The Thrill Is Gone. Spurs Lack The Power and Pizazz

If the wheels haven’t completely fallen off yet, the Tottenham bandwagon has been jacked up and is sitting on bricks outside the house. Might as well have a look at the exhaust while we’re about it – Spurs are badly misfiring and in need of an overhaul.

That job-lot of Brasso we picked up for the end of the season can be tucked away under the stairs because it’s the team that need some polishing after another lacklustre performance. In most respects it looked the same – the same players that had dazzled the Premier League for several months, large periods of possession otherwise known as the second half punctuated with thrilling moments of brilliance like Bale’s shot that left the keeper flatfooted but dipped onto the wrong side of the bar.

Good vibes and positive thoughts for Fabrice Muamba, the miracle man. I’m delighted for him and his family and will continue to wish him well in the long months of recovery ahead. The t-shirts were a fine gesture but the suggested applause on 41 minutes didn’t materialise. A song from the Park Lane marked the moment.

The fans were preoccupied with more immediate matters: the anxiety for three points in a game that wasn’t going our way. I don’t believe this display was unduly affected by Muamba’s heart attack. Granted we took a while to settle but the players appeared motivated and focussed. Being a professional doesn’t mean that the feelings go away, it’s just that you learn to leave them behind in the dressing room and pick them up after business is over.

Also, there were marked similarities with the recent Everton game. In both we toiled in the second half, shuttling sideways back and forth across their box unable to make a dent in their massed ranks of defenders. There’s been a lack of punch and pizazz up front for several matches now, not to mention a lack of goals since the Newcastle feast. This is no longer an aberration, it’s a trend.

So what’s not working? The formation had a welcome familiarity about it. Defoe is unlucky to not be starting. Despite his deficiencies he’s been bright for much of his time on the field. Saha can offer something to lead the line in place of Adebayor, who Newcastle notwithstanding has been in and out since Christmas. In theory. In practice, he played like an alien only recently introduced to football and more specifically the concept of passing. His inability throughout the game to pass the ball accurately over 5 yards was infuriating. His early ball placed carefully at the feet of a Stoke player when under no pressure was incredible and we were fortunate at that point in the match that Stoke wasted several good opportunities. Saha neither posed any danger bar one excellent shot that was well saved or proved able to keep possession.

Kranjcar is a talented player who is best deployed in an advanced role, playing off the main striker where he has few responsibilities when we don’t have the ball. Problem is, Van der Vaart does that best, so to deploy him on the right creates a potential problem, especially if he is as indifferent as he was yesterday. More significant is that the way round this, Walker pumping up the wing to provide width while the man on the right drifts in to offer more in the centre, does not seem to be an option any more. For several matches Walker has not been overlapping regularly. The full back has taken a few knocks lately and works prodigiously hard but he doesn’t seem to be injured. Late on, he’s so motivated that he tried to get forward even as he limped from a hard challenge that incensed the Shelf.

I don’t want to be negative about Gareth Bale who did more than anyone to try to win it. His crosses were met with indifference by the strikers in the first half and there were times when it need a hard low ball rather than the curler. However, after the break he should have stayed wider more often because width was the key to unlocking the Stoke defence. As expected they did well but our lack of movement made it easy for them. Time and again they snuffed out the space as we came down the middle and we never shifted them out of their comfort zone. Instead, our forwards hovered around the edge of the box. The long shots were decent but much easier to handle. In the second half for all our pressure and possession we made few proper chances.

Stoke fans watched most of the second period with the aid of binoculars, so far from the action were they. When they scored, they were probably cheering because the ball was up their end. We know what to expect at set pieces, once again we failed to win the ball and were muscled out of it at the finish. Friedel had little else to do except argue with the ref, although the easiest opportunity fell to Stoke as well, an apparently innocuous ball falling out of the sky close to our goal which skimmed the forehead of their man (Walters?) and plopped into Friedel’s arms.

Tactics or formations, if players are off-form there’s little to be done, and the spine of our team, Modric, Parker and King are not at their best. They are all doing well enough, it’s just that their standards are so high you notice if they are even a tiny bit off. Parker has not been the same since he missed a game or two after a kick on the knee, while Luka’s passing is less consistent than usual. I’m never going to be the one to write off the mighty King, a man who has my unending admiration but yesterday he was limp. Early on he failed to clear a couple of easy balls – there seemed to be little bounce or power in his kick.

Add this up and there’s a lack of drive and inspiration. In realising what we have missed, it’s illuminating to see how much they gave us when at their best, but that’s a hollow exercise given our lack of points, goals and bite in recent matches. With it has gone our tempo, creativity and leadership.

It’s hard to see what Redknapp can do in terms of freshening up the side. Daws and Lennon would do the trick, both are injured. Sandro did well at Stamford bridge last season but he’s still short of match fitness and our geriatric alternatives to King, who also lack match practice, does not fill me with confidence. We don’t have anything more up front to challenge Manu. Livermore and Sandro may yet have a role to play. They could shore up that defensive midfield and let the others play. And maybe give Luka a week on the beach. Perhaps that’s what he needs.

Earlier after that sticky beginning when Stoke could have scored twice, we stuttered into life. Modric was not at his best but was good enough to keep the tempo up and link with Bale for a couple of good opportunities. At the time the disappointing finishes nevertheless held the possibilities of better things to come but in fact that proved to be our best spell.

