Grim Reaped

 

I don't quite understand why we make teams look good when we need to be making ourselves look great. We hardly ever switch off except when we positively need to be switched on. Then again, this is bog standard footballing 101. Team desperately out of form against team in form. There is only one winner when the form team is Spurs.

Performances like this make me wonder if we lack a true leader on the pitch. By 'wonder' I mean 'we lack a true leader'. We usually look towards all our players, for them to lead by example, as a team. As a collective. The problem is, much like the flow of our football, if key players don't perform then it all degrades. In this instance, it was flat and lacklustre and it felt non-reactive. Subdued. We let Liverpool play. 

I stand by what I've said before. We lose games when we have an off day rather than the opposing side pulling us to shreds (although the Kop is likely to disagree with this detail and on further honest reflection, I'll probably agree with them). If you're going to back into the ropes and take the punches, it can barely be described as a fight in the first place. I've seen enough of our footwork to know we can duck and move into the centre and throw a punch or two of our own.

We rarely hide. It's no longer a natural instinct. Yet up against the ropes is where Liverpool had us. It's a different contest if you face off with the opposition in the middle and you both go full pelt. Even if they win, it's probably easier to swallow because you know you took part. Did we take part? I guess we defended in the second half. Took some jabs, avoided another knock-down.

There was no anchoring. No studs on ball and hard clapping, mean eyes and clenched fists. Did we want it? It's unnerving to pose this question because the attitude of the team isn't one to turn its back on a rumble. The more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to admit they pulled us to shreds. Their movement, the quick touch, the urgency. It's an interesting comparison to make with how we play. Sure, we don't have that same element of accelerated play. We tend to build slowly or rely on wing-back pace. But we're more than capable of shutting down teams, containing them and then punishing them with equal measures of shock and awe (City at home springs to mind). 

Caveat. It's hard to take and it's easy to be over critical, especially in the wake of a loss.

I'm generalising here because we have battled through games when we've played momentarily like amateurs. We dig deep. It's part of our DNA now. We still have to adapt and be reactive. Much like the game at Eastlands. If you're going to play poorly or allow the opposing side to dominate, then respond. Allowing ourselves to be in this position in the first place, or rather eradicating this potentiality is where we shift from contenders destined to finish 2nd (then actually finish 3rd) to being challengers and winners of the title.

Much like we don't have a game changing player, we don't have a single individual to shoulder the responsibility. Imagine Poch the defender on the pitch with the attitude he has now as a coach. I don't know, I'm probably reading too much into it. Over thinking because of circumstance of fixtures and the state of the table in terms of points adrift directly above and the teams closely behind. We played like sh*t, we got nothing, it's what we deserved. 

Yes, I know, there's a learning curve and whatever. I preach this sermon every weekend. The fact is, as a maturing side we quite obviously still lack a bit of a few somethings. Not so much a cutting edge when on top (a refinement there will help) but mostly an aggression and arrogance when we're not (to go alongside a viable second striker and a galvanising game-changer).

We gave Liverpool the points by virtue of allowing them to play with freedom whilst we lost grip on our shape, with and without the ball. It's bitterly disappointing. We don't collect too many points at the 'big clubs' away from home and the angst here is that we should be the ones doing the bullying. They played like a team that had something to prove to themselves. This type of attitude is grand for one off encounters. It's the holy grail if you're also wanting to prove yourself every single game. We need this attitude too. Still, producing that ilk of football is hardly an easy task.

Their first goal, was simplicity. Their second, our calamity. A 138 second nightmare. 

The hosts rediscovering confidence, Spurs shambolic with their attempts to counter it. Mane the type of electricity we could do with once we're done rewiring post-power cut. 

Ben Davies was not equipped to handle the Senegalese forward and nowhere ballsy or pacy enough to be a like for like replacement for Danny Rose. Not to scapegoat, but it illustrates again how finely tuned we are with selection choices. Lose a key player in a key position in a team full of key players with no natural alternatives and we're the ones that get unlocked. Our left flank far too susceptible to their roaming. Our midfield failed to adjust accordingly.

Eric Dier's mistake was uncharacteristic of him and the team. Especially when he was under no pressure. It summed up that first half. I'm repeating myself, but damn the cosmos, it's Spurs that keep beating Spurs. Then again, that's football. You either make mistakes or you take advantage of them. 

Harry Kane was disconnected. Son ineffectual. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen lost in the wilderness. 

Application was Windows Millennium. Blue screens of death everywhere. Spurs lacking the necessary XP.  

The second half mocked the first. No clear chances, like the Gods just gave up on wishing for more entertainment (or torture). It was the worst case scenario with how it played out. We didn't turn up and we didn't dig deep. Maybe we did by regrouping and switching shape to something reminiscent of working structure meaning we didn't get punished again. There was no comeback, no consolation and no redemption. 

Pochettino might have given the players the hair-dryer treatment but he'll have to wash and go to get rid of the flakes if he wants a constant shine.

Analogy is on par with our football at Anfield, so deal with it.

He was right to say we lacked desire with how we started. There is still a fragility there. I'll redirect you to what I've already written about leadership. 

Regardless of all the above and the longevity of our evolution and the league table and the games left, it would be nice if we turned up occasionally for these types of games. Much like we still await for it to happen at Stamford Bridge. Old Trafford has been in recent years more accepting, but, well...I hate the way I feel right now.

One off the scousers. Three off Chelsea. Four off City (the minimum requirement). One off Arsenal (so far). Zero off Utd (so far). More success at home than away from N17. 

I sort of feel a little better when considering this. Then remember being apologetic or understanding isn't anywhere near the type of ruthlessness we seek. 

I sort of feel a little worse when I remember we've only won twice away (Soton and Waford) from home going back to September (a win at Boro). Draws, too many of them. We know this already. We have to accept that we still have another stage to graft through. We're getting close. That's me the optimist. I don't do all that disparaging nonsense. 

In conclusion...

We go again. We always go again.

Our third defeat of the season. The nine points lost the difference between what we are and what we want to be.