Spurs crisis continues
Spurs 1 Hull City 0
The away team sat deep, play with five defenders, the middle of the park was congested to the point of suffocation, there was a lack of urgency and intensity in breaking down Hull's wall of frustration which in traditional style was deeper than Linda Lovelace (yes, that pun is back with a vengeance).
We've been here before. Many times. Even when we played teh sexy free-flowing stuff.
Okay, so ideally, if a team parks the bus we shouldn't try to hot wire it to get it moved. There's no crafty looking little Croatian to break into the bus and get its engine roaring. All that remains is for us to smash a window and chuck some dynamite inside. Sadly we had nothing to light the dynamite with. In fact, there was no dynamite. Just paper aeroplanes.
Yep, been here before indeed.
I don't blame the frustration. Spurs supporters expect fluid attacking football. We were not exciting last season. We've had little so far in the way of aspiring play this season. But if you expect longevity then be prepared for sacrifice. The issue is we are still not brave enough at home. The other prominent repeated question is whether Andre Villas-Boas is able to sacrifice along with us? Give instructions to allow for the less deliberate play we are so accustomed too. That's if it's possible to do that against teams that just sit back and defend.
We might not have a Modric but we have a fair few other players that will - at some point - be more than capable of hot wiring or blowing up any given parked vehicle at the Lane.
For now, width, aggression and a ruthless relentless first half hour to kill the game off is simply not forthcoming. The tempo for such a football template might be to get the ball to the wings early and counter. But if the opposing side sit back, then we have to hold onto the ball to invite them to push up - which is all very slow paced - to then be the ones in a position to counter. It becomes all too methodical, deliberate. Especially when key players have not quite got a handle on their responsibilities.
That invention needed for such a scenario wasn't there against Hull City and hasn't been evident in abundance all season. But then again, does that surprise you?
We lose the aforementioned Luka Modric, the nucleus of our possession play. That deep-lying playmaker. If you look at both our central players, or any given central midfielder - none of them give us what Modric did. But much like any other given period of time, when you lose a player you adapt and move on. I've promised twice never to mention Modric again and I keep having to break that promise. It's clear if the players higher up the pitch are having to come deeper into midfield then there isn't a clear defining centre-point for what we're meant to be doing with he ball when we have it.
There was no Luka last season but there was a Bale out. The question was always going to be how we planned to resolve our offensive inconsistencies that didn't involve the single match-winning player. We're still seeking resolution.
van der Vaart was the link for midfield to attack and currently we have Holtby not quite mastering the positioning sense and movement of a number 10 and Eriksen still adapting to the pace of the Premier League. This means Soldado continues to suffer from isolation.
Can Holtby play deep? Not sure I can see that happening although at home, it's worth a go. Considering the expectancy is for us to be the ones seeking to find a way through a stubborn defending opposition. Against Hull he didn't really fit into the 'Eriksen' role as a more forward thinking playmaker and spent far too much time chasing around in central midfield.
On one wing we had Townsend who can struggle if there is no space to attack the full-back and when he does get forward towards the penalty area is still prone to making the wrong decision with the final ball (cross or shot). On the other we had Lennon (on the left not his natural comfort zone) and it desperately showed. Sandro was all over the place and thankfully subbed before a red. There's a debate to be had whether he was even needed in the game considering Hull's stance to sit deeper than Gollum in the cave (I'm planning on using this pun to replace the Lovelace one).
If the basics don't work then the team is hardly going to function. Yes, it's concerning in some ways because my other broken record is to dance to the tune of 'it has to click soon'. But the Hull game is no different to the other games we've struggled to break down teams in.
I don't use these as exhibits of evidence that AVB is some how failing as coach or incapable of working out rhythm for our play. If you want to look at evidence, take a quick look at last seasons points tally or our away form or our spirit and desire or winning mentality. All the evidence you need to see a unity within the squad, a belonging that breeds belief amongst the players. The fundamentals.
