Maribor were swept away by a fine attacking performance from Spurs, capped by a three-touch hat-trick from Jermain Defoe. Feed the wingers. Bale rampaging down the left in a magnificent display of power and pace. Defoe with the cut-throat razor finish, ruthless beauty not once but three times, each one his first and only touch in the move. The only problem is deciding which one was the best.
Formations and tactics are permanently on the agenda, especially at Spurs where we don’t have a squad that obviously fits one particular set-up. Anyway, it’s not just about the right formation, it’s about the right formation for each match. Last night’s 4-4-2 throwback to the good old days with two flying wingers and an endless stream of crosses for two, ah the luxurious joy of writing it, two strikers, was perfect to take the game to our willing but limited opponents. Young Tom Carroll shone in centre midfield, ably backed up by Huddlestone who got hold of the ball then laid it off, unobtrusively and economically. Play that open set-up against City and they will demolish us.
Villas-Boas has been criticised for having preconceived tactical ideas – not so. He’s a loyal man sure of his own judgment but not to the point of inflexibility. He has stuck with Gallas at the back in the league, kept faith with Walker despite his loss of form and likes one man up front, but when change was required, he brought in Adebayor. He’s learned his lessons well from his spell at Chel**a. This new dynamic suits me – the obvious is for JD to play off Manu but the big man is mobile too and remained a focal point for attacks even when he dropped off the front.
I’d go further. It’s time for AVB to make this his team. Time to move from transition to the future. Last night the 1882 fans gave the ground a much-needed lift as well as the team. Lots of writing this week about the damp atmosphere at the Lane, the best being from the peerless Lustdoctor ‘Against Modern Tottenham’ . Partly it’s down to unrealistically high expectations – of how good we are, of how quickly a new manager can form a squad deprived of two key players and a decent striker short into true contenders.
Partly it’s down to how Spurs fans have always been. When my lifetime at the Lane began in the late sixties, one of the first things I learned from other fans and the media was that we were fickle, we turned on our own when times got rough. In those days it was the funeral slow handicap that wounded.
As a kid, as now, I questioned that. If we were so fickle, how come we kept on turning up? You can’t fool Spurs fans. We know our football and know what we want. Play the game the right way. If we see something different, that’s the origin of the grumbling. For certain there have been times when it’s been over the top. I’ve never booed a Spurs player and never will. But the grumbles come because we know the game, know who we are and what we stand for. Because we turn up year after year, decade after decade. Because we care.
We know we need another striker and midfielder. The frustration comes because for a few years we have been so close. It’s been the same since I began writing this blog four years ago. We’re close and every time we build, we lose as well as prosper. Dembele and Vertonghen will do for me, but the loss of Rafa and Luka hurts like crazy. You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone (and remember how many Spurs fans repeatedly said both were over-rated).
Enough of the comparisons with Redknapp. Bring in the new players and the new shape and let’s get on with it. Move forward. I love Friedel and Gallas. Adore them. More than just what they’ve done for Spurs, which is plenty, they embody the true spirit of football. The media bang on about how players and fans don’t care. Muamba knows we care. Those of us who were there that Saturday night or last night to welcome him home, that’s football and football as it really is. Same for Brad and Willy. Could have given up. No. Could have taken the money and stayed in the reserves. Not enough. Pride means they want to be the very best even though their bones ache and muscles complain. Total dedication.
But time for them to step back. Lloris made a horrible ricket yesterday. If anything, what worried me more was that he repeated the same reckless manoeuvre in the second half only this time the Maribor forward didn’t make the tackle. But he’s the future, so play him. Let him get used to us and us to him. For better or worse (in the long run, for better in my view), play him.
Play superjan at centre half. That’s our long term future. He’s a fine left-back but he’s our centre half. Sandro and Dembele in centre midfield. What a power combo that will be. Give Carroll more game time, after yesterday he’s earned it. Last season I noted how he looks for the ball, is unafraid to take responsiblity. That firsttime ball to Defoe – top class. But more signficantly, when the passes didn’t come off, no matter, he came back for more. Livermore has the same attitude for that matter. let them play and they will make mistakes, but let them.
Villas-Boas was right to not make wholesale changes but I have a sense that he’s like a kid playing with an older child’s toys. Make this team yours, Andre old son, and we will get behind you. Make them play the Spurs way, with a bit of defensive stuff thrown in, I grant you. Time to move forward with our man.