Sheriff 0 Spurs 2


Another win and another clean sheet.

Not the best of performances by any stretch of the imagination, mainly thanks to the lack of imagination on the pitch amongst other things, but qualification can now be claimed in the next game.

Strong line-up? Yes, considering we had only the four starters from the Villa game. Spurs always look strong regardless of us playing first choice players or a mix and match selection for rotation and rest. Which, along with the lack of true quality from the opposing sides makes this particular Europa League campaign a touch comfortable compared to prior ones. It's all a bit easy and we don't even have to try very hard. I'm sure that was Sheriff really really trying hard and that was us not too bothered about their effort, getting away with it on occasion, but always believing that we'd find a way through and make certain of the win.

Yes, our play was far too casual with plenty of sloppy passing, not that much in the way of invention and complimentary movement that would allow for more striking prowess in the final third. Shape wise, even though the side looked strong on paper, there was no cohesiveness when seeking to attack. At times our possession was decent enough but then it depends on what your expectations pre-game consisted of.

I logged onto Twitter to see a fair few cite 5 and 6 nil victories, perhaps with tongue in cheek. But on paper, if true be told, we should have still steam-rolled them. But then our collective expectancy would be to see Spurs play at full pelt. The reality is, they hardly ever do in these types of games where the win seems to be almost, practically guaranteed. You know, like the West Ham game.

It was fairly limp stuff for the most part. Sheriff obviously proud of their home record (something like one defeat in 88 games before our visit) and across the full ninety they had plenty of counter attacks (our high line and the offside trap broken several times) but failed to capitalise. For want for better finishing the game might have proved to be far more tricky.

We retained possession competently in deep positions but didn't quite recycle the ball higher up the pitch. Lamela tried to get into the game but couldn't. Not the best ilk of game for him to start in judging by some of the lost in translation movement attempted. Some of his colleagues not quite tuned into his thinking and vice versa. Eriksen and Defoe equally not as friendly on the pitch. Dembélé not as dominant as he should be, especially against the opposition we faced. But then he hardly ever is. Always feels like there's another level to his game.

So, we had a classic case of underestimating them a little and overestimating our ability to coast through he game. 

Sheriff, pressed and hassled, and as mentioned took any invitation we handed out to get behind our defence. Mostly down the left hand flank.

Ideally, I'd have liked us to turn up and put on a display of ruthless professionalism. Boss them in midfield, kill their tempo then dictate our own. Instead it was reactive rather than a focused strategy. We should have been the ones attempting ye old counter-attack. I might be reading too much into a game that wasn't really up to much scratch, but it all felt very disjointed even when we had a couple of defining moments that gave us the points.

On the subject of Lamela, much like the subject of Spurs gradually working towards a fully functioning unit...patience is hardly a virtue to ignore.  There is a very dumbed down perspective we (the football supporters of the world) seem to default to in situations like this.

"We paid £30M for him!"
"Why have other players settled in and he hasn't?"
"He looks lost"
"He's had plenty of chances to impress"
"Other players from abroad have made an immediate impact, why hasn't he?"

This isn't a thought police shut-down. Not suggesting for a second people can't have an opinion that varies from mine or from any given conflicting opinion, but seriously...why does everything have to happen now and if it doesn't happen now then it is automatically perceived as failure or failure that will come to pass? Andros Townsend was written off by some 2/3 games into the season. This being a Spurs player - an academy product, a Tottenham supporter - given by the faithful oracles a verdict of guilty and not good enough for us. Not to say the rest of us should get carried away with the hype, but perspective, works if you wish to apply it with ample moderation.

Sure, we've had players come and go that have flopped. Some with pedigree others with potential. Lamela has started two games. He's had a handful (if that) of substituted appearances. He's already admitted to struggling with acclimatising to England. I'm guessing the same people that think he's not very good are the same that will point to Madrid and suggest the same about Gareth Bale - who only last season was the third best footballer on the planet. He's hardly had a barrel of laughs at his new club, fighting fitness, fighting the media that practically brokered his move to La Liga and fighting the ego of Ronaldo.

Bale more or less knew the whole move was about image (of Madrid and his own) and the money to be had. Much like so many players in the past (home and abroad) he'll have to slowly work his way back up to the standard he can perform at.  

Lamela is no different, be it a completely different set of circumstances.  I knew of him and had seen him play for Roma. Many have, many hadn't. When all you have to go on is hype and the quotes of others then the thinking is he'll simply slot into a role and fit in from the off. He's young. We paid plenty for him. He's not highly rated because he's from Argentina. He's highly rated because he's already proved himself in Serie A. Franco Baldini signed him from River Plate and signed him again for us. It might take him six months or the entirety of this season to find his pace in the Premier League. When he does I have no doubt he will be exceptional.

