Spurs Thrash Sunderland As Sherwood Awaits His Fate

Season 2013-14 will be one to remember for Spurs supporters but for all the wrong reasons. Since our self-imposed exile into Sherwood’s caretakership, we’ve been sitting in limbo for what feels like an eternity, staggering from one humiliation to another.

For once I can’t wait for the fixtures to end: the second half of the season has really dragged. The crowds approaching the Lane last night looked for all the world like figures in a Lowry painting, huddled against the wind and devoid of enthusiasm. There were gaps in all the stands, not unsold tickets but ticket holders who simply could not be bothered to turn up. Despite having paid a fortune, they preferred to stay at home. I’ve never seen so many spares on twitter and people literally could not give tickets away.

Many of those who made it did so out of that distorted sense of duty supporters cannot shake off, no matter how hard we try. We questioned our motives or indeed our sanity as we swapped stories of the easy drive or walking straight to the bar and being served.

In the end, we had the pleasure of five goals and an easy win, straightforward enough in the second half at least after the now obligatory calamity. It took a while but in the end we had some fun. Fun – at Spurs, not why we go, now is it?

Took me a while to cotton on. What on earth has happened to me? There was plenty of good football yet I was suspicious of it. Won’t amount to anything, only a matter of time before the next defensive catastrophe, all fall apart soon. Spurs, that’s what you’ve done to me. 2013-14 has warped my senses. Hardly one to tell the great-grandchildren.

This game took place in the context of strong rumours that Sherwood’s departure at the end of the season had been confirmed. The photographers who jostled for position in front of the home dugout like paparazzi outside Chinawhite’s certainly thought something was up. Just like Spurs to sack their second manager of the season before a game. At least it wasn’t at half-time.

It all added to the lack of expectancy. As my son pointed out, the atmosphere was like that of a Europa League group game. Both teams were out there, working hard under the lights but in the absence of any tension or edge. You welcomed a couple of crunching, misguided foul tackles to remind us that it was a competitive game with a considerable amount hanging on the outcome.

To complete the scene, the heavens opened and the weather turned as gloomy as the mood. On cue, once again Spurs surpassed all expectations by conceding a goal of huge comedic value. Chiriches, back in the side for the presumably injured Vertonghen, exchanged passes with Lloris at the edge of the area. We thought this was to take the sting out of a Sunderland attack but no! It was Vlad’s cunning plan to lure his keeper out of position, then pass across goal to Cattermole who rolled the ball into the empty net. It was by far Sunderland’s best ball of the night.

It was an even game until that point. Our attacking line-up had Chadli and Paulinho in central midfield so no defensive midfielders. Lennon was on the right, Eriksen starting left but cutting in, with Kane linking with Adebayor up front. Self-destructive against better sides but it came good on the night.

Both teams had chances. Spurs probably had the best of them with Kane a fraction uncertain on two occasions and Adebayor prominent. Rose had more room on the left as the game went on. Trying to work out the frequency of decent crosses, I reckon he averages one in five. Shame really – he did well to get forward into the space Eriksen made for him.

But it was Eriksen who got us back into the match, just when we were flagging. His fine cross from the left hit Manu on the thigh and was in. Messy on one level but it was a classic ball to the far post between keeper and defenders and all good strikers have the precious attribute of being in the right place at the right time.

All that was good about this performance revolved around Christian Eriksen, head, shoulders and a pair of stilts above everyone else on the pitch. Wherever something creative was happening, he was in the middle of it. Not everything came off but more than enough did to win this game at a canter.

His best performances this season have come when he’s played on the left. Last night, two wicked left-footed crosses, quick and curling into the danger area between keeper and central defenders set up our first and second goal. He scored the third, left foot and low from the edge of the box, helped by a tiny deflection.

However, wide left isn’t his best position. Rewind to my comments on the Liverpool debacle. Coming from the left gives us an extra man in the centre of midfield and he’s harder to pick up but it leaves us vulnerable to attacks down our left side, especially as Rose has defensive limitations. It’s a balance. Liverpool, who for the purposes of this example shall be known as ‘A Good Team’ ruthlessly exploited the weakness. Sunderland however, who we shall name ‘A Bad Team’, had no idea so the balance tipped decisively in our favour.

Good teams will always spot that one unless we compensate with a couple of defensive midfielders, one of whom will therefore be available to shuffle across and plug the gap. So do that or play him centrally with a DM behind so he has the freedom to move and work his magic, because there is no mistaking the fact that he’s the future of this club.

