Spurs 1 Chelsea 1
I’m disappointed. Mainly because I know we are potentially better than Chelsea, at this moment in time. But potentially means very little in real terms especially if the application falls short when it matters.
Okay so we’ve got players missing and we have to adjust our shape and selection accordingly. We’ve been here before. If anything it simply illustrates the necessity to strengthen the side in January. Start of the month rather in the final hour before the window closes. Unless we reschedule all our home fixtures into that hour, we could well see an opportunity wasted to consolidate our position in the top four three. Business has to be concluded early so that we can work through early 2012 without too many dropped points. Otherwise its plan b - digging deep and attempting to wing it (literally).
But the window opening is altogether a different headache and I have to stop referencing it when its not yet relevant.
So when I say potentially I’m referring to how we’ve played this season with out and out wingers swapping sides. But we only had the one and can only speculate and theorise. We struggled, they held the initiaive for most of the game. But still, there is something endearing about an opposition that has so often taunted us on the pitch and in the stands, to come away from White Hart Lane feeling proud of their performance. They looked content, more than content because they thought they could have won the game. As the away side, they had us on the ropes once or twice in the second half. They contained us.
Disappointed I might be, but there was a moral victory in there once more for Spurs. Because we competed. Because we’re competing. Even if it looks like a Manchester title, we're contenders by virtue of being 3rd at Christmas.
It’s all very nice but we need to carve out that opportunity to still somehow win this type of game (even with the standard of performance) and remove ourselves ever so slightly from the subtle patronising of being this plucky new kid on the block trying to impress the older ones.
We should have really dicked Chelsea. We didn’t. We didn’t because, well, I’m uncertain why exactly. In terms of tempo and belief, we did little wrong in the opening twenty minutes. The first genuine rampage forward from Gareth Bale led to a cross and a goal, Adebayor beating Terry to the ball and then beating an uncertain Cech. The goal we conceded was a catalyst. Before that happened, we looked up for it. Focused and with fortitude. Handball aside (in the build up to the equaliser) both BAE and King need to be accountable for failing to pick up Sturridge. Is that a hole in your pocket Ledley? Benny was setting precedence for the rest of the game, out of position, slack and slow. He would add poor distribution to his forgettable evening.
Before it was 1-1, it did look very promising. The movement. The strength and industry of Sandro and Parker. Still, gradually, signs of an ominous type made fleeting appearances. A reminder that this was still Chelsea. A quality opposition with vastly experienced players. Before we gifted them the goal, they did their part to elevate tension just a notch. After the 1-1 we got a tactical schooling. Not quite a spanking, but you have to admit their presence in midfield nullified any creative spark from men in white.
van der Vaart was out there. Somewhere. I’m sure of it. Chelsea patiently retained possession and any attempt to reclaim some of that zesty Spurs football was, well...it was out of our reach. Still, they weren’t dominant. Stats might paint a picture of assault, but most of their chances at goal were missed punches rather than body blows. We were still in it. Felt like the game was untidy. They were not imperious like the previous Chelsea sides we’ve faced. Effective, not so wasteful in possession and a threat from set-pieces. We looked loop-side and lacked cultured intent and at times far too eager.
The lack of confidence, not because of weak mental strength but more to do with the fact that we are so finely tuned to play a certain style that perhaps the reality is that against the very best teams in the Prem, we can't get always get away with some of our adaptive make-overs.
At half-time I knew this game would finish 2-1. To someone. I was wrong, but the way the second half played out...it was most definitely a game where they could have won it and we could have nicked it.
Rafa didn’t appear for the second half. Injury. Which might explain (excuse) his ghost appearance in the first forty five. Harry changed things. He’s got it right recently when he’s had to make tactical swaps. This time, it didn’t quite work. 442 works although I prefer 4411. You just can’t play the latter if Rafa is off the pitch and if you’re replacing him with a certain Russian forward you’ve got more chance of finding a unicorns ball sack in heap of rocking horse ****. Roman does not do much on the field of play so there is zero chance of him working with effect in the space between midfield and attack. Neither forward dropped deep. There was no significant link up play to aid that much needed fluidity.
Still, we battled on. It remained dis-jointed. Luka drifting in from the right. Parker was less influential as per usual. Has his performance level dropped recently? Probably. Expected considering the run in the team he’s had and the results we’ve produced in that time. Sandro at least has given us hefty reassurance that if needed, we can rest Scott. The Brazilian was on fine form. Rough round the edges, but the type of rough you find acceptable. Like beard growth that itches every now and again in discomfort but you keep it because it makes you look good. You know soon enough it will grow nice and thick giving you full facial protection. Whatever we do, let’s please not shave it off.
Chelsea continued with their attempted body blows which at this point would have been knock-out punches. They had the opportunities, Tottenham’s chin presenting itself on more than one occasion. King at the back didn’t (on this evening) equate to the best defending as a unit. Although Ledley did make up for his earlier lapse with smart interceptions and tackles.
With the Christmas fixtures ahead of us and Rafa now joining Lennon on the sidelines, we could make matters worse if Luka retains his drifting in from the flank position. Having been second best for periods of the second half (well, most of it) we could have won the game with some golden moments as we edged towards the final whistle. Three great chances. Wasn’t to be. Chelsea I’m sure will think the same with their efforts. Gallas should have. Sandro was deserving. Adebayor might have lifted the ball higher at pace towards goal (easy for me to say it sitting here typing it).
We didn’t play too well. Shadow of the side we have been this season. But let’s not get too carried away with the negatives. Our opponents were hardly going to roll over for us. So the disappointment of failing to perform to the standard we could have might get bogged down with ‘tiredness’ and ‘injuries’ and ‘lack of genuine key play positional depth’. But as I've citied, its a good (strange) feeling to feel p*ssed off about drawing at home to Chelsea. But that doesn't excuse it, at least that's how the players mindset should be.
As long as the players believe this was a missed opportunity then that’s a good thing. I don’t buy into any of the rhetoric that the likes of Chelsea and others have come through their difficult period. They might have, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve on ours. We’ve failed to win two on the trot. Crisis time. The making of any team is one that grafts their way through a period where obstacles are aplenty. Our ones are self-contained and require us to find that next level. We've not been in such a position before, so there's that to consider too.
How much as the Tottenham supporting psyche changed to feel disappointed? Still, it's just one game. It’s done, we need to move on. Let them celebrate the point whilst we look to make amends for dropping two.