Spurs don't need to wing it to win it through the middle
Spurs 1 Sunderland 0
It was hardly a quintessential new look Spurs home performance. A distinct lack of shape with that controlled cohesiveness in the middle of the park and that pulsating pace down the flanks MIA. We suffered a little watching the game unfold like a scrunched up piece of paper with a game plan scribbled across it. Except, well, it doesn’t unfold too well. You can sort of make out what the point being made is but its mostly indistinguishable. Thankfully, a second copy was printed out in time for the second half on glossy colour paper.
So what was this game in terms of form and formation?
The first half was untidy. Bale unavailable due to an injury he sustained in training. Lennon leaving the field of play with an injury that might keep him out a while. King (25 pts from 27 pts) was fit and started. Players playing out of position meant Luka and Rafa struggled to find tempo. It looked ominous. It smelt ominous. You sort of watched and scratched your head and pondered that this might be one of those days where the team fail to adjust accordingly and can’t quite dig deep enough.
You. Not I. Well perhaps I’m not in a minority with this but I hardly knee-jerked to the tune of ‘we’ve got our Tottenham back, you know the one, the rubbish one’. The word patience bounced around my head, even with Roman on the pitch.
This season, placing aside the entertaining uber-confident football we know we’re capable of when at full strength, we’ve managed to almost contain ourselves from an anti-climatic scenario. Never quite peaking, always looking to aspire for more and when it doesn’t quite go according to plan...we grind it out. Multi-facet Tottenham. We can win any which way we wish. We battle through at times and even when we impress there is always room for improvements. That’s a fairly healthy position to be in.
The untidiness saw plenty of misplaced passing, average to poor ball distribution and not so positive positioning. No attacking outlet with the missing wingers/insider forwards which let’s face it, is Plan A (attack, counter-attack with pace). Plan B is sort of, well, what is it exactly? It’s not what we witnessed in the first forty-five minutes.
The despondency some felt is natural. When you become accustomed to something that plays out at a high level of expectancy, if it drops, when it drops – everything gets the microscopic treatment, with critics at the game or on the sofa moaning and head shaking. We’ve been spoilt, of course we have. You can’t party every weekend. And the come down is never going to be pleasant. Days like this are equally just as important as the ones where the swagger has us dancing with joy.
The winning mentality is built on persevering and pulling together. Okay, so it was only Sunderland and perhaps (again) it proves we need perhaps extra quality in the squad to compensate for long term injuries if they happen. But it turned out nice again, didn’t it?
We were the better side at the break but still the second half needed impetus and structure. Cue Harry, cue whatever it is he does in the dressing room at half-time. I imagine it’s not the hair-dryer. Probably gets all the players to jump in to a giant-size snuggle blanket and sings gently the tactics in the form of a soothing lullaby as he hugs his way through the first eleven before shaking them all awake with a fatherly pat on the back. Go get ‘em.
All players entering the field of play for the second half more focused, with intent primed and ready to damage the opposition and once prove to everyone the old Tottenham (that rubbish one) no longer exists. We’ve just got a new one that has worked its way through puberty, voice broken, ready to growl and spit and have a ruck if need be.
Luka and Rafa far more central in the second half with Parker pushing further forward and Sandro The Bricklayer building a wall to stand guard over like an over-keen gardener who doesn’t want any silly children playing ball on his lawn.
Rafa was the completely opposite of his ineffectual first forty-five ghost, giving it one of those Neo from the Matrix performances. Stand out moments that delicious pass to Benny, enough to make you fantasise about it (sorry Sylvie babe) and quite obviously the reverse ball to Pavlyuchenko who finished it for the 1-0. The Russian, quick to point out his name on the back of his shirt. Yes mate, we know it all too well. It says ‘lazy half arsed footballer with sublime technical ability but frustratingly poor with all the other things a complete forward is meant to have’. Costs a fair bit to have that printed on a replica.
If we could perhaps take Pav and Adebayor and fuse them we’d have a player with work ethic, movement, team-work and hunger (Adebayor) with one that can finish with pomp (Pav)...or perhaps not and we end up with a hybrid gone wrong who can’t talk English but smiles broadly when he misses a sitter.
The goal was enough. Modric could have made it two but preferred not to score and keep it for when Chelsea visit. Walker and BAE worked tirelessly down the wings (thus allowing Luka and Rafa to mix it up where they mix it up best – down the middle).
Still hardly at full pelt, but we displayed the grit and tenacity which will always lead to that moment of sublime skill to carve open a goal scoring opportunity. Brad also busy between the sticks when called upon. We got through it. It’s what we do when it’s called upon us. Sandro was admirable, got to love the way players bounce off him as he moves forward with the ball leaving them devastated on the ground.
Parker survived the yellow card that could have ruled him out of Thursday’s game. King ‘should’ play. Kaboul will be back. Bale? We hope will be fine and there’s a little kidology going on.
Start to worry if we’re playing like this and winning like this every single week. Then we might need to discuss a lack of spark and ingenuity. But that won’t happen. Also no point discussing the Jan transfer window until it happens. Only thing that matters it the next game.
We played without two key players, instrumental to the style everyone associates with us. Narrow, congested football doesn’t quite work if it doesn’t have its outlets. Harry worked it out in time for the second half. We need to work it out before we whistle is blown on Thursday to kick-off.
442? Patient possession play? Decisions, decisions. Will say this much though...this game is not as pivotal as its being written up to be. Okay sure it is if we win but we all know it only then takes two or three not so smart results in the aftermath to change things around. If we lose it will hardly be the early Xmas present we’ve asked for but we’re hardly going to have our hopes crushed for the season. However, that attitude is firmly one that sits on the fence.
Smash’em to pieces is therefore the only conceivable option. No matter the players, no matter the formation.
Chelsea are no mugs. But we’re hardly in the shadow of a beast.
I want us to go for their jugular. We play best when we play the Tottenham way.
Love the shirt.