Redknapp’s bold half-time substitution, bringing on Defoe to create an ultra-attacking line-up was nullified not so much by Stoke’s worthy muscular defending but by a collective drift into the centre where defenders could easily snuff out the one-twos and through balls. We were drawn to the penalty box ‘D’ like so many druids gathering for the spring equinox. Defoe hardly had a touch.

if Rafa’s header softened the blow, the relief such as it was lasted about as long as the walk to the car. The CL and FA Cup remain viable goals and are more important than any local rivalry. 4th will do whoever finishes above us, but the news that Ar****l had overhauled that big gap was hard to stomach. Gone is the flowing football, the bounce in my stride, the sense that at last the balance of power had shifted. Logically, Redknapp could be right, this could be an important point come the reckoning, but today that sounds as if he’s protecting his men from the consequences of a poor display. This one feels like a defeat.

10 comments

  1. ian

    last nights game reminds of game agianst Blackpool at home last year, were we all felt the whole team was useless and they then go to liverpool and win so maybe all will be forgiven sat pm.
    Be careful of who we slag off now as they maybe saturdays hero

  2. Stoney

    They’re lazy. They think they’ve got it won before they walk on the pitch. Believe their own press. About time they got back to reality and knuckled down. Show some determination and energy. Show the passion us fans do. Play with pride.

  3. Anonymous

    Unfortunately this season is having the feel of last year when we exitied the champions league and didnt win for 10 games. I felt watching spurs yesterday we were never going to score.Someone needs to gee the team up. Our set pieces have become a running joke with me & my fellow season ticket holders playing our regular guessing game of which part of the stand the free kick is going to go in! I fear for us at Chelsea but hopefully we can get a bit of luck and maybe a point!

  4. Harvey The Hudd

    Sandro needs to start every game between now and the rest of the season. He can galvanize us. I’d like to see Gallas and Kaboul at the back. Never seen King as uncertain as he was last night.
    I believe that Harry’s reluctance to rotate throughout the season is catching up with us.

  5. alex

    drop parker he cant pass to save his life n he always turns to his own goal when he gets possession bring in sandro n give dos santos a go on the right n bale stay on the left for fuck sake

  6. Grumpyolspur

    Since Capello resigned we have gone off the boil. Coincidence? I don’t know.

    Before that time we were playing with pace. I don’t mean running around like headless chickens, but passing at pace. Triangles everywhere with the ball zapping between players looking for openings. When a player had the ball 2 or 3 players moved towards him looking for a short pass. Last night against Stoke, when a player got the ball, other players moved away from him looking for a ball lobbed forward, hit and hope. 6ft 4in Huth against 5ft 2in Defoe, What is the tactical sense?

    We must try to get back to the pre-Capello days. i.e. short passing with speed on either wing. There is no point in playing Kranjcar, he has no pace. If Lennon is injured who can we replace him with? Why not try Rose wide left and move Bale to wide right. With Benny and Rose on one flank and Walker and Bale on the other, what a frightening aspect for any defence. Saha has scored his goals for the season, so back to Ade and V. d. W.

    Much as it grieves me, Ledley has to step down. My knees felt sore last night watching him struggle.

    In the long term Sandro will replace Parker, but probably stick with Parker to the end of the season.

    On present performance, I’m not sure Harry is a shoe-in for the England job. Perhaps the poor performances is a ploy by the players to keep him at WHL next season. But if he goes, we wouldn’t do too badly with Brendan Rogers (unless Chelsea grab him). People may say that he doesn’t have the reputation to attract top players, but it is Champions League that attracts them, and that looks a long way off at the moment.

    I

  7. IKnowAlanGilzean

    Livermore has played through the ranks as a right full back and has had minutes there this season in the front side. I would like to see Livermore play there and push Walker on when Lennon is out. We’ve been unbalanced, with VdV and Kranjcar and even Modric IIRC all asked to fill in out right in the last few games. Harry’s idea of turnover is too often to play players in different positions rather than rest them. He has learnt little from last season’s stagnation in the home strait last season.

    Parker is worn out, and the many limitations in his game are coming home to roost. I’ll gloss over the ridiculously cheap free kick given away that led to Stoke’s goal. I would think the last thing one wants to do against Stoke is give them opportunities to sling in free kicks and corners. For an experienced and good player Parker has a good few reckless moments which pile the pressure on. He’s had a good season, much better than I dared hope, but he needs a rest/replacing imo.

    Like Parker, Friedal has given us a lot this season, organisation, stability, sound no frills positioning and keeping. But his all consuming love affair with his goaline is a worry and bit us in the behind on Weds night. We’ve been lucky it hasn’t been more costly this season.

    King also needs a rest. He is my favourite Spurs player since Waddle, and I would offer him another contract next season as he’s had a very good one this time round. But he looked leggy and uncertain on Weds.

    Saha was poor on Weds but remains a better player than Defoe, certainly imo a better leader of the line than him. Defoe is best used as a 25-30 min impact player for me, though he’s done better than last season I’m not sure I agree with the many who think he is a dangerous predator this one.

    I still think we’ll make 3rd and while the above harbours on the negatives, it remains a very good side. The league is 38 games long and gives time to hit a slump and bounce back. We were bound to have a slump, disappointing an untimely as it has been. Quality will out and I expect us to give a very good account of ourselves at Chelsea, though given the refereeing there last season let’s hope that’s enough.

    • Anonymous

      U must definitely be blind to rate saha ahead of defoe, defoe is the highest goal poacher,and the only player to have scored 5 goals in a match ur team has, the only england sriker i know scored at the last world cup
      so whats keeping highest goal scorer on the bench going to do to your team , makes scoring difficult,… Defoe should start ahead of any spurs striker,harry should always place him on top of opposition defence, with saha or ade or vdv as point man,.. but leaving defoe on the bench is fuc_ing detrimental to our purpose.

  8. Anonymous

    Oh ye of little faith. The thrill is almost back and after today’s stirring effort against Chelsea, we’re still 5 up on 5th with an FA QF to play, what’s not to like?

  9. Pingback: Levy set to size up €12m bid & Tottenham pays the transfer price – Best of THFC | Kickers.IN

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