Impaler

 

The Europa League. It's so much of a priority we made ten changes to the team that drew at Arsenal. Seems the real priority is to make sure there is no European hungover when we face Mauricio Pochettino's former side, Southampton this weekend. That's in form Southampton, thanks to the leadership of Ronald Koeman and the lack of concern they've shown for losing so many of their key players during the last transfer window. It probably won't last. Let's hope that starts on Sunday.

As for Thursday night, Besiktas looked to pay a little more respect to the competition fielding a strong side. Remember, they got dumped out of the Champions League qualifiers after losing to the aforementioned kings of fourth spot. So excuse me if I wasn't too confident early on when Vlad Chiriches decided to gift the ball and allow the Turkish side in on goal. Strictly come blundering. What happened to the progressive centre-back that loved to push forward out of defence? This particular error lead thankfully to a wasted opportunity for them. We should accepted the ominous tone set as this was simply a preview for the main event, late on in the game.

When Demba Ba struck the post, I shrugged at the comparative ease of his effort thanks to the freedom allowed by our back-line. There were further chances that stopped the heart from beating.

We have a squad. A squad supposedly full of quality. A squad where we can actually rest ten players and replace them with another ten. Not quite at the same level but capable players. At least on paper. The problem is one of consistency of selection. Or lack of.

Pochettino probably sees these games as a chance for the fringe players to prove themselves worthy enough to be retained for the long term. Either that or he simply doesn't want to field a full strength side so that players are fresh(er).

The issue is that when you bunch these fringe players together, regardless of training preparation and planning, out on the pitch they won't necessarily gel. What with Europa League games being player every few weeks. The fact they are cameos of consequence also means there is sometimes a lack of grit between the teeth ethics. Besiktas had desire and each other. We had the inconvenience of having to play this game. That's how it looked and felt.

I want us to win a cup but these group games appear to be about doing as much as possible with as little as possible, just to muddle through before the knock-out stage perks up interest. By that point (if we get there) I can only hope we've settled into a rhythm. It's still all very stop start stop start. If this game was about fringe players making a claim, it wasn't very successful. 

From a technical standpoint, once more, there was no creative player sitting and dictating in the centre of our midfield. It's hard enough watching the first eleven struggle, so this was never going to be a pretty experience. There is no fluid link from the midfield to the flanks and forwards. It's all a bit one dimensional. Laboured. Not to suggest the likes of Roberto Soldado can't do more. His highlight, a surging run forward. It's incredible that this moment stands out, but that's how starved we've all been to see him resemble a robust forward that can adapt to any given game.

Sadly he was isolated pretty much like he has been since he signed for us. Partly his fault but also thanks to that single dimension that doesn't allow for time and space to find a supernova to leave us breathless.

Of course, if you have quality players (supposedly) then basic football 101 would suggest that said players should be able to carve out chances for themselves or pick up on where to move to find a threaded ball. In Soldado's defence, he's more likely to look more lively if partnered with Erik Lamela. A case of matching up players rather than playing to the system. It's getting a little desperate now. There is no system to play to.

I still believe playing the spine of our strongest side and interchanging one or two players then doing the same in the game that follows (Southampton), will improve that search for momentum. But what do I know? Millionaire athletes can only play the single game in a week otherwise their conditioning degrades and makes them more susceptible to injuries. God forbid if we played in the Champions League against better opposition. Although I guess that extra ONE DAY makes all the difference, especially with the game that follows.

As for the game itself - Harry Kane scored with a beautifully placed shot for the 1-0. Best finisher at the club? He should have had a second but found the keeper rather than either side of him.

Aaron Lennon injected some much needed urgency into our game. Yes, you read that correctly. Paulinho played. I know this because his name was in the starting line-up presented by the club. Eric Dier at right-back is a reminder of the long term absence of Kyle Walker and we all should be reminded of Ben Davies lack of game time since his arrival.

Fazio and Stambouli both did okay. Early days, can't yet gauge if they are first team or backups.

As for the constant (online) scapegoating of Andros Townsend, bravo Spurs fans. Here's a club that wants academy players promoted but the party-line is to slag them off, constantly and then berate the club for not signing 'top tier' players during every transfer window.

Hugo Lloris was at his reactionary best more than once. He sticks out like Ryan Gosling at a fat farm. Truly world class and if he wasn't the rest of his team mates make him look it regardless. A couple of fantastic saves as Ba battled to best him.

We survived some nervous moments. We dug deep in the second half and looked like we'd bag all the points. Then we naturally gave it all away. Vlad Chiriches playing football like Sam Beckett had just Quantum Leaped into his body,  perpetually whispering 'Oh boy!'

A truly diabolical individual display reminiscent of that video of him walking in the street with friends drunk. His attempted clearance of the ball before handling it was nigh comical. The referee might not have had clear vision of the incident but probably decide to punish him for crimes against football.

So Ba finally beat Lloris from the penalty spot thanks to Vlad's incompatibility with the ball at his feet, much preferring the hands-on approach.

I guess it really is about doing as much as possible with as little as possible, just to muddle through to the next game. We almost got away with a fairly forgettable performance. Although I'm not sure I'm going to forget Vlad's incompetence for a while yet.