I might be accused of blind faith. Let's face it, I wanted Rebrov and Postiga to succeed at Spurs, but both players never looked like the right fit at the club and it was obvious early on they would both struggle. Lamela has hardly had any game time. Look at Holtby and how long it took him to settle and play a far more cultured game. Eriksen is still adapting, what with both the physicality of the English game bullying him a touch along with having to understand that space won't always be available for him against some teams (that look to suffocate the areas of the pitch he roams in).  In fact the whole dynamic of the wings and the inverted roles still need to be worked on for the three behind the lone striker to play with comfort and supreme awareness. 

Blind faith isn't blind faith. It's support. And it's supporting someone that has talent but needs to build up confidence along with defining his role (something that isn't evident at the moment). 

I'm astonished that some want to argue that based on price paid and performances, Lamela hasn't paid back a penny or shown that he's worth the £30M. Like we (those watching) have a right to send him back to Roma as damaged goods. Since when was there set in stone criteria that had to be passed before we write someone off? Then again, this is hardly new. Scapegoats and easy targets. I guess we've always had our favourites down the years. Times have changed though when some can ignore the progression with our football and our ambitions and prefer to find solace in complaining about players not performing to the standards they expect.

Back to the game...

Highlights for me have to involve the maverick Vlad Chiriches and his cheeky mug-off when dinking the ball over the hapless Sheriff player when turning to run in the opposite direction. Vlad also with a Dawsonesque piece of defending, block-saving a certain goal after Henrique broke clear of Lloris. A ball playing defending with a bit of flair and determination.

Also Eriksen's flick that sent Lennon clean through was a bit lush. Aaron should have made it 2-0 but I'll allow it, and blame it on rusty feet and rusty grey matter. Hardly perfect execution. Later in the second half he struck the inside of the post with another effort. Said it after the Villa game - it's good to have him back in the squad. Said it many times now, he's experienced (defensively astute) but not quite the player he once aspired to be. Inverted wing play (from the opposite wing he usually plays on) might give us and the team something new.

Shame there was no Adebayor off the bench. At least he was sat on it. Probably on Instagram uploading photos of white Range Rovers, Bentleys and private jets. Living the life. I'm not in the least bit jealous.

Our isolated and almost forgotten about striker might just be creeping his way back into a first team appearance. Season is still almost new, so having three available strikers - all offering something different - is a good thing. But only good if he gets to play. The cynic will no doubt say he probably will play and perform with zest. What with the January window not that far off.

Jermain Defoe scored again with the sucker punch (having had heart in mouth a couple of times with Sheriff pushing for an equaliser) to settle the points, equalling Martin Chivers European goal-scoring record. His effort taking a deflection in. He probably meant to do that to give the keeper no chance of saving it. With irony that some might choose to ignore, Defoe was hardly in the game at all up until the goal celebration. Jan had us 1-0 up early on in the first half with header from a sweet Eriksen cross.

Fryers injured (Dawson on in his place) the only negative on that particular front. 

The game was not too dissimilar in some ways to the Villa win. Didn't play all that convincingly but did more than enough to win it.

Any particular reason for the aforementioned casualness?

Perhaps players deep in thought about the mighty Hull City visiting the Lane on Sunday? Probably jinxed that game with my own casual arrogance. I guess my point is, we should always be focused at the task at hand. Arguably, with hindsight, we did just that. I guess some games might appear easy on paper but in practicality are hardly that. Still beats the days when we conceded goals. Remember those days? You should. Because remembering them will make the present a far more enjoyable experience.

We shouldn't really be concerned about Hull (although history reminds us of what happened against West Ham and Hull themselves in the past) so by deep thought, players possibly not wanting to over-exert themselves in preparation.

The fact is, we did rest a few players. One or two didn't travel. Sandro needed more game time (replaced by Holtby in the late stages).  AVB probably wanted to see if any connectivity would be made with some of the possible offensive combinations up front (not sure he got anything from the game). Considering the amount of new players signed and the fact we sold 'deadwood' and fringe players, Spurs probably need days like this to boost player unity when we mix and match first team regulars with the bench.

It might not appear to be constructive now, but this time next season there will probably be a far more instinctive and natural fluidity to our game when we rotate  meaning that even if we don't attempt to over-exert, the movement and passing will be more than enough to see us win more comfortably than we did in Moldova.  Let alone how natural our first team will be.

In conclusion, I can't really complain about a 2-0 win, yet another clean sheet and three points. Practically qualified. Look far less stressed than we did this time last season and the season before in this competition.