Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Tottenham Hotspur 5 Arsenal 1 (Carling Cup S/F)

What a Wonderful Night

Scorers: Jenas, Keane, Lennon, Malbranque, Opp. o.g.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Robbie Keane - 100 Goals for Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs Fans Salute Robbie Keane
(for a record of all Robbie Keane's goals at Spurs use the above link to Topspurs)

Deep into injury time as Spurs hang on against a determined Sunderland and second half substitute, Robbie Keane, steps up to score his 100th goal for Tottenham Hotspur and most importantly secure the win and the three points. The fans rise as one to salute Robbie Keane.

However, go back a few weeks to the last game of 2007 - six goals against Reading and the club’s leading scorer for the calendar year of 2007 doesn’t get on the score sheet, in fact, he misses a penalty at 4 – 4 but sees Jermain Defoe save his blushes as he heads in the rebound. He is then substituted as the team wins 6-4.

That sums up the enigma that is Robbie Keane. Love him or loathe him, as some Spurs fans do, you have to acknowledge that he has an instinct for goals and frequently goals of the spectacular variety.

He has been described as a scorer of great goals rather than a great goal scorer and while there is an element of truth in that he has over the past couple of seasons added greater consistency to his game and the ability to be in the right place to knock in simple, goal-poacher’s type of goal as well.

Robbie Keane joined Tottenham in August, 2002 from Leeds United for £7 million as his former club slipped into financial ruin. Only turned 22 years of age, Keane had also played for Wolves, Coventry and Inter Milan. At the time there was newspaper talk that the signing was controversial due to a difference in view between the manager, Glenn Hoddle, and the Director of Football, David Pleat. Pleat was reported to be in favour of the signing while Hoddle was opposed to it, a view which could be supported as the manager left his new signing on the bench for the next game at Fulham which they lost from a winning two goal position.

Keane made his debut in a 3-2 home win over West Ham United and scored his first goal for the club in an away win at Blackburn three weeks later. He has now scored 100 goals for Spurs in all competitions and his second goal against Fulham on Boxing Day was his 100th Premier League goal, making him the thirteenth player to achieve that milestone.

Keane has developed his game to become creator as well as goal scorer and has developed a great understanding with Dimitar Berbatov as shown on numerous occasions, including by the cross that led to the Bulgarian scoring the first goal against Reading. He also won the penalty which led to Spurs going ahead.

Until recently, Keane had been so reliable and consistent when taking a penalty. His record shows 14 successful strikes from seventeen penalties. He was so calm and showed such composure, able to focus on the task and exclude all distractions from the opposition. He had previously only missed one penalty for Spurs, saved by Spurs now reserve keeper, Ben Alnwick, when he was playing for Sunderland at White Hart Lane.

Keane has shown great commitment to Spurs and has been the leading scorer for a number of seasons and even when omitted from the team, he has battled back into contention and shown a willingness to play from the substitutes’ bench. Able to play a variety of roles he has also combined well with other strike partners, Teddy Sheringham, Fredi Kanoute and Defoe.

For the early part of last season, manager Martin Jol rotated Keane and Defoe with Berbatov but eventually sided with Keane who could provide greater support to midfield as he often came to collect the ball before moving forward in attack. On occasions this was a fault in his play as when Spurs were under pressure Keane came further and further back leaving Berbatov isolated and Spurs brought more pressure on themselves.

Keane has many memorable goals – hat-tricks against Wolves and Everton, his juggling goal against Blackburn Rovers and the super strikes against Fulham in the Cup and in Europe. One other memorable moment was his dribbling and bamboozling of the Chelsea full back, leaving him on the ground, as he tricked his way up the line to eventually set up Aaron Lennon for the winner at White Hart Lane in November, 2006.

Martin Jol showed great faith in Keane, making him vice-captain, and he has accepted the responsibility as he did when appointed captain for the Ireland team. He is now their leading international goal scorer.

Last calendar year, 2007, Robbie Keane scored 31 goals in all competitions, 19 of which were in the Premier League from 32 appearances, keeping him ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (18 goals from 31 appearances) and other strikers including Benni McCarthy, Carlos Tevez, Yukubu, Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba.

