Tottenham 2 FC Basel 2
Well that was messy. Spurs Tottenhamising their way through a game that witnessed a superior Basel boss and duly punish us before we stole in for the draw. Not a bad result, all things considered.
The Swiss side squandered plenty of opportunities to kill us off completely whilst we failed to ignite any spark or refined shape and cohesion, second best to the visitors with ball retention (effective retention rather than just holding onto it without guile), movement, pace and urgency and generally, well, everything required to win a game of football. Aside from a ten minute spell we never looked like taking a stranglehold and claiming authority in our own backyard.
We we're lucky to have comeback and salvaged some dignity but all of it over-shadowed by injuries to Lennon and Bale, the latter looking very ominous in slow-motion as he rolled onto his ankle. Post-match Andre Villas-Boas has stated it isn't as bad as first thought. It's not a break. Lennon is 'sore' with a knee injury. Add to it plenty of lethargic displays across the pitch with few players rising above average, all in all it's proved to be a not so great evening of entertainment.
Some have already stuck on their black-arm bands and are defaulting to ye old deathly defeatism. I guess it was all a bit too quiet for you when we we're winning games every week. Yes, I'm digging at 'you' much like you've digged away at me throughout this season. I guess I should also point a finger at those who wanted a visit to Amsterdam prior to the game against Basel but have now changed their minds after the fact claiming CL has been lost because we failed to sacrifice another cup competition. Another reminder that modern football supporting consists of the joyless obsession for what constitutes success. Everyone is so caught up with the pressures applied by expectancy that for most the whole experience becomes torture.
Sometimes swapping and changing and adapting your expectations based on the last result as you rationalise everything that's happened by basing it on the complete opposite perfect outcome. There is no guarantee that promised land of Champions League is going to switch the flick of change to our advantage permanently. I've not changed my opinion. We compete for the position(s) on a seasonal charge. It's necessary to keep up with the likes of City and Chelsea and their financial might. But it's hardly end of days. We're not caught in any cycle of repetition. In a perverse way had Chelsea not won the CL last season we might have bolstered our squad further in the summer and been in a stronger position to compete on all fronts without concern. Or not. You can never tell how much Levy is ready to spend either way.
Am I attempting to rationalise disappointment? The fact that this even quantifies as disappointment tells you everything you need to know about how highly strung some of us appear to be. Constantly.
All in the game
Basel are no mugs as proved in the Champions League. They looked the part in terms of application and that's probably because they lined up with a strong side whereas (with Everton in mind and also with lack of genuine depth) we made changes. Okay, sure, I wish we had just fielded our strongest side. The alternative would be what? Probably the team we did field. Could we have fielded a weaker side without defaulting the tie completely? What does it all prove? It proves we only really have a 'strongest' eleven and anything less (at this point in the season) is detriment to performances. But that's hardly a secret for anyone following Spurs this season.
Hindsight. We could have got knocked out in the group stages and still run out of steam thanks to the amount of minutes played across the squad and the amount of out-sourcing our players have had to do with attempting to make up for gaping holes in our system. We all know our midfield has never been the same since Sandro was lost for the season. But the grand thing is, these excuses have sat in our back pocket without the necessity for reference. Until now. Although that doesn't mean you and I can't agree to questions some of the more dubious selections where some players have slotted into unnatural playing positions.
We looked tired. We looked better with Holtby on the pitch. The defence didn't inspire at any given point in the game. Basel we're organised and creative. They we're actually really enjoyable to watch in attack and if I chose to pretend to be a neutral during the whole ordeal (which would have been a great get-out clause for my nerves) I'd have applauded them throughout. Salah and Streller top drawer as was Stoker. All fired up to impress. The only downside for them was their failure to finish more effectively on top of the two goals scored.
Siggy, Dembele and Holtby the better performers for us with Vertonghen amongst a fair few who looked like bad clones of the original versions. Although it's easier to spot errors from players where you would normally expect to see better composure from. Friedel alert early on and late to save us from further embarrassment. Dawson should have started.
Bale was hardly in it, then as the seconds ticked away, decides to chase down the ball and go in for a tackle he could have avoided and then he's stretched off. Don't know why people are going loopy to be honest. This is Spurs. The straight-forward portrait always morphs into a Salvador Dali.
How it panned out
As for the narrative of the match itself, I'll try and recall the game from the start.
Lennon off injured early on (replaced by Sigurdsson). 1-0 down with Streller turning and hitting the post before Stocker followed up, Benny at fault. 2-0 moments later with Naughton failing to pick up his man. Could have been 3-0, Stoker again, with his effort just wide.
Adebayor got one back on the 40th minute mark. Could have been 2-2 with Siggy playing a wonderful ball to Holtby, effort saved, then Parker failing to find the net with practically an open goal to aim for. The ball hit Holtby to guide it wide. Possibly going wide any way.
