Spurs and the Implosion Impulse

It’s not just the losing – Spurs fans are familiar with that concept although oddly I’ve never quite got used to it and after every defeat there’s an element of bafflement. How did that happen? So it still hurts but what gets me with losing to the old enemy is the constant innovation and inventiveness with which we self-destruct.

Many years ago I watched from the back of the Paxton as we were soundly beaten, 3-1 I think, by a Woolwich side coming to the peak of their powers. Didn’t like it but there you go. But the implosion impulse has characterised this fixture in recent times. Further back, 5-0 and not one but two Doubles. A  winner with Storey so offside I swear he was munching a burger at the Colonel’s stall behind the Paxton. Score four, they get 5. Davies sent off for no reason. Deflections. I haven’t checked but I strongly suspect tmy report in the corresponding fixture last season began with the same sentiments – 2 up, lose 5-2.

So this time, with both teams hesitant after relatively poor starts to the season, Spurs find some rhythm. Sandro makes the midfield his in an opening remeniscent of the old days when midfield hatchet men took no prisoners and more delicate souls wore steel shinpads. We take the game to our foe, two up front to pressure their wonky back four, Lennon beginning to make inroads on their left. The high defensive line is causing some anxiety but we’re OK so far, Gallas is in one of his wild-eyed ‘they shall not pass’ moods and anyway Lloris’ selection is part of the plan, to act as sweeper.

Some decent passing but it’s the early ball forward to get at them directly. Mertesacker, so ponderous he makes Huddlestone look like a cross between Usain Bolt and Lewis Smith, is drawn forward. Defoe, whose movement was excellent all afternoon, nips in behind him. His shot is saved but Abebayor is there for the rebound.

Bright and breezy, it was all too much to bear. Adebayor flew in for a tackle that meant nothing even if it had been anywhere near the ball, which it wasn’t, and legal, which it wasn’t either. Down to ten men after 20 minutes when a goal up is bad enough, but the science of implosion demands more, so much more. Our goalscorer, their ex-player, the one they love to hate, the one who has made such a difference to our attacking shape, and for a meaningless midfield challenge when our opponents had no idea how to get back in the game.

Our Andre said he wasn’t blaming Adebayor but I am. Foolish in the extreme. No one knows how things might have turned out – Walcott was itching to get a decent ball into the space behind our back four and Arteta and Cazorla had their sliderules out to plan the precise trajectory – but without him we stood no chance.

Now, a thunderous cloud of dark inevitability hung above the Deathstar, blocking out not just the light but all hope and shreds of mercy. Watching from my sofa, I had the luxury of taking a few notes. Each time, I wrote, ‘have to hang on - don’t let them score’, they scored. We conceded quickly after the dismissal, followed by another soon after then a third just before half time. Not feeling forensically inclined today, I won’t dissect the mayhem but suffice to say that Mertesacker’s header was sdown to lousy marking, Hud I think lost his man, while the ball for the second and third emerged from challenges where the man in red came out on top.

Discussing Spurs is like the current debate about the BBC. Everyone hauls out their own soapbox and shoehorns it in somehow. Poor editorial decisions and complacency about dealing with child abuse take a back seat to anything from left-wing bias to the break-up of the entire corporation. At Tottenham it’s not actually all about AVB versus old whathisname who used to be in charge as many seem to believe. Let’s postpone all the chatter and specualtion about formations and players because there’s little to add to that debate from this game.

However, what I would say is one problem has carried on from one reign to another – the wide men do not track back enough. I’m all for attacking wingers and both Bale and Lennon are playing very well this season. It’s just that in the Premier League you have to play another role and contribute to defensive solidity. Poor Naughton was run ragged by Walcott. I’m not convinced he can be a Spurs regular but yesterday he received little protection and in the fifteen minutes before the break it was too easy for the gunners.

