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Almost but not quite

white hart lane

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When I write about Spurs I usually have to leave it a day or two after a result to let the dust settle and my thoughts on the game form into something vaguely readable. If I’d have written something immediately after the final whistle last night it would’ve been non-sensical and could’ve been perceived as my knee fully jerking.

On another night we beat Sunderland quite easily. Huddlestone’s goal flies into the top corner, Bentleys shot does the same. Howard Webb gives the penalty claim but misses van der Vaart’s handball and sends Lee Cattermole off. We win 3 or 4-0 at a canter. Unfortunately, last night wasn’t that night. It could however have been any league game at White Hart Lane so far this season. Man City, Wigan, Wolves, Villa or Everton. Sure, we’ve won some of those, drawn some and lost won but they all have a common similarity. We’ve struggled to break teams down. If you’re going to N17 the simple thing to do is play with 2 banks of 4, close together and hope to frustrate. After that, anything’s possible.

This isn’t just a problem that we’ve suffered from this season either. Last season there were signs of it in many games but we managed to have the cutting edge, the X factor, that something special to find our way through. This season, we haven’t. Sunderland played well. Maybe not the most adventurous display I’ve ever seen but they had their plan, stuck to it and deserved their point.

First Half

Redknapp started with the side many wanted to see out there. There was a lot of talk before the game about playing 2 strikers but with vdV that’s just not possible. It’s something we need to look at though because it’s the main reason we’re not scoring goals, but I’ll come onto that in another post. I was pleased to see Bentley given a starting role and his partnership with Hutton looked very productive, creating chances and crosses almost at will. I was a little disappointed that Bentley didn’t give the ball to Hutton as often as he could’ve done, preferring to use him by not using him as the saying goes.

Modric looked particularly up for it, winning challenges, passing well and causing Sunderland problems. Bale less so. It was just another typical league display by Gareth, who will need to learn quickly how to get the best out of his game. Europe has only just come into contact with Bale, but the premier league have seen him since January. This season all teams have tucked their midfielder in so he doesn’t get space which has resulted in him being fairly ineffective for the most part. He had the chance to get some good early balls into the box last night but all were just off the money and easily cleared. He’s a confidence player, and even though it’s only a week since that great night against Inter, he looks short of it.

We had all the possession, all the chances, something like 11 corners and were looking good. Just one thing was missing and that was a goal or two. It’s fair to say a 2-0 lead at the break wouldn’t have been flattering, with a few close chances, THud’s superb half volley onto the crossbar and Bentley staking a claim for the right side of midfield.

Then half time happened.

Second Half

With the amount of crosses Sunderland were allowing us to put into the box the Crouch for Pav substitution was the right one by Redknapp even if Pav hadn’t picked up a back injury. It was a game ready made for Crouch to come on, cause havoc and help Spurs to the 3 points. It didn’t really happen like that though.

Yes, he set up van der Vaart’s goal and for the first 15 minutes of the half held the ball up and linked the midfield well. Once Sunderland had come to grips with him though he was fairly innocuous. Rafa seems to enjoy playing with Crouch, which will make it interesting when JD comes back into the team which he undoubtedly will as soon as he’s fit.

Before the goal came the penalty, or the dive, depending on whether you’re Howard Webb or the rest of the footballing world. A referee only gets one look at a situation and sometimes I’ll be screaming for a penalty only to see it on highlights later thinking it was a stonewall pen when in fact it wasn’t. Last night was different. I didn’t even celebrate the penalty because I thought it so obvious it was one. I was already wondering who was going to take the spot kick.

That’s when our night started to turn sour. Tempers rose and our play deteriorated. Give credit to Sunderland who at half time decided to play with 2 strikers which meant our full backs couldn’t break forward as much as they were in the first half, although quite why neither of them did AT ALL in the second half is beyond me. When you’re playing against that sort of defence you need width, which we had in the first half but not in the second.

We can’t blame the referee for what happened last night and the fact he got 3 of the 4 big decisions he had to make wrong has given certain managers another smokescreen to hide behind. As has the booing from the home fans at the end of the game. No matter how poorly we play I wish this would stop. If you’re reading this and you boo please tear up your season ticket, burn your membership card and stay at home in future.

