Writing a match preview can be a tricky most of the time because you simply look to share an opinion on team selection and tactics and then dress it all up with statistics about recent form in the league and history against the opposition then wrap it up with a concluding expectancy of how the game will (hopefully) pan out. I prefer to delve into the analysis mostly in the match review post-result and stick to a battle cry in the lead up to it. Today is no different.
We are currently uncertain of the staring first eleven that will take to the pitch against Chelsea.
No Lennon, Defoe, King, Bale, Adebayor = bare bones, backs to wall, mission improbable. Any team would struggle if you remove that many key players.
Lennon is a non-starter for certain. Defoe, rumoured to be missing too. Then we have the usual kidology and ambiguity concerning King, Bale and Adebayor. We all know it takes several days for Ledley’s knee to return to normal (as normal gets) but can’t imagine us playing him against Sunderland and thus risking him for tonight’s game. Adebayor will also play. Mainly because I refuse to believe the footballing Gods would be so cruel as to unbalance what should be a good solid tight game by depleting us and handing over advantage before the whistle is blown. As for Bale. It’s just a hunch, but I think he’ll start too.
If I’m wrong on Gareth, then the second half against Sunderland is the reminder we need to look back on as to avoid playing so narrow and allow both Luka and Rafa to drift into central positions to be effective. We need to be astute tactically with covering space left open by such marauding and push from full backs to wings. Goes without say that the industry we have to display in the middle of the park, in the war zone, has to be relentless. Parker hasn’t been completely on top form recently but then his level of performance was bound to dip ever so slightly. Sandro might have a role to play.
I wouldn’t scoff at a more traditional 442, knowing full well that this will mean van der Vaart playing alongside Adebayor which means he’ll play behind him, which then means he’ll drop deep and wander meaning it will turn back to a 4411. Discipline is what will take precedence, or at least it’s what should take precedence. Discipline and focus. We need to get at them and retain concentration at the back (Sturridge for me is key to them having any success in advanced positions).
Fact is simply this. We can’t play our trademark game if we don’t have the pace down the flanks. So we have to adapt and do so with minimal sacrifice in terms of style and more importantly ambition. We have to look to win this game. Go for their jugular.
It’s vital we get it right through the middle and overlap to mix it up a little. Width is how we damage, how we counter. If Bale plays, we retain some of that style. If he doesn’t, we have to up the work ethic and aim for fluidity as a unit (players playing for each other).
Chelsea, unbelievably, are probably the ones tagged with the underdog label. Plucky and resourceful, they’ve pulled a few results out of the bag when one or two were expecting more implosions. They still slip up (as seen at Wigan). But they have more than enough quality to hurt anyone. This being the game that it is – a derby and one that comes with a possible festive divide within the top four, there is no way of ignoring that it’s going to be defined with more than just team selection and formations.
This game is worth several points in the mental strength stakes. The three points are what matter but equally so does the statement made when acquiring them.
All eyes on Terry (if he starts). He doesn't mind this ilk of game, he tends to thrive on it such is his self-importance and arrogance. All eyes on Luka too. A chance to dictate tempo and control the game, a gentle nod towards the opposition. You can look but you can't touch. I'll only consider the irony of a Spurs win post-game and what opinion his agent might have of it.
Our record against them lot at the Lane remains impressive in recent years. Our home support is more than capable of being the 12th man (as long as Howard Webb doesn’t take that mantle at any given moment in the game).
That buzz you’re feeling, tingling in your bones. It’s the type of buzz I want to be feeling week in week out from now until the end of the season. Points ratio suggests we’ll be in amongst it and if we keep up our strong home record then we’re going to be anchored to the very top tier. This game gives us another opportunity to show that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Upright blue ones included.
Guile, tenacity and decisive quality please Tottenham. This won’t be easy. Sing your hearts out. As ever, aim high.
Love the shirt.