Spurs 1 Stoke 1: One point from twelve
I think we can start to panic. Not the screaming down the road pulling out your hair foaming incoherently panic. Just the quieter biting of the nails version. Perhaps some of you prefer the former rather than the somewhat hopeful latter. Plenty around me in block 34 opted for a third choice, which involved mostly of screaming obscenities at our best players informing them they are in fact nothing more than excrement. Oh how the fickle love to dance in the moonlight, howling with sadness. Excrement? I’d argue that’s a tad (no, I’m not going to do the obvious pun) unfair although it’s the perfect description to label our inherently poor set pieces which once more personified a night of frustration with perfect grimness.
I’m not sure where to start so I’ll just start moaning and whatever I type will have to do, so please don’t expect anything linear or in a traditional matchy reporty chronological order delivered with flair. I'm fragile at the moment.
Might as well start with the set pieces as they are fresh in mind. Expect the most obvious conclusion and you will witness it over and over and over again.
Ball fails to beat the first man.
Ball pings past everyone.
Short corner is not played because that would involve creativity.
No intelligence with free kicks, other than to have a go, might hit the target but probably won't.
Concede a goal from a free kick because that’s the expected result from a dead ball against a side that score a fair few from there.
Just after conceding I noted one or two players holding out their hands in a philosophical manner, pondering what had happened. Half expected them to reveal t-shirts proclaiming ‘Why always us?’. There is a fundamental brain fart that continues to linger in and around the heads of the players we posses regardless of how technically gifted they are. No one is capable of resolving this perplexing nightmare we never seem to wake up from. I'm still talking about the set-pieces here but also, the lack of want, the lack of stepping up and finding that relentless tempo from earlier in the season. When we dug deep on occasions, made our own luck, forced things to happen.
The Stoke goal, it did came against the run of play. And yet to be fair to them, at least they got something on target and by virtue of doing so scored and therefore deserved it. First half Luka had a couple of efforts. Bale's loop not dipping under the crossbar. There were one or two other sort of half promising moments either in the box or in the build up when attacking towards the box, but let’s be honest here. It was all ominous, that mocking apologetic football akin to knocking on a door you just need to get through hoping someone will answer when it would be far more apt to kick it down.
Sure, we had Bale on the left and Modric in the middle and one up front. I would, under normal circumstances, talk about how we are a side that is reliant on having our best players in their best positions and thus struggle if there is even one player missing. But this is a weak excuse. It’s still true in many ways as illustrated when the manager has tinkered to resolve problems with width. But in this instance it transcends selection. Adebayor has hardly been setting the world on fire recently and although his hold up play remains important this should not hold us back. And yet it did. If Adebayor isn’t setting the world on fire, Saha is attempting to do so by using a wet match.
Oh Saha, when you have the ball at feet, look up, look up. Pass it to a team mate. Alas no, the ball was persistently played to nobody or into space where an opposition player could thank and collect. There was one moment where he gave this look, with a swing of an arm, which was reminiscent of someone that couldn’t even be bothered to portray genuine care. Just wanted to look like he did. Oh golly gosh, the ball has been wasted. Darn it.
Is that harsh? Probably, but there was not enough about him. Defoe (on for Niko) gave us some direction when he was subbed on but it was hardly a tactical master-stroke. Gio came on for Saha. If that doesn’t tell you how desperate we are for something, anything to happen...
That's not to say simply having Saha up front ruined any chance of winning the game. The problem remains a collective one. No edge to our play at all. No fluency (thanks Harry for the confirmation).
King limped off. The logic here was probably, ‘Let’s play him in the must win home game because we’ll probably not win away to Chelsea’. Oops.
Scott Parker is now looking like the player I thought he was before we signed him. He’s completely out of form. Was always going to happen, him burning out like this. Hindsight will point out we should have roated more.
Much like the Everton game, we statistically battered them. In physical form the story was altogether a different one. A tale of woes and woefulness. We didn’t really carve out that many opportunities. We didn’t test their keeper enough. The football was flaccid, limp and lethargic. Now I know that a good solid side that has basked in consistency for the most part of the season and has also crowed loudly in acceptance to the plaudits given for the football played doesn’t turn rubbish over a game or four. But we might as well be because the results we’re producing are not inspiring or aspiring.
‘It’s all about the performance’, some would say, well yes okay, I get that. But the result matters more when you’re in a slump. Sure it’s not the good olde Spurs slump of old. We have not completely unequivocally surrendered. The effort is there, the execution isn’t. But we’re in danger of allowing this loss of confidence to destroy all that has been built. There’s a game, a moment that is meant to galvanise our team and allow us to once more attain momentum. But it’s not forthcoming. It’s all just a little too laborious in effort. There is no hunger, no ruthless 'win at any cost' desire. That mojo is not lost behind the sofa. It's fallen through the floorboards into the flat downstairs. And that door, we're still just knocking on it instead of knocking it the **** down.
I don’t know if it’s the England job. The court case. Redknapp or the lack of leadership on the pitch. What I do know is that nothing we’re doing at this moment in time is deserving of us retaining 3rd spot. Which is why we’ve lost it. If we want to reclaim it we’ll have stop feeling sorry for ourselves and grow that pair that appear to have gone from grapefruits to grapes to pomegranate seeds. Post-Chelsea, the fixture list is one we should seek to lap up. Should.
Around the 90th minute mark I bid my farewells to the two staunch Spurs fans to my right (one of which made the quote of the night stating how the best ever Spurs side of recent years was still miles behind the worst Man Utd side of recent years...ooh snap) telling them I needed to visit the bog and that I would watch the final minutes of injury time on the tv screens below before departing. I’ve done this once before and we scored (Keane, 4-4 v Chelsea) so off I went. I found a cubicle with the least amount of puddle to swim through and watched my fluid elegant flow hit the basin. Best move I had witnessed all night. I then walked out of the bogs looked up at the screen and within seconds saw Bale cross for Rafa for the 1-1. How nice of us to finally make a breakthrough.
I shrugged and left for the Seven Sisters.
I shrugged because had we done that 10 minutes earlier we might have found the belief for a second and thus securing that galvanised ‘performance’ to aid with reconstructing our depleted confidence.
Instead, we now go to Chelsea off the back of 3 defeats and 1 draw. At least we can recycle ‘mind the gap’ for their attention although best use up your quota of gags before the weekend before the five point buffer gets cut down. Oh come on, we never win there, do we? Although if there was a game that could galvanise our season this would...ah, never mind. Let's just wait and see.
Oh the joys of football. It’s never easy. It’s always cruel. It always makes us feel alive. Because we are. Alive. There's no shallow grave dug yet. I can see the shovel but no digging. And yet in amongst all this depressive rhetoric I still fancy us. Is that delusion? I’ve looked in the mirror and I’m not foaming so I’m pretty sure there must be some logic in my belief. We took a point in a game where we never looked like taking one. If that is our fight back its hardly one of epicness. But it's a start. It's a point. It's not a defeat.
There is now no disputing what needs to be done to get the job done. Either stand up and be counted or sit back down, put your feet up and whistle the day away whilst you throw it all away.
We are still super Tottenham, just without the super bit. Just plain old Tottenham. Do what it takes. Sellotape the flipping super onto the Tottenham if you need to. Just get the job done.