Villa 0 Tottenham 2
Equalled best start to a Premier League season. Crisis !
10 clean sheets in a total of 13 games (all comps). Disaster !
5 clean sheets in the league. Calamitous!
4 consecutive away wins for the first time since 2007. Woeful !
Arguably one decent performance in the league all season and only three points off the top. Mind the gap!
We're in trouble people, brace yourselves for a mid-table dogfight.
I'm only teasing. I'm sure the transparency of the weak sarcasm above hasn't fooled too many of you. Spurs have managed to plod along so far this campaign without truly excelling although still managing moments of excellence. The usual sound-bites (I'm guilty of) reference bedding in new players and patiently rebuilding the side back to one that has balance across both widths so we don't drown in central congestion. Nothing has actually changed since the opening game of the season in respects to the issues that need to be resolved by Andre Villas-Boas. It's a work in progress but it's one that needs to be completed. Soon.
I think it's easier to work through this as a supporter if you do it in blocks of say 10 games rather than a game by game deconstruction and micro-analysis.
The biggest issue remains that lack of risk, that aggressive attacking intent that we should be capable of when playing teams at home. Except it isn't as easy as we like to think it is thanks to that distant memory of swashbuckle that Redknapp enjoyed. Opposing teams defending deeper and deeper to avoid inviting us in to be carved up and destroyed. The same method of defusing the Spurs dynamite appears to be a containment tactic for some of the sides we face away from home.
Villa was no exception.
Yes, the first half was dire, boring, pedestrian. Yes, players lacked movement but then there was not that much space to attack and the space that was screaming for it was soon invaded by claret and blue shirts leaving us frustrated. International hangover? Memories of the West Ham game lingering in deep thought of one or two of our heads?
The reason we signed players like Eriksen (for example) was to aid with the unlocking of heavily closed doors in games when something disguised and clever is required to find a way through it. The skeleton key appears lost in the post for now. The battering ram was exported to Spain. Soldado is on the other side of that door waiting to be released. We are for the most part sat waiting for the parcel to be delivered.
Regardless, Villa hardly threatened and we took the lead in fortuitous circumstances when Andros Townsend's 978th shot on goal this season found its way past two Spurs players and the keeper for the 1-0. Something had to happen to shake the game up and this was more than acceptable.
Second half by default changed because of that goal. There was urgency from both sides, still hardly the sexy stuff, but Spurs without swagger are Spurs with steel. Sandro bossing it in midfield with that much missed positional dominance. Townsend finding more space to attack and torment down the flank. Paulinho slowly finding his way into the game with more assured purpose. Holtby looking equally comfortable in his role the more of the ball he saw.
Special mention to Chiriches. Ball playing defender, looked decent. Needs to improve his haircut to truly fit in. Vertonghen on the left, probably not where he wants to spend the season. Doesn't provide width/pace down the left though. Rose still to return. Interchangeable when everyone is fit and selectable. Lloris with hardly much to do but when called upon, there was a smart save or a clean sweep.
Spurs we're grinding it out. Villa improved momentarily with the introduction of Benteke (should have scored with a free header). We scored with a moment of class.
Soldado starting the move by winning the ball. Holtby and Paulinho involved with the Brazilian one-touching the ball back into Soldado's path who attacked the pen area and then finished as cool as you like for the 2-0 and his first goal from open play. A lovely confidence boosting moment for him and for the team. Not quite the skeleton key but doors can be opened in alternative ways. This more of a credit card pick lock than a coat hanger. Watch how a single moment of fluid attacking movement and an ice cold finish can shift and change the complexion of how the midfield link to the attack. We'll have to wait for the next couple of games to find out if I'm right.
Sometimes it isn't tactics or formation anything particularly ingenious that can change things. It's just moment of football. Just a goal. Just a smile on a footballers face. Unlike other teams that are perhaps playing to form thanks to an already established template of style, we're seeking to add those finishing touches. More of those finishing touches from Soldado will mean far more comfort in securing the points.
AVB introduced Lennon (on the left). A pivotal moment in this part of the early season. Will take him a few games to settle back in but his defensive qualities always a helping hand. Operation Get Lamela Involved is surely next on the to-do-list and we be heading towards going from one flanker to three as that issue of width is convincingly resolved.
That dire first half hardly comparable to the second when Spurs woke up and actually played with tempo. AVB alluding to the fact it simply didn't work in the first half. Critical some supporters are of his lack of immediate change in some games, but overall I continue to see us learning from mistakes and more importantly from his own. Lose a game, win the next. We bounce back. We've done that since he arrived, more or less. We hardly ever slump.
It's like we're stuck in a loop at the minute with the style of football and those sound-bites of mine. I believe, truly believe, this side is ready to explode. From a positive angle, how can we possibly not when you look at the wealth of players we have? It would be a failure for us to continue to plod. I know the professors of football that frequent the blog will argue we've always plodded with AVB but again, I still prefer to embrace the positive spin.
AVB has come in to do a job. Foundations in his first season, got rid of surplus players, influx of new players. I don't see how everything can click from the opening game. You'd have to be beyond the realms of amazing luck to see that happen. Sure, a Redknapp brand of football would probably entertain us for X amount of games and then we'll hit the brick wall of stagnation.
My desire does retain seeing us recapture the tradition we all identify with. We're Tottenham supporters. We pride ourselves on flair, invention and that pulsating drama of attack attack attack. We also know (harshly) that it doesn't always work. Thanks to the progression of this club our ambitions to challenge, we now want the best of both worlds. Best of both worlds mean you can't always take a risk and gamble. It's a tricky one, Audere Est Facere, Blanchflower and Nicholson. We're only a few chapters in, so let's see how the book ends and if there's any sequels.
At some point soon we're going to need to step it up. We're going to need to score more goals, finish teams off. Get Plan A working at the Lane and if it doesn't get Plan B working so precious points are not lost.
The fact that the mentality of the side is so superior to that of man-manager Redknapp is testament to one side of AVB's coaching philosophy. Spirit and belief are vital elements to breeding success and a winning mentality. Anyone applaud the moment when Lennon backed up Townsend to the tune of a yellow card? Okay, it was daft, but still...I loved it. Almost as adorable as the post-match bantz between Sandro and Townsend or any given man-love goal celebration.
We can't tinker for too long. It's hard to know which teams will peak early pre-Chistmas and which teams will work towards building up a head of steam on the slow-brood.
Although I'm patient (P-word controversy again) and I see the long term, I get that the short team can be the key to extending those ambitions further.
Christmas is always the time of year where you can probably work out the form of your own side going into the new year and the form of others around you. Once again, the Prem retains its transitions and that state of flux. It favours the brave. I'm all for us to continue to strengthen our resolve but I want to see us smack and knock out opposing teams with some of that fabled ruthless aggression.
If this was the old Spurs playing at low capacity we'd get tonked most days. This lot play average and win games away from home 2-0.
I'll take that for now if the grand prize is some of that much missed swash and swag.