Much to enjoy about the second half. Spurs dominated completely, exploiting the space Sunderland left us all over the pitch and making a series of chances. Kane scored the second from another fine far-post cross by Eriksen, touching the ball in with confidence. Eriksens’s shot was the third, lots of room at the edge of the box.

Adebayor had a good first half especially, noticeably prominent during the period when we played badly, trying to make things happen. He pinched the fourth after the keeper half-blocked Kane’s shot and then Siggy wrapped it up, banging in a loose ball for number five.

I don’t see Chadli as a central midfielder, particularly if we are put under more pressure than Sunderland managed, but you can see glimpses of his talent, albeit frustratingly rare. For every fine throughball there were several fluffed opportunities but he contributed to the attacks in the second half. Lennon worked hard and made a couple of thrilling runs, reminding us of what has been missing from his game for a while now.

Paulinho began well in his best central midfield role but faded disappointingly. Kane did well enough, taking his goal well and looking to link up play behind the main striker. Having someone in that forward position who has something of the striker about him, as opposed to a forward midfielder, adds to our chances of scoring.

The defenders had nothing to do in the second half. Lloris was equal to everything that came his way.

A highly enjoyable second half and the result did not flatter us. Sherwood’s attacking team without a defensive midfielder proved to be the right option. There was a vast gap between the midfield and back four that most opponents would have exploited but sadly for them, Sunderland aren’t that team. They won’t get more room in the attacking half than we gave them yet they did nothing whatsoever with it. At the back, three centre halves meant we had space around their area and with Bardsley their right back keen to get forward, it’s no coincidence that two goals came from crosses on that side. It shows why teams don’t play 5-3-2 more often. Their lack of passion was surprising given their fight for survival. I feel for their fans – that was a long ride home.

19 comments

  1. Harvey The Hudd

    I texted a mate this morning saying that Eriksen is our future so very nice to see we’re on the same page Alan. Mind you, that fact could hardly be more obvious. He’s our playmaker and must play centrally. End of story. Less obvious to me is why, all of a sudden, Sandro can’t get in the team. Both Sherwood and AVB always baffle you with at least one decision per game.
    I feel conflicted about our Tim. Love his passion and his honesty but really, this kind of job demands a certain degree of circumspection doesn’t it? We desperately need continuity and, as with AVB, I so wanted it to work. Hand on heart, not sure Sherwood has the nous to take us where we want to go. Best wishes Alan.

    • Alan

      Eriksen clearly thrives on responsibility and action so we should keep him as involved as possible.
      I am less conflicted about Tim – he’s passionate but not good enough. He is inexperienced and so working out his theories in practice. Part of any young manager’s development – except he’s doing it with the Spurs first team. Reckon this is where Sandro comes in. There is a theory around that a primarily defensive midfielder is a waste these days and that you need versatile footballers in all midfield positions. Assume he sees Sandro as not giving enough going forward and to be fair, he’s not recovered full match fitness after his injuries, hence his succession of bookings. So Tim is trying something different. Liverpool caned us, Sunderland were dreadful so did not take advantage.

      I would play Sandro every game.

      Regards,

      Alan

  2. David Read

    We’ve been here before and the parallels with the departure of Martin Jol are starting to firm up. My dear old Mum used to say that if I couldn’t say something nice about someone, then belt up. But she couldn’t have had this poisoned comic opera in mind. Jol and Sherwood are decent, honest managers who have suffered from Levy’s tactics of using cronies to initiate whispering campaigns and place poisoned “exclusives” into the ears of eager journos. The Jol sacking was disgraceful and I fear the same is happening to Sherwood. Why we put up with such weasly behaviour is beyond me especially when we cling on to the belief that Tottenham represents integrity and the best traditions of the game. Represented, more likely.
    At least we got a smile when Corporal Adebayour saluted Sergeant Sherwood. But they are looking for a Captain who can settle down Danny Rose before he goes too far down the Kyle Walker route i.e. keeping it simple but effective and stop believing they are better than the reality of their talent. Danny is trying too hard and he needs an experienced leader on the pitch to keep him honest. So, despite all the distractions we are still just a point or two away from this time last season. We’ve got some winnable games to the end of the season and the last salute for Tim. The reality for me is that the top four or five clubs have detached themselves from the rest with their sheer volume in numbers; crowds, European cash, salaries, billionaire owners and marketing heft. We will get the crumbs from their tables with available transfer talent trickling down to the remainder. I fear our most optimistic target is rapidly becoming known as the Best of the Rest.

    • Alan

      We are cornering the market in ‘nearly but not quite’ except this time we will be outside the EL places, i.e. nowhere, rather than narrowly missing out on CL qualification.

