Tottenham win 2-2
Champions League virginity lost. How was it for you? I've still got that warm and buzzy feeling.
Cracking game, plenty of positives and plenty of lessons learnt. First half was sensational. Superior in possession, first to second ball, hassled their players, generally bossed the game and carved out chances. Silenced the home crowd and transcended the Tottingham style of play across from domestic arenas to the premier European competition.
Then came the cheap goal. A struggle to adapt tactically after vdV was subbed and Schaaf's clever reorganisation which nullified us. They scored again. And could have scored more. But then we could have nicked it ourselves. We didn't buckle though, did we?
It was a baptism that showed us we can compete. But to compete and win, you have to retain 100% concentration and focus and know when to batten down the hatches or even sacrifice some of the fancy stuff to take the pace out of the game and frustrate the opposition.
I'd have taken a 2-2 before the game. Disappointed we didn't take the three points after it. But that in itself is a positive. I guess, if you look at this season as a whole thus far (and this season is still in its infancy), then I guess the main thing for me is for us to re-tune the killer instinct…and kill.
That and the defensive quirks that need ironed out. And one or two other bits.
The First Half
Superb. Authoritative in possession, biting at their ankles and chasing down their players when we didn't have the ball. Our confidence was such that the Germans actually struggled to retain composure. We threatened to over-run them. The movement, especially of vdV, was class. Bale was beastly and tormented Fritz. 1-0 was deserved. Be it an own goal. But Crouch would have had it for himself. Which he did for the second. A majestic volley from Jenas (yeah, you heard me right) to vdV who crossed beautifully for Crouch to head it in. For 43 minutes we bossed it.
Seems BAE is getting flack for this. I'd blame the general lack of command of the situation between all three of them as a collective (King, CC and BAE) more so than any one individual. You can't dither like that. It's suicidal. It was a cheap goal and the very definition of a life-line. 2-0 at half-time would have meant a completely different second half.
A goal at the start of the second half. Equally as cheap. No denying the quality of Marin and his finish. But if you're going to be invited to shoot, then you're going to do just that. It's rude not to. Far too many players backing off and ball watching. Kaboul a bit norty with that. Tasty player that Marin. How much you reckon?
Rafael van der Vaart
Top drawer. Made us tick in the first forty five. His movement, touch and vision allows for that extra dimension to our play. The type we’ve became accustomed to when Modric is on form. Went off very early in the second half due to a calf strain. Precautionary.
Schaaf and Redknapp
Schaaf made the tactical change that saw Hunt replace Bargfrede and Marin hold the left flank which was the start of a far more fragmented approach from us what with the hosts working out that their narrow midfield was easy pickings. I'm not suggesting in reply we should have looked to put men behind the ball, but (as I mentioned at the start of this article) we should have attempted to regain control and not give them time to build attack after attack. Replacing the injured vdV with Keane rather than perhaps another midfield, meant our midfield was over-run for most of the second half. We lost that studs on the ball composure and work ethic that saw us control the tempo for practically the entirety of the first half.
Overall, re: Harry, good job with our initial impact. What with our missing players and the reshuffle and another attempt at 451 (4411). Time for the gaffer to decide on formation and positional roles/responsibilities and allow the team to re-gel and retain the standard set from last term. If it's one line up for home and one for away, with variations for Europe and the EPL, so be it.
Excellent. Up front on his, forced the first goal, scored the second. And could have got on the end of another in the second half as well as almost, almost, but not quite finding the winner. Some are still critical of our lank, but he continues to prove - at the top level - he does the job. Will it work in the EPL? It sort of does and doesn't, as teams know how to contain Crouchie more so in England than abroad. And he's not prolific domestically, compared to a Defoe. Should be given a chance with JD out and see if it takes us anywhere.
The bad stuff
BAE lapse in concentration, King also partly responsible and Cudicini too. The first goal conceded was avoidable. Corluka and Lennon appear to be devoid of form at the minute. Not sure why Charlie is struggling so much. He's gone from looking lethargic but in control to now just being lethargic. Azza is a mixed bag. Has had his moments this season (Stoke away) but seems to be struggling, what with all the tasty service finding its way to the opposite wing. He does okay, but nothing more. Get Gio or Bentley on just to remind Lennon he has to step it up to keep his place.
Keane. Made some runs, but perhaps its because he hardly ever starts and he replaced the uber-solid vdV, he just seemed to do very little and at times looked a pale shadow of the Keane of 3/4 seasons ago. It's summed up perfectly when he failed/refused to play Bale in early and just held onto the ball. Doesn't look like he can jig past players either. He did apply effort, but he just seems to me to be on the outside looking in.
The good stuff
Everyone, including the ones guilty of the odd (costly) lapse, should be applauded. It was a decent, more then decent, debut for us. Well done.
vdV, Bale and Kaboul the stand-outs. The latter, a raw sometimes erratic player quite obviously equipped physically (ooh) to be more than decent but can sometimes scare me what with his naivety and day dreams. But to perform like that. Well done. To him and the faith/man management of Harry.
Jenas was also good. No, this article has not been hacked. He worked hard. Was far more effective in the first half when we had so much of the ball, not so effective off it in parts during the second 45. But it's easy to be critical of a player when you're always critical of him, by nit-picking even when he does well. And he did, but then, he always does now and again. Which is the problem with Jenas. It's only ever now and again.
Played some lovely stuff first half. Even though we were under pressure second half, survived a few scary moments, but we could have won it. It was a respectable away point.
The formation worked. For a time. As discussed, we didn't adapt accordingly when the opposition changed their approach. We have to be far more reactive in these games. Harry did well to drop Palacios and line-up the midfield in the way he did to work the flanks and pressure the Germans with Bale rampaging. But the moment we lost vdV and Bremen got a stranglehold of the centre, we should have changed it far quicker than we did.
Harry has to step it up tactically during the game (I'm repeating myself now) and retain players in their best positions. Bale does what he's asked to do, but I'd much rather see him remain in the left-wing position. I can't quite figure out Huddlestone's role. There are subtle changes to his positional and attacking/defensive duties from one game to the next depending on whether it's Modric, Palacios of (now) Jenas starting alongside him. He was solid. So no complaints. I guess the fact he can just do the job he's asked to do, is a good thing. But he can sometimes lose his grip on his positional sense which leaves us open to pressure.
Domestic hang-over avoidance
Will post this bit as a separate blog post, later on.
We were not thrashed or humiliated. In fact we can feel slight despondency with the fact we didn't win.
We can compete in this competition, no doubt. I fancy us to win our home games so it’s a case of more of the same when we next play away, but tighten it up at the back and defuse any tactical resurgence from the opposing side in midfield by standing up, soaking it up and throwing it back in the faces.
Cracking stuff Spurs. Hold your nerve next time out.