Everton 2 Spurs 2 Autopsy: Cry me a river
Decided not to blog post-match on Sunday evening, mainly because I was waiting to see if I was about to be consumed by the knee-jerking that took place on various message boards. Specifically the knee-jerking on the Glory Glory board. Anyone browsing in would think the Mayans got their prediction about 2012 a couple of years off. Absolute melt-down of the highest order. Half the players were being slated, everyone was suddenly writing off any chance of a Top 4 challenge and Harry was the culprit responsible for our downfall. Bedlam. People should stay away from football forums during and just after a game as emotions tend to over-take sensibility.
Regardless of the fires and riots, I still found myself conflicted. I was struggling with the notion that perhaps the knee-jerking was the correct response to losing a two-nil lead and then missing the opportunity to take all three at the death. Perhaps not knee-jerking is nothing more than a delusion, a form of denial and that brushing off the reality of the two points lost was the easy way out. Brush it under the carpet, tag it under 'learning curve', place it in the bottom drawer and close it shut.
"One of those days"
Even though we tend to suffer one of those days every time we're meant to be witnessing the necessary move up to the next level. You sort of kind of can't blame some peoples reaction.
And that's the crux of it. The reason why everyone despondently frowned as they turned the pages of the 'How to throw away points by Tottenham Hotspur' manual and in unison sighed at the predictable outcome at the final whistle. This was textbook. But then why do people act so surprised when it happens?
Pre-match, I was confident. Teasing and (tongue in cheek) asking for a 4-0 away win. I wasn't alone, although being a Spurs fan, you almost know that in the type of games you're expected to win you usually falter. Everton, depleted, but perhaps not unconscious in a shallow grave as most assumed. I called for 'mental strength'. And once again, Miss Irony lashes out and slaps me across the face. How dare I insult her.
"This season is going to be tight, and these are the types of tests we need to pass with flying colours"
Famous last words from me.
Congratulations to Everton on their victory. However, had Defoe taken the penalty with any sort of ruthlessness then the aftermath wouldn't be half as dramatic as it is at the moment. We'd have won, and there would have been the same questions about certain areas of our play but I guarantee you there would also have been plenty of 'this is what Top 4 clubs do, they win games no matter the obstacles they face' types of bravado. And yet, the miss means that we are suddenly not good enough. The logic used with some of our fans is based on a game-to-game template. The expectations are complicated, rather than simplified. And everything that has come before is rendered redundant based on the 90 minutes of football just played.
We fucked up. There's no doubting it. 19 attempts on goal, we (again) looked like the home side in an away match. 4-0 would have been the outcome had we been a touch sharper. The match was lost not on the Everton comeback or the penalty miss but the lack of clinical finishing. Up until the final 20 minutes Everton were plucky and physical and bullish but had little to offer in the way of goal opportunities. That was until we gladly allowed them the time and space to score.
Rather than assert ourselves we let them progress forwards. Wave and wave of ugly snarling effective football. Ominous it was.
And this is where my conflict sat and why so many knee-jerked after the game. Why oh why do we always allow sides back in when we've bossed the game? Answer? No leadership. Imagine a Roy Keane in the middle of the park barking out orders. Harry has come in for some slack for not motivating from the touchline or making substitutions that make no sense. I'm waiting for the theory that he hypnotised Wilson Palacios and forced him to spread the ball out to Coleman (lovely player) who was left with space ahead of him and the next time we touched the ball was to take it to the centre of the pitch to kick-off.
Bale was slaughtered by most, but how many noticed Niko drifting into no man's land and leaving Gareth alone to face two Everton players? He stood little chance. Although that's not to say he looked comfortable at left-back (brought on because BAE was losing his head). Bale is probably more suited for the left-midfield position anyway, as it appears our coaches have done little to improve his defensive qualities.
It's amazing that from a position of complete authority and control, I was willing on the final whistle towards the end. Again, here festers my conflict. We've seen this so many times. But once more, I call lack of leadership on the pitch as the main reason for the inept surrendering of two points. Losing shape and concentration is proof that mental strength is still lagging desperately. As though we had switched off at 2-0 up and decided the game was done, rather than perhaps step up a gear and score a third.
Wilson, who had an indifferent game (very untidy at the start, but introduced a little bite later on) won us the penalty and was then carted off to hospital. I'm certain I was not alone in thinking JD would miss. But then most people would think that (regardless of the team/player) because it was one of those matches full of twists and turns. And it's Tottenham and making us suffer is what they do best.
Then the knee-jerking hellmouth explodes releasing all manners of over-reactions and ridiculous analysis, including a personal favourite where some people thought Harry should have got Keane on the pitch to take the penalty. The same Keane that most prefer to have sitting on the bench…forever. Another gem was the question that asked whether Defoe is over-rated. Yes he is. Because he missed a penalty. Send him back to Pompey the useless git. He only ever scores when it doesn't matter. Fabio should drop him from the England team.
So, am I still conflicted? No. Not really. I'm still gutted. More so than the home defeat to Stoke. Could have been worse, we could have been two-nil up to West Ham and let it slip. But it's Monday morning, and I'm still pissed that we failed to kill the game off. And in the past we'd have been happy with a point. But times have changed. The frustration is that times need to be changing further. It's in need of some tweaking.
Whether you blame Harry for this (killing a game off) inability is dependent on how patient you are and how long you believe a learning curve should last for. There's that old chestnut about how no matter the players no matter the staff no matter the manager - the same reoccurring problems exist. Years and years of devolution (with the occasional spike) can not be fixed over-night. When Harry took over we had a mixture of good and bad players who were all under-performing. He's got us up to where we should be based on the squad we have. The underlining problem still at large is that we are still lacking that little bit extra. That mental resolve comes with belief and if you don’t have players on the pitch who led by example and scream and shout orders to others then it's easy for the complacency to creep back into a performance.
Of course, you might deem my conclusion to be optimistic. Denial? No massive massive knee-jerk? Sorry to disappoint.
We're in good shape. And had that pen gone in, we'd be third. We are still top 4 and we've got Wolves at home next. And if we manage to beat City in the following game, watch how a single 90 minutes once more changes opinions from one side of the spectrum to the other. Because Villa and City have suddenly woke up, some of our fans are citing how this is not good news because we faltered and thus we have shown a weakness too great to overcome. Regardless of the fact City drew 7 on the trot and Villa have been a little inconsistent in places. The fact both won means their 90 minutes of football out-weighs our, and therefore they are in a stronger position because they are about to improve tenfold. It's wonderful logic.
This season hasn't even got started yet. Nothing has change from 4 weeks ago to now. We still need a new midfielder. Other clubs around us will drop points. At some point we will have to step up to that fabled next level, the level where we would have beaten Everton. Next time out, in a similar situation, if we lose our heads again in the same fashion - then rather than knee-jerk, we should just admit we don't quite have it in us and Harry/the players have failed to learn from prior lessons.
You might pose the question that there's no room for this type of complacency and that points dropped now are irreversible damaging our season. I guess opinions on this will remain divided.
My confliction is now resting deep in its own shallow grave. Don't compare the disappoint of this game to games of similar ilk from past seasons. We tend to react positively nowadays. We learn and move onwards. We're not about to implode.
The reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.
Get a grip and dry them.