And yet…. going to 3-4-2 after the break was a brave decision. Our young manager could have settled for damage limitation and scuttled away into the night, spraying cliches behind him like ‘one of those days’ and ‘look forward to Thursday’ to shake off his media pursuers. It nearly paid off. The gunners don’t like it up ‘em and approached their superiority with surprising trepidation. They weren’t happy as we ran at them. For a time we didn’t notice the loss of a man and played our best football, holding the ball and passing it well. Then ‘don’t concede’ and we did. However, Bale’s goal and their fans, who know their team best, were shaken into silence. Who knows what would have happened if Bale’s cross-shot had been more cross than shot, with JD waiting, or if Defoe had gone for placement not power at the far post from a corner.

The fifth seemed unfair somehow. 5-2 sounds worse than 4-2 by a factor of more than one goal. What was important for Spurs in the longer run is that we did not lie down and take it. When Villas-Boas got hold of them in the dressing room, they listened. They settled easily into an unfamiliar set-up, unlike last season when we couldn’t grasp the 3-5-2 at Stevenage at all, and responded willingly, playing their best football. Pressing high and defending from the front was effective. Walcott and Chamberlain were itching to get moving and Daws and WG couldn’t have caught them but if you prevent the gunners’ midfield from getting the ball or the space to pass it, it’s as good as an extra man. Almost.

This is one positive we can take from the game. It will stand us in good stead as we come to a sequence of games under growing pressure for points.

26 comments

  1. james smith

    Spurs should have a new year’s resolution for 2013. The Chairman manages the finances but the Manager decides on player purchases and sales, within overall finances set by the Chairman. We then might have players the Manager wants, plays and actually strengthen the team.

  2. Ramos43

    Well, ouch, that hurt. I suppose the same could be said about the last four EPL games.

    There is no question the team is going through a sticky patch, and that the frailties that have plagued Tottenham’s recent rise to prominence are still very much apparent in the DNA of this side.

    Dropping points to lesser opposition at home. Squandering goal leads. Giving away cheap goals. Self-imploding in the face of adversity. These are all things, that those of us who have been supporting Spurs for the last decade ( at least) have become use to.

    That why blaming AVB for the recent slump in form is TOO simplistic.

    Has AVB made ‘mistakes’? Yes. The most notable being his refusal to play two out and out strikers against opposition we should be steamrollering over (especially at home). And (to a lesser degree, some might say) his reluctance to install the ‘world class’ Lloris as the clubs first choice goalkeeper.

    Has AVB Learnt from these ‘mistakes’, or showed any signs of doing so? Well, apparently so. The starting line-ups against Maribor and more recently Arsenal suggest that our new manager IS flexible in his approach, and IS willing to consider different alternatives as he aims to bring success to the club. Regarding the Goalkeeping situation, AVB was doomed if he did and doomed if he didn’t. Whilst the vast majority of us will be of the opinion that Lloris should have been installed as the no1 from day one, it is easy (up to a point) to see why this has not been the case. However, AVBs reluctance to show his faith in a keeper many will see as the long-term future of the club, over another who is in the twilight of his career has to be readdressed quickly in order to install confidence to a player ,who at the moment, is not playing with his managers complete trust, and as a result, may be guilty of trying too hard to impress.

    That being said, IF BLAME IS TO BE ISSUED, then some so-called supporters should look no further than the 11 men on the field.
    The fact that we have taken the lead in 3 of the last 4 league games and looked relatively comfortable in doing so suggests that tactics, nor motivation are primary causes for the slump we currently find ourselves in. At the end of the day, it is the 11 men on the pitch that play the game, not the manager. And as I have said before the problems the team are currently experiencing are NOT new issues.

    Last season, we were beaten at home by Wigan, gave away cheap goals, surrendered a 2 goal lead to Arsenal ( with 11 players)and capitulated when faced with adversity.

    For all the friendly games in this summers pre-season, IT IS ONLY NOW THAT AVB IS TRULY LEARNING ABOUT HIS PLAYERS. And in the opening 12 games of this EPL season, Villas-Boas will have learn’t all that he needs to know.