Just remember we don't have the comfort of other teams that have prior experience of settled systems and styles. We've had to adapt a little and change a lot. Add to it an overhaul of players. Sorry, I'm going to continue to bore you to the bones with these soundbites. Trust me, I was right with it last season and we only lost out to a single point.
Time. You have to accept we're going to need to work through it.
I still believe the opening thirty minutes of any home game has to be far more expressive and expansive from us. Even if it's done as a controlled tactic. Tempo initially wasn't too bad against Hull early on but it soon faded.
At times Spurs is like the puzzle box from Hellraiser. Work out how to open it and you'll get destroyed. The box is far more effective if you hand it to the opposing lot rather than keeping it in your back pocket.
Was it a harsh penalty decision to save us from a full blown mind riot that a 0-0 would have birthed? Perhaps, but hands up in the box and you stand little chance of getting away with it. Although judging by the countless replays I've seen, you'd be angered if that decision was against us. I know I would be. I'll take it though. I'll take any penalty after last seasons shut-off. That and the fact that Hull deserved it, if anything thanks to their play-acting and time-wasting. If it makes Steve Bruce unhappy then it's a good decision.
Soldado cool as ice from the spot. Who needs a goal from open play to win a game?
Huddlestone on his return to the Lane almost breaking hearts late on. No clippers for his barnet this past weekend.
Spurs still haven't had a truly brilliant performance this season and yet here we are, sat in 4th, winning games. That one criticism of AVB is that at home we've yet to get to grips with the right balance of shape and urgency.
Again, when we finally settle with our best eleven and there is both spacial awareness and understanding from centre midfield to the flanks to the number ten to the forward - then the true test will be upon us. We are just nine games into the season. NINE GAMES. Upper case for emphasis. What's nine games or even a season compared to ten years of stagnation? What's the alternative? Change coach every season if we're not achieving some fantastical level of football?
What we've achieved in the past is fantastical failure. Maybe as a collective we are happier with almost achieving success rather than working towards being able to fulfil it.
Worth noting that the 'best football seen at Spurs for a decade' under Harry Redknapp equally failed to break down several lesser sides that turned up to defend. No one has yet to claim the Gareth Bale escape pod pilot position vacated during the summer.
Our football isn't half as bad or negative as some would like to believe. It's not our fault that teams play so negatively against us. It is our responsibility to find a way to get past them without it becoming a perpetual struggle.
Lamela might break through at some point (another hope is that AVB begins to use him more often). Adebayor might (probably not) be a wild card that ignites an alternative spark in the side.
The whole left-wing support mechanism in terms of width remains in stasis until Danny Rose returns.
Still, I'm sure everyone will agree to disagree. Some will still point the finger at AVB and suggest he doesn't know his best eleven. The tactics are too rigid. Others will say that the coach is hardly capable of kicking and passing the ball on behalf of the player.
Perhaps this whole post-match depression is worthless and Spurs struggled again due to lethargic performances thanks to our Thursday night away in Moldova. Not sure that excuse holds merit these days.
Still...another three points. Another clean sheet. Not an inspiring performance by any stretch of the imagination. Mainly thanks to Hull's lack of imagination and our own. But Spurs retain best start to a Prem season. We still need to turn the corner soon and start to turn it on.
Ruthless swagger the missing ingredient. Do we have it in us? Can we settle back, support and wait and see? You know, give all the new players a chance to actually settle beyond the deadlines we set in our heads?
In the mean time we need to live with our lofty league position, cup progression and mean defensive record including a solid record against bottom of the table sides. A coach that had to contend with a limited squad of players with an injection of new but not a squad he could call his own and also reeling from losing our most pivotal player and this year having to manage another overhaul, which is in his control, and the departure of yet another pivotal player.
All the problems we do have are good ones. Rather this than any other season since the 80s.
Deep in crisis then.
Knee jerk now.