DVD imminent

 

Awaken Tottenham from your slumber, awaken and shake yourself back to life. That's it, don't be shy, you sleeping beauty. Don't linger on the nightmares.

 

One of the most repeated complaints I've seen argued after Tim Sherwood was appointed concerned the questioning of tactics and formation and how much insight a youth level coach could have when adapting to first team football. How we line-up, style of attacking play, midfield balance, possession play, width, inter-changeable strategies etc.

The questions being shouted out are of the type that will take several games before answers can be given. I've alluded to the fact that we are probably overly critical because we have such a massive pool of under achievement to reference when comparing this new Spurs to the one left behind by Andre Villas-Boas.

The opening episodes from a TV show might stand out on their own but they're redundant without the episodes that follow. I'm sure we all want to skip ahead to the finale or be told spoilers about how it all ends, but this early part of the schedule, it can't be discounted. The finale would never have any impact if what preceded it was without substance. It's Sherwood's story arc. Here's hoping there's no cruel twists.

All those whimsical  wishes of free flowing football still exist (Spurs sub-genre is fantasy) but much like AVB was maligned for not providing us with it (over a period of a season and a bit) Tim is also being targeted by the great army of impatience that preside over the team, forever judging, forever frustrated.

Personally, I'm gradually moving towards detachment, something I've threatened for a while. My potentially new founded philosophy will be not to expect the moon on a stick. I'll just take a couple of glistening stars for starters. Spurs and Sherwood are in search for the swagger. Productive yet easy on the eye football. With each passing game we all hope to see the evidence, whilst players return to the team and confidence re-generates.

It's not too dissimilar to what a fair few of us sat around waiting for when AVB was in charge. That lack of consistent invention and goals and the collapse of a more deliberate methodical approach means that anything that follows will appear to be better initially but wont have a long lasting impact unless it retains a longevity that the prior one failed to claim.

Getting Spurs to play more open is simple enough but adapting it to be effective after a complete overhaul has been rejected and replaced is something that won't happen over night.

So every game, at the moment, is one where we hope to experience this epiphany on the pitch and in the stands. Where we finally awaken, and everything clicks. When identity is fully reclaimed and Sherwood can display some of the astuteness he is known for (at youth level) in terms of instructional responsibilities of players in key positions. Not just the back to basics school of kicking it about a bit and running around.

The first half against Stoke was dominated by us.

Nothing out of the ordinary, we always seem to boss possession. It's the lack of end product that remains the bane of our lives. If there was no past history going into this game, you'd be impressed. But knowing we don't score many at home and we make it an art to struggle to finish off a cross or pass, then you'd still scratch your head at how much effort we put into trying to score, then have to rely on a spot kick to do the damage.

Regardless, it was deserving. The penalty coolly slotted by Roberto Soldado after Ryan Shawcross blocked a shot from Adebayor with his arms.  I should cite the fortune that Stoke were not awarded a penalty of their own after Michael Dawson (thanks to television replays) appeared to take more of the player and none of the ball (although I've since seen more slow-mo of the incident and can't quite make up my mind - from one angle, it looks like Daws did get the ball).

Our football consisted of high tempo movement and some top class touches, many of them from Paulinho, showboating with intent having returned from a three match suspension and eager to impress with the Samba flicks. A powerful box to box display, ending with injury and a substitution. Blatantly playing for a move to Madrid. That back flick to Soldado (who shot wide) was ridiculous.

He was influential much like Christian Eriksen who endeavoured to craft for our forwards and keep the ball moving with pace. Spurs now playing with zest and zip.

Dembélé also strong, bullish and impressive, owning everything around him - Stoke unable to contain him. We're at home, we don't need to bog down the midfield with defensive players but we need to be cohesive with the attack minded ones and not flood the final third. There has to be fluidity. There was. Plenty of it. Echoed by Dembélé with his performance and with post-match comments citing Sherwood's instructions to attack whilst keeping it organised.

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Aaron Lennon back in the side was busy down the wings, cutting in, through the middle. He was busy all over the pitch along with Adebayor also grafting hard and continuing his resurgence after time spent watching on from the sidelines, covering every blade of grass up top and working for the team. Nice to see more than the single player dominate the post-match heat maps.

Pass move pass move pass move.

=

Balance.

It was quite obvious what players were meant to be doing out there. It's not always been obvious in recent months.

