Sold on Roberto

 

Supporting Tottenham is as comfortable as wearing a straitjacket, wishing and hoping to be lobotomised to avoid further torturous pain.

It's not always grim. There's days when we manage to lift the hydrotherapy console off the floor and hurl it through the grafted window, climb through it and run off into the distance. The home game against Southampton was one of those great escapes. A little joy in a season of downers.

This looked on paper to be deadbeat end of season encounter. Southampton safe, Spurs distant from the teams above.

During the first half the visitors took it upon themselves to punish us for schoolboy errors whilst we played a defensive line so high I thought I was watching party-goers in an Ibiza club losing the plot to a knee-trembling breakdown. Thanks to this disorganised mash-up of mediocrity it presented Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana with gifts. One flew over our defensive. Two flew past Hugo Lloris in goal.

Spurs once more starting slowly. Kyle Naughton guilty  for both goals. The ball bouncing over him for the first and a mis-kick for the second with the lack of spacial awareness from our centre-backs hardly helping.

Southampton responded by giving us a gift in return and Christian Eriksen scored to go into the break at 2-1. The first half wasn't  the best and before the two goals Soton threatened on the counter every time.

The only genuine highlight was Roberto Soldado and his touches in and around the box. His work ethic was fantastic but his ability to find his team mates with cute, incisive balls once more lends to the frustration that he still can't find the net when presented with an opportunity.

The second half was the polar opposite. Spurs splendid. Soton subdued.

Tim Sherwood removing Mousa Dembele and giving Gylfi Sigurdsson a central role to press and play. Almost immediately we score. Soldado and his tireless effort, mugging the ball away from Dejan Lovren and crossing for Eriksen to notch his brace.

All goals arguably because of poor grade defending. As opposed to wonder strikes or unplayable passing movement.

Spurs in the ascendency. Southampton not having another chance on goal until late in the match.

Sigurdsson was influential but the relationship between Eriksen and Soldado was very encouraging throughout the ninety minutes. Both intelligent players, both proving that if you have footballers tuned into the same station you'll be dancing merry jigs of rhythm. Siggy hardly out of place either compared to the quiet half Dembele had who according to Sherwood post game remarks wasn't as full of energy as both player and coach would have liked him to be.

Deep into injury time Siggy unleashed a long range effort thanks to some relative freedom out side the box for a dramatic winner. Sherwood punched the air in delight on the touchline. The supporters that decided against leaving early on account of lack of traffic to beat on account of so many empty seats we're treated to an unlikely Spurs win, if you care to remember the early stages of the game.

Was it down to the coach adapting the team at half-time?

You can hardly ignore the fact that something was said in the dressing room, but you might wish to argue if the words only cited 'passion' and 'character' rather than strategic solutions to our tactical conundrums. As a generalisation, failure to press and playing a high line is begging to be attacked on the break, and with our lacklustre defending it's making it easy for teams to take advantage.

It's also evident that we possess a wealth of talent that requires the right tempo and structure so that there is a natural flow of play. It's nowhere near perfect but we're getting uplifting cameos with some players and moments of clarity with the team as a unit. But it still lacks supercharged pace and cutting edge in the final third.

 Image by @a01chtra - more here: http://www.dearmrlevy.com/image-edits/2014/2/6/the-collection

Image by @a01chtra - more here: http://www.dearmrlevy.com/image-edits/2014/2/6/the-collection

Sigurdsson? He gave us more attacking intent and link up than Dembele was able to offer with added presence with his pressing. We had better movement in the midfield because of it. Such a subtle and obvious change to wish for. Thankfully, it was granted. He also gave us the winning goal - something we were not able to fashion in the second half after equalising and then seeing Soton start to create chances as we tired out towards the end. Eriksen had one glorious moment to seal a hat-trick taking a wonderful Kaboul pass from deep and striking it only for a defender to get in the way.

How about the individual excellence of our lone striker and our left-sided playmaker as key to the same type of fluidity that saw Southampton rip us to shreds in the first half?

As noted, both excellent. Although neither perfect and yes, with perspective they hardly set the world alight (it was only Southampton, right?) but in the context of this game, both were instrumental in giving the team a spearhead of invention. We make hard work of most things these days.

The game was littered with below par passing completion, Eriksen suffering the stats on occasion. Soldado though, I can't fault too much. He wasn't presented with a clear cut opportunity. One or two cut backs/crosses just behind him or too far out of reach. But his contribution as a team player and bringing others into the game was sublime. The chest down to Eriksen who sent Chadli away to shot low. The way he turns his head away before touching the ball to Eriksen who waltzed through two defenders. His celebration at the death when we made it 3-2 was beautiful, dropping to the turf, fists in the air. I guess with our recent performances I'm clutching at straws here, but beggars can't be choosers and if I ignore even the minor bright spots then there wouldn't be that much to shout out.

