“The Entertainers” Close in on Fourth
Another morning and another working day not spent worrying about the Spurs result at the weekend, I could get used to this. Three league win’s on the bounce, with a comfortable champions league victory sandwiched in between. 12 goals scored and 5 conceded, Spurs are now officially the most entertaining football team in the country. Are we gradually turning into Newcastle circa 1995/96? Everyone’s second team? Or at least the highest grossing television audiences? One things guaranteed when the Spurs come to town and that’s goals, controversy, entertainment and missed penalties.
Sunday was another must win game, by my reckoning it was at least the 100th must win of the season. It’s just been one of those so far hasn’t it and we’re not even in December yet! With Man City dropping points it was imperative we some how managed to grab all 3 to close the gap to only a solitary point, and manage it we did, although far from convincingly. That’s the great thing with us though, so far we haven’t really done anything convincingly. There’s been the odd game, like Blackburn a couple of weeks ago where we cruised to 4-0 but then let them have 2 goals as a thank you for making the trip down south. We’re nice like that.
Liverpool for their part played the game exactly right and I do have to laugh at some of their fans complaining Hodgson got it wrong and played too defensively. If there’s one way to beat us it’s probably by attacking and if their strikers weren’t so low on confidence they should’ve held a 2-0 half time lead. Of course that would’ve only meant us winning 3-2 because that’s how we roll in N17. Maxi Rodríguez looked dangerous in the first half, drifting into the hole behind the strikers where are defence and midfield weren’t picking him up. Thankfully, the guy’s got no idea how to finish, much like Torres at the moment and Ngog’s always had. They’ll claim after we scored they went a little defensive and tried to hit us on the counter but that was the right thing to do, after all we were throwing men forward and leaving gaps all over the place. Hodgson will say it worked against Chelsea, which it did, but didn’t come off against us. Does that mean we’re now better than Chelsea? I guess we’ll find out in a couple of weeks.
If I had any problems with Sunday’s game it’s the fact we went behind again. It’s starting to annoy me. 12 times in 23 games this season we’ve fallen behind, but managed to turn things around more often than not, gaining something like 16 points from those positions. Just think where we’d be if we could defend. The only upside to it is the fact it’s happened so often now that at no point on Sunday did I feel downbeat. One goal and the game would probably be ours, although I didn’t think we’d leave it as late as we did. It also feels like we’re almost playing with the opposition. Giving them false hope only to silence their early celebrations with a dramatic come back. That’s all fine and dandy but at some point it’s going to cost us and quite frankly I don’t want to have to put up with that until May. Please take the lead, build on the lead and win comfortably. I don’t think that’s too much to ask is it?
Then there’s the penalty missing. I heard yesterday that we’ve been awarded 9 penalties so far this season, which itself is a massive number, especially when you consider both Bentley and Modric have been booked for “diving” in recent weeks when they were actually mercilessly hacked down in the area. So that should be 11 penalties. That’s almost a penalty every other game. Did anyone else celebrate getting the penalty on Sunday? I didn’t. After Bale’s miss in midweek I have decided to leave the celebrating until after we hit the back of the net, and by that I don’t mean the ball ricocheting off some poor granny in the Paxton into the back of net. Having added JD to my fantasy team on Friday his miss was doubly annoying for me but definitely not surprising. van der Vaart, Bale, Pav and now Defoe have all missed penalties this season. All international footballers, one regarded as the player of the season so far and the other on his way to young player of the year awards from all over Europe. Do we practice these things or not? Liverpool did the right thing here again, making Defoe wait as long as they could. Something we rarely do. We’re too nice and play by the rules. That’ll only happen more and more from now on so whoever wants to take penalties will have to deal with that. My vote goes to Kaboul if he’s playing. Put your foot through it and dare the keeper to get in the way on these cold winter days.
Something I despise is booing of players, not just our players either. I’ve never understood booing an opposition player. It only serves to lift their game if they think they’re performing well enough to warrant abuse from supporters. Booing your own team is unforgivable though. Ok, so Wilson Palacios wasn’t booed yesterday, but he was subjected to groans followed by sarcastic cheers when a pass found a team-mate. As shocking as he was in the first half, passing wise, there’s no need for that. It won’t make a player who has gone from first name on the team sheet to 3rd or 4th in line for a central midfield role play any better. I fully understand the frustration his play results in, winning the ball with a perfectly timed tackle only to panic and give it straight back again. What’s the point in winning the ball in the first place? However, he managed to pick himself up and turn in a much better performance in the second half, winning tackles AND passing to a man in white.