Second half Salah with a one on one, saved. Then Naughton with his second long range effort of the night saved. 2-2 not long after with Siggy scoring with a dipping shot lashed in from outside the box.
Tactical change with Dawson on (replacing Benny) with Verts shifting to the left. Basel kept on pushing forward. Then the game died (for us) when Holtby was replaced by Dempsey. Lewis hardly shining bright enough to leave you with sun burn but effective as the key outlet for Dembele in the middle to pass the ball onto. All shape lost. Was hardly evident prior but was gone completely with that substitution (not forgetting Lennon's early departure). An example of how finely tuned we are with selection and formation. Without width and without a definitive pattern of play centrally. There's no hub, no bandwidth. Just a crappy modem struggling with uploads and not fast enough to handle the downloads. I think the point I'm trying to make is, we couldn't handle all the traffic.
Gallas disappeared down the tunnel due to injury late on leaving us a man short. No more subs. Then the Bale collapse. Down to nine men. Then the final whistle. Bale possibly back in time for the City game. That's based on Andre Villas-Boas post-match comments. No official confirmation at the time of writing, although don't expect to hear anything until later on this morning/afternoon. Scan today at some point.
Basel still deserving of most of the credit although for us to be under-performing and still 'alive' is testament to...I don't know. Sheer luck probably. They we're brilliant. They tore us apart at times. If Levy is scratching his head on all those big name signings he could do well to scout the 'little' countries. You know, if money is tight.
No signature pressing game from us either (another citation for 'running out of steam'). Again, possibly with Everton in mind. All of the intent was from the Swiss who deserved more for their final third play. Thankfully not forthcoming but they'll be more than happy with two away goals. We'll be equally content in the manner we carved out our own two goals.
Our squad is stretched. We'll know soon enough if this stretch is the one that breaks us. We've adapted and moved on when facing up to every negative obstacle this season. I've kept the faith since the start of the season and not because of some blind happy clapping agenda but because the quality in this squad is strong. Strong with the caveat that we can display unavoidable weakness on occasions. I think it's probably a lot worse than it looks because we played so poorly and lost two players to injury. That and the fact a fair few took it for granted we would win comfortably.
If it goes belly up, look towards the directors box. If it doesn't, still look towards the directors box again. This journey would be so much more comfortable if we could bolster our squad in key positions. Sure, we're missing players and we've had key players out for prolonged periods but every club can complain about similar headaches.
I don't think - I don't believe - our coach should be criticised for wanting to win games. The balance wasn't right this evening but equally so the standard of competitiveness from the players. Easy for me to want our 'first eleven' out there and then expect the same side to face Everton. But then if we we're in the Champions League we'd expect that as a given. I guess that middle ground to please all is non-existent due to the differing opinions of priority and objectives shared by us (the supporters) and whatever goes on in the heads of our players and coaching staff.
If we're running out of steam then it simply illustrates again how we continue to over-achieve. Some have refused to give credit all season long. When they have it has been
grudgingly. Even during that 12 game unbeaten run it was all down to Bale and not tactics and progression and it all masked the fact we weren't really playing
that well and getting away with it. In some ways, they are probably right. If so, then it fits perfectly with the over-achieving sentiment. All a touch too paradoxical.
We all want the same thing. Some of us with feet on the ground, others floating around above doing their utmost to fly. Except not really flying, just lifted up by wires. On the field of play we have to retain our competitiveness, as displayed all season long. Depleted squad or otherwise.
Spurs. 3rd. Quarter finals of a European competition. What a disastrous season. Imagine if we had two strikers, a player-maker, cover for the wing and cover for the right-back position along with Sandro and Kaboul fit all season.
Maybe the Europa League is a challenge too far. After sneaking past Lyon and almost giving it all away against Inter, we're now staring at a probable exit. Maybe it should have been sacrificed. But it wasn't. Yet all I see is one game separating us from a semi-final. All you might see is a slow brooding sacrifice.
As for Gareth Bale? We're not a one man team, right? Right? Plenty of talk that he's already done his ligaments so it looked a lot worse than it was.
Fingers crossed for Lennon.
Keep the faith. Because the alternative is hardly enthralling. And even though it's a struggle to retain consistency with expectations that change several times across the entirety of the season - remember one thing never changes; the drama. I'm not worried about our coach and players. They have ample fortitude. Most of you should at least have the courtesy to match it.
Regarding the atmosphere at the Lane - read my time-line on Twitter - @Spooky23
Injury update (via THFC Official):
05 April 2013 4:57pm
The Club can confirm that Gareth Bale (sprained ankle ligaments), William Gallas (calf strain) and Aaron Lennon (soft tissue contusion below the knee) all underwent scans today (Friday) after being forced off with injuries during our Europa League Quarter Final First Leg draw with Basel last night.
The results of these scans have indicated that all three players are expected to return to training within two weeks.
Bale, Gallas and Lennon have all commenced their treatment today and are responding positively.