If one player deserved a goal it was Soldado. He needs to channel the composure he displays with his passing and delicate flicks to his team mates in front of goal and seek to pass the ball into the net the next time he has the chance. Worked for Jimmy Greaves.

Nacer Chadli and Nabil Bentaleb put in good shifts.

As for the negatives?

On the flip-side we're also getting constant reminders of a variety of weak links that will need fixing in the summer. Starting with the full-backs.

Danny Rose especially was tormented. Credit to Naughton's second half recovery, he dug deep and got on with it making sure his focus and concentration was doubly improved.

Lennon and Townsend are both low on input for varying reasons. Townsend has been in and out of the team and needs some guidance on decision making. Lennon, is an enigma wrapped up in the past. He's experienced, he defends but he doesn't run at players with the same type of speed he did back in the day. I'm uncertain how to describe his role to the team. He isn't a Bale type of game changing player. He isn't even a traditional winger. In fact, both him and Townsend looked like inverted wingers and looked uncomfortable in those roles.

15 errors at White Hart Lane leading to goals against us (I think that's right. It sounds like it should be right).

The persistence with the high line remains a mystery. It worked better under Andre Villas-Boas. Players were better drilled, better coached with it but it was hardly our jewel in the crown. One major concern with playing like this is the lack of available space between said high line and the front-line for the likes of Eriksen and Soldado to work in. There's a congestion, a suffocation that we struggled with under AVB and it's being repeated again under Sherwood.

Personally don't think there's a fix this season because there hasn't been any consistency with selection and style. If Sherwood believes his words and he's staying and players are playing for their future then you would hope we see something less erratic after the summer. I think we will, under a new coach. Daniel Levy likely to employ a big name import to aid the brand name and to kick on from the off rather than appease the learning curve and required patience Sherwood needs. Call for continuity is echoed from season to season but this appointment - in the Premier League - has come too soon for Tim.

Spurs fans still can't quite decide if Tim is winging it or simply fast-tracking his coaching life by living every emotion a coach can live from one game to the next. He started out with safe back to basics tactics, damage limitation at its best. I don't blame him, he had to steady the ship. But the experimentation hasn't helped but is hardly avoidable thanks to his inexperience.

I don't particularly like Sherwood. I've never forgotten his comments about Tottenham before he joined the club. I don't however hope Spurs lose games just so my opinion is validated. He makes mistakes, many of them completely irrelevant to the ones we should be concentrating on. Okay, so he suffers from sporting fashion nightmares with the gilet. The upstairs downstairs with his seat in the stands and the clenched fists in the dugout. His naivety in match press conferences with sharing info that doesn't need to be shared publicly (telling us all that Dembele he had to come off because he wasn't giving as much as he could). Does any of that matter or does it define the awkwardness he has representing our club? Pretty certain every single manager is criticised for something cosmetic. Fact is, purely on football, it's hard to work out who he is and how good he could be unless he sees out that contract.

I appreciate the way he behaves (the uncontrolled heart on sleeve clumsy manner) and the constant focusing with plenty of passion/character might nudge towards him not having anything else to give from a coaching perspective. A subconscious acknowledgement that he's out of his depth. Not too dissimilar to AVB citing the lack of noise from the stands.

This process, this learning curve - it isn't the right fit for Spurs at the moment because Spurs are not in crisis or at a stage where we have to start rebuilding from the foundations up. An experienced manager can get us back to where we were positionally and competitively - with immediate effect (from next season). Don't underplay the influence the right appointment can have. Players are accountable here (they can switch on and off as easy at getting in and out of their convertible sports car) and reactive - making it in some ways unfair to Sherwood but also the harsh reality of football.

Fact is, in the win against Soton, although he has to shoulder responsibility for the slow start - he changed it at half-time and can hardly be blamed for individual errors. We went from being dominated to dominating. How this is perceived will no doubt vary from one supporter to the next but the players didn't allow their heads to drop and pushed on to get more than just a consolation goal or an equaliser but to win all the points. Some are finding it too easy a target to latch onto absolutely everything he says and twist it to add further fuel to the fire. Don't bother, his gilet is already inflamed.

As a footnote, I still think we are desperately short on experienced leaders on the field of play. Someone to embody that all important passion to fuel the tactical push once the whistle is blown for kick off.

In the end the day belonged to Eriksen and Soldado. The points to Spurs. The smile to Sherwood. The pat on the back to Siggy.

Credit shared.

I'm just going to enjoy the three points and the hilarious thrashing dished out to Arsenal. Perfect weekend.

We've got Liverpool away next. Think on.