Tottenham win by losing at football
Is there much of a difference between deliberately slowed down methodical football leading to a 1-0 win and football that is more expressive (only thanks to the lack of constraints) but with no clear structure which leaves us looking beatable for most of the game but still gives us a 1-0 win?
The former is labelled as bland and boring. The latter is labelled as...? Frustrating? Isn't that as bad as bland? I can't think of anything worse than dysfunctional football (apart from when I choose to pretend it's not dysfunctional) - be it the worst of what Andre Villas-Boas gave us and the most average of what Tim Sherwood can occasionally offer. Laugh away at the fact that both systems (or lack of) are giving us the points. Laugh (or cry) at the fact both systems are remarkably similar. Just with very minor cosmetic alterations.
In short, Spurs beat Everton with no game plan.
There wasn't a game plan, I'm certain of that much. There might have been one in preparation for the game but if what we saw was what we planned then it was broken in about a thousand different places. We defended deep but never looked to attack with the same measure of bodies or with any pace or urgency. Yet another slow slow start. Did we distribute the ball with effect in our own half leading to a counter-attack? Nope, not an option as it was never on offer.
The only certified positive (hope disguised as a plan) was waiting for Emmanuel Adebayor to do something and boy when he did it was nigh world class. The bullish determination, the control and touch to take the ball into his path to then finish with power that left Tim Howard static. Ironic considering Spurs for the most part had been static for the entire match up until that point. The only points of significance, the three we won, because there wasn't that much point to anything else we did.
Adebayor holding onto his 'got something to prove' narrative and not letting go.
Kyle Walker proving to be far more decisive with a dead-ball (to assist Adebayor) than he was with his deliveries (always striking the body of the first defender). This passage of play one of the limited highlights from an afternoon that didn't see much flair in the way of Tottenham finesse.
I wouldn't go as fair as suggesting this was daylight robbery or a mugging, taking all three points and leaving Everton with absolutely nothing. Still, I guess it was unfair on the Toffeemen if you wanted to reward them for their initial composure and intent.
They had structure and it was evident early on they also had a clear strategy. They pressed and out shone us with their work rate, ours non-existent in comparison. Their three central midfielders effective, ours once more lacking any true cohesiveness. Spurs far too slow in movement and clumsy with possession. Too many off the pace, some practically invisible.
The early action saw Leon Osman have several cracks at goal. Hugo Lloris doing enough to earn some plaudits with confident stops when called upon. Thankfully a fair few of their chances went wide. Clearly at this stage Hugo was the only player in Lilywhite that knew what he was there to do. Tim Sherwood and his screams of discontent mixed up with commands via the touchline didn't seem to influence proceedings. The lack of reaction from our disinterested players ominous. A case of the system not working? The players still attempting to adapt to a new age of back to basics football? Or the players not having that much of a clue what their responsibilities consisted of?
Spurs sort of getting away with it thanks to the depth of quality we possess. If only there was something more astute with how we line up and work towards a win.
Christian Eriksen attempted to provide a spark of creativity but it's obvious even to those that don't care for formations that he can't play from the left side. Much like Luka Modric was wasted there, so is Eriksen. He has to play through the middle, central, behind the lone forward and not worry about covering the left flank or hoping someone is cleaning up whilst he cuts inside. That might be the long term idea (to have him central from the start). There appears to be little deviation across the middle three currently from Sherwood. His vision of Tottenham not too dissimilar to the one AVB had. Have I already citied the word dysfunctional?
Danny Rose provided the only genuine chance with a cross that teased in front of Everton's goal. Adebayor almost getting there.
Second half started with Sherwood kicking a bag of bottles on the touchline with furious frustration whilst Roberto Martinez gave nothing away by not reacting to the sprays of water or Lucozade or whatever it was. Finally some passion on display. Sadly completely inconsequential to where the passion was actually required.
The reason the 1-0 win in our favour wasn't unfair is because Everton didn't really offer much more than the structure that gave them shape and purpose. What was evident by the time the half time whistle was blown is that their pressing and occasional invention going forward was all they actually had (aside from some key talent on the bench).
They didn't make their tidy football count. They lacked a punch. We took the jabs and landed a knock-out, replying by taking the one golden opportunity presented to us. When they went 1-0 down they surrendered their prior ascendency and we perked up a touch.
I scratched my head at Eriksen being subbed, didn't quite understand the logic behind it but when has any recent Spurs manager ever made a substitution that was understandable to the common man looking on from the stands or staring at their TV. There was other more prominent sacrifices to be had.