      I’ve written a lot lately about Levy’s lack of gumption to stick with his plan, to the point where he has no plan at all. We seemed to steer away from the ‘croumbs from their tables’ approach by buying a squadful of developing players, at different stages but they came to us because it was a step up. Always the risk that we would not sustain any success and therefore they would be vulnerable to transfer bids but a risk worth taking in my view. Better certainly than filling the team with players on the way down.

      We know what’s happened – Levy never sticks with the manager and can’t pick the right man so we are back if not to square one then welldown the pecking order again.

      I’m sceptical about Rose’s ability at the level we require but we don’t play to his strengths. If he had a sound left midfielder in front of him, his defensive shortcomings would be minimised and his attacking play would be a plus because he would have someone to cover for him, although his crossing has to be more consistent either way.

      Sherwood undoubtedly passionate but not sure if he’s entirely honourable given the stories of him briefing against AVB to get his job.

      Regards, Alan

  3. AnythingButPenalties

    Great article. Eriksen is definitely teh man to build the team around. Problem is should he play on the left, number 10, or in the centre directing play. Truth is we could do with three Eriksens.

    For me Rose is the weak point of our team. He is consistently out of position and easily overpowered. The supposed upside, his attacking ability, has also been lacking. As you say, about 1 decent cross in 5 and I think that’s being charitable.

    Kane visibly grew in confidence during the game. To start with he looked nervous, by the end he was taking players on and firing in shots left, right and centre. With not much to lose and some relatively easy games we should throw in some more kids.

    • Alan

      Thanks. Good call re Harry. He has been around on the fringes for so long, I didn’t realise this was in fact his PL debut. Grew into the game and still only 20. That position off the striker is his best one – he’s not an out and out striker. Looks for the lay off well.

      See above re Rose. Not given the fullest chance but short of the quality we need, I think.

      Regards, Alan

  4. Russell Child

    Hi Alan. Nice summary of the game and the events surrounding it. Lovely pictures too.

    I was there last night and was struck by the number of empty seats around the ground. Who can blame people for not bothering to turn up on a rotten night, especially after all the shenanigans of recent weeks and especially yesterday. The crowd did seem quite up for it, though but I was sitting in the corner of the East and South stands. Wonder how it sounded elsewhere.

    Thought we played quite well actually, and the scoreline didn’t flatter us. But it was a pretty dreadful Sunderland team. Can’t believe the comedy goal we gifted them. Apparently that is 18 goals this season directly from our defensive errors. Embarrassing and completely unacceptable. And worse of all it made it possible for that thug of a player Lee Cattermole to get his name on the score-sheet. Hope we don’t do the same for Charlie Adam when we travel to Stoke.

    We seem to be a ghost of a team right now, one that occasionally glimmers when with all the talent we have at our disposal we should be lighting up the night sky.

    It should feel great to wallop 5 goals past a team but it all felt a bit empty. I hate all this manager merry-go-round nonsense and our club does treat its managers very badly. Remember Keith Burkinshaw? If TS is going, and it seems like he is, I only hope we do get van Gaal. For no other reason than he is one of the few candidates out there who could stand up to Daniel Levy. Not that that will make Daniel Levy change his ways. It means van Gaal would walk out, probably within a year.

    • Alan

      It’s the crass nature of these mistakes that get me. No other team does this so often. Says something about the mental attitude.
      Great comment about being a ghost of a team. No illusions – good fun to score 5 but Sunderland were awful. Five at the back yet time and again we walked through them and they could not muster a decent pass in final third.

      It did feel odd and empty – I like to think that I’m well attuned to the mood of the crowd but reading my twitter timeline the following morning, it looked as if it came over on TV as a triumphant victory.

      Regards, Alan

  5. Jimmy Greaves is God

    Hi Alan
    I’m impressed that you are able to write so eloquently about a game, which apart from the comedy of the Sunderland goal, had so little going for it. I guess we had been practising that move between Lloris and Chiriches on the training ground for hours for it to go so perfectly. However, I shouldn’t be so churlish. We have at least brought our goal difference back to zero. I suppose its now onwards and upwards to the end of the season. It can’t come soon enough

    • Alan

      You know me Steve – endlessly fascinated by the whole thing. Admit when I left the ground that I thought it would be one of my shorter pieces! One of those games when I enjoyed it more afterwards – an odd, empty feeling during the game but actually, we scored five and dominated the second half, so can’t complain. No illusions re the quality though – we prospered against very poor opponents.

