Challenge Spurs™ 2011: Thou Shalt Not Lose
Spurs 2 Bolton 1
The Spurs way is the hard way is the only way. Textbooky Tottenham does it again.
Challenge Spurs™ 2011 is up and running with the perfect start; three points. Even if we did leave it till the last seconds to carve out the win. A blistering thundering effort from forgotten man Niko Kranjčar in a game that witnessed three penalties, two scored, one disallowed then retaken and one missed - all in the space of three minutes. Along with a further one initially given then not and one for the opposition that could should have been given but wasn't. Consistency the Clattenburg way.
We were also blessed with a goal keeping mishap, Jenas wood (ooh), Bolton wood, a wonderfully worked waltz by BAE to vdV to Defoe but alas disallowed, Pienaar almost scoring and the men up front not (we had a goal from a forward in midweek so best not to complain and be too greedy with our demands). Defoe snapped too often, lacked composure, but held the ball up well but did complete a smart finish for the disallowed effort...offside would you believe? Crouch involved, usually resting on the backs of opposing players. But hey, Roman assisted so it's not all grim in the land of the strikers.
It was gritty, it was in parts laboured. There was effort, but not of the swaggering type. And there still remains a question mark or two about the competency of aforementioned forwards (442 the gift again today). We've dug out six points from the last two games. Winning ugly or to be less harsh, winning when you're disjointed but doing your best to avoid falling back on the excuse of missing players - it's just as sweet as dismantling the opposition (I'd still take the latter on any given Saturday).
Fact is, the five games, it's about the points and it's about coming through a tricky period where we are weaker because of injuries and might require rotation to remain competitive away whilst welcoming back the likes of Bale and Modric and dealing with Europe.
Mental strength last term held us up hight above and beyond. If you believe you can win even if you don't perform well, you tend to do just that. Luck might play a part. Who cares, right? Not every game can be analysed with microscopic depth, attempting to decipher why there was no constant free-flowing football. The very fact Jenas (first half) was probably man of the match means we can probably just accept that we won because we scored one more goal than Bolton. Have that Hansen.
Pienaar (second half), also decent with link-up play and covered ground effectively. Lennon sparked once or twice as he continues to be one of our more consistent performers, and thankfully Fabio can continue his fixation on other muses for the time being. International midweek not too far off. Harry will no doubt continue his fixation with the Crouch and JD double-act.
But if I was to flirt with analytical commentary (just a little), based on the magnificent seven essentials that Challenge Spurs™ is looking out for in the games at hand...
Team cohesiveness - Midfield played well considering the players missing and vdV stuck out on the right (although not super-glued there). Wilson, Jenas and especially Lennon (another plaudit) all played well. Pienaar industrious when coming on. Wasn't pretty, we made hard work of it but it worked when ball was played through the middle rather than launched forward by our back-line. Same with the defence apart from the Gomes hiccup.
Leadership - vdV wasn't (isn't) at his best and hopefully his calf issue is not serious. Again proves at half-pelt he can be influential and we need that quality in abundance.
Work ethic - Doesn't matter when you score right? First minute, last minute. We need to rediscover some our tempo and pace but any team that has four or so key players missing is going to struggle a little but as long as we work hard as a unit we'll make up for it in less marauding ways.
Craft and creativeness - When you've got no Modric to dictate and conduct you're going to lack something big from the small man with magical feet. Plenty of hoofing for the textbook Crouch flick-on meant lack of smart moving groundwork but when it was played through the middle, even JJ looked sparky with ball at feet.
Clinicality - Hardly. Defoe appears to snap at shots he should passing into the net and then getting himself into offside positions when making it look simple. But his work rate was more than decent. Crouch scored against Blackburn so the next one is due in 2014.
Tactical astuteness - Can't fault the selection from Harry. As good as it can get at the minute. We kept scratching away at Bolton, pretty much the old analogy of trying to get through the front door without a set of keys. Subs worked a treat. But then, what other options off the bench do we have?
Fighting spirit - Great to see a fringe player (which is what Niko has become) make such a vital impact. When frustration can birth such thunder, it's best kept close to you than afar. Hope to see him used more often. Could have quite easily ended as a draw so it's not quite the back-end of the 2010 season just yet. Sunderland away will hardly be easy but they can be got at. And Wolves (top tier killers) will be more than interesting in terms of trying to out-quality them, as well as go up pound-for-pound with the physicals.
Conclusion: Gear change required.
So, what about casualties? The van der Vaart calf problem, subbed at half-time. Gomes, nothing to do until he decided to cushion the ball under his body and onwards to the net, just to make things interesting. Thankfully no tears were shed in the end.
Question marks on selection (not my opinion - just the vibe of discussion I'm getting from you lot), as a few of you are asking questions surrounding the whole bare bones sound-bite our gaffer likes to beat the drums to when we have players in the squad that should be given more game time and plenty of yoof players loaned out and doing well at other clubs.
Rotation the key, and more importantly - players should be in the side based on performance and the will to perform well. Harry loves JD, but if JD is struggling to regain form then bench him and allow him to come on and do a Niko and then surf on the success of it. Just a thought. Of course when the only option is Pav (he wants to leave...again), as much as you might want to embrace your anti-Harry agendas, the alternatives (thanks to deadline day) don't leave us with much in choice.
Harry has never fancied him (Pav), even with the goals scored towards the end of last season - he's still 3rd choice. Which means he'll never play enough for us to see him 'bed into' the side so we can find out if he works or is just plain ordinary.
Regardless of whether we got lucky or not, a win is a win is a win. Even if another minute less added time would have had us drowning our sorrows on more points dropped. A Spurs lull that still generates the points. Let's try not to forget what we can do when we actually turn it on full pelt. And slowly, them missing will return.
I don't quite buy that we are fighting a downward spiral. Not yet. But then I'm always blinded by optimism. We all know we are capable of so much more offensively. But unlike past swaggering teams, at least this one has a winning mentality. We can dream about having Teddy and Jurgen up front for us or a Berbarotica/Keane love-in, and irony might send you loony, but it's wasteful to dream. But boy, what a dream!
Second best home record in the league in the last 6 games. 3rd best away record in the last 6 games and one defeat in 14 in the league. One more point (44) after twenty-five games than we did at this stage last season (43).
And as mentioned, next game, away to Sunderland. Remember that fixture last season? Lose and 4th goes with it. And what happened? And then what followed in the remaining fixtures?
Keep the faith.
Thou shalt not lose.