Last year started slowly for Keane who didn’t start a game in January and his first League goals didn’t come until late February when he scored two against Bolton Wanderers but was then sent off before half-time for handling the ball on the line following a corner. In his final seven League games of the season he scored nine goals and after a slow start to this season he scored another ten, bringing his total to nineteen.

To date, Keane is the fifteenth player to have scored one hundred or more goals for Spurs. That elite group is headed by Jimmy Greaves and includes Teddy Sheringham, Martin Chivers, Alan Gilzean, Bobby Smith and Glenn Hoddle, all Spurs ‘Legends’. Given his age and continued good form and avoiding injury, Keane could very quickly move well up that list.

Hopefully, Robbie Keane will continue to head Spurs’ goal scoring lists as the club move forward to claim some long awaited silverware in the coming seasons.

‘There’s Only One Robbie Keane!’


Friday, January 18, 2008

Sunderland Aim to Spoil Spurs' Party Again!!

Saturday’s game at White Hart Lane will be the 100th competitive meeting between Spurs and Sunderland with Tottenham holding a slight advantage in the overall record with 38 wins ahead of Sunderland’s thirty five.

Through that record, Sunderland have a history of spoiling Spurs’ hopes and ambitions.

Back in 1938, no I wasn’t there, Sunderland travelled to London for an FA Cup 6th Round tie. Sunderland were the 1st Division side and the FA Cup holders while Spurs had dropped down into the 2nd Division three years earlier and White Hart Lane recorded the highest ever attendance – 75,038 were packed into the ground as the players took to the pitch. Such a scenario, a record crowd, deserved a home win but Sunderland had other ideas, however their victory was not without controversy.

Today’s television commentators would have been in their element trying to assess if the Spurs’ forward had handled the ball before or after it crossed the line. It was into the second half of the exciting game when a cross shot from Colin Lyman was handled by Spurs’ Jack Gibbons as it crossed the line. Was it a goal? The referee awarded a goal but after consulting the linesman, he ruled against Spurs. Sunderland having escaped that scare won the game late on when one of their most famous players, Raich Carter, scored the only goal.

In September,1969 after a poor start to the season, Spurs manager, Bill Nicholson, gave a debut to a young home grown player for the visit of Sunderland. His name was Steve Perryman. Unfortunately, Sunderland rather spoiled his first game by again winning 1-0 through an own goal from Spurs’ Welsh international, Mike England. At least the early set-back to his career didn’t upset Perryman who went on to become Spurs’ captain and to be a vital member of the successful Spurs’ teams in the early 1970s and 1980s as well as make a record 854 appearances for Spurs in all competitions.

In 1961, 2nd Division, Sunderland almost achieved something that the top clubs of the day failed to do. They made Spurs fight all the way in the FA Cup 6th Round tie at Roker Park. Spurs had taken an early first half lead through Cliff Jones but after half-time Sunderland came roaring back, fully supported by their fans who created an incredibly atmosphere in the ground. Sunderland equalised through Willie McPheat and by the end Spurs were greatly relieved to escape Roker Park with a draw but they managed to win the replay in mid-week to continue on their way to the ‘Double’.

Spoiling Spurs’ ambitions – Sunderland don’t have to go back any further than last August, the opening day of the season and a deserved win with a last minute goal from substitute, Michael Chopra. Spurs went in to that game with such high hopes for the season but they fell flat in the face of a determined performance from Sunderland.

Sunderland will be hoping to do the same on Saturday and deflate Spurs’ tentative recovery under Juande Ramos. Roy Keane will demand total commitment and hope to add further misery to Spurs’ season.

Having remembered some of Sunderland’s finer moments against Spurs, I will just mention a Spurs’ legend. Jimmy Greaves loved playing against Sunderland – 10 goals in total, including four in a game in 1968. Perhaps, Berbatov could take over that role, if he’s in the mood.

Enjoy the game!!!!