Stoke obviously not that great, however Spurs not separating the gulf in class with punishing shots on target and there was a gulf. A massive one. Mark Hughes admitting so in his post-match comments that his team couldn't get anywhere near us.

The second half birthed one of those moments where you just have to sigh along with the player.

Roberto Soldado, the poacher from Valencia, who has spent the early stages of the season isolated up front on his own with no link up play to support and often bewildered and lost when attempting to play the channels, found himself central and in the exact type of perfect position to receive a pass and fluffs it. The story of his time in the Prem thus far. Only Spurs can take an instinctive, technically superb finisher and break him.

Still, no time for the apologetic excuses, he simply has to take these chances if he wants to rediscover his mojo. He's looking so much more active now in and around the box, getting onto crosses, always an inch or so away from finding the net. He'll find it. His mojo. It's probably behind the sofa. Then he'll find the net. Thankfully he can ask his partner Ade to help him. You're no longer on your own up there Bobby.

Interestingly, he never misses a penalty (hasn't for us), a scenario where the forward has to think and decide where to place the ball. Granted, it's pretty much in the favour of the striker than it is the keeper, but the pressure never gets to him. When he's found himself with the goal as a target in open play, he drags it wide or doesn't strike it cleanly. Is he thinking too much rather than allowing instincts to take control? I still believe its a confidence issue. One goal, one special goal from open play and he won't look back. That's my prediction.

Then a Christmas miracle. A Tottenham 2-0 lead.

Mousa Dembélé with a goal made by Mousa Dembélé. It's the Gareth Bale escape clause. When the team can't muster up a move that ends with the ball in the back of the net, take responsibility yourself and bury it. Mousa drilling the ball into the left hand corner from the edge of the box, unstoppable. Special credit with ball stuck to feet (in the build up) from Adebayor when surrounded by six Stoke players. Perhaps it was a team goal after-all.

The brilliance here is the optimism I like to pull out of such a moment. We have players across all areas capable of scoring goals out of nothing (let alone the continued quest to get them to instinctively create goals from team play). Laugh at me mockingly if you want, but it's true. Most have managed to forget how easy it can sometimes be.

Granted, it's all dependent on the opposition and space provided. Dembélé is someone we all want to see in more forward positions because he's capable of so much more. We got to see that against Stoke. We need to see it far more often. Mousa, Eriksen and Paulinho - all very capable of scoring from midfield. Chadli also with impressive stats prior to his move to Spurs. It's these guys that ought to be mocking the opposition.

Then wallop. That awakening finally bestowed on our long suffering souls.

3-0.

Soldado (who assisted Dembélé) assisted Lennon (with Adebayor almost getting in the way) for the little winger to smack the ball in. Aaron getting his reward for a fine display.

Then enter Erik Lamela (on for the workaholic Lennon), almost scoring after Adebayor took advantage of some slack Stoke play. The Argentine with the usual glimpses of ice cool composure on the ball. Twenty minutes of sublime movement and touch. I'm no longer expecting the world from him every time he plays. He'll bring it to us in his own time.

Three-nil it ended. A healthy looking score-line even if you take into account that Stoke had several players injured, suspended or taken ill. A comfortable afternoon's work because we made it comfortable on ourselves. A solid functioning performance was always going to be good enough to beat Stoke but Spurs have made hard work of beating most this season so deal with it - we played well, we won convincingly.

Having two up front is working, we're creating chances but more importantly we have bodies in the box to attempt to get on the end of them. No more isolation, it's been replaced with involvement.

There was also more structure to our expression and freedom to attack than in the previous games under Sherwood. Returning players allowing for that aforementioned balance; width, the traditional kind on one flank, with a creative force behind the strikers and two strong midfielders central looking to win the ball and push forward - all with relentless effort to keep on going, looking for the next goal.

+ a clean sheet.

Should we discuss the coward Charlie bonecrusher Adam and his tackle on Paulinho? I said tackle, I meant assault. Match of the Day didn't. I guess they don't count when they're dished out to foreign footballers. He's still bitter we failed to sign him. Disgraceful stamp and follow through, never seeking to win the ball. But sshh, don't tell anyone about it.

Manchester United away will see Tim Sherwood tested on an altogether different front - one that will require that much hyped astuteness with the midfield selection and our defensive qualities under the microscope.

The Arsenal cup game, an altogether different type of affair, where we get to see how good his motivation is.

Seven points out of nine over Christmas. That's something to be merry about.