Thirty odd shots on goal. Twelve saves from the outstanding Krul between
the sticks. Most of them aimed at his body. Played far worse than this
and won and yet when we do get into goal scoring positions time and time
again in a single game, we still can't muster a goal.
Not that any given stat and the clichéd excuse of lady luck looking the other way can help mask a truly woeful first half that pretty much cemented the reminder of what stank of the usual ominous 'here we go again' dramatics.
I'm a staunch supporter of Andre Villas-Boas and also a supporter of patience. I'd be hard pressed to defend much of what we got in the first forty five although the urgency and tempo very early on was great. For all of five minutes before Newcastle took the game to us and we finally buckled and re-introduced some of that almost long forgotten calamity defending. You have it, no you have it, no you...oh just give it to them.
We improved in the second half. Still wasn't fluid enough and yet was probably our best football (simply by virtue of chances created) at home all season. I know, it speaks volumes calling that 'our best'. It's been laboured for a while, since last season. Pockets of brilliance here and there. We all know we're capable of it and more. It's just not been evident this season. Especially at the Lane.
There simply isn't enough cohesion. Too much science in preparation and not enough blind faith on the pitch. There's blind faith off the pitch (mostly from me) but on it, we should believe in the wonderment of magic. Turning a pass into a goal. Can't be as tricky as turning water into wine. We need to turn our backs on the instruction manuals, just occasionally. Especially on the day of Sabbath, when everyone goes to their church in N17, instead placing complete faith in our religion. The latter more likely to give us that much needed miracle.
I should have known we'd be 1-0 down early on. Wasn't impressed with the structure of the pre-match huddle. AVB clearly out of sorts with his tactics today.
To think minutes before Remy put the visitors a goal to the good with what turned out to be match winning I was bursting with excitement at Franz Chiriches majestically running out of defence into midfield to aid with attack. Then he had to be at his defensive best with a saving tackle in the box.
The five minutes leading up to the goal was explosively rubbish.
Paulinho and Dembele sleep walking. Poor positioning, touch, tackle. Remy with a red carpet walk to finish. You'd have to think (hope) that Sandro was not 100% fit and didn't start because of a knock. A forced selection change rather than a concept in how to lose a midfield and make no friends. Irony lost on no one that Sandro was our best player even though he played half a game. If it was a strategic decision, then AVB needs to stop with the unnecessary tinkering.
AVB can be so pragmatic he probably thinks he invented the philosophy. Staunch supporter of him or not, he's responsible for the loss (in addition, some of the players can also take responsibility for being well below average) if only because of the Sandro non-selection and also because Jermain Defoe wasn't (hindsight or otherwise) the best change he could have made (hands tied with Vlad going off with a smashed up nose and being replaced with Kaboul).
JD with two passes and no shots. If Soldado is struggling to see the ball from our midfield, then doubling the strikers is only going to give him the opportunity to hold Defoe's hand rather than see some sort of combination work in a 442. Both of them in isolation like sun kissed lovers walking along a Caribbean beach. 442? Might as well get the sun beds out and stay on that beach.
It was all a massive mess of an afternoon.
Don't jump out of your seat in celebration. I've not lost that faith, blind or otherwise. I'm not going to knee-jerk. I have my views, my perspective and it wont deviate just because of Sunday. Not yet. Andre will have to take stock of some rather obvious issues we're suffering from to recover in preparation for our pre-Christmas run-in. December is going to be monstrous with nine games. Almost congested as our midfield.
Early season momentum was part illusion but shouldn't be completely dismissed. We need consistency with players selected. Nothing has changed yet everything has to change.
Dembele and Paulinho do not work as a centre-pairing. Dembele especially still retains no obvious identity. He's not a defensive midfield. He can't hold. Has to play further up the field, hence the paradox of having both on the field sharing the same space. Sandro/Capoue more capable for that specific and pivotal role.
