Everton 2 Tottenham 1
If only games finished at the 80th minute mark. If only games lasted long enough for Spurs to win them. In the blink of an eye we saw three points evaporate to nothing. Blink of an eye, lapse of a defence...same difference. Both take a split second to occur. This is Tottenham after all. Never without drama, never without heart break. Am I disappointed? Of course I am. But that's football. It slaps you in the face the moment you dare to look away. In a less philosophical conclusion you'd analyse tactics and find yourself agreeing that some games turn on moments that could so easily have turned out to be inconsequential when played back differently in your mind.
Had Caulker left the ball for Lloris there would not have been that superb headed goal from Pienaar for the equaliser. Not really anything to do with tactics. Just a moment. In the blink of an eye. A split second. Before I could compose myself, reeling from the ominous expectation that this was surely going to happen anyway (and thinking about it happening before it happened as if by some footballing God logic I would hex the negative thought and thus erase any possibility of it actually happening) it just went and happened any way. I thought I was watching a replay of the first goal as my brain struggled to wire up the reality of Everton's second.
"What goal is this match from?" I quizzed.
"Oh" I replied to myself.
If you stick to analysing the tactics you might start banging the 'but if AVB did X and Y then Everton would never have been in that position and we'd have killed the game off in the dying stages'. I guess that's some of us talk about it and others actually coach and manage football teams. It's easy with hindsight from our lofty position. If we had held on, well, you do the linguistic mathematics of what would have been said at the final whistle.
Ten goals now conceded in the final fifteen minutes of our league games this season. Someone tells me (around 500 people on Twitter) we'd be top of the league if we had shut shop that late on. 14 points dropped thanks to our narcolepsy. I ignore the hypothetical on the basis that we'd be top of the league if we had a settled back four, nobody out of position and all our injured players available. I'm a dreamer.
You're only as good as the team you line-up with and ours at the moment is blowing hot and cold. Okay, so luke warm and cold. But we've won a few on the trot and built up some momentum. Everton was never going to be easy. We weren't very good first half, improved our possession in the second. Draw would have been a fair result (says the cliché) but up until the 89th minute we had the victory in our hands. Which is why it hurts so much. Or at least did at the time.
The game simply illustrated what we know, what we discuss and what I've alluded to above and most weekends this season. It's not quite cohesive enough.
You might question Andre Villas-Boas and his substitutions. Sure, Tom Huddlestone is a midfielder and his arrival into the game would suggest we want to retain possession. That's something he hasn't done too well this season. Someone (possibly via Opta Stats or 442 or Windy) cited a 58% pass completion from Tom against Everton. Not great. But that did not cost us the game. In fact, in the very late stages we seemed comfortable. Individual mistakes gave the hosts the chance to claw their way back in and then win thanks to the momentum it produced.
It happens. The mistakes. They shouldn't. There should be more leadership and better composure. There should have been before the 1-1 to stop it from becoming 1-1. And there should have been an abundance of it from the kick off and deeper into injury time.
But once more that lack of forceful confident authority on the ball in the closing minutes always seems to evade us. AVB knows there's a problem. He admitted to it post-game. Although to be fair, if we can see it I'm sure he can too. I can also see that we have Huddlestone on the bench and not much else. On the pitch Gallas continues to fade. We have to muddle through. If that involves us winning say four games on the spin, losing then going on another winning run into the New Year, I'll take it. Benny and Parker will be back very soon allowing for that fix at the back and extra support in the middle.
Adebayor and Defoe. Not sure what their responsibilities were during the first half. Aside from the yellow card (JD) not sure I remember any memorable contributions. Defoe was deeper than Adebayor so obviously something was badly broken there. One of those days or just another one of those days?
Dempsey scored. Took a deflection but at least he's continuing to bed in and that will do him good. Sigurdsson cracked the cross bar. Knew irony was laughing devilishly when Dembele went off. Irony on form with the Pienaar goal. Irony very busy at Goodison Park. Got to admire those footballing Gods and their script writers.
Positives? Lloris coming out of his goal is a wonderful sight to behold. His shot-stopping not too shabby either. That winning goal wasn't pretty from start to finish. The hoof. The launch. The flick. Not much movement from anyone in white. Lloris almost looked like he was waiting for something to happen (that something not involving picking the ball out of the back of the net). Not pretty but then Everton's character never is. It's just effective. Damn it, that search for a positive turned into a negative.
As for those fabled 'last ten minutes' of any given game? Tiredness? Physically and mentally? Do we switch off? Do we invite pressure simply because we fail holding onto the ball? Or do we have an issue with fitness? Although does clearing a ball half-heartedly fit under any of the above? What I do know is this; AVB should not be on trial at the end of every single league match that we fail to win. Judge him when he's got a full strength (or near enough) side and his own players signed with backing from the chairman. Judge him at the end of the season. I plan to judge him at the end of the next season.
You're all free to express your opinions, much like I do. Plenty of hate doing the rounds again in the aftermath of this defeat. No consistency with their opinions (most of the haters), which devalues their point in argument. At the 89th mark, everyone was probably rubbing their hands gleefully together. In a blink of an eye that glee turned to despondency and the vultures feasted on the cockerel. At the very least if you're going to be disgruntled with our coach then do so all of the time and not at selected moments (that's not aimed at some of the regular readers here that at least remain committed to their view point, even if its one I don't agree with).
Once again - all about bossing the final 10 minutes of games. If we can't do so with genuine class until injured players are back and the January transfer window has passed, then AVB has to find a interim solution. It should all fall into place. Parker will offer rest to Sandro. Demblele recapturing full fitness and form will do the same. As will Vert playing at centre-back instead of left-back. We can hardly rotate but should be able to soon. It's what we add to the squad that will prove pivotal in the long run.
I'm fine though, I'm over it. I've simply come to accept that these type of things will happen until we're in the position to smack them out of our way. Even with the players we have and the way we've been playing, so many of these goals are avoidable. I guess this defeat and the manner of it now draws a definitive line under that and everyone is now accountable in assuring this trend becomes yesterday's news.
As for Goodison Park. It's now WDDDLLL. 2007 since our last win there. Not a happy hunting ground and one which is fairly known for our lapses of concentration in the past. This is Tottenham after all.