Andros Townsend replaced the Dane and wasn't quite sure which flank he was meant to be anchored to. Etienne Capoue replaced Paulinho proving that at some point the Brazilian was on the pitch. Capoue bringing some extra weight to the midfield area giving us more of a presence with Everton seeking other avenues for attack rather than constantly cutting through the middle.
Nabil Bentaleb grew in confidence the longer it went on. He's adapting to top tier football with each passing game, each appearance a new learning curve. Had more defensive duties on Sunday having to get physical with the tackles and breaking up Everton's approach work. He didn't look out of place this time (if you wanted to compare it to the City mauling). He hardly ever does to be fair. The questions usually surround us perhaps being a more robust unit if others took a place in the middle instead who are are experienced and more defensive minded. Or at the very least someone to stand alongside the kid and support him.
Seems that no matter the opposition, home or away, Nabil is thrown in and is forced to adapt, which he's proved capable of (although at times he has struggled) and let's be damned with any alternative selection. Where's the adapting from the coach? It's like Bentelab is the flag that Sherwood has planted in the White Hart Lane turf and its removal will be seen as a sign of weakness. Is it stubbornness or does Tim see something we don't? Not to dismiss the player, he has a role to play in our squad.
We need to aim to maximise the key first team players we have. Shape up the midfield to allow Eriksen to boss and dictate, one perfect example of nurturing equilibrium to allow for some of that missing cohesiveness to return to our play. Then again, what do I know? He played well. Isn't that enough? Maybe we should focus on the fact that we have a young lad deemed good enough and just allow this baptism of fire to either make him or break him.
Mousa Dembele glided forward but wasn't decisive enough. If he released the ball early and simply had a clue or two what his intentions were when pushing towards the penalty box he'd make an impact. I actually think he played quite well. Although by the standards set by the team as a collective I define 'well' to mean 'put himself about'. Even though Dembele is wasted in a deep role he isn't refined enough to make it happen in a more progressive one. Once again, the story of so many of our players. None of them seem to fit any given system we play.
Jan Vertonghen was strong. Aaron Lennon was lost. Danny Rose was always going to be under pressure on the left-hand side thanks to the marauding Eriksen shifting into central areas, but he competed well. Walker's delivery wasn't too bright. Crossing the ball, one of the fundamentals, still haunting us from one season to the next.
Jermain Defoe came on for his last Premier League appearance accepting a lovely send off (or utterly cringe worthy depending on your opinions of the word 'legend') after the final whistle from those that stayed to wish him well. He's off to Toronto, so it was nice of him to beat the offside trap in front of a White Hart Lane crowd and smack the ball goal bound rather than passing it into the box which two of his team-mates attacked. Wouldn't be JD if he didn't conform to standard. He'll no doubt be diving in the box on arrival in Canada. The box of any given porn star.
Worth noting that Sherwood opted for sentiment with Defoe, allowing him a late subbed appearance. It's sentimental because considering the risk at play, what with it being just 1-0, why not shore up at the back rather than bring someone on that can't defend? Lennon, for all of his erraticness with the ball at feet is still good at chasing it down. You could argue the best form of defence is attack but still there was nothing overly intelligent about it. Part of me is telling me to shut up and allow for some of that romanticised notion that I always suggest is missing from the game. Still, had Everton scored a late equaliser we'd have gone mental.
Let's not deflect away from the little man who might still have a chance of a farewell goal in the Europa League before his depature. Jermain Defoe...he's a Y word.
Just to reiterate if it was hidden away with subtly above, I'm not being critical of Bentelab or his selection. I'm questioning the validity of not rotating or protecting the player. Sandro has yet to return and Capoue doesn't look sharp. It might be that he's the only option we have and worthy thanks to his maturity but there has to be some level of balance to the team. I don't think we have that currently.
The late penalty claim for Everton? Seen 'em given, so the cliché goes. Maybe the subtle dramatics ruined that possibility with Coleman already on the fall.
Post-match mutterings from the coach? Sherwood 'got some information' into the players at half-time and the second half was much improved. He's also stated he will speak to the players to assess our slow starts. Remember when AVB did something similar with the late conceding of goals? This will be interesting to see how much we improve in up and coming games.
Only Everton's fourth defeat in the league this season. Spurs not having to play well at all. Smash and grab. Maybe it was daylight robbery after-all. Looking above us, all of the teams are more or less playing to a settled rhythm and groove. Staggers me we are still in touching distance when we look like a team of mismatched players, lacking substance in amongst the pockets of style.
Broken record klaxon, but the identity crisis is persisting.
Not happy with the football. Not happy with the lack of fluidity. Happy with the three points. The story of Tottenham's season plods on.