    Whilst the squad at his disposal is undoubtedly a talented one, it is also a squad with glaring mental deficiencies.

    Has anyone else noticed that:

    1. When a couple of players out of sorts, the whole team seems to play badly.

    2. When we concede goals to the bigger sides, alarm bells seem to ring to the point of distraction. Causing the team to lose composure not only in their passing, but in their defending as well.

    3. When faced with adversity/ injustice heads seem to go down particularly quickly, which usually results with us being on the end of a thumping.

    4. Gareth Bale often fails to track-back with any sort of enthusiasm any more, leaving our left-back frequently exposed.

    5. When thing are going badly on the pitch, the team is an extremely quiet one. And if any talking is done, it usually comes in the form of them moaning at one another, rather than Geeing each other up.

    There is clearly a lack of any real leaders in the squad at the moment (excluding those injured), bar Gallas and Sandro, which is why, until results pick up again and we get one or two of our more influential players back, I would seriously consider replacing Caulker with Dawson.

    Lloris

    Naugton Dawson Gallas Vertonghen

    Sandro Dembele

    Lennon Siggurdson/Dempsey Bale

    Defoe

    Vs West Ham

    • Alan

      Excellent thoughts, and I largely agree. I wrote earlier in the season that AVB was still searching for his best team. He almost found it (agree re Lloris as I’ve also written) then was deprived of key players and with the squad the way ti is, we’ve found out that we have a decent team if everyone is fit, not otherwise. AVB has tried several different formations but likes that three as attacking midfielders. I’m not sure we have the right players for that, especially with the injuries. And he’s not been able to try two up front because of Manu’s injury.

      Thanks for taking the time to make such a considered post. Regards, Alan

  3. bisonfish (@bisonfish)

    Managerially, more was done right than wrong yesterday. The game was lost in the half hour between the Adebayor red mist and half time, by the 10 men remaining who rolled their canoe instead of digging in. The cries will come for the manager to go, no doubt, some things he’ll get wrong, some he’ll get right, but all importantly he seems to be learning. Start again now and things will not get better straight away. The recovery time will be longer. Not losing your best players over the summer, that would be a start.

    On a similar note, should the Woolwich Arsenal be so daft as to sack their manager, it’ll take them years to recover.

  4. chris

    With 11 or 10 men it still comes back to needing a creative midfielder a la’ Modric, and a predatory top striker who’s both quick on the floor and can head a ball. We really are not that far off from having a squad that can challenge for the title, let alone top four, once those two are found, and good money spent, while Parker, Ekkoto, Kabul, Dembele (what IS going on with his hip when we need him??) etc. can’t come back quick enough!
    Free up Lennon and Bale’s wing play with a midfield like we had last season (plus Dembele linking to the striker ..4411 WILL work with the right team) and we’ll get more from those two as well. We wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, need our wingers tracking back and exhausting themselves (not until a game is at least comfortably won and their front-running, the reason why they’re in those positions, has done enough damage).

    • shelfsider

      We will only replace Modric if we can find a hidden gem of a player, we do not pay the price or wages of the kind of player(s) you I and most of the supporters want. If you are hoping for miracle workers in Jan. don’t hold your breath, we might get more of the same quality of player.
      Modric although still quality was not so hot after Xmas last season because he wanted out. Like Carrick, Berbatov and Modric these players’ wil be tapped up by ”bigger” clubs, I have heard that Manu are looking at Sandro.

      • Ramos43

        Two words- Ever Banega!

        This kids got it all and by all accounts seems to be rotting at Valencia. The Spanish club are in financial trouble and would no doubt sell for between £15m-£18m. Banega might even be better than Modric!!!!

  5. Howard Webb

    I am a pathetic ref who loves to ruin games

    Any competent ref would not send players off for, shock horror, trying to win the ball

    • Alan

      Dear Howard,

      Thanks for dropping in. I hope you explained the not-so-new interpretation of the tackling law to Adebayor because he clearly doesn’t understand it. And I for one am grateful that you did not book Sandro for his first 4 fouls. The ref we had against Wigan would have sent him off before Manu.