Speaking of the injuries I’m going to put a positive spin on them. Two of our better players this season have been Kaboul and vdV so losing them both so early on was an ominous sign but we coped well enough and have learnt how to do so with the amount of injuries we’ve had this season. I don’t see that changing and not only do I not see it changing I think we could be better for it. Strange thing to say I know. Obviously I don’t want to be without players, especially ones as exceptional as vdV but of all the times to get injured this isn’t the worse. With Dawson and Defoe returning we’ve got ready made replacements and one less team selection headache for Redknapp. I’ve said before how much I dislike the 4-4-1-1 formation and having seen us revert back to 4-4-2 in recent weeks and start scoring goals again for fun I was disappointed for see the way we lined up, but not surprised. When everyone’s fit it’s going to be hard, if not impossible to play 4-4-2 without leaving one of the “big” names out. Lennon’s playing well at the moment, highlighted by his excellently taken winner yesterday so he’s got to play on the right. Modric, Bale, THud and vdV must play when fit which means only 1 striker. Something that resulted in 14 goals in 12 league games opposed to the 9 in the last 3 when we’ve played with 2 strikers for the majority of the game.
So, now vdV looks to be injured for 3-4 weeks with a torn hamstring, which is obviously bad news, but it does mean we’ll be playing 4-4-2 in most if not all of our games for the foreseeable future, and a partnership of Gallas and Dawson could quite possibly be outstanding, especially with Gallas’s current form. So bad news on the injury front, but the returning players will now see their chance to walk straight back into the team and hopefully play well enough to cement their places once again. As far as Redknapp goes I bet he’s thankful he can put off what are going to be near impossible team selections for a little while longer. Again, before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I’m not saying vdV and Kaboul being injured is a good thing, I’m just putting a positive slant on the situation.
Lets have some player ratings shall we?
Gomes (7) – Didn’t really have a lot to do. Managed to stay calm at Maxi’s feet and punched the ball clear well in the second half but also almost let a shot slide under his arms in the first. Still to find his best form this season and isn’t comfortable kicking the ball since his injury.
Hutton (7) – Good to see him getting a prolonged run in the team. We all know his defending needs to improve and it showed at times yesterday but he is getting better in that department and offers us much more going forward than Charlie ever did.
Gallas (9) – My man of the match for the second game running. Making me eat my words. Maybe his poor performances were simply a lack of fitness or it’s the armband? Whatever it is I hope it continues.
Kaboul (6) – Did nothing wrong while he was on the pitch. He will be missed and over the last 8-9 months has banished the “oh God, Kaboul is playing” feelings many Spurs fans had. Now a reliable, strong and fast improving player.
Ekotto (7) – Some wayward passes in the first half but he wasn’t alone in that. Had a fairly solid game otherwise. I felt he looked for the long diagonal ball to Crouch way too much in the second half but it was that which led to our winner so what do I know.
Lennon (8) – Looked like he was going to murder Konchesky early on but faded in the first half. Second half was much better although there were still a few occasions when he sould’ve been looking to run behind when Hutton had the ball but stayed wide. Excellent run and finish for yet another last minute winner from Azza.
Palacios (6.5) – Based on the first half we’d be looking at a 5. Made some decent tackles but his passing was very poor. Picked himself up well in the second after some of the crowd had ridiculed him. Looked far more assured, won the majority of his tackles and passed well. Good turn around by Sgt Wilson.
Modric (8.5) – Close run thing with Gallas for MotM for me. In recent weeks he’s been outstanding. The first half he wasn’t quite on fire but the second it was he who grabbed the team by the scruff and got them back into the game much like vdV has done in past games. The run and turn of pace that led to our equaliser was world class.
Bale (7) – As always looked dangerous at times. Could’ve had a couple of goals, having one shot cleared off the line. Typically, as I put him back into the fantasy team, he doesn’t score or assist. Gets so much more room when we play 2 strikers and doesn’t waste that room either.
van der Vaart (6) – Like Kaboul, only a low score because of the 11 minutes he spent on the pitch. Did nothing wrong and much of how we do in the coming month will be how we react to him being out.
Crouch (7) – I’m not a Crouch hater and can see what he offers the team. I can also see why people dislike him. Too many long hopeful balls up to him in the second half that’s not his fault and he did well with what he got. Managed to flick on the ball to Lennon for the winner and should’ve had a penalty when Konchesky barged into him. Still the best player we’ve got in the squad to hold the ball up.
Defoe (7.5) – Great to see the little man back, but seeing him back reminds me of how frustrating watching him can sometimes be. The reason he’s great is because he’s only got eye’s for the goal and just smacks it. The reason he’s annoying is because he’s only got eye’s for the goal and just smacks it. Make sense? Looks hungry and could’ve easily had 2 goals, having had one cleared off the line (lift it JD), a penalty missed and a goal ruled out for offside. Look out everyone, JD is back.
Bassong (8) – Made some fantastic challenges, especially two on Torres who gave him the chance to get back but he still had to time them to perfection. Very underrated player who won’t let us down if called upon.
So there you have it. Tottenham Hotspur doing it the Tottenham way. Entertainment first, results second but at the moment they’re both what the spurs faithful want. Redknapp says we’re in the title race and only being 6 points behind with 15 games played who can argue with him? Birmingham away next up, a very tough place to go and win but so are Fulham and Stoke. Turn this 3 game winning run into a 6, 7 or 8 game run and we could go into the new year sitting in the top positions looking to make history in a year that ends in 1.
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