We could have, we didn't
Dominant in the most one sided North London derby for an age and yet we got nowhere near to beating them. Pesky footballing Gods just wouldn't allow for a little slice of luck.
Arsenal turn up with dodgy away form, several key players missing with injuries, surrender possession for most of the game and just opt to defend and counter and yet still manage to stroll off with three points from a single solitary goal scored so early that you'd think it was part of the pre-match warm up.
I'm not sick in my stomach that we've lost to them. I don't like it. I never like it. I'd be sick if we played absolutely brilliant and lost or if we capitulated 5-2 or if we simply failed to turn up and were brushed aside with ease. Instead, we sort of did show up, played with heart, but didn't do enough where it mattered most - in the final third. The football not clean and tidy enough to put their keeper and back-line under genuine pressure. Force a mistake or two. Unless I'm at the game I find watching the NLD completely unbearable, yet it wasn't the case for this one. I'm not sick in my gut because Spurs have managed to drain the significance out of most of what we do at the moment. I'm so deep in purgatory that neither hell or heaven wants to claim me. This feeling is worse than the sick one.
Aside from that stupendous Tomas Rosicky goal thanks to the usual left-sided absence of cover there were one or two incidents that followed, including the hilarious attempt at a lob by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that might have made it 2-0. Ominous for us, but they eased off. After the early storm was weathered, it looked less likely that the high line that we continue to obsess with would end up punishing us with more self-harm disarray.
Arsenal were only dangerous occasionally on the break, but hardly the scary tippy-tappy gooners of past encounters. Their post-game celebrations, a painfully desperate cringe-worthy parody on more spontaneous efforts that follow derby wins (think about it, they had a mobile phone to hand), such is their insecurities and the necessity to feel connected to their flaky supporters, they have to target social media for small time bantz. Shame on us for giving them the opportunity to do so by failing to break through their parked bus (again). Shame on us for this long running saga where we struggle to find a way to break down any deep defensive line. Who would have thought that Arsenal only had to play like a Hull or a Wigan to take the points?
After that patchy early patch it was all Spurs. Practically 85 minutes of the game with them lot camped out in their own half, defending deep and when called upon throwing bodies in the way of any of the efforts we threatened with. We had plenty of chances but nothing truly clear cut aside from when Nacer Chadli could have scored for us after Wojciech Szczesny flapped twice in as many seconds with Laurent Koscielny defending like a demon. Him and Per Mertesacker utterly annoying with their organisation, concentration and focus.
Cutting edge football was not evident.
So brutally ironic when you consider that on the day, there was a game-plan. Well, as much as you can call it a game-plan when comparing to previous performances in recent months. There was better intensity and even at 1-0 we didn't fall apart. We kept the ball and kept going. It just wasn't crisp enough to make the difference with say, an equaliser for starters.
Andros Townsend had a chance where you'd have bet your life on him striking it on target but opted instead to snap the ball across the face of the goal. There might have been another close effort (Adebayor in the first half), but I'm struggling to remember more (booze + no intention to re-watch). Like I said, it wasn't clean or tidy. That final decisive pass missing in action. For all the shots on goal and the ones on target, I can't remember too many times their punchable keeper was tested.
Here is where the frustration festers.
You can display spirit and fight, physical attributes aplenty but finesse is required along with precision and vision. Creativity will only blossom if players know what it is they're meant to be doing with their movement and positioning. There wasn't a clear defining shape to our play when we took the ball towards their penalty area, thus making a fairly poor Arsenal side relatively comfortable, sitting back and containing our endeavours. Perhaps had they not got the early goal they'd have attacked more and the game will have been altogether more of a ding-dong affair. Maybe making it more open for us to use width (if we actually had wingers on both flanks). Then again had that happened, I'd still have fancied them to make the break-through before us. Grim.
For all the heart, there was no momentum with confidence. We were stuck on one level unable to get to the next with no apparent shift or change with tactical instructions.
We outplayed them, in terms of percentages and statistics but that's completely redundant if the ball isn't stuck past the goal line at their end. Bad luck or poor finishing, either way we couldn't carve out something significant. It didn't even feel like a blood and thunder North London derby for the most part. If you wanted to be kind you could say Arsene Wenger's strategy was to defend and counter but there was no willingness to really stick it to us as much as we huffed and puffed to no effect. All very apologetic from both sides.
It's a shame, players like Emmanuel Adebayor, Kyle Naughton and Chadli deserved a lot more for their energy and commitment. Kudos at the very least that the team looked a team and we performed better than in recent games in terms of application but I can't help but be pulled back to the harsh reality that in isolation the performance was blunt like a used razor trying to cut through a weeks worth of stubble.
In fact, it was a throw-back to pre-Sherwood days when Andre Villas-Boas struggled with a side that did retain shape, created loads and scored very little. It's the headache that just won't go away. From tension to migraine, its blinding us from moving forward.
Tim says they didn't deserve the win. They scored, we didn't. They deserved it, be it for this single technicality.
His persistent weekly deflection continues to entertain no-one.
On the touchline, throwing his gilet away with angry disdain and then arguing with Arsenal players late on and wasting precious seconds. His substitutions we're not risk driven enough. Christian Eriksen might have not been as influential as we would have hoped for, but surely seek to play him further forward, behind Adebayor, centrally. He's the only player we have that can take a set piece and the only one that can thread a ball. Take off Nabil Bentaleb instead so that when Roberto Soldado joins the fray there's still some ilk of supply to the front line. Common sense or am I simplifying something using the eyes of a supporter and therefore missing finer details that only Sherwood can see that I can't?
