I'll spare you any detailed analysis of last nights performance on account of it not being that much of a performance. A continuation of sorts from the Leeds cup match. No cohesiveness from the back-line into central midfield and further onto the final third of the pitch. Fluidity has been lacklustre. Sure, we're missing Sandro immensely. The intensity he offers allows for so much more structure than we currently have. Parker is either not back to 100% match fitness (understandably considering his injury lay-off) or he's lost a little bite due to his age and the general burn out he suffered and lost time.
Our defending has hardly been resolute either so if it's not quite working from the back then we're unlikely to get a stranglehold in midfield. Is this a slump? A blip of collective form? If so, unbeaten in eight (three successive draws) isn't too bad if this is what constitutes another crisis. An off-day against arguably our bogey side (that's all I can think of) after a draw against the league leaders and a shut-off against QPR who have shut-off plenty of 'big teams'. Hardly worrying. Unless you start adding up wins since Andre Villas-Boas won manager of the month. 2013 hasn't quite kick-started yet and looking ahead to fixtures in February and March, it best get going sometime soon unless we want to falter like previous seasons and just throw it all away.
Throwing away seems like the popular trend at the moment with our competitors. Everyone has their own unique set of problems. First side to sort them out will win. Chelsea are erratic. Arsenal are clinging onto the past. Everton are doing what Everton always do but probably can't offer anything more. And we're making do with a side that is either strong in depth or not depending on the result.
We should have beaten Leeds and Norwich regardless of the players missing/not signed. The players we possess should be good enough. Or maybe not. That lack of cohesiveness and rhythm meant that Norwich pressured and hassled and bossed the first half - deserving their lead. Defoe with our best effort, straight at the keeper.
Defoe is Defoe. Blows hot and cold, isn't great with his movement and decision making, is best when instinctive...in form, can be relentless with confidence, out of form, drifts around and offers little. He is what he is. A decent player. Just not a great one. He'll probably score in his next game and hit a purple patch. It's what he does and it's not a criticism. For want of a better quality of player in that position. And one or two other positions. Every club is always striving to be better. We should be equally obsessive in doing so. Unless a club like Spurs can't attract that better ilk of player thanks to fiscal frustrations.
Just want to reiterate, this isn't a 'blame JD' agenda driven article. As cited, our play in the final third lacked again and there was no drive from central positions, no tenacity to create.
We did however improve in the second half. Could hardly get any worse. Only one moment worth discussing. Gareth Bale, through the middle, beasting his way past players. Strength, power, pace and control. At full pelt could have easily gone down when Tettey attempted to trip him over. Bale was having none of it as he stormed onto goal and finished brilliantly with an unstoppable smack of the ball. This was literally a player dragging his side up from the ground, kicking and screaming.
I'm going to say this about Bale - enjoy him and his talents whilst you can. Amazes me how much criticism he gets from our own faithful, usually on a game to game basis. He's apparently arrogant, should stick to the left, dives, doesn't do enough, goes missing in games etc etc. Fair amount of people struggle with the concept of time and evolution and how development isn't magic that pops out of a hat with a wave of a wand. Wonderfully gifted player who will no doubt go on to be one of the best in the world. That isn't based on a single goal against Norwich City. It's based on everything he's ever done.
Take Bale out and we'll have probably lost 1-0. We could have won 2-1 if it wasn't for the luckless Sigurdsson who saw his effort superbly saved by Bunn. Sig is the 'almost scored' man of the side. Every time he plays he seems to be half an inch away from a goal. Keep the faith.
Alas, it finished all square. Chris Hughton taking the same amount of points off us that we took off Manchester United. Irony.
There was still one positive to take from this mid-week sigh. Lewis Holtby. Okay, so I'm not one for skipping towards the giddy highs of over-reaction off the back of a substituted appearance and an array of cameo touches. But what I saw of him, I liked. A lot.
Firstly, the Lilywhite shirt suits him. He looks the part. I know, ridiculous, I'm basing my confidence on cosmetics. Secondly, the flick that started off the Bale move - delicious. Also, his precise touches/passes that were both assured and instinctive. A week or two ago I said I'd be happy for the player to arrive at Spurs next season. Give him a platform, a fresh one, to start his career with us rather than arrive now and burden the sea of extreme expectations some of our fanbase struggle to remain afloat in. However, thanks to the fact we do have players in our side that are equally talented (no really we do) I don't think there's going to be that much of a bedding in period required.
Sure, it will take some time for the rest of the squad to adopt with movement and space in mind (thanks to the distinctive lack of that thing Luka and Rafa did when they were here) but don't think it's going to take half as much time as I originally thought. In progressive positions, Holtby could allow for ease of access at goal rather than us making hard work of it, time and time again. One up front, Holtby behind the forward. That will do.
Well, unless you're greedy and you've taken the news that FC Porto now own 100% of Moutinho's economic rights (no third party which supposedly stopped us signing him in the summer). Although it's hardly greed to desire a playmaker to compliment an attacking midfielder. Just fantasy if prior (recent) transfer windows are anything to go by. Let's not mention that other much maligned position and just cross fingers as today unravels towards its apocalyptic finale.