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Spurs v Reading FA Cup 3rd Round

Match Report: Spurs 2 Reading 2 (FA Cup 3rd Round)

A Day of Dodgy Decisions

A game that Spurs should have won comfortably but through individual errors and a casual approach Spurs didn’t take the goal scoring opportunities their play created. Spurs started brightly and Keane missed an early chance but then the game became rather mundane and only after Reading’s goal did Spurs immediately come to life again for Berbatov to equalise.

The match was dominated by a number of dodgy decisions from all sides.

1.Pre-match we heard from Dave Kitson that the FA Cup game meant nothing to him and he was backed by his manager who put out a team including eight reserve and squad players. They gave Spurs plenty of room centre pitch but played two tight lines of four in front of the penalty area to deny Spurs’ strikers any space in that vital area. They then broke quickly to put Spurs’ suspect defence under pressure although they didn’t cause too many alarms.

2.A hush fell over the ground when the referee awarded Reading a free-kick in a dangerous position. Everyone held their breath as Hunt mis-directed it straight to Robinson – a sigh of relief but then mayhem as the goalkeeper stepped back into the goal and the assistant referee awarded the goal. I don’t know if the ball did cross the line but from the television coverage and photographs there’s been no conclusive evidence. Why did I mention Mr Clattenberg and the ‘Mendes goal’ on Friday?

3.Early in the second half having spurned a number of chances from Keane and Jenas, Berbatov scored from a penalty after Keane had been brought down. Juande Ramos then decided to take off Keane and put on Taarabt. Defoe would have been a better choice because although Spurs had plenty of pressure and Berbatov should have made it 3-1 the team lost its shape and their attacking play lacked a cutting edge as they failed to force home their initiative.

4.A mistake by Malbranque allowed Reading to counter attack quickly and although Robinson parried the initial shot, Hunt was on hand to equalise.

5.Huddlestone immediately replaced Malbranque and lasted only four minutes being sent off for lowering his head in the direction of the smaller Convey as the referee took advice from his assistant.

For the last ten minutes it was frantic as Spurs held on for the replay. Spurs were too casual, lacked that winning mentality which has been missing all season and you can’t take liberties with Premier League teams, they’ll make you pay and that’s exactly what Reading did. They frustrated Spurs and struck when they were provided with the opportunity.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Spurs Continuing Defensive Woes

The defensive woes that blighted Martin Jol’s final months as manager continue to derail the Juande Ramos/Gus Poyet revival at Tottenham.

Spurs have never been a defensively minded club in the search of success at any costs. They have always preferred to concentrate on attacking play and winning with style. The only Spurs’ manager who countenanced defensive play was George Graham and by tightening up Spurs’ defence and their approach to playing, he won the Worthington Cup in 1999 in one of the most boring Cup Finals at Wembley but then it was against Martin O’Neill’s Leicester City who is similarly inclined in his appoach to football. However, when Graham oversaw four successive 0 – 0 league games in 2001 his end was near – supporters weren’t prepared to accept that from their team.

Tight defensive play was the way of football on the continent and in the early days of European competitions the Italian and Spanish clubs came to the away tie with a ten-man defence and set out their stall determined not to concede a goal and prepared to use any method necessary, legitimate or otherwise, to achieve that aim.

Liverpool, Leeds United and Arsenal in their early days based their success on solid defensive play and the belief that if you didn’t concede a goal, you couldn’t lose the game and were satisfied if they won by the only goal of the game. It was from this premise that over the years they then developed their more attractive style of play.

Injuries to key defenders have badly affected Spurs this season and Juande Ramos has had to use a number of permutations at the back since taking over. He has also used every conceivable tactical manoeuvre to try and win games for Spurs, succeeding as evidenced in a number of games and particularly in the win over Reading at the weekend. Even against Villa, his second half substitutions and tactical switch revived Spurs and brought them into the game to equalise. However, it simply isn’t possible to win every game in that way as Ramos has been forced to do because of the inadequacies of the defence. Ossie Ardiles tried but failed with that system at Tottenham and once again at Villa the defensive frailties caught up with them.