Our momentum eased off in the latter stages when Arsenals true quality (time wasting) kicked in. Sherwood doesn't make instinctive daring changes. He sits on the team, waits, then goes sideways if he chooses to sub players on. Hence that lack of momentum, with the non-move from one level to the next, our players now dizzy and tiring thanks to all the running around without ever reaching their destination.
His post-match comments about not liking some of the 'World Cup' players in the squad because they're not his 'cup of tea', illustrates perfectly how wasteful the risk that Daniel Levy took has turned out to be. Shout out to the director of football system and the transfer policy and how it's there to support the coach and the next one in allowing for the c-word (continuity) to take precedence. Accept the DoF system is actually there to aid the profit margin and no given coach is more important than that.
Sherwood is making the players completely accountable. They are accountable, but we all know how fragile and easily influenced they are by the man at the helm. And the man at the helm is out of his depth. If you don't trust your general then do you follow him into battle believing you can win the war?
When Andre Villas-Boas walked away by mutual agreement, we appointed Tim Sherwood because there wasn't anyone else. There was no immediate long term option. That's when the season ended. What happened on Sunday, at the Lane, pretty much cements how messed up these past six months have been. There is still no leadership. Character alone won't win you games. Quality will. It's there, but it's sleeping. We need someone to wake it up. To shake it back to life.
Eriksen should be our number 10 without ambiguity and the necessity to drift. We need game-changers. Nobody has stepped up to be that galvanising factor, that Gareth Bale or the older statesman like the much missed Rafa van der Vaart. Play that broken record one more time, we need leaders that want to take responsibility beyond nice sounding pre-match soundbites. We might have them in the squad, but currently they're as effective as Care Bears shaping up to fight in the UFC. There is nothing to inspire them leaving the football equally uninspired.
We're back to rationalising and writing off this season and placing faith (the oldest of all football emotives) into the fact that someone will be able to take this squad and get the very best out of them with a single pre-season to fix up, look sharp. Signing seven first team players clouded our judgement and deluded most of us that it would work immediately without failure. It hasn't. It might still do given a summers re-think and a better equipped manager with the odd change here and there. No doubt that odd change will have to be financed with the odd signing being written off and sold off. Probably at a loss.
Many have cited thin margins for the way the North London derby ended. Knock one in, it's a draw and it's not half as bad as it looks with perspective the complete opposite of how it reads after a 1-0 loss. I don't believe that. We could have won the game and it still would have failed to mask the truth. For once the effort was there. The only thing that's thin are the lack of ideas. No transparency.
There's a thin margin between a learning curve and repeated institutionalised error making.
Then again, maybe there is transparency. We're hardly the most difficult club to read even if our chairman remains silent for the most part. You can guess that Sherwood was damage limitation. Either a victim of circumstance or the crafter of a circumstance he wanted to have for his own personal gain, to see it play out so that he found himself as head coach. Rumours of leaks to journalists, undermining tactics. All alleged, but if there is anything where transparency is without question, it's in certain parts of the media. Interestingly, the positive vibe on Sherwood in the press has now subsided, with very few in support of his ranting and raving. Never mind the press, he's now lost the fanbase now. At least the home crowd supported the players befitting the occasion.
It might have paid off, it isn't going to pay off - so roll on the summer where Levy has to appoint the next man and the roller-coaster ride starts again. I can't confirm if they're going to install saftey measures on the carriage to stop people flying off at every turn and dip. It wouldn't quite be Tottenham if there wasn't a mess to clean up.
Thrashed three times with love by City, Liverpool and Chelsea, two humiliating home defeats against West Ham, three defeats against Arsenal and not a single goal scored against them...it's the season that keeps on giving by not giving a single f**king thing.
To truly be philosophical and to highlight the fact that this goes beyond Sherwood and straight to the board of directors and our chairman - we could have consolidated in 2006. We didn't. We could have consolidated when ten points clear, we didn't. We could still have consolidated had lady luck looked our way when we did finish top four, we couldn't. We could have consolidated had we not made individual errors in key games towards the end of last season. We didn't.
So many wasteful January's, we had the opportunity to strengthen and we didn't. Then this past summer we over-extended possibly because the club had the money, money made off the back of a single record-breaking transfer deal. Lose a superstar you have to then appease the supporters by replacing him, several times over. Did we actually sign the players the coach wanted? Who knows. Fact is we all bought into the suggestion that the breakthrough was made during the summer and that AVB was being backed in a massive way. As already mentioned, we thought we bolstered up but instead weakened ourselves momentarily with confused acclimatisation and selection leading to a dead end season.
Best way to describe what happened? Something about too many cooks spoiling the broth.
It's been in our hands so often, you wonder if it's time someone else took to holding our ambitions, someone with steady hands that knows how to grip and when to let go and when to dish out a slap, rather than someone passing ambitions around like a hot potato. Someone who unequivocally beyond any doubt backs the coach and gives them the control they need to create something with substance rather than the system that currently exists that is lopsided towards the boardroom rather than the man in charge of team selections. There were issues with Levy and Redknapp and transfer policy. Can't pretend there wasn't with Levy and AVB.
Or perhaps we simply need those in charge of the footballing side of the club to instil a slightly more c*nty attitude, to be a bit more savage and ruthless with execution in order to forge a winning mentality that doesn't become brittle and weak when its needed most. We've had that, in pockets, it's not been long lasting. In our case, that (long lasting) constitutes the entirety of a season.
We're too often like the James Bond villain in the pivtial scene where he can finally be rid of 007 but instead opts for a dramatic twist and turn of events by leaving the spy in a convoluted slow death sequence where he will always find a way to escape from.
For f**ks sake, Tottenham, put a bullet in his f**king head and be done with it.