      Regards, Alan

  6. Chris B Waters

    Grateful for small mercies I suppose. It’s been a horrible season ..worse even than when we’ve finished mid table (because the expectation wasn’t for something much better back then). I felt our great club, our incredibly expensively assembled squad & team, were almost taking the mick out of us (we fans) last night, with a feat of high goal scoring and attacking excitement when it no longer mattered.
    After the horrible capitulations to the ‘top’ sides (of which WE’VE been one in the past 4 years) somehow hammering a very poor bottom-of-the-table Sunderland team (who looked a little like us with our own capitulations at the end) made it all so ironic.
    In another capacity it showed us what we’ve missed this season, if we’d had better guidance and bedding in of players, and in their best positions. The future looks bright, but then it always does, doesn’t it?

  7. swedishlovespurs

    Hello Alan, Thanks for a good read as usual.
    I don’t know what’s better, the relief of seeing a high scoring thoroughly entertaining win, or not having to listen to myself whining with frustration about the team, manager, club, for once.
    We aren’t yet sure what next season will bring regarding who’ll be in charge.
    But if TS is replaced, which seems almost definite, it would be fitting if the team finished with a good run of performances as his stock would rise and i feel that he’s done enough to deserve that.
    Eriksen outstanding! COYS!

    • Alan

      Adebayor talked yesterday about going out to enjoy themselves for the rest of the season, as if the pressure was off. I would remind him that we could still challenge for an EL place. I don’t think we will get it but it is possible! Think they are looking forward to the end of the season as much as we are.

      Cheers, Alan

  8. NJC59

    Hi Alan,
    The evening had all the feel of an end of season game even though there’s still 5 games to go. Loads of empty seats around the ground and when Spurs gave away the customary goal I just thought “why am I not at home too!”. It was a subdued atmosphere that only occasionally got above a whisper until the last few minutes. It’s a shame the season has come to this, when there was so much promise at the start, not that I thought we’d win the league, but did feel we could make top 4.

    Re the Sunderland fans, I feel for the ones who travelled, both for the poor performance of their team and yet another criminal piece of TV scheduling. There was no need for this game to be played on a week night and once again it just goes to show the contempt TV and clubs have for the fans who support their teams by turning up week in week out.

    • Alan

      Very subdued, even when we started to play well. Agree with your generous comments re the Sunderland fans. Long way to come on a Monday for that. They were worse than I ever expected.

      Regards, Alan

  9. Anonymous

    Alan,
    Really enjoyed this one
    Agreed that it seemed very muted at the Lane, on the broadcast almost no crowd noise was audible.
    When Sunderland scored the first goal it really was a blueprint for this season, a so called comedy of errors, the Bad News Bears so to speak. Interestingly I felt we would be able to get a few goals, unusual feeling for this year and this time, I grant you , but I was confident.
    The pairing of Ade and Kane was quite effective as both of then were keen to come back to get involved and receive the ball , and they provided decent hold up play. Kane seemed more adapt to look for the pass than pull the trigger, a quality that he may need to modify slightly, maybe some Defoe lessons would help.
    Eriksen was brilliant through most of the game, his distribution and perfect cross to Ade was illustrative of his quality, he is not as fluid as Luka but certainly seems to have a sharper eye for goal.
    It frankly was a breath of fresh air not to have to see Jan’s sour puss, and blantant lack of effort or concern, I think he checked out for Brazil and perhaps “greener pastures”, I would not play him again I think.
    Atleast we showed effort tonight, the level of play was uneven but there was effort, that is refreshing.
    Watched Athletico Madrid tonight against Barcelona in the Champion League, now that is a team that is all in, hardwork and humble as Simeone calls them, what a team to watch. I like that blueprint, if we could bring that emotion and pressure, what a joy that would be to see. How much to bring Simeone to the Lane,unlikely I know, but Audere est facare , right?
    ed

    • Alan

      I don’t want a side that is all organisation and no flair but without the organisation the flair is meaningless and we seem to have forgotten that. Good description of the Modric/Eriksen comparison – certainly more goals from Christian but not the same drive, although he likes hard work and I would play him centrally. A fine player who has not shirked his responsibilities once he came back into the side.

      Best, Alan

  10. Ronwol196061

    I actually cant understand why we cant play with one centre back and have 2 DM’s ,one covering the 10 or 2nd striker and the other more mobile.For instance Sandro (more defence) and Benteleb more mid(though for me and by me he is demonised by association with Sherwood)
    That would free up a spot.that would allow us to play two wingers an attacking mid and a striker

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