The dream is over
There will be no magic mushrooms. No hash cakes. No paranoid trips or window shopping. No museums or bicycles. Alas, the Europa League run is over and the dream has ended. Everything I'm about to say has been said already. By myself and others, so I apologise if you've already digested these musings. I still feel the need to regurgitate them for my own personal therapy.
Did we take it (the competition as a whole) seriously? Probably as serious as we could have taken it thanks to an assortment of injuries and the rotation/resting of players. Perhaps not as serious as we could have taken it had we perhaps strengthened ourselves for the first and second leg of the quarter final by starting Lloris instead of Friedel. Aside from that, we've muddled through without ever truly excelling (an argument you could use for the league also) but muddled through we did. We shouldn't underplay the impact of losing both Lennon and Bale. Easy for some to say they should never have played in the first leg (with some preferring to sacrifice silverware for top four) but without them we suffered for it but still managed to give a good account of ourselves (with the usual errors thrown in to keep us grounded).
We competed. I was confident we would find the winning goal. Then the red card that saw Vertonghen punished for attempting a tackle he was never going to claim cleanly took any chance of that happening away. We started well, with plenty of possession, dealing with Basel's nippy attacks. Then took advantage of a mistake to go one up then cancelled it out with a mistake of our own. Dembele completely out of sorts and later in the game substituted for the mature beyond his years Tom Carroll.
Basel took the lead early in the second half. Dempsey equalised late on. Extra time, then that red card. Game practically over as the hosts pushed forward time and time again. The very thought of penalties and the likely outcome, so ominous, that I was no longer nervous. I had accepted our fate. But you still find yourself wishing and hoping. That's until the ball is placed onto the penalty spot. Then you know those wishes and the hopes are nothing more than delusions.
Simply this; The difference in the art of penalty taking is that the Swiss looked like they had already scored before they had actually taken them. They possessed a natural belief and confidence. Did they looked fazed? No. Did they appear to know where to place/strike their kicks? Yes. I'm pretty certain our penalty takers didn't really know where they planned to aim for until they struck the ball. Even Siggy just hit it down the middle (which is a risk in itself, although once the keeper moves you're likely to score).
Any doubt you have in such a high pressured situation, and it will ruin your effort. I'm not critical of anyone taking a penalty. In fact, well done to those that stood up to participate. Can never understand why there's such a huge mental block. Apparently the last time we won a pen shout-out Darren Caskey was involved.
We did alright
You can't fault our character and our desire. Shame about the mistake that lead to their equaliser. But then conditions hardly great and even though that woke Basel up, it might have happened anyway. We could have been more direct at times. We weren't. There simply wasn't enough dimension to our play.
That Dawson block, phenomenal (makes you forget one or two moments where he was left wanting, including one that damaged us beyond repair). Their second goal was a mess (and wasn't a corner). Our defending is still not commanding - a worrying trend (why no BAE?). Huddlestone and Carroll looked good. High hopes for Carroll, he oozes class, has a great touch and is so composed. Just needs more game time. One of the question marks (especially in recent weeks) is why he hasn't been involved more. Looks like he can handle it. Will need to improve his build over time.
Dempsey deserves a shout for his goals. An easy target, who found the target twice. Holtby was busy and involved once more, his energetic running relentless. Once he beds in and is surrounded by a fully functional Spurs midfield he'll be able to relax a little and allow for his more cultured side to shine through.
Arguably, we lost this tie in the first game when we did have Bale and Lennon and failed to prepare for the Swiss and their rampant waves of attack. As per usual, we made it difficult for ourselves to the point where we lost any grip to truly take the game by the scruff of the neck and own it. We battled hard. Technically, we didn't lose the game. But in the grand scheme of what it takes to win and progress, we unequivocally lost.
We did alight, but in the bitter end I'm struggling to hide my disappointment.
Had a separate blog ready for him. Windy has written something that makes mine redundant as many of you read his work and there's no point in repeating in any great detail (you can read his article here).
However, for those that just want me me to rant, here you go:
Scapegoating. It's a seasoned tradition that no football fanbase can go without. If something goes wrong, if we lose - there has to be a reason and it has to be one birthed within the team walls of Spurs. We like to deflect, we like to channel our anger and frustrations. So, who better to pick on than the nominated go-to villain, Emmanuel Adebayor.