2 minutes after we took the lead, a deserved lead at that, we ruined our night. If you believe what you read or heard it was a mix up between Gallas and Kaboul, when nothing could be further from the truth. Watch it again. Kaboul had the situation under control until Gallas leapt towards him to make the interception, causing Younes to stop for a split second and let the ball between the both of them for Gyan to run onto and slot home calmly. It’s not the first time Gallas has been at the route of our defensive problems this season.

When he signed, I wasn’t happy and I said as much. Most people assumed that was because of who he used to play for, which was never the case. I’d take Ashley Cole, Fabregas, Drogba and others in a split second and sing their names because they’re good. Gallas isn’t and Redknapp’s constant insistence on playing him is mind boggling. A lot of people don’t rate Bassong for some reason, when he’s a perfectly good, young centre back. He was the linchpin along with Dawson last season that got us into the top 4 and sitting him on the bench as soon as Gallas was bought will only be hindering his development into what could be a very fine defender for us in the future.

I should also make a little comment on Bentley as I’ve praised him for his first half display. None of the team played particularly well in the second half but Bentley stood out on many occasion whether it was misplaced passes, crosses, set pieces or shooting. Being out in the wilderness for so long can’t help and you could see he was trying more than Niko did at the weekend. I’d still stick with him on Saturday unless we play vdV on the right with 2 strikers.


Let’s look at this objectively. His starting line up was spot on and his half time substitution was the correct one. That’s when it all went a little sour. Like the team in the last 20 minutes, who resorted to long balls up to Crouch in the hope that something would happen, he ran out of ideas. At one point he turned to the crowd or someone on the bench, smiled a rueful grin and shrugged his shoulders if to say, “what can I do? I’ve sent the players out there, it’s up to them.”

Of course someone could’ve just asked him what he wants for dinner, to which his reply was, “I don’t know”.

Why wasn’t anything done to change the system? Or was something done and that’s why the long balls started? I’ve said for a long time now that it’s not Peter Crouch’s fault we play long, direct balls to him, and I stand by that. We played right into Sunderlands hands and Redknapp did nothing about it. No substitutions were made at all. No formation alterations were tried out. We had Jenas and Niko on the bench who might’ve done something. Maybe not the best players in the world, but when things aren’t going your way surely with 10 minutes to go when you know you need a win, a last throw of the dice is necessary? How about putting Niko on the left of midfield, slotting Bale at left back and letting him run from deep? Not his or my preferred position for him but it’s worth a shot isn’t it?

My fear for Redknapp is the grumbles that are starting to come out of N17. Personally it’s way too early for that sort of thing but he has some major limitations and they’re being shown at the moment. The last thing we need is more unrest and another manager change but he needs to get things working again and soon because once he loses the crowd there’s no coming back.

Howard Webb

I hate talking about referees. Hate it. All I’ll point out are the four decisions he had to make last night:

  1. Bentley Penalty – booked Bentley for a blatant penalty. Got it wrong
  2. Handball – missed vdV’s handball as he turned for our goal. Got it wrong
  3. Cattermole – instant red card. Wouldn’t have made a difference to the game but getting the ball first or not isn’t the point. Studs were showing, over the top of the ball into Modric’s leg. If Luka’s foot is planted and he breaks his leg does he still give only a yellow? Got it wrong
  4. Gomes’s moment of madness – the one thing he got right. Challenge was outside the box and covering defenders. Yellow card. Got it right

The little decisions going against you or for you aren’t important. They can be annoying but they’re not game changing. Referee’s have to get the big ones right all the time and quite frankly, all 4 of those were simple one’s to get right. Unfortunately for us, it’s another moment in the game that takes the spotlight away from our poor league form, just like United away.


A better performance in the first half which was lacking of a final ball and finish but most fans would’ve been happy with it. Second half we ran out of ideas and Sunderland came back into the game. We still had the majority of the possession and created the chances, without actually creating chances if that makes sense. Everything was good when we scored but went down hill 2 minutes later. With 20 minutes to go we didn’t look effective, panic set in and we started playing the long ball.

Sunderland battled well and deserved their point but knowing how important it was to win last night Redknapp let himself down by doing nothing.

Not the end of the world and I’d expect to see a slightly better performance on Saturday against a very similar team but this time with finishing a priority. I’d like to think we’ll spend this week in training working on how to break down 9 men defences, how to get Bale more space and how to put the bloody ball in the back of the net.

There are two ways to look at last night. It could be worse and it could be better. We could be a team that gets outplayed by Bolton or we could be a team that outplays the Champions League holders…….oh wait. Conflicted.


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