So much for the early season statement of intent from Spurs that some of us were hoping for. The performance against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light shed more light on Spurs’ deficiencies which haven’t been resolved by signing a fourth striker.
All of us need to take a look at ourselves. We, the fans need to be more realistic in our expectations. The players need to show greater application and the manager and staff need to realise that they have no plan ‘B’ when things aren’t working out and they appear to have done nothing to resolve last year’s problems.
Comments in the newspapers over the weekend were interesting and shed some insight into Spurs.
Martin Jol said, “The game was boring…. lacking creativity….. and a draw would have been disappointing.”
From the Daily Express: ‘For Spurs, this was a worrying result as they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but did next to nothing with it.’
A very accurate assessment by the manager and all the fans would agree especially those who travelled to Sunderland. However, my point is, it was he, the manager, who selected that team and with that selection in midfield, there was never going to be any creativity – they didn’t display any last season and with Aaron Lennon injured there was no pace or width in the team. Spurs selected a team, hoping to score a goal and hold out for the three points. When the goal didn’t come there was no alternative plan and with two strikers on the bench, there was no place for Routledge or Taarabt to bring variety to Spurs’ play.
The manager and the players should have been aware that Sunderland would close them down and give them little time or room to play and been prepared for it but they weren’t.
From the match report in the Daily Mail on Dimitar Berbatov : ‘….when the referee failed to give a first half penalty….the Bulgarian lost interest after that, frustrated by the excellent defending from Nosworthy and McShane along with woeful service.’
Spurs made it easy for the Sunderland defenders who were able to stand and head the ball clear, there was no movement from Spurs to take them out of position and no-one with pace to run at them to cause them problems and put them under pressure. Robbie Keane had one of those games where he went deeper and deeper to collect the ball and Spurs’ forward movement came to a stop, giving Sunderland time to regroup, and the ball made its way back to Robinson.
The comment of disinterest can also be applied to Jermaine Jenas. He disappeared in the second half, frustrated at the unceremonious treatment he received from the Sunderland midfield and defence. Both Berbatov and Jenas should have been prepared for that – it’s the way Sunderland play and is reminiscent of last season’s opening game at Bolton.
Some newspapers selected Michael Chopra as ‘Man of the Match.’ That just about sums up how poor the game was. A substitute who played for less than twenty minutes who scored the only goal – it doesn’t say much for the performances of the other players.
Roy Keane commented on Sunderland that ‘it was a different club.’ That, on Saturday’s performance could not be said for Spurs – the same old problems were there for all to see.
The comment in the News of the World sums up Spurs’ current situation very accurately, ‘Spurs must look at themselves if they want Champions League football.’
On that performance, that is a long way off. Spurs have believed their own pre-season hype and while other clubs were prepared to go out and play with total commitment – Reading at United, Birmingham at Chelsea – Spurs weren’t and didn’t. They have now increased the pressure on themselves for the next two games at White Hart Lane. If there are any further slip-ups, the idea of four international strikers may have to be reviewed. One may have to be sacrificed, if only to enable the manager to bring in someone to add creativity to the side.
To end on a more positive note, the report in the Sunday Times, noted, ‘Tottenham’s only encouragement was the eye-catching contribution made by Younes Kaboul, their new centre-half from Auxerre. The young Frenchman would not have been playing had King and Dawson been fit, but he will take some shifting on this form. Not only is he a tall, commanding presence in central defence, he is also given to charging upfield to augment the attack.’
With King and Dawson’s continued absence, Kaboul may get more Premier League experience than he had expected so early in his time at Tottenham and hopefully he will be able to develop a partnership with Gardner that will improve the record noted in the Daily Mail: ‘Spurs have kept only two clean sheets in their past twenty nine Premier League games.’