Plumstead something something Tottingham nothing nothing
Well that failed to live up to the hype. I've got to stop thinking about history and rivalry and what it means to beat Arsenal and try a healthy dose of realism when it comes to previewing games like this when every twist and turn this season has suggested certain defeat before a ball was even kicked.
The hosts have their cohesiveness to fall back on even at times of fragility. A continuity with style that even soaks up transition. No such troubles for them if they wish to rest players or mix it up. The template is tried and tested if a touch sterile with silverware.
Us on the other hand have gone from a side that had an identity crafted by Andre Villas-Boas via his (arguably) one dimensional philosophy when attempting to reboot Harry Redknapp's version to then see it sprinkled with £100M worth of newly injected 'first team players' to then see it all collapse with new problems introduced before the old problems got fixed and to then see him replaced with someone with no first hand first team experience because there was no other viable option...
It's a repeat of the final chapter from the official Tottenham handbook on progression; 'How to almost reach your destination but then find yourself back at the start of the journey'.
Tim Sherwood, the newly appointed emergency troubleshooter has to first scrap everything that came before and reinvent sliced bread whilst doing his utmost to make sure he stands out as his 'own man' and display strong, confident personality traits. Anyone want a spread of Marmite?
Spurs go from a team that should have kicked on from last season to a team having to start from scratch, be it in a very privileged position. It's never been a crisis but it sure as hell is a massive melting mess.
Because it's Arsenal, there's going to be plenty of emotive add-ons to a defeat (thanks to rivalry, bragging rights etc) when in the grand scheme of things, the game is just one of many we have to get through before we work out where we're going. Judging by the seasons performances thus far, we're not going far if this impossibly stupid conundrum isn't sorted out soon. The conundrum being one that involves players in and out of form, players in and out of positions, players in and out of the squad and so on.
We have over complicated things and there's no point in arguing over the semantics as this is what we do. We want focus and at the first sign of trouble we change it.
Tim is having to learn on the job which is equally preposterous when you consider where this club was at pre-season and what we were meant to be doing at this point in the campaign. The self destruct feature kicks in periodically to remind us that we are not meant to attain enlightenment but rather perpetually chase it.
My mistake, regarding the FA Cup third round game away to them lot, was thinking that 442 (two strikers) would work.
I based this on the urgency and tempo displayed at Old Trafford but also pointed to the fact that having Christian Eriksen out left would not be an ideal set up when facing the ever organised team from the swamp. We can get away with it against the lesser teams but we can't go up against Manchester United every week.
Did we really think Tim would out wit old Wenger? This is no country for new men. Arsene opting for structure, Sherwood preferring a baptism of fire for Nabil Bentaleb. Instantly I thought 'where's our midfield? where's the holding defender? Is there enough fight in the middle?' With so many players out injured, don't take a gamble, consider the shrewd option. Flood the midfield, frustrate them. You don't go toe to toe with a boxer that can dance if you've left your gloves at home.
The irritating thing is we never got a grip on the game. It was all very passive. It was intense but also nervous and with an ominous air of the unconvinced. I didn't quite believe the players and I'm not sure they quite believed in themselves. Dysfunctional and disjointed are the trending words of the season but this was more limp and light.
There was a surrender of possession in central midfield. So much so it proved to be a factory for missed opportunities for Theo and co to bury us. Lose the ball, watch them attack. Arsenal clicked with comfort which left us chasing. Was it the set up that influenced erratic displays for some of our players? Bentaleb applied himself (a little too much at times) all things considering, but then define what was meant to be good enough out there to compete and you begin to wonder if this was never quite destined to work. You can't expect to get more out of the game from the wings if you're being suffocated in the middle. 451 > 442.
Suddenly all those missing players make me think I'm fantasising if I believe we're going to get one over Arsenal without them. Same mind set for the 10 games ahead of us. It feels like it's now damage limitation for the rest of the season. Not saying we're going to struggle but Sherwood is going to have to figure out a system(s) for any given day with any given set of players. Squad is still big and bold enough to compete but won't do so on occasions like this if we're holding back and not looking at the game in isolation rather than the system that might work if everyone was fit. The art of sacrifice.
It was a naive selection and structure with hindsight, although we all knew very early on. No quick change to make things right and no reaction from some players to get things going. It probably seems far worse than it was, but the likes of Adebayor and Soldado appeared holographic at times. Roberto, involved everywhere aside from the one place we continue to allow for patience - in front of goal. Emmanuel hardly x-rated. There were some half decent moments but they were not good enough. Big game Ade showing us little. The ghost of AVB not inspiring him on the night.
