Clash of the frightened
Tottenham 0 Manchester United 0. A game performed much like I've felt over Christmas. Bloated and lethargic. It wasn't terrible but it wasn't terribly exciting either. An evenly matched contest between two teams that are seeking improvement and momentum.
United had the better of the early exchanges, we displayed our superior fitness late in the game. Both sides had chances to score. Most of the efforts the visitors had were accompanied by the type of movement not too dissimilar to me moving in for a second serving of turkey, Yorkshire puds and gravy.
A Mata free-kick off the post, scrambled and away. The Vertonghen kick off the line (over the line if you refer to the slow-mo) but the offside deemed it all irrelevant. Then van Persie stuttered like deja-vu in the matrix this time with Lloris positioning himself with Neo reflexes to stop the ball from getting past him. There was a Rooney header and a Young curling shot saved expertly.
Our best two chances saw Townsend play in Kane who failed to connect. That came in the first half. In the second Kane rampaged forward and reversed the ball into Mason as he cut into the penalty area. He should have scored, the ball flying over the bar instead. Late on Rooney appeared to wrestle Kane to the ground. Penalty? Yes, sure, why not. Maybe next time. Vertonghen got away with a shirt pull away at Leicester so I can only point towards more inconsistency with the officiating. What exactly warrants a foul in these circumstances is anyone's guess.
In conclusion, everyone involved was a little too tenuous to make that defining difference. I'd say I'd be happy if this was our lull during these thick and fast festive fixtures but we have another one that is more likely to fit that bill coming up on New Years day.
Pochettino asked for energy, personality and character before kick-off. We got some of that in small measures. If United were tiring out in the second half than kudos to our training methods as we still appear to retain longevity of lungs right up to the 90th minute. We've played more games than the mancs this season so our fitness is a worthy positive to be proud of. Our finesse is still in need of fine tuning.
Ground-breaking insight? Not sure there's that much to give. Both teams need more flesh on their bones. One stat shared post-match referenced the pass rate/completion of Christian Eriksen being in the 90%'s whilst the rest of the player were sat in the 80%'s. Nothing new here. The midfield still doesn't look and feel like a well oiled engine. Energy? Yes we have plenty. Character? No denying that we have spirit, we dig deep. Personality however is mostly lacking.
The days of yore where Parker roamed and took bites out of the ankles of the opposition, the days when Luka would keep the flow of the ball moving, recycling with fresh impetus every time he took a touch...these days are almost mythological in memory. Our midfield plays to the discipline and style that Pochettino desires but there still isn't enough there to support the players around the middle two. There remains that disconnect with the wide players. If it's meant to work to allow the likes of Eriksen and the two 'wingers' to express more then it's not strong enough yet to impose authoritarian influence across the centre to allow for more fluid freedom.
Am I happy with the point? Yes if I take into consideration our home form and United's recent upturn. I'm still disappointed because United are beatable and we can muster up winning goals away but still find ourselves struggling at the Lane for that extra bit of something. Fazio and Vertonghen have now played fourteen games together. We've only lost the one when they've paired up. Yet Federico is still dubious with his footwork and being getting caught out with the simple ball. Jan continues to give away needless fouls and is always involved in an incident that so far hasn't resulted with anything too damaging.
Spurs are having to stretch out for the wins. Dramatic and lucky on our travels we don't suffer bad days often outside of N17. There isn't enough chest pumping inside the Lane. I don't want to think too much about Chelsea yet. If we're going to compete there has to be a ruthless edge to our play and it has to be delivered with pulsating tempo. Jose Mourinho's men are experts at squeezing the life out of games, sitting back and soaking it up. They have the players that can produce those extra bits of something. Punishing. We're going to have to batter them with good old fashion blood and thunder if we want something more than a defeat.
I'm back in the realms of mythology again, searching for titans rather than the frightened.
Release the Tottenham.