Earlier in the season, shortly after Ramos was appointed I highlighted the short-comings of Spurs’ defensive play and detailed the goals that they had conceded from individual errors, free-kicks and corners. Initially, on taking over the problem seemed to have been addressed but in recent games it has reared its ugly head once more and cost Spurs dearly. Incredibly, of the past ten goals Spurs have conceded, eight have been from free-kicks or corners. A very worrying statistic and every manager in the land will know it and realise that at a set play all they need to do is play a long ball to the centre of the Spurs defence and there will be goals aplenty.

Spurs’ Defensive Woes (up-dated)

Sunderland (a) Lost 0-1 - conceded an injury time goal.
Everton (h) Lost 1-3 - conceded a goal from a free-kick within the first minute (identical to last season) – that made two goals conceded in two minutes over the first two games.
- goalkeeper and defender collide leaving opportunity to score
- deflection off wall from long range free-kick
Manchester United (a) Lost 0-1 – deflection on long range shot
Fulham (a) Draw 3-3* – conceded from a corner
- shot deflected, looped over goalkeeper
- failed to clear a long throw in and overhead kick from edge of area in injury time
Arsenal (h) Lost 1-3* – scored from a free-kick (similar to last season)
- long range shot on the break
- last minute goal but game was already beyond Spurs.
Bolton (a) draw 1-1* – scored from a free-kick
Aston Villa (h) Draw 4-4* – goalkeeper drops the ball from simple cross from corner, clearance sliced to defender who scored an equaliser
- failed to clear a centre and ball ricocheted to defender for his second goal
- failed to deal with long clearance and shot from edge of area
- shot from long range free-kick
Liverpool (a) Draw 2-2* –
goalkeeper parries shot from free-kick, defence too slow to react
- last minute equaliser from long cross
Newcastle (a) Lost 1-3 – defence failed to clear a routine long ball giving home side goal on stroke of half-time
- conceded from a corner
- failed to clear ball creating opportunity for an unchallenged strike from edge of area
Blackburn (h) Lost 1-2* – shot took deflection off defender
- injury time free-kick half cleared and strike unchallenged from edge of box
Middlesbrough (a) Draw 1-1* – long range shot
West Ham United (a) Draw 1-1 – individual error by Kaboul
Birmingham City (h) Lost 2-3* – Poor challenge to concede a penalty
Long range shot in injury time
Manchester City (h) Won 2-1 – Conceded from corner
Arsenal (a) Lost 1-2 – conceded from corner for second goal
Fulham (h) Won 5-1 – conceded from corner
Reading (h) Won 6-4 – conceded from a free-kick and two corners
- fourth goal conceded on the break
Aston Villa (a) Lost 1-2 – conceded from two corners through poor marking

(* Games in which Spurs had been leading and dropped points)

To overcome this problem, Spurs need to find an experienced, commanding central defender who understands defensive play and can organise those around him. The play of Richard Dunne for Manchester City is the type of leadership and commitment that’s required at White Hart Lane.

Previously, I have questioned who was responsible for defensive coaching at the club – the same position needs to be considered. I greatly admire the theory put across by Alan Hansen on Match of the Day and in his newspaper column. He is well versed in defensive play from his time at Liverpool – get him in on a short-term contract to sort out Spurs’ defensive problems. Hansen or someone like him who has a thorough knowledge of defending – according to Mark Lawrenson, Hansen’s partner at Liverpool and in the MOTD studios, it is quite easy to organise a defence to defend set-pieces – so come along and show the Spurs’ defenders how to do it. Tony Adams has the Portsmouth defence well marshalled – Spurs need someone with similar credentials, experience and authority.

Tottenham Defending by Numbers (or not) [League matches only ] (up-dated)
3 Clean sheets in League this season

9 Goals scored by defenders against Spurs

7 Goals conceded in final minutes

8 Games Spurs have been ahead but not won

8 Points lost through conceding late goals

38 Goals conceded

21 Home Goals conceded

17 Away Goals conceded

25 Second half goals given away

Until Spurs resolve this major problem, they will neither challenge for Europe nor a trophy because they will always be susceptible at any set-piece play. Juande Ramos and Gus Poyet now know the extent of the problem they have inherited at Tottenham. They know what they need to do to achieve success.