Tottenham 0 Wigan 1 (drafted on Saturday night)
It's actually not as easy as you might think it is. To sit here in the aftermath of a game and try to be honest and critique where it's applicable rather than perhaps go off on a tangent (for or against whatever), siding with passionately, blindly with one argument than perhaps aiming for some perspective or rationalisation. Yes, writing, purely from a selfish point of view, is a way to capture my feelings and opinions during the hours, days that follow a result. I don't expect people to always agree with what I have to say. Never have, never well. Whether you choose to use this as platform to discuss the game is entirely up to you. Sometimes I scrap the measured analysis and fuel myself on emotion, much like many have after Wigan beat us 1-0 at the Lane. Whether you choose disdain for our coach or embrace a more philosophical approach, it's always going to be an honest reaction applicable to yourself. It's always going to be one that is accused of being passionate and blind, no matter the side you sit on. So, here goes...
There's contradictions everywhere you look. On both sides. Patience is a virtue, but then how does one quantify the right amount of time needed to get things at an acceptable level? What is an acceptable level if the components required to truly play at full strength are either not available or not even at the club? However there is never a delicate reaction to what plays out because of the emotions involved. It's always one end of the spectrum up against the far end.
If I'm honest, there is no doubting the facts of the day. There was no desire, no want. Wigan had it in abundance whilst our players lacked belief and authority. There has been very little on offer in our home performances and we continue to seek concentrated familiarity over the ninety rather than the forty-five in terms of possession and intent. We remain incomplete.
Andre Villas-Boas remains stubborn with selection and formation. The Defoe substitution was disliked by a fair few, the thinking being that a more traditional 442 would benefit the desperation of the occasion. The coach citing that Dempsey was already playing the role of the second striker, preferring to retain his services to support a striker. You could attempt to chalkboard your way through how Defoe was ineffectual regardless of his ability to fashion something out of nothing. Except today, there was very little for him to work with. He feeds off the play of others and there was very little in the way of threaded balls. Adebayor behind him might have offered that missing link, that missing guile. Two fully fledged forwards rather than what Dempsey has to offer (but isn't offering currently). Stubbornness is hardly something new, our last coach was guilty of similar much maligned decision making. Perhaps sometimes you have to sacrifice and just go against your belief and do something that might ignite a moment of opportunity. Take a chance, a risk. Sometimes the craft has to come from the dug out to influence the graft on the pitch.
Then again, who plays 442? It's not a solution, just an escape plan.
Had we scored it would not have been enough to mask the reality that we are a mixture of broken beats rather than a progressive house. But we must retain some ilk of perspective in all this because it would be so easy to run away with our emotions and damage something that can and probably will be fixed in the coming weeks and months.
There's a lack of creativity in the side. No cutting edge and wasteful. The tactics at home must be braver when we push forward. There's a lack of aggression. The midfield simply didn't work against Wigan. We failed to match our opponents work rate, who hassled and pressed us into submission. The game was far too open because of the lack of any control in the middle. Offensively, there was no true outlet. Bale quiet and others quieter.
We are not convincing. But then when you think back to the summer and to last season and the form of the side along with the players that have left (Modric and van der Vaart) and then add to it the overhaul of coaching, tactics and new additions, it's hardly going to work from the off. This will no doubt be tagged as an excuse. I see it as a harsh truth we've underestimated. It will continue to be ignored because of the expectancy many have. I did expect better from us from the off. I'm not excusing Villas-Boas and the mistakes made. I am taking a risk in keeping the faith.
We have no playmaker to control that tempo, there is no outstanding heart beat at the centre of the team. There is no catalyst, no player to galvanise. Someone to produce just a second of genius that can change the course of the game. Sandro went off injured and could be out for three weeks. Dembele might not return until Christmas. That's the strength and power of our midfield gone. Huddlestone is reliant on others and suffers when the midfield is over-run. Sigurdsson continues to struggle whilst others (Walker) show little sign of retaining past form.
Friedel, at fault for the goal, but shot-stopped us to retain a 1-0 deficit. Could have been so much worse. Well done to Wigan for their display. Deserved. They we're a team, we are very much a collection of players that appear to be far more delicate in display than we originally thought. There remains a reliance on each other, some needing to be partnered up on the pitch to allow themselves to shine through. Take away the partner and they become isolated. There has to be more accountability. More spirit. That won't solve the issues long term but it might inspire in the short.
The table suggest we haven't done too badly so far but the manner in which we've done it is not astonishing and breathtaking. Not yet. And if this is us struggling with the assortment of anchors weighing us down, it's not a bad output. No positives today doesn't mean there are no positives at all.
Again, we're back to arguing over semantics. What is the gauge we are comparing ourselves against? Are we comparing ourselves to the past couple of seasons? What is the actual expectancy of this team? Haven't we always exceeded the expectation (i.e. the season we qualified for the CL we we're not expected to). This team has a focused (too focused at times) coach who continues to push ahead with a style that can't find it's feet because the feet it requires are running around in Portugal. Breaking down the opposition is proving to be more difficult with each passing game and our passing game is largely passing us by. The fiscal fight to remain competitive and finance the new stadium will always see us play second best to sides that have clout to bid for any player and push us aside from the race for the signature. Again, it's already looking like January will involve the same hopeful prayers. We can't allow technicalities to falter our fight in the transfer market. If we can't bid above a clubs estimation, then we can only compete for players that are affordable. In the mean time, we have to work with what we have and our coach must understand the limitations of the squad currently.
Let's aim for the heavens, it's what we've always done. It's harder to take these days when we fail to ignite because we know we have the potential to achieve so much more. We're trying to fly but only have one wing. A season, a team and a coach must never be defined with so few games played. My opinion. My honest opinion, but as early as the first couple of games I was being told my opinion is flawed, whilst others had already decided we were heading in the wrong direction.
Tottenham with the good, Tottenham with the bad. It's hardly catastrophic. In recent seasons we've had stronger sides than this and still lost at home. Sometimes those results were isolated, but mostly they were trends pointing to an ugly truth that our team had a single dimension to their play. A problem that was never fixed. Everything that is happening now is magnified because Villas-Boas has only been here for 10 or so games. There's also a problem and it needs fixing. Again, I'm retaining faith. I'll hold up my hands and admit to getting wrong, if I get it wrong.
We've had a run of poor results. We have to improve. If there is no obvious catalyst on the pitch, then this result might prove to inspire change in attitude and management to aid with picking us up and preparing for the three games up ahead that will require intensity of the highest level.
November is upon us and it's probably a good thing we're away from home in our next two games (after facing Maribor at the Lane). The football is not glorious or free flowing but the continued defeatist attitude of the Lane 'faithful' is utterly draining. They'll argue no doubt it's as draining as the football being played. If you're going to turn up and you don't like what you see you can perhaps attempt to shout encouragement, that throaty loud aggressive encouragement that is enriched with anger but is emotionally a positive rather than the lazy booing that finds itself manifesting when things don't go our way. The fact we can ever hear the boos suggests that the rest can't muster up the vocal power to drown the growing minority out. At the moment, nobody in Lilywhite appears to be up for making some real noise.
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