So, why is he a villain in the first place? If you side step his Arsenal ties then all of this has to do with the fact that we only have two strikers and neither of them score that often. The much maligned necessity to bolster our attacking force with something extra means the weight of expectancy falls on both Defoe and Adebayor's shoulders and becomes heavier by the week. Although you expect forwards to score goals. You look to them for that very requirement. It's their job after-all.
Adebayor's season, in comparison to his last in Lilywhite, has been the polar opposite. He could do little wrong last year. In fact the one thing he did wrong was perhaps to miss as many chances as he did. But not only was he getting into the positions to take delivery of a cross in the first place, he was also assisting. In terms of his general play, everything he was doing last season, he's done this season. Drops deep, links up, works the channels, brings midfielders into the game. What he isn't doing is scoring. His confidence is shot (which is more than you can say about his penalty taking). He hasn't found a rhythm thanks to protracted transfer saga, injuries, red card, ACON and so on. Sure enough it's not just his shyness in front of goal suffering. Decision making has been poor at times too - last night could have should have passed to Siggy during one prominent attack and didn't.
The suggestion that he isn't bothered, that he's a money-grabber and that he's suddenly decided he won't try that hard because he has a contract is scandalous and is based on a knee-jerk reaction that because he's not scoring, he's therefore absolutely rubbish. Playground theorising best left for the tabloids. Nobody here knows what the lad is like on a personal level and in training. What the pundits and red top hacks tell you isn't gospel and shouldn't be the foundation for your opinion.
If you base it simply on the football played, I'm not going to disagree, he's not playing very well. Like I said, there's no confidence. Base it on the football and what do you have? No Gareth Bale out on the left wing crossing the ball into the box, week in week out. Not that Bale assisted Adebayor regularly, but the very nature of our play meant the striker would attack the space in the pen area. Because Bale is more central and dominates the space in front of him - space Adebayor had for his own. When Bale doesn't play, there isn't enough cohesion there for Ade to reclaim territory.
In fact our whole system is unbalance to truly support an out and out striker, which is why Adebayor spends so much time outside the penalty box. He has to in order for fluidity to be gained when we attack. It's detrimental but then, it's not like we actually rely on our strikers. Player instructions might have a lot to do with it and that shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.
Doesn't play well. System doesn't support him. He tries to support system. Still can't score. Chicken or the egg?
There is no van der Vaart playing just behind him (was far more important to Ade than Bale). There's little inventiveness from the midfield, so for the most part, it's untidy and opportunistic and when he does get a chance, he doesn't quite take advantage. He played well against Everton, looked far more up for it, but then he scored after 30 or so seconds so that is bound to raise his game.
The irony is, Defoe would likely get less abuse/criticism because he lashes in a goal and everyone ignores his inability to be involved in other areas of the pitch. But he's also not deserving of any knee-jerking. Both players have their faults, both players have their strengths. AVB needs to get the midfield to work enough to craft out chances and allow the player up top to spearhead the attack rather than compensate for others taking the lead by doing hard grafting that won't allow for personal accolades.
Yes. We need a 25 goal per season man. We don't have that currently. We have to make do with what we have. Players that are out of form. Not because of choice but because of circumstance. Football isn't black and white, right or wrong. There's more to it than the usual superfluous narrative that allows for quick and easy explanations for failure. One of the question marks (especially in recent weeks) is why he hasn't been involved more.
It seems these days it's easier to be abusive than supportive. When the hatred is rationalised you know that something wrong is festering deep inside our club.
Social Media reaction
Fairly embarrassing. Adebayor's penalty did not knock us out of the competition. Yet you'd think the player was completely responsible. The most prominent feature of something like Twitter is that it amplifies stupidity. Like I said earlier, everyone needs an emotional crutch in the shape of a scapegoat.
All semi-finalists played Champions League football matches (that's both group and play-off games). Where losers can find redemption and become winners. The irony. Seems for all the want to have us play in Amsterdam and win silverware, this competition isn't quite what it once was back in the mid-80s. I guess I'm now looking to use UEFA as a scapegoat to aid compensate the pain.
Personally think AVB could have been braver at times with selection. But I have to place faith in him. He works with the players every day. I don't.
Gutted we're out.
Can someone please think of the children? Team spirit is evident. We remain a finely tuned side and when key parts are missing we suffer. We need more. We need our players back and we have to add to the squad. This is something that always remains a requirement. We have to step up in the next transfer market.
Six massive games left now. We still have everything to play for. Just, nothing to stick in the trophy cabinet at the end of it.