Tottenham: Champions League is Ours if we Want It

By on February 15, 2011

On the 20th March 2010 we beat Stoke away 2-1 and as I’ve said on this blog before that was the moment last season when I genuinely believed we had a chance of what until then had seemed such as impossible task, finishing in the top 4. This season has followed a familiar path to last. In August I thought we’d finish in 6th place behind last season’s top 3, big spending Man City and a resurgent Liverpool. All of which are still possible but as the final whistle went on Saturday night in Sunderland I got the feeling I had at Stoke.

As strange as it sounds, to play as poorly as we did in the first half but remain on level terms at the break and then dominate and control the game in the second half as we did showed we’ve still got whatever it was we had last season. If it was good enough last year, why not this?

Sunderland are a good team. Make no mistake had we lost, it wouldn’t have been a shock. Not only had we not won up there in almost a decade but Sunderland were looking to cement their position in the top 7 and Europa League football. It’s a sign of how far we’ve come that I don’t know any Spurs fans that want to play Thursday nights. It wasn’t that long ago we were celebrating qualification for Europes secondary and disappointingly rubbish competition through the league. Apart from a decision to leave the field of play and poor organisation from those left we would’ve won this game a lot more comfortably while not playing very well.

The first half was shocking. No other words for it. You’ve got to expect a drop in quality when the team is missing midfielders of the quality of Bale, van der Vaart, Huddlestone, Lennon and the most important Modric. To put it another way, you could argue the Spurs side were missing £100m worth of footballing talent and that’s if Man City didn’t get involved in the transfers. With a midfield of Pienaar, Sandro, Jenas and Niko we lacked pace of any kind and with the exception of JJ who had played well for the previous two games it was a midfield lacking in form, confidence or experience. If you add a shockingly out of form Defoe and bench ridden Pav up front, the team was carrying 5 players who it could be argued were only playing due to lack of other options.

The initial stages didn’t look too bad as we kept the ball well and pushed Sunderland back, but then the Gallas moment happened. Many would argue it was entirely down to him, as Chris Waddle and ESPN did, but I’d like to look at other variables that led to Gyan’s goal. Of course it’s a disgrace Gallas had to leave the field for a change of football boots. Why players feel the need to change their boots after they’ve been warming up in them I don’t know but it does happen and he’s not the only player I’ve seen doing it. That’s just the small problem here though, the bigger problem is the same problem we’ve had for over 20 years. No leader. We all love Michael Dawson but he has to take as much blame for their goal as Gallas in my opinion. As captain and Gallas’s partner he knows what’s going on. As soon as he left the field Sandro should’ve been told to drop back to cover and had that happened there wouldn’t have been a problem. Jenas has also got years of experience and should’ve noticed what was going on. I’d like to know if Huddlestone had been playing if he would’ve naturally covered or done nothing as it appeared everyone else did. Once Dawson, remember the captain and central defensive partner of Gallas, had apparently done nothing to make sure he was covered we were in trouble. Corluka ended up in no man’s land because he wasn’t sure whether to close the cross down or help Dawson knowing he had two men and Dawson did the same, giving Gyan far too much time and space to control, turn and shoot.

If Gallas doesn’t leave the field, the goal probably doesn’t happen but once he does it’s important we find out why no-one covered. It’s easy to tell players to NEVER leave the field of play when the ball’s active but it’s harder to find a leader. A natural one would’ve reacted to Gallas’s absence and unfortunately, captain or not, this showed to me our awesome Dawson is no leader. As little as I rate John Terry that goal wouldn’t have happened with him in the team, nor would it with Vidic or Ferdinand.

So that’s their goal and as I’ve said I think it was a combination of Gallas and Dawson but so was our equaliser. A fantastic downward header from Dawson which nutmegged Craig Gordon thanks to Gallas running in front of the keeper and distracting him. Having spent the previous 40 minutes being beaten to the ball, out passed, and tactically out-thought with Richardson and Muntari both sitting in areas we weren’t comfortable covering and therefore getting a lot of time and space on the ball, we somehow went in level and what that goal must’ve done to the confidence of both teams was immeasurable.

The second half was the coming of age of Sandro. Until now he’d been played in the odd game, picked up a booking and looked fairly out of place but for the final 45 minutes on Saturday he was my man of the match. Not only was he everywhere including making the run and cross that eventually led to Niko’s fantastic volleyed winner but he tackled and controlled the game with the maturity of a Roy Keane like player. His passing might not have been the best and had he been Palacios there would’ve been a lot of moans and groans but the improvement in the second half showed just why we paid the money we did. It was the first time in a Spurs shirt we saw the potential we’ve all heard so much about. I think it helped he was playing alongside an in form Jenas who while he wasn’t as obviously good as he has been recently he did what he had to do, again keeping possession.

Were we excellent? No. Did our starting XI strike fear into Sunderland? No. Would you like to start with that team every week? No. There were so many things wrong with the performance in the first half but equally as many right in the second. There was little or no flair apart from 4-5 passing movements and Niko’s goal but we won. I said last week that all that matters at this stage in the season is winning. It doesn’t matter who scores the goals. If we play every game from here on in with two strikers as ineffective and useless as Defoe and Pav were on Saturday but win all of those games who’ll remember next August when we’re playing Champions League football again?

This is going to be as close as it was last season and maybe more so with three teams involved, but the strange thing is of the three teams we’re the one’s with the experience and lack of pressure. If we want that 4th or 3rd place finish it’s up to us to get it. For the first time this season we’ve played 4-4-2 in three consecutive games in the league and coincidently we’ve won all 3. Fingers crossed when all the players return we stick with a winning formation, even if that means someone has to sit out. I’m sure you remember where you were that night in Manchester last season, imagine how sweet it would be if we achieve it again come May? It’s now in our hands and without a new stadium, terrible strikers, injuries to all our best players, a dodgy keeper, poor transfer activity and with a manager not far from being tried for tax evasion we’re about to mount our challenge to truly f*ck up a very rich man’s summer holiday.

COYS

Submitted by THFC1882

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3 Comments

  1. Cromulentmart

    February 15, 2011 at 9:28 am

    Good article, good analysis, but why spoil it by revert to semi-illiterate footie-speak half way through?

    “If Gallas doesn’t leave the field, the goal probably doesn’t happen but once he does it’s important we find out why no-one covered.”

    The match has already happened, so why use the wrong tense? ‘Had not left’ makes much more sense that ‘doesn’t leave’.

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