Thursday, March 16, 2006

Spurs - First MUST Win Game at Birmingham

With Spurs dip in form over the past two months, the match on Saturday evening at St.Andrews has become a MUST win game against relegation threatened Birmingham City. Before Christmas Spurs were averaging two points per game but from the last eight games they have only gained nine points which has allowed the chasing pack to close the gap on 4th place and the Champions League position. While Spurs have held fourth place since December - Arsenal, Bolton, Blackburn and even West Ham have taken advantage of Spurs recent poor results to sustain a determined attack on their position. In fact, if results go as expected on Saturday afternoon, Spurs will be in fifth place, behind Arsenal, as they start the game on Saturday evening. This alone will put additional pressure on the Spurs players.

Birmingham have been struggling against relegation all season but that will not make this an easy game. Spurs record at St. Andrews is not great, they have not won in their three Premiership visits and the last win was twenty years ago in March, 1986 - the last occasion that Birmingham suffered relegation. (a possible good omen for Saturday).

Martin Jol has the responsibility to ensure that the players have overcome the disappointment of conceding the late goal at Stamford Bridge which deprived the team of a point their overall performance deserved against the reigning Champions and champions 'elect'. The problem of late, late goals is starting to haunt and hurt Spurs' season. Late goals conceded against West Ham, Fulham, Sunderland and Chelsea have cost the team six valuable points which would have seen them safely in a Champions league position.

The manager must select players in form as individual mistakes have been costly in recent weeks. Paul Robinson made errors which proved costly earlier in the season but recently Paul Stalteri, Ledley King and Michael Carrick have made mistakes which have led to goals. Stalteri has been at fault on more than one occasion and now may be the time to give Stephen Kelly the opportunity to show whether he is worth a regular place in the starting line-up.

The midfield selection needs to provide for greater creativity and Spurs must be less cautious as this has allowed the opposition to control games and establish their style and pattern on the game. The sideways passing has allowed teams to defend comfortably and if the midfield are to be more threatening they need to be prepared to run at the opposition defenders and put them under pressure. Only Aaron Lennon and occasionally Jermaine Jenas are prepare to do this. This cautious approach and lack of ambition has prevented Spurs from finishing off a team by scoring a second or third goal. Teams have been encouraged to come at Spurs late in the game and have been rewarded for their efforts by scoring late, late goals.

The strike force option will be to decide who plays alongside Mido, if he is fit. Keane and Defoe have shared this role and Keane may be the more pro-active as Defoe has been in lacklustre form in recent weeks. But whoever is selected, the other must be prepared to give his all for the team whenever he comes on. The right attitude and commitment from the players is vital in these crucial final weeks of the season.

'Cometh the hour, cometh the man.' It's now time for the players to step forward and be counted and to produce the form that would give Spurs their best season for many years. Last year we were comsoled that this was a young team but it can't go on being a young team for ever, they must step out and show they are capable of producing results in vital games when the pressure is really on. A young team can't always be a team for tomorrow - it is time to show that they are a team for the present. While the players are young, many of them have considerable experience in the Premiership - Robinson, King, Carrick, Keane, Murphy and Jenas, while Davids, Stalteri, Lee, Mido and Tainio are Internationals with European experience. Many of the players are looking to play in the World Cup in the summer so now is the time to ensure their places by producing performances for Spurs that takes them into Europe next year. This will strengthen the club's position and enable the team to develop further on the road to success.

Birmingham will make the game difficult for Spurs but the visitors must match their commitment to earn the right to play and a win is essential. For a team with aspirations of European or Champions League football next season, the minimum target from the four games in March was nine points. With last weekend's defeat at Chelsea, there is no room for any further slip ups.

This is the first of Spurs 'Cup Finals' - they need to win it and know that there are another eight to come, if this season isn't going to fall by the wayside and become a disappointment after the early season promise.

'Come on You Spurs'
'Audere est Facere' - 'To Dare is to DO.'


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