Defending was without shape. Inviting. The first goal saw our centre-backs all at sea with Kyle Walker positionally lost but the lack of communication with cover more at fault than any given individual - as a collective there wasn't any logic with movement. The second goal was a mistake from Danny Rose. At least I think that's Danny Rose. Looks like a half fit version of the player. Shame our other left-back is such a massive tw*t because we'd have him covering the position rather than being out on loan to QPR. Although he's hardly the reliable sort either.
These two mistakes are the most maddening of outputs from the match. Sure, they could have scored more against us but the two they notched were gifts. One was cheap the other was wrapped with ribbons. Then again, that's football. A solid team punish a weak team for their mistakes.
Spurs were far too ordinary and without a strong enough plan of action to combat our opponents who didn't have to do that much to claim the victory. An absolute waste of a North London derby, but then they always are at the Emirates where we love nothing more than to just turn up and then not turn it on. I'd rather have turned it on and then capitulated. At least then our highlight would have amounted to more than the moments in the game on Saturday when it was still 0-0.
Regarding the Theo Walcott incident, the usual classless standard Arsenal decorum from Henry-lite which will no doubt win him much adulation with the social media hordes as countless gifs and photoshops do the rounds. In the heat of the moment, in a goal celebration, you can allow for a certain degree of emotion to dominate your behaviour. Finger to the mouth as you rush past a section of the home crowd or telling them the score again with fingers when standing on the field of play or running the full length of the pitch to slide onto knees. But if you're sat on a stretcher on the touchline as a rival player for a rival club then you must be a vanity driven dumb pr*ck to goad away supporters a few feet away and not expect them to react the way (some of them) did.
Where's the dignity?
Winning 2-0 and not even looking at the away fans is more than enough to cement it. But alas no, the gentleman prefers to incite. Coin throwing is idiotic but then football is idiotic at its very best. So the question of lack of dignity can be shared by both the player and the guilty supporters. I guess the incident at Eastlands with Adebayor and his particular slide and the resulting items being thrown on the pitch is discounted because it was justified?
It's a classic case of rationalising based on who you support because neither side wants to admit they were the ones in the wrong. I did say football is idiocy driven. Everyone involved here is in the wrong but if you run into oncoming traffic, be prepared to get knocked over.
If we're not making Walcott look world class on the pitch we're letting him mug us off off it.
Jack Wilshere's petulance another highlight. If this bloke is the future of English football then we may as well have Fred and Rose West on every ten pound note.
I'm amazed that I was sick in the gut pre-match and within 10 minutes knew how the game would pan out and practically lost all butterflies and settled back for the inevitable. What's that line about the anticipation being better than the realisation?
For the sake of balance, because I don't need to pick a side and fight with the other side or knee-jerk - I'm still in jury out mode until we see how the players and Sherwood react. I've got to be giving Sherwood time much like I kept fighting to give AVB time. Or do I? Maybe this is where I've been going wrong. Maybe I should be as cut-throat and as ruthless as the ones demanding immediate progression and tangible success. Just don't see how I can side with that thinking considering the amount of distributions to the coaching staff we endeavour to curse ourselves with. Intentionally and unintentionally.
This goes beyond a 2-0 cup defeat and into the realm of management and decision making at the very top level. We've blown our momentum over the past six months. Getting it back will be the usual Spursy road trip. How does that other line go? You need the bad times to make the good times feel great.
Tim got it wrong against Arsenal. He might argue he couldn't have lined up any differently (is Capoue struggling with injury?) and because of that lack of ball recycling in the middle (recall Tom Carroll), we could never seek to dictate the tempo so instead found ourselves left with opportunistic counters and untidy build up play.
Look at our squad, pound for pound. Apart from left back and a younger back up to Lloris, it can still work. Did we sign too many new players? Should we have spent the same amount on less but better? Do you honestly think every player we're linked with is viable? What we got we got because we couldn't get everyone we targeted and you would hope every signing was a signing the club wanted.
It's obvious that regardless of what AVB's plans for longevity were he was wasting the talent available in the short term. Tim has until the end of the season to provide evidence that he can pull these players together and get them playing to a standard of high quality. You might scoff, but that happened under Harry Redknapp. Then again, how exactly is the time given to impress going to be defined? The length of his contract? Or Champions League qualification/non-qualification? A question for our chairman and our director of our zany brand of continuity, Franco Baldini.
This game summed up the season; Self inflicted under achievement that can be shared among all associated at the club. A downbeat performance, out played and out fought. No arguments, no controversy. Much like the league game there earlier in the season, it was well below par concerning our end product and on Saturday simply beaten by the better team.
When (if) Sherwood has everyone at his disposal, it's going to be a right proper head scratch for him to work out the very best system. Against the very best sides, it has to be one up front and Eriksen in the hole with two wide players and two bullish central midfielders. He'll have to experiment within reason considering the options we have for some key positions.
Until then, we have another cup competition to get ourselves knocked out of it.