If we want our offensive play to work then it has to be geared towards playing to Soldado's strengths. It isn't and he is not in confident mood when left searching for scraps. He looks lost. An afterthought. Is he meant to drop deep, run the channels? When a cross does find its way into the area he's not there to finish it off. Probably in a state of shock that the cross flew in, such is its rarity. Eriksen with one delightful effort that screamed for the net to ripple with the ball.
Eriksen creating eight chances and yet arguably struggled for large parts of the game. There was no combining element to our play. I thought pre-match he'd connect with Sigurdsson. They didn't.
We need to be brave. Scrap that, we need to be arrogant and bullish.
It's White Hart Lane. Take a risk, a gamble. Trying to win and taking that risk is more important, it's far more Spursy than attempting to simply avoid defeat. Which doesn't always pay off and when it doesn't we lose 1-0 at home to Newcastle. We've stripped back so much to get the basic framework in place, it's now looking weak because it's not flexible enough.
I get the foundations laid are required so that we can build upon them but let's not get carried away with the architecture, daydreaming as we look up to the heavens. We have to be towering over opposing sides whereas at times it looks like we're labouring, adding bricks to our Tower of Babel with all our players confused at the foot of the tower unable to understand each other.
AVB has to move on and take this as evidence that we have to
evolve into a beast that doesn't spend all its time just stalking its
prey in the shadows, but actually goes for the jugular sooner rather than later, so there's more time to feast.
Be less disciplined and less deliberate with more freedom and expression. Of
course that isn't AVB but let's not pretend we haven't at times
performed with admirable swagger away from home when we've positively taken the **** out of some sides with a far more direct and aggressive attack (counter or otherwise).
Yes, we're gelling, but not when we keep swapping players around. Time to stick with a first eleven for the Prem and let them find their feet. I'm prepared to take the risk of a hiccup or two because in this scenario Lamela will start. We are struggling to break teams down and I'm struggling to decide what our best eleven is. So is AVB.
Should we have won? On another day yes, but this being Spurs, we'd have lost that one too.
Krul was the complete personification of a textbook away team keeper playing out of his skin. The difference between us crying into our pillows tonight and the alternative 'we dug deep and came back to win' soundbites that nobody will be sharing this evening.
Still doesn't hid the fact that we remain disjointed. Lack fluidity. Lack purpose with the ball at feet, it isn't obvious where everyone should be and where they should be moving too.
We lost because of the first half. Had Sandro started we might have won it. Then again had we pulled the trigger earlier on a chance or two, aimed an inch to the left or right, we might have still won it. But we'd still have won it by not being that great and even I have to admit we can't keep on winning like that, so a defeat - if you want to pull a positive out of the misery - might actually finally change things.
I get the feeling it probably won't but then by the time we find out, we'd have finally gelled (proving AVB's faith to be more robust than ours - the concerned supporter) and nobody will care about this plodding early start to the season. Don't you love being an optimist? What? Only me? Maybe I can win the copyright, doubt anyone will contest.
We also lost because of Krul and Newcastle's pressing although I'd wager their fragility would have been exposed had we displayed as much intelligence to our own game plan as they had with theirs.
So lose the stubbornness just a touch Andre. I'm still backing you. You've done enough to prove that certain players in certain roles do not work - so it's time to make a decision on that ideal first eleven and show some faith in them. Yes, this is your first full proper season with what people can describe as your very own squad. Yes, we're in transition - but with the players purchased and the obvious flaky nature of the rest of the top sides in the league - there should be no excuse to slightly loosen those shackles of methodology and shake it about a bit. Stand in the rain b*llock naked once in a while. It's positively liberating.
As for those that chose to boo at full time, I shouldn't complain, probably the only time they'll ever make some noise.
On the bright side?
Worst Manchester United side of past 25 years beats greatest ever Arsenal side of past three months. The league table mocks our ineptness.
Yet we are still in touch with the top. It's time to believe in the hype we deserve to be talking about with the wealth of talent we have in our squad. I believe. It's the coach and the players that have the true power.
Imagine where we would be if we executed our football with proficiency? Just imagine.
Gonna need some rum for this.