      Regards, Al

  6. mikewrona

    I’ve been following Spurs since about 1965 and I’ve played our coached a number of sports since about 1955. Based on my experiences and I am sure many of you who have played sport will agree – Spurs lack a leader. Talent is one thing, leadership is another. A leader plays hard no matter the score and causes those around him to raise the level of their play. A leader plays and acts in such a manner you don’t want to take the day off because your lack of effort will stand out. A leader pushes his team mates to stay steady, stay confident, to work together, to be strong. Spurs do not have that person. It is all the more obvious when the end of the match nears and the club becomes fearful and plays fearful of losing the match. Instead of playing to win, they begin playing not to lose. At some point someone must get in the face of the team mate and ask- What is your plan for the rest of the match and are you with us? Otherwise they just fall back only to allow the opposition to pack the box and overwhelm the keeper. Whether it is just kids on the pitch or professionals, a true leader makes all the difference in the world when it comes to winning attitude..

    • Ashley Collie

      Too true, Mike, where’s our Mackay, Perryman, Roberts? Thought Dawson might have it, but doesn’t get many games any more. In terms of on field example, only Sandro seems to show it consistently, total effort, leading by example. Could Vertonghen or even Caulker, in time, be a leader? United have had them in spades, even today, on field veteran leadership. For the brand of football we try to play and the type of players that it takes (creative players are perhaps by nature a little fragile), we so need an on field leader to keep heads up, for example, after Ade seeing “red” mist yesterday. This may get a lot worse before it gets better. Same as it ever was…

        • Ashley Collie

          Yes, indeed. Roy Keane, Viera, Yaya Toure/Kompany, Scholes/Ferdinand…the list goes on. Be nice if one of our lads got the opportunity to step up and lead by example and with fire! We’ve been missing that on field leader for years and years. Ledley was great but was too quiet. Whom do you guys have in mind?

          • Alan

            Gents, we could do with a leader but all of the players Ashley mentioned have something else in common – they are world class footballers. It’s that quality which we lack more than leadership in my humble. Also, leadership comes in different forms. Sandro led by example on Saturday – he was determined to boss the midfield. There is also the quality of organisation – Gallas is excellent at this, shouting and cajoling the back four into place. Then we have Lloris as an organising French skipper – useful.

            By all means bring world-class players to Spurs! Until then, Dawson for Gallas on Sunday and Lloris keeps his place.

            Regards,

            Al

  7. Ashley Collie

    A year ago at this time, we were on an unbeaten streak, playing scintillating football, lighting up the league. What happened — why has this implosion impulse taken hold, was it always there? Are we happy where Mr. Levy — who is responsible for the changes, the outs and the ins — has us at now? Why does he never seem to fully back the man he chooses (last few transfer windows)? I have an uneasy feeling that he so always wants the “win” in negotiations that as long as he does win, it doesn’t matter if it’s to the detriment of the team — as long as those 36K keep filling the $eat$, and the rest of us buy the merchandi$e. Something continues to be amiss and it’s usually up top! IMHO…just wondering.

    • Mal Costelloe

      Ashley how are you? “A year ago at this time, we were on an unbeaten streak, playing scintillating football, lighting up the league. What happened” Well as I remember mate, Jan Feb March April and May happened, and it mainly (r)evolved around ‘arry who tokk his eye off the ball and was unable to change the way we played. Levy got rid and brought in AVB, but then failed to buy the player(s) AVB wanted. Not it must be admitted for thefirst time so a lot rests on Levy’s shoulders. Problem is who has the money to but Levy ourt and what will they give AVB? No easy answers I’m afraid

      • Ashley Collie

        Yep, Mal, same as it ever was. I actually like the new guy, the way he has taken time to learn about Tottenham’s history/players, and the way he wants to play. But Levy didn’t support the last manager (no, I’m not suggesting to go back) like in two winter transfer windows when a little bit more than Saha/Nelson could’ve helped us over the top. To be honest, I’ve watched many Spurs ebbs and flows in my life, and this has the looks of something that’s a project — some nice young players coming up — and top-4 may well be off the plate this season. Losing 4/5, and not excelling in the Cups so far, this may well get worse before it hopefully gets much better. But I wouldn’t count on it, LMFAO! Cheers mate!

