I wrote this for the Metro. I really don't want to spend a second more of my time having to write another review of the same match from scratch (so I just added to the original 500 words where I could muster up the energy to do so). You watched the game. You all saw it with your own eyes, consumed the sorry state of our non-existent style. Is there any point in dissecting a corpse that's been cannibalised? Oh go on then...
Another Spurs defeat and here I am with yet another post-match musing that is a duplication of pretty much every write up I've blogged this season. Tim Sherwood's gentle outburst after our 4-0 capitulation away to Chelsea and the resulting 'discussions' that took place with the players sharing home truths amongst themselves gave us nothing in the way of a reaction when Benfica turned up at the Lane.
What we got was the standard non-display we are treated to week in, week out. Tim Sherwood forever shifting and changing and tinkering with his selection. At no point is it an easy task for us to fathom what the actual tactical plan is. From the looks of it, the players struggle to do the same. Sherwood is trying to be the manager/coach that he wants to become now when the reality is he'll need years to get there.
There is no doubting Benfica's quality. They were organised and superbly drilled. Tight and resolute in defence and precise in counter attacks. The game started out congested. We lacked the width to open it up a little. Once more our payers looking uncomfortable with their responsibilities. Christian Eriksen better suited centrally rather than pushed out to the flank but when he drifted into the middle he still let himself down with some poor decision making. Harry Kane was a touch out of his depth as the number ten. Not a direct replacement for Roberto Soldado in terms of playing as a second striker, but regardless, why not simply play the Spaniard in that role and be damned with it? He perked up his confidence with a goal, got dropped, and now sits on the bench. We're not in need of reinventing push and run here. It's all a little bit too over-thought and therefore over-complicated.
Add to it the maddening inclusion of Kyle Naughton as left-back and Kyle Walker forgetting how to distribute the ball and you could see the signs of dysfunction re-emerging. Jan Vertonghen's body language gets worse with each passing game. Man, I've never wanted to slap a player across the face more than I do with him. If anything to shake out of him whatever is eating away at his ego. We want our very best to step up but he looks switched off, along with Paulinho. World Cup year, right? /scratches chin. The only way Harry Kane would have looked Rooneyesque was if he started chasing grannies.
Not a lot happened aside from Benfica attempting threaded balls whilst we struggled to impose any inventiveness in the final third. Then Moreno Rodrigo scored, the ball slicing open our slow moving backline with the finish impossible for Hugo Lloris to get to. A lovely executed piece of football, aided by Eriksen losing possession and our defence freezing like our season ticket prices for next year. Their threaded balls more precise than our messy push into their box.
After that, Spurs pretty much collapsed mentally. Benfica now dominant with possession and control. All that spiked my interest was to complain about our awful set-pieces and lethargic, lacklustre movement. Although I couldn't quite be bothered to reach for the remote and change the channel. It would have meant getting off the sofa.
At half time I mumbled to myself that the selection wasn't balanced enough, the lack of width so telling when attempting to long ball our way through the opposition thanks to the crowded midfield. Ingenuity, a lost superpower. Spurs unable to float let alone fly.
Add to it the lack of fluid quality with our passing and the transition to our play from defence to midfield to attack, the recent public outbursts had failed to inspire us out on the pitch. Effort simply not enough.
We need a template, a blueprint. But not yet, not now, for the future. Something productive was/is required presently. An interim solution to get us to the summer. Damage limitation. Instead, we've degraded. Vanquished form and consistency.
As mentioned dozens of times, the collective is already on holiday. Add to it the fact that even with a plan (under AVB) it still didn't work. Back to basics? Anyone want to suggest a Harry Redknapp-lite coach we can appoint? What? We've already got one? Oh. Ok.
Second half didn't look to be any different. Emmanuel Adebayor pulled his shot wide when he really should have scored. That might have changed it, bit of old skool galvanising. Then we went 2-0 down thanks to a poorly defended corner. Another mistake. Oh so typical of our recent form and our devolution. Tie pretty much dead and buried.
Then a glimmer of hope when Christian Eriksen buried a free-kick. Power, precision and pomp. Finally a set-piece worth applauding and a vast improvement on some of his more wasteful moments. Now if only we could have got another two or three outside of the box we might have won the game.
Roberto Soldado came on for Kane and Danny Rose replaced Kyle Walker. Nabil Bentaleb for Sandro.
Last fifteen minutes or so my mind wondered back to the Champions League season and the swashbuckle that immersed us all.
Then I woke up when Benfica scored a third. Tie over. Another poorly defended set-piece. Somewhere in there (before the third probably) Lloris missed the bounce of the ball as he run out towards it with Vertonghen supposedly protecting him and it was almost another embarrassment of an err. I don't blame Hugo. High line is back, even less stable than it was in its Villas-Boas heyday. He saves so many certain goals with his shot-stopping, I can't slate him for attempting to defend when so many around him fail to do so.
Vertonghen went off injured. I think. I could hardly tell the difference. Apparently we're reading too much into his moody looks, that he's unhappy with his form but completely focused on Spurs (from the horses mouth). Would be good if he quickly buried his insecurities and got his game back.
Walker (who was subbed) is a possible doubt for the weekend. Our defence now looking like Baghdad after Genghis Khan visited. I'm sure an equally depleted Arsenal side will still find a red carpet or two to stroll down, towards our goal. Unless there is a drastic and dramatic change in our mind set.
Spurs can't win games with character or effort if there is no understanding of style and responsibility and if we keep making schoolboy errors, there's no chance.
Shout out to StubHub and the Benfica fans in the home end. If it had nothing to do with StubHub then how exactly do away fans get into the home section and not get escorted out but if you happen to have a bottle of water on you it gets confiscated? One for the club to explain.
It was Benfica. A superior side, with tempo and a smidgen of flair. A side in great form, more of a second tier Champions League team (having dropped out of the competition) than a mismatched Europa League struggler, so even if we had shaped up with a competitive edge they might (would) have still beaten us. I guess not having that edge has sent us all over it.
There is no intelligence to our football and our mental fragility appears to worsen with each passing game - even if the soundbites from players promise the opposite and our coach attempts to inspire through media driven psychological.
Our spirit is lost among the ghosts of our more exciting recent past.
Roll on Sunday. If we lose then I'm going to spend the rest of the season blogging about the American adult industry, comics and my obsession with magic mushrooms, DMT and Ayahuasca.
Fingers crossed then.