quite have that final touch in front of goal at this moment in time but you can’t fault him for much else. It’s impossible to do so because the unit works as a unit (rather than being dependent on one player). If he doesn't score. Someone else will.
van der Vaart is irrepressible, celebrating any goal scored like it’s against Arsenal. A midfielder with the instincts of a striker. Positioning and finishing a cut above. On paper he might as well be noted as the ‘1’ behind the ‘1’ in a 4411 formation but he’s more than a number. He’s a free man! A deep lying forward, call him what you want but labels aside – it works. It just works. He loves playing, he loves scoring and he loves winning. Wasn’t that long ago that we had to rely on lesser footballers to heighten expectancy and make consistency a reality. Heart broken so many times. He's not just about the goals either. Applause for his passing and intent.
Lennon is still searching for consistency, with confidence remaining the key. The two assists will have done him good, even if many appear to be split on how much impact he had in the game. He did look isolated at times.
Was that because he didn’t drop deeper to make himself available? Was distribution out to his flank not that great? Was his positioning the reason distribution was not forthcoming? Why does he not attempt to knock the ball forward past the defender and fizz past them? Has he lost the pace to his game? Is he simply not as effective because of the attacking qualities of Walker? Therefore, do we need to look for a different ilk of player for the right or do we keep the faith?
Questions that won’t be answered for a few more games. Competition required for that wing will tell us if this particular conundrum has to do with attitude or not. Fact remains, when it mattered, he produced it. Nice work to set Bale up for the first. The second goal was ridiculously good. From the tippy-tappy footwork and close touch passing to the utterly sublime caress with power the ball travelled with when beating their keeper in goal. Goal of the month right there.
It’s also worth citing that Azza defended quite well. His awareness of when to drop deeper to cover a marauding Kaboul, for example should not be ignored. But then he's always been quite good at tracking back. Equally so the fact that his partnership down that wing with Walker is still fledgling. We still need him at his best (think of the counter attack and Lennon racing towards goal dinking right and left making the opposition defenders dizzy). We need that back.
In midfield, Luka again worked his socks off but by the standards he has set himself many expect a more obvious creative outlet rather than recycling possession (which is also vital to the mechanics of the team). But if you re-watch the first half and just make sure your eyes are constantly focused on him, you’ll see his worth to the side. Link up play and involvement in forward positions more than evident. Had he perhaps wrapped his foot around the ball rather than toe-poke it that would have been all the ‘in your face’ creative outlet required. Does look like he’ll get on the end of a few this season. Seems to drive into the pen area a lot more these days.
Bale was on form, not at full destroyer pelt by any means but he scored and got himself into positions to add more. Unlucky on two occasions not to do so. Again the opposition wasn't the best but this is all about confidence (when isn't it?) and he looked comfortable on and off the ball and flank-swapping. A busy Bale performance, one that he needs to carry into the next game and the one after that to recapture more of that lost spark.
King was in his throne as per usual. Kaboul wore the jesters hat when in possession at times. Perhaps with a more tentative approach he can still be the long term solution when Ledley abdicates his crown. Walker and BAE impressive (the latter more so). Kyle made to work by SWP once or twice. Benny and the free-kick was a personal favourite moment. He'll score one of them some day (if Rafa ever lets him get near a dead ball again).
As for Parker (saving the best for last), excuse me for a moment whilst I finish off my lightly salted hat with side salad and a glass of smooth and youthful Catena Alta Malbec.
I didn't quite rate Scott or think he was the player we needed at Spurs. On reflection, I must have allowed myself to be corrupted with contempt based on the players former rejections to join Spurs. That and the fact he was surrounded by abject woefulness at West Ham that even Chirpy with ball at feet would look good in their midfield. He always struck me as a player with an engine but nothing spectacular or special. Under-used at Chelsea. Can’t say I took much notice when he was at Newcastle. But at Spurs? Harry 1 Doubters 0.
He might well be a short term solution in that the boy Sandro will be a beast of a player and is the future but it sets the standard of performance level required in the middle of the park from a player that has the sole duty of allowing our more creative stars to shine. Parker is something we’ve been missing for an age. Dynamic, box to box and always involved. Jenas, bless him, had the lungs but not the direction or implementation to own the responsibility he was given and graft non-stop with such comfort and confidence.
Parker is not a leader of men in the same finger to lips shut your mouth type of way van der Vaart possess. Parkers influence is to win back possession and push us forward with players around him having to be alert to match his intensity with or without the ball so that we work efficiently and effectively as a defence into attack unit. He’s a constant irritation to the opposition. Be it one of physical elegance (even if he does look akward in movement, that hair style still wins me over every time).
Technically, in terms of getting stuck in with the tackle, he’s very very good. Much like Sandro is when he cameos. The difference is Parker is at his peak and is therefore the perfect role model for our Brazilian to fully appreciate the expectations Premier League football asks for a midfielder who has to defend, win the ball back and get drive towards goal.
Dave Mackay was the comparison made. Easy there fella.
Obviously Harry had to squeeze in a mention that he was after Parker all summer long (we get it mate, you rated him before we did). The Mackay comment was score-pointing for the masses, but I can guess at what he was attempting to convey with it.
Mackay was instrumental in so many ways for Spurs in both the tackle and creatively. Work ethic and ability legendary as was his leadership qualities. Broken legs, Bremner by the scruff of the neck, doubles and titles. He was a born winner, a born leader. Not just at Spurs either. The comparison is probably one aimed at how important and effective both player were/are to Tottenham’s midfield. There is no comparison really, Mackay is Top 2 material re: best Spurs player(s) ever. He was far more skilful too (dust off your old VHS copy of Terry Venables presenting a best ever Spurs eleven – there’s a wonderful story about Mackay in training that illustrates his genius) and his presence on the pitch more assertive.
They’re not alike at all if we’re honest about it, but if you take the game and the performance level that Scott produced you can appreciate Harry citing Mackay. Both players work(ed) their socks off for the good of the team. Both made impact. Both essential.
Parker was tremendous, but then he’s been so since he made his début. He functions to facilitate players that do have better ability when attacking. Where the ball goes in midfield, Scott goes and Scott only has eyes for the ball and said ball being at feet of a Lilywhite player and Scott does everything he can possibly do to make sure that's what happens.
What does Scott Parker do exactly? Everything we need him to do without complaint. What does Harry Redknapp do exactly? Quite a bit of you ignore his disassociations and soundbites and not so loveable personality. Box all that up, don't watch Sky Sports or listen to Talksport and you might just find yourself giving him a knowing nod of approval. Subtle nod though, let's not go overboard with it.
You want to talk about balance, look at the spine of the side. No need for a tap. We’ve left behind the taste of defeat inflicted on us by Manchester and we haven’t looked back since. We still await a more dominant display that sees no goal conceded and one or two more scored in our favour. Moon on a stick football is fine and dandy if you can get it at a premium but I’ll happily take the odd heart in mouth moment.
You simply feel far more alive when you get a slap in the face from reality but then dust off to knock it the f*** out.