Maribor 1 Tottenham 1
Turns out it wasn't a must win game. Just a standard stutter our way through and gain a point type of game. Unbeaten in Europe and thanks to Lazio conceding a late goal, the group remains wide open. I don't have the energy or the inclination to read enough into our current performances in the Europa League as some form of progression gauge. We just don't have it going on in this comp currently. That sense of being underwhelmed plays heavy on the mind for most. I guess it's reflective from supporters to players.
Our 'lads' (official Tottenham Hotspur label for the players) don't look comfortable. The system has no identifiable swag and for the most part it's all untidy and complacent. Off the pace. I guess I should stop expecting the world and settle for a very small comet instead. A meteor. A hailstone. A melting snowflake. Okay, fine, a sweat bead from a flea.
Even though our line-up retains strength and experience on paper, a healthy mix allowing for key players (and some of the old men) to rest, not much happens out there.
Sure, we could have so easily beaten Lazio. And away in Athens, had we held on. But we drew both and we drew this one simply because we can't muster up enough urgency to boss the game. No disrespect to Maribor but I'm sure they really gave it a go. We just turned up, set ourselves to autopilot and came out the other end with enough shots over the bar to win us twenty rugby world cups.
But it's just a game. Best for me to remember it's also just the group stages. The two home games now are the ones that will define if the players truly want to see their way through to the knock-out stage. Hopefully we'll have players back for selection that we're unavailable this evening meaning a little more of that much required shape in the middle. Still no necessity to go full FULL strength, but something that little bit more direct and creative is desirable.
The only shape we had was Tommy Huddlestone that casted a shadow that resembled the titanic strapped onto the back of a ketmaine induced Godzilla. The only difference being that Godzilla would turn over in his sleep faster than Hudd moves. Easy there, it's just banter. Huddlestone is nowhere near being head fit let alone match fit. His defending for the goal conceded was akin to me forgetting to ask for chilli sauce on my kebab and turning back towards the counter to ask for some. No rush, it's going to happen no matter how slow I move.
Bang! 1-0. Bang! Chilli sauce over my doner.
Is it worth talking tactics? I'd love to know what Villas-Boas is telling the players in prep for these games and then before and at half time in the dressing room. I know there's no conspiracy (i.e. AVB not really that bothered with this competition) and it's also obvious that VB is aware of quality of opposition and is confident the players selected can 'do a job'. Have we ever really been in a position where we feared we would lose? Don't answer that.
As cited, Lazio could so easily have been three points and that performance was very controlled. But the two games after that have been lacklustre - or have they been calculated? Are the games just a lot more tricky than we perceive them from our lofty position of instant hindsight? By calculated what I'm referring to is, explicit instructions not to perhaps over exert ourselves (any less exertion and we'd be asleep - players and fans). Just that the execution is clumsy and without any sustained intent.
No argument, you could pull apart one or two performances from the games. Players isolated, ineffectual. Fluidity and passing erratic. Is it worth doing that? Are these games in isolation to the domestic bread and butter of the league? Are these perhaps missed opportunities by some to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and stand out from the rest? What am I doing? I'm trying to rationalise again when in the most simplistic terms the game can be summed up with:
Didn't play with enough conviction to boss midfield and game and failed to create enough chances to win. Poor first half. Better second half. Never in danger of losing but could have lost and never in danger of winning.
Nice movement for our equaliser. Nice until the scramble splat itself all over the penalty area for Sigurdsson to score. Not quite as comical as that first goal the home side gleefully accepted.
Sandro and Falque played well (I'm using the barometer here that I remember them more than any other players on the pitch, thus, they must have been quite involved). As for Maribor, they do love their dramatics. Ref more bothered with Naughton daring to fall after being fouled in the penalty area. Their home support more alter boys than ultras.
In conclusion, it's like having a beautiful woman in your bed only for her to ruin the moment by wearing red lingerie. You fancy her but you know your performance wouldn't be up to scratch. Red is simply not sexy on a woman, it's a massive turn off. Should always be black lingerie. Or something. That's all I've got people. Good night.