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Something Lacking Something As Parker Drags Boys Across The Line

It was 4 hours each way on an overheated coach to Wigan to watch the club I’ve supported since the days of Greaves & Gilzean. I left home full of post-Liverpool optimism but returned sadder and wiser. We won, yes, but I feel we should have murdered an unconvincing Wigan team.

For 30 minutes Spurs were immense, as against Liverpool, and looked like overrunning the Latics and scoring a hatful. Van der Vaart scored elegantly within 3 minutes from Adebayor’s pass, after he capitalised well on a dreadful Wigan defensive error. Then Bale’s glancing header direct from a Modric corner gave us a second after 23 minutes. The jubilant away support, remembering 2 years ago, stayed on their feet (to coin a phrase), sang “we want 10″ and mocked the silent occupants of the home stands chanting “your ground’s too big for you”. There were over 5,000 empty seats in the Wigan stands but none at all in the away end.

Only Roberto Martinez, always busy semaphoring in his technical area, could possibly have believed that the winning margin would be less than 4 or 5. But towards the end of the first half something imperceptibly changed. Our outstanding close control and passing began to fail, with less energy and urgency shown by all but Scott Parker (my man of the match by a mile).

In the 2nd half the standard of play got worse and worse, typified by a crass mistake – a trademark one – by Assou-Ekotto leading to the Wigan goal. Benny, never one simply to “get rid”, lost possession in the penalty area and, with some poor defending by Kaboul, Mohamed Diame took a difficult chance well shooting low to Friedl’s left.

Despite a few Spurs chances late on many of us watching at the DW feared a loss of concentration or last-minute slip-up (as so many times before) and were hugely relieved to hold on for the win.

Many will say we did what was necessary, getting 3 points at a “lesser” club (remember last year?), and should be satisfied. But, with expectations high after our goals and the Liverpool performance, I was disappointed and frustrated by our 2nd half display. Spurs had very nearly their best starting 11 out and we simply under-performed.

Van der Vaart is still not fit, and after the goal only rarely showed his undoubted class. In the 2nd half he played too deep, didn’t make many runs and lacked sharpness. He didn’t look happy and seemed relieved to be substituted. Is he a square peg in a round hole? Frankly I would rather have seen JD playing in a “proper” 4-4-2 had he been fit.

Adebayor, and the jury is out on him for me too, looked so good in the first half. He is everything Crouch (despite his goal against Man U) is not: strong, determined, skilful with both feet, good in the air and a handful for any defender. Best of all he doesn’t fall over at every challenge. I so much want to believe he will consistently turn it on for Spurs. But in the 2nd half he went down in the penalty area to a tackle, looking for a penalty, and then stayed on the ground for several minutes as if in agony after which he sulked and simulated a limp for the rest of the half. He wanted us all to believe he was injured. Was he actually hurt? I don’t think so. Come on Ade, less of that nonsense please!

Modric, who as we all know can be sublime on his day, played well in flashes but didn’t consistently boss the midfield like last week. He had a quiet game, but I wouldn’t criticise his attitude despite all the transfer talk.

Bale too had his moments and, not for the first time, proved that one-on-one few defenders can stop him except by a foul. And so it proved when Gohouri received both of his yellow cards and was sent off for just such agricultural challenges on Gareth, but Spurs didn’t capitalise on their advantage from the sending off over the remaining 30 minutes of the match.

Sandro played well enough, but unsurprisingly tired in his first game back after injury. A fan in the row in front of me wore a Sandro-tribute wig (a mohawk with blue at the sides) to show how well-liked the boy from Brazil is by the supporters.

I enjoyed watching Ledley King in action, if “action” is the right word, because he is the master of minimalist football. Always in the right place at the right time and faster than he has any right to be on his creaking knees. Let’s hope he’s fit for the Arsenal game to mark Van Persie.

Best of all though was Parker. I predict he will be captain when Ledley is next out of action. His stamina, determination and will-to-win were outstanding and (although I can’t prove it with statistics) he must have made more tackles and passes, and run further, than any other player. He encouraged the others and organised the whole midfield too; he’s just the gritty general we need. In our wonderful first 30 minutes he fed Luka Modric with the ball time and again as Perryman used to do for Hoddle. Even when the rest of the team was struggling Scotty battled away, never giving up & showing why he must stay in the England team. My hero!

BAE was, well, BAE ….. the marmite of left-backs. He’s capable of anything, usually very good things but sometimes gaffes like the one leading to the Wigan goal today (and he was caught in possession or out of position several other times). Let’s face it, he’s not really one of life’s natural defenders is he?

Kaboul had 3 late chances in the 2nd half & is a real threat in the other side’s penalty box; he hit the bar from a good free-kick move and twice narrowly headed wide. Otherwise he did as he was told by Ledley in defence and played well. Walker is improving as a defender but didn’t shine in open play as he can. Friedel did what little he had to do well enough, and inspired a confidence in the defence which Gomes never could last season. Substitutions? Livermore did well enough, but Dos Santos was disappointing (again).

So, returning to the theme of this report, there was something lacking in the Spurs side. With a truly world-class front 4 of Adebayor, Bale, Modric and Van der Vaart I hoped for much more. Was it attitude? Do our stars think playing at Wigan in front of a crowd of only 18,788 is beneath their stellar talents?

The job was done, the points were won and we are climbing the table nicely at least. Finally a tip. The Marquee – a bar for away supporters forming part of the stadium but accessed from outside it – is excellent and rather (there is no other word for it) civilised. Most of the Spurs fans, including myself, found it unnerving to be treated so well, but I did love the pies!

Watch the goals from the game here


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