Tottenham 1 Swansea 0
If Tottenham was pornography it would be the type that you find on digital subscriber channels. Hardcore edited to soft to escape slapped wrists (and personal injury) from broadcast regulators. Nothing explicit and no money-shot. You know it's happening you just can't see all the graphic details but there's enough there to leave you satisfied. It's sort of sexy in the same way a Victorian dad would tremble at the sight of a naked ankle.
Under Andre Villas-Boas we (he) continues to experiment. To chop and change tactically as he quests towards understanding all our capabilities and how well we can translate training pitch ethics to the field of play. Arguably you could ask why there still isn't a distinctive style of play, a true vision of his philosophy evident week in week out. Arguably you might answer that the fundamentals are there but there's still not enough bulge in the pants.
We looked decent against Swansea, a team known for their possession football. Good performances all round. Solid. Even with a quartet up against five men in midfield, after the visitors initial comfort in the early stages, we went on to dominate retention comfortably whilst they just sat back, deeper than Linda Lovelace. But it didn't matter in the end as there was no choke from Spurs.
We pressed them, they held their ground. We pressed some more. They defended resolutely (frustrating us) and we closed down space but failed to make a break through. Did we influence their game plan? Probably not but we aided it with our slow build up play allowing them time to park up. Two things that stand out here. Firstly, how one dimensional we can be when we don't have the buccaneering Bale to use as a forceful outlet of attack. With no Bale this meant we pushed up in slow stages rather than aggressive quick steps, resulting in the Swansea sponge soaking up all our watery intent. Adebayor (holds up ball but isn't doing too much else) and Defoe (lost possession nine times) both failing to ignite. Without Bale (and even with him) we miss other ilks of tricky such as clever defence splitting balls and disguised passing to open up stubborn defences. We rely on width and pace. Just how close we'll ever be to perfect equilibrium remains to be seen. Equally important is the Plan B. Both blueprints still in design development.
I've read articles this week (via @Yids, @Lustdoctor) discussing Scott Parker's return. One school of thought sees Parker allowing Sandro some rest, other suggestions would have them both play with Dembele roaming higher up the pitch. Not a bad shout. With two defensive midfielders in the middle that gives us hefty protection with two gears of war which means Dembele can take on more offensive duties, with more space and time to be expressive. The flanks however would be imperative for using our width and pace and supporting the front lone man (451 formation - or a 42211 or 4231 - same tactic, different was of describing it). Just some thoughts.
For all our possession and pace on the counter when Swansea permitted we lacked cutting edge. In front of goal and in midfield (in terms of creative guile). Laudrup's men remained negative throughout. They had half-chances but nothing on target. We displayed resolve and more importantly, patience. We kept going until a breakthrough was made thanks to a sweet finish from Vertonghen from a set-piece. Then came the true test.
I always laugh in the face of the ominous script when the game drags on without goals and I consider how this will result with the opposition stealing in for the win. When we scored I still (along with all Tottenham supporters) closed my eyes momentarily to pray to the footballing Gods. We held our ground and saw the game out even with Swansea finally deciding to wake up and attack us. There was more assured composure from the players. Still nervous but then it wouldn't be Spurs if we didn't suffer just a little.
There was also some time for drama towards the end. Lloris knocking out Michu when clearing the ball. The ref failing to blow the whistle and the impressive subbed-on Townsend running towards goal to score. which he almost did. Livermore getting involved from the bench and earning a yellow card for his efforts. Swansea displaying more passion here then they did for everything that came before it.
Gallas had one of his better games possibly with thanks to playing along side Verts who took his place in the centre rather than the full-back position. Dembele strong and direct in the middle. Lennon perhaps not always taking the braver decision. But can't fault much as we controlled the game. We just didn't pick them off enough and didn't quite find that decisive balance in the manner in which we attacked. A number of times we seemed to want to find another player with the ball rather than shoot or play a killer ball. Probably because of the lack of movement and the lack of space.
That style, vision of play...it will become more evident in time. AVB is stubborn but has shown flexibility and sacrifice. Our movement isn't quite inch or rich perfect yet and some players might be better utilised in more progressive positions. But then that's just from taking a handful of games as examples and attempting to work out how best we can improve. If I'm doing that, the coach will be doing the same. And as much as tactics and formation give sides focus - if you add a player or two that are bestowed with game-changing abilities then this will always re-write the script. If Bale was in amongst it, he'd have taken players with him out left. He would have given our attacks from deep positions far more fluidity and pace.
For a team that still hasn't found its feet, we're standing fairly high for all our efforts. A good three points. And a clean sheet. Talking of which, let's hold off using any Kleenex for now.
1) Stop comparing us (me and you both) to previous sides and styles. It's a default habit we're going to continue to be guilty of doing. This might not be a fully fledged transitional stage but it's also not a continuation of what came before. We have a solid base and momentum to build upon but the coach also has the freedom to instil his philosophy over time. This is not something that should be judged over x amount of games but rather over a projected period of time dependent on variables concerning the chairman and the new stadium. We have stability, whether we have the fiscal power or not remains to be seen so a new working ethos is paramount in retaining consistency and endeavouring to challenge.
2) I loved reading this from AVB:
"We have addressed the [late goals] issue in training. We have increased the complexity of the tasks the players have been doing at the end of the sessions. The more complex the exercise, the more concentration they need at the end. It does not mean the problem is solved but the players are conscious we have conceded in the past and they want to get it right."
Coaching 101. There's a problem. It's accepted as a detrimental trend. It gets worked on. Although would also like us to work on our forward play (in the short term) because we wouldn't need to worry too much about late goals if we scored more down the other end.
3) The home crowd. Hate talking about this when I haven't actually gone to the game but the Lane continues to sleep with expectancy. The spirit of #1882thfc is to display love for the team no matter what. Perfectly summed up by this (shared on a forum post-Europa League):
"On the tube a Panathinaikos fan said to two young Spurs fans 'no matter if your team wins or loses, always chant their name, no matter.' I nearly cried with happiness, I hope those kids never forget those words"
Sadly most of the adults have long forgotten them. The football experience in England continues to dilute. The early season excuses from some claiming 'we have nothing to sing about' remain as embarrassing now as they were then. I'll guess I kick on with the happy-clapper tag.
4) Yes. I made the Linda Lovelace joke.