        • Alan

          Ashley and Mal, I predicted pain at the start of the season, shame I was right…not an excuse but the injuries have done for us. I also wondered if Levy might have made more money available for fees and salaries. Looks like there was not enough. Changing managers means the new guy has to take time to build his side – as ever Levy emerges from the shadows as the key figure at the club. He has to back AVB in the market in January and the summer. Regards, Al

  8. IKnowAlanGilzean

    I’m very down about this one. We looked bright and like we knew what we were about and what needed doing and Arsenal had wilted badly. I’m afraid I’m pretty cross with Adebayor. We could have regrouped better, earlier, and even down to 10 men three goals before HT was poor. Still, I am seeing enough to think AVB’s well worth persevering with. We have to be in it for the longer haul witth him or there’s no point. January is a crucial time I think, as ever, though value in terms of which players and price remains an issue then as it does every year… The fruits will come next year I think. If Levy and many fans can wait. In my not expert opinion, Redknapp with the current squad and injuries would not be faring any better.

  9. Victor Meldrew

    I have a massive problem with AVB. At the end of last season HR lost the plot. We folded badly. HR past his use by date.

    In comes AVB with a squad that is only marginally weaker than last year. Every club has injuries. GOOD Managers work around it. What appalls me about AVB is that after 17 competetive games (except Maribor) we are playing worse now than at the end of last season. In fact in EVERY game we have never looked convincing for the full 90 mins.

    We have a squad where most of the players would get a regular game in most of the other teams in the PL. The squad is NOT the problem, the standard and style of play on the pitch is.

    AVB dictates the style of play. We play in a straight jacket. After 17 games SURELY AVB must realise that something is not right. He must realise that you cannot put a square peg in a round hole. Football wise this is what he appears to be trying. Make the players fit the tactics rather than modify the tactics to suit the players.

    When AVB describes the Arsenal game as Spurs being in complete control for 90 mins. is a sign that the man is not aware of what is going on. The players must surely lose confidence in their Manager when they realise he is off the planet.

    So what do I know about football? Not much, but I can say that unless AVB changes something very quickly, or DL sacks him, we will be in a relegation battle at the of the season.

    • MichaelNJ

      I have been fully behind both of them, but it really concerns me that AVB believes we ran things at the Emptycrates in an interview taken moments after Adebayor was caught laughing and high-fiving Arsenal players after the game. What universe do these people inhabit?

    • Alan

      Victor mate, what’s with the ridiculous hair in Merlin? Don’t they have conditioner in the dark ages?

      I didn’t hear hear most of these comments. I wouldn’t take too much notice – AVB is protecting his team, thinking ahead to the next one and trying to bolster their confidence whether they deserve it or not. In the meantime, he needs to get the balance right, starting with a settled keeper, decide who his best back four is until benny is fit again and get more from Siggy and Dempsey, who have contributed very little.

      Regards, Al

  10. Jimmy Greaves is God

    For my 2penneth worth would just like to say that AVB has actually gone up in my estimation !!! Which doesn’t actually mean he’s very high up the list, but, at least he had the guts to have a go for it in the 2nd half and take the game to the gooners. Much better to lose by 6 and lose in style rather than lose by 2 and go down with a whimper, Perhaps there might be some hope yet

    • Alan

      I really admired him for that, which is why I mentioned the BBC thing. So many people are banging on about how useless he is precisely at the moment when he’s made one of his best on-field decisions as a manager.

      Regards, Al

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