Tottenham 2 them lot 4
I’m over this result already. I'm philosophical about it. Ignoring the fact that losing to them is like stepping in dog sh*t, when you lose because of defensive lapses, it’s still self-inflicted which means you can tighten up and improve. It's a fine line. You might prefer to be out classed and thrashed and lose thanks to the brilliance of the opposition’s performance as it’s more clean cut but there is something ever so slightly comforting in today’s defeat. Let’s start at the beginning.
We start the day off with no Dembele and no Bale. The former injured on international duty (although seen walking around okay at the Lane – so perhaps precautionary that he wasn’t risked to avoid any long term issues) the latter in the starting eleven initially only to be replaced by Huddlestone. Gareth’s missus goes into labour and a 1000 twitter jokes are born asking why he didn’t shag her a day earlier nine or so months ago. Already there’s cause for concern. How are we going to shape up with two key players out? Dembele was possibly known in advance but with the amount of perpetration work AVB sticks in leading up to a game, Bale not being available will impact the structure of the side. We know our squad and we know there will be scenarios where it will be tested. If we do lack a certain degree of depth, we have to deal with it. There’s also a lot that can be said about application and urgency even if there’s missing quality. We have to be able to adapt.
With some irony in the opening forty-five we lacked not just application and urgency but any form of stranglehold on the game. Our passing was untidy and there was no shape making it relatively easy for Chelsea to ping the ball around confidently. No such concerns for a side that boosts a £150M + midfield. I probably wasn’t alone looking up at the sky cursing those damned footballing Gods. Christ, some one up there hates us. Probably his dad.
Other contentious selection posers: No Lloris who could aid with possession. Defoe retained his spot up front. Regardless, we made it very comfortable for Chelsea. Tempo, intensity and passing – second best. No complaints.
The story of the first half:
One – nil down, Gallas clearance an assist, Cahill volley deflected in.
Late second half rally, growing in confidence, Chelsea for all their tidiness lacking cutting edge.
Mata, Hazard, Ramaires, Oscar on form.
Subs essential at HT.
Far too many lacklustre performances. There was nothing cohesive about our play. Sandro had to do the work of two. Huddlestone struggled with the pace of the game. Players pushed out far too wide. I’m not taking anything away from the visitors. They’re a side in form (have only dropped a couple of points this season), this was no easy task for us but you felt the game was not beyond a comeback. Personally, I wasn’t quite sure how it would transpire unless we made personnel changes.
Something thankfully happened at half-time in the dressing room placing the necessity for subs aside. There was a reinvention of attitude in the second half. Motivation from the coach? A kick up the backside. Plenty of animated motivation from Freund on the touchline too. No major shift in leadership but a genuine team effort tinged with ample mental strength. We got in amongst it more and stole an early goal. I kept thinking to myself, it’s about aggression. It’s all about aggression. Be forceful, relentless and ruthless on the ball and off it. Hassle and pressure and push up. Be decisive. Again I had to quickly stare up at the sky and release a middle finger because the two players missing are two players so key to us being bullish and dominant where it matters most.
Dembele, the manner in which he drives forward and Bale – who can be so influential as an outlet on either flank and through the middle – something sorely missed today. No immense dimensional play from the home side and after all our huffing and puffing, it was ominous that the aggression would run low and Chelsea would simply pick us off. And they did just that thanks to more individual mistakes. But all this followed us going up 2-1.
The story of the second half:
1-1, Gallas header. Perfect second half start.
Better tempo (be it no subs), great pressing
2-1 Spurs, Lennon, Defoe. Goal out of nothing. Game of two halves. Electric atmosphere.
Plenty of guts, determination, fight.
2-2. Another woeful clearance from Gallas. Mata. Vert not covering.
Livermore on for Huddlestone
Vert goal saving tackle on Torres.
3-2 Chelsea. Gallas aided by Walker and enough space for Hazard to thread the ball to Mata (again).
Chelsea with creative clinicality.
Adebayor on. Dempsey off.
Far too many shots straight at Cech.
Ade 88th minute 'chance' from Cech spill. Doesn't quite connect.
Walker long range effort, saved.
Walker ‘whatever that was meant to be’ to allow Chelsea to score a 4th.
It's worth pointing out we had 26 attempts (10) on target compared to Chelsea who had 10 with 7 on target. Ho hum. Cue the standard what ifs about being at full strength and not making schoolboy errors. Fine line, right?
There were other heart in mouth moments, Defoe dipping effort and Torres missing a certified sitter. It was naturally quite an open game of football. Exciting and end to end punctured with some brilliant sublime moments (Hazard’s pass to Mata for their third) and some stupidly casual errors (see Gallas). Did Chelsea score a clean goal? Do they care? They took their chances when presented with them. We didn’t. Seems Gallas picked the wrong game to have a brain collapse. Lucky for our opponents. Bitterly frustrating for Villas-Boas – because shared points looked the most likely outcome.
They just had more spark and consistency and most importantly composure when it mattered most. They kept the ball better than us. But there were positives. When we were on top we looked very good and tested them. If this side we faced are title contenders, I’m not exactly sold on the way they defend. RDM seems to be a very fortunate man at the moment and I still believe he will be tested more so when his side hit a dip of form. Will be interesting to see if they can shift gear and step it up a notch further.
