Rafa refuses to dance to Samba beat
Rovers 1 Tottenham 2
I keep waiting for us to explode into rampant action with devastating consequences. The sort of performance that has our players swinging from the chandeliers holding bottles of champagne whilst the opposition sit in the corner, shaking, slowly moving backward and forwards foaming at mouth whispering to themselves...make it stop, make it stop, make it stop.
In my pre-match comments I eluded to the fact we are rather good. At least we should be rather good when up against a side like Blackburn that are struggling. We were good in patches and had enough quality to see the game through. Our luck will run out at some point if we don't resolve the centre-back injury crisis (by resolve, I guess all we can do is muddle through) and other key players don't re-discover their mojo. What is most definitely good is the fact that we continue to be capable of playing average football away from home and still come away with all the points. Luck or basic survival instincts, either way, we're 5th and our excellent run since the Manc spankings continues.
Due to the manner of the victory and the once more fragmented tempo to our game its tricky to delve too deep into whether we have learnt anything new from this performance. Have we? Go on then, you pushed me into it. Although I still don't think we've learnt anything new. Just echos of old. Taking observations made solely on Blackburn away I'd probably go with:
van der Vaart. Four opening goals in four games. Love him. The finish for the first goal was classy stuff and his second equally majestic and impossible to stop. You might sit there and debate what else he does on the pitch and how his wandering is detrimental to the side and whatever, shut your mouth and just look at the facts. He's a born winner and no matter the opposition he gets the job done. After years of complaining that we lacked true fighters, men who know how to win and have the desire to, now we finally have such a player we should just sit back light up a Cuban and enjoy. Top drawer. It's just dandy to have a player that can sometimes not play out of his skin and still score a brace and win us the three points.
Was it just me or did Friedel look a little unconvincing at times? Even so, if this was an off day for the big man, then I'm happy. Didn't cost us but could have. But didn't. Just seemed to notice a lot more in this game that he does love to stay on his line more often than not, which means the onus is on the centre-backs to attack the ball. Have a word Harry please. With the physios. Bassong struggled here (high balls) because that's a weakness to his game. Still, some very decent saves from Brad when called upon.
The problem with not having King available is that we don't have King in the side and can therefore spend large portions of the game looking like we've got the Queen playing at the heart of our defence with a corgi by her side. Was no surprise that Rovers pressured us with high balls and physicality. Samba was a handful. A brute (and given the freedom of the pen area) which led to their equaliser. We don't look convincing at the back but then what team would if they had three seasoned centre-backs 'watching' from the sidelines? Samba does love to make us dance around at the back.
Kaboul was vocal. I like that in a player. But much like Bassong he struggled with the aerial assaults Blackburn bombarded us with. You almost felt like Rovers could have scored more because we slacked way too much. The pressure we were sometimes placed under mostly down to the lack of a telling partnership with Bassong and Kaboul (who seemed to struggle when in possession).
If Sandro is not fully fit, then I look forward to when he is because (as cited pre-match) a midfield with Sandro and Parker in the middle would allow the South American to dominate and boss, cleaning up and chasing down whilst Parker can slot back into his more accustomed role of box to box football. Scott is hardly built like a Brazilian Bane and can be out-fought in the middle of the park. No amount of 1950s hair flicking is going to scare the opposition. It's difficult to lead on the pitch if you're being consumed by a couple of heavy duty responsibilities. He needed more help in the middle. He can handle himself, he can get stuck in but he needs a partner in the thick of it.
Don't be too harsh on Lennon. He needs game time and he needs more of it. Tracked back okay on occasions.
Love Walker. There was me thinking he'd be providing cover for Corluka this season. His effort and determination going forward is an inspiration. If he was a boxer he'd bring it to you, punching relentlessly, always looking for the haymaker. Brilliant run for the opener which deserved the goal.
Adebayor still looks like he's playing with that hamstring worry. Subdued. Did drop deep a lot, fairly frustrated I would imagine. Still, he was involved rather than disinterested. I hope.
Modric looks like he's worked out how to shoot at goal with menace. Decent game, bit more bounce in his play this week but not the best circumstances to dictate.
Bale. His form continues to bubble along at luke warm temperatures. He's a left-winger, pulsating at best when released down the flanks...but something, that edge that spark, it's not quite there. Harry has to take some responsibility here to get Bale back to his best. Man management is fine, but tactically out on the pitch Harry has to perhaps focus on how best we utilise him to get him back up to boiling point. A bit of freedom perhaps? Instructions to cut inside (ala Modric back in the days when he stood out on the left)? He's not exactly been woeful. The standards he has set himself is what magnifies his lack of impact. He'll get back to it, no doubt. I guess Harry has to ask himself, how best to galvanise Bale? At the moment its all very bog standard.
Overall, its time this 'luck', this scraping through a game and surviving to hold on is brushed off and we start to brush off our opponents with more pomp and splendour. Not just Bale that needs galvanising.