What’s also frustrating is that we’ve yet to really see us boss a game at WHL with the same signature football we’ve seen away. It will come and we’ll have to continue with being patient as there are one or two issues that need resolving first.
Kyle Walker being one of them. Okay, so here’s my rant.
Just some food for thought. Stop slagging off and writing off Kyle Walker. Was it okay to write off the Spurs team at start of season? No. He's completely off the pace and out of form. Needs to be managed by the coaching staff and AVB. It's down to them to sort the player out and for the player to sort himself out.
All this 'he's f*cking sh*t' nonsense is hypocritical. He needs a rest, he needs competition. He also needs to develop his defensive game (and do the simple things right) but his form is rotten at the moment so his going to be prone to mistakes. It’s hardly a situation that is easily solved as we all know that if you persisted in selecting a player out of form, there is no guarantee of improvement and if he’s dropped his confidence could drop further too. I support the team and AVB and his staff are paid to manage and develop. And that is what I hope they do with this particular headache. The kid has raw talent. It has to be nurtured. Once again he lacked positional sense and discipline, when to overlap and when not to.
I’m having a dig at the selective criticism that tends to play out when players are not performing well. Some of the abuse dished out to footballers that wear the Tottenham shirt is on par with the abuse opposition players get. Some shameful behaviour from some of our lot. You’ll have your own opinion but to me it’s not as simplistic as ‘he’ll never make it, get rid of him’ which appears to be some people’s attitude toward resolving it. Another example: Siggy. Obviously over-rated because he's not sparking up the midfield yet so let's get rid. How about we stick 'em all in a Big Brother house and vote out the weakness link every week? Then we can start to pull supporters from the stands and off social media to play in their place.
On the subject of Sigurdsson he's still not found his groove (along with Dempsey who both attempted to compensate for the lack of Bale on the left). We say that most weeks but it's still early days. The argument might be that a player of a certain quality shouldn't be taking this long to adjust. So does he have the quality to succeed in the long term? I don't agree he's over-rated. It's a cliché, but he just needs that one defining league performance to find that extra step up. The midfield, our midfield is still in a state of flux. The holding positions are sorted but the attacking midfielder/second forward still hasn't owned the mojo as well as van der Vaart had it. Worth mentioning that Rafa (brilliant footballer and one that could craft something out of nothing) also struggled at times. Just remember the age gap and experience factor between the two.
Also on the subject of Gareth Bale. Football banter aside, there is very little in life (if anything) that should stop you from being by the side of your missus if there's a chance you're going to witness the birth of your child. At the time of writing I don't know if she's given birth. Knowing our luck she'll be in labour for 20 hours. Actually, that's probably unlucky for her. What we went through today is hardly as painful as giving birth. Good luck to the both of them.
As for those aforementioned contentious pre-match questions. Adebayor did very little when he came on. Someone that’s not played this season (aside from subs bench cameos) should have no excuse to not chase down the ball. Defoe on the other hand performed admirably depending on your perception of what warrants a solid performance. He’s goal was sweet (be it out of nothing but that's what he does) and his work ethic again commendable – but I can’t quite work out what else he offers to the team. However, I'm still appreciative of the fact he was one of our better players on the day. He’s an ambiguous footballer. I guess the confusion arises from the fact that we are always comparing him to the type of player Adebayor is meant to be for us. This story arc will run and run (or stand still depending on what Adebayor plans to do).
Also, time to bench Brad and start Hugo as the definitive number one. Nothing against Brad aside from the fact that Lloris is a better footballer and goalkeeper. This will be one to watch in the next week or two because Villas-Boas has to be decisive here. We need to cement that spine.
More food for thought for our head coach in the coming weeks: Vertonghen to displace Gallas and regain his place alongside Caulker, all dependent on Benny's return to the side. Not forgetting Kaboul. We need to fine tune our defence but can't do so with players out of position.
Sandro missed Dembele, seemed to be ineffectual in presence to the standard we expect from him when lined up with our Belgian beast. Scott Parker's return still not booked into the calendar.
So in the end we got a game of two halves plus an encore. Not in it for the first, came back in the second, lost that impetus and pressing game and allowed them to claim it back before we almost stole an equaliser only to see another twist and concluding goal that sealed it for the visitors. The fact we conceded four mistakes the way we did will not be lost on AVB – who can do very little but bemoan the fact we let ourselves down. But then if you want to be truly reflective you'll admit that the point of a truly solid performance is mistakes are not made and if they are you either take advantage and punish them not find yourself on the back end of one (or two or three or four). Which they did to us, be it with some supremely talented players (Mata is terribly good). Heads up Tottenham. Here's to the next encounter with us being at full strength.
Villas-Boas a class apart in his post-match interview, composed and honest. Giving credit where it was deserved and indicating what proved to be so costly. Was a cracking game. Onwards to the next one.
So that’s that.
Hopefully someone in Lilywhite is having some fun this weekend. I reckon it’s in a private hospital ward with Gareth Bale blatantly smashing his way through the gas and air.