Six points in four days – but perhaps more importantly, a performance that in parts had us clearing our throats and purring. For around 25 glorious minutes we were treated to a glimpse of how the world might look if the wolf really does lie down with the lamb, famine and disease are shoved under the carpet and Spurs get their act together. That spell after half-time bordered on the marvellous, with play concentrated around the edge of the Sunderland area and – glory be – one-touch passes indulged in like newly-opened Christmas presents that the players could not get enough of. It was slick and quick, left Sunderland chasing shadows and brought about a couple of actual, real-life, close-range chances.
Holtby in particular seemed to skip around the place with healthy quantities of joy and élan in his soul, with able support from Dembele and Lennon. I still do not quite follow the finer points of the Select Chadli masterplan, particularly when young Townsend is huddled in the shadows stage left, but this is not the time to quibble – several small steps have been taken in the right direction, and I intend to celebrate by heading off to the Galleria to play arcade games with a flame-haired chum.
Having given this particular drum a hefty thump in our preview, here at AANP Towers we also mightily pleased to see young Defoe unleashed again, and while he did rather deviate from the script by scuffing the best chance \we have created all season, there was still enough movement and enthusiasm to work the Sunderland back-four into a sweat and ping a few efforts netwards, which seemed a fairly generous improvement on the Soldadoings of the season to date.
The potentially critical absences of Messrs Vertonghen and Chiriches were minimised, with Capoue making a decent fist of things at centre-back and Naughton generally steering clear of any of those ill-advised moments of buffoonery that occasionally seem to inter themselves into the minds of any full-back named Kyle that we have ever employed. The last line of defence had another wobbly one however, Monsieur Lloris enthusiastically peddling the latest in his line of circus japes to riotous applause from the opposition fans but more furious chin-stroking from all of lilywhite persuasion. One hopes that this is but a passing fad, as seems to be so common with the young folk these days.
Dawson: A Tribute. Of Sorts.
Not for the first time, a nervous final 15 or so could have been avoided if our earlier domination had been seamlessly translated into goals, but our heroes tend not to roll thusly, and a couple of scrambles duly transpired (and let there be no doubt we rode our luck with Sandro handball – one to remember when the gods of luck scorn us in the months to come).
However, within that final 15 we found ourselves indebted on a couple of occasions to our intrepid captain. For all his failings – most of which are magnified within the high defensive line we deploy – Master Dawson does love a spot of full-blooded last ditchery, presumably because when charging down a shot six yards out there is limited scope for his lack of pace to be exposed. Credit where due, he led the defensive line with aplomb, and three snaffled points there were.
It seems you can’t sneeze these days without another Spurs fixture hurtling towards you. This presumably gives Messrs Levy, Baldini and Villas-Boas a degree of smug satisfaction, because even if the XI on the pitch each game can do no more than trundle the ball sideways and backwards, on paper at least we do have a squad eminently capable of coping with two games per week.
Daws Out, Defoe In
That said, there appears to be minimal rhyme or reason to AVB’s tinkering – Lamela starting vs City and not in the squad vs United, Defoe ‘rested’ against Tromso and not selected vs United to name but two. Still, like my four year-old nephew with a new box of Lego, this gives the young bean something different with which to play each week, so good luck to him. However, if I may be so bold as to make a suggestion from the comfort of my sofa, and with the benefit of zero professional experience behind me, it would be to relegate Master Daws to his rightful position in the club shop, where he can perch on a ledge and revel in the glory of being club mascot, without ever having to worry about his lack of pace and turning-speed of a cruise-liner. Monsieur Kaboul may not exactly have covered himself in glory during the Etihad mauling, but he jolly well did cover himself in glory during the 2011-12 season, and it is difficult to imagine him doing any worse than the ill-judged, mistimed, lumberings of our esteemed captain.
In fact, while I have the floor I might as well take an almighty liberty and make a second suggestion, namely that the name ‘Defoe’ be scrawled in crayon across the teamsheet for the next three or four games. Just for sport you see, to see if he can do more in three or four games than Soldad’oh has done all season. I admittedly do wear Defoe-tinted spectacles most of my days, but it nevertheless struck me that he was more of a nuisance in his 90 minutes vs Sunderland than the Spaniard has been in the last month or two. And many is the claim that Defoe does not pass enough, but I spotted a couple of decent enough contributions vs Fulham (notably the one to set up Paulinho’s chance) – but more than that, I would rather a greedy blighter who troubles the ‘keeper a couple of times per game than a moody chunterer who registers nary a shot in anger.
Other Selection Bits and Bobs
Heaven help us, Vertonghen is out. This may mean Naughton thrust into that particular corner, but the preferable alternative at AANP Towers would be the discreet plopping into gainful employment of Kaboul. Dembele is a doubt as well apparently, a mild shame after his sterling performance against United, but we seem relatively well stocked in central areas, with Capoue back and Paulinho now apparently destined for a long and prosperous life in the hole.
Lovely though it has been to see four (four!) goals that were not penalties in the last seven days, none of them owed much to the fluidity and cunning of our build-up play, each of them having composed primarily of hearty thwacks from distance, so a problem still needs to be solved. Alas, Sunderland are stumbling through a pseudo-revival under Poyet, but the bottom team they remain, so this really has to be another three-point haul.
Time might consider itself the great healer, but it is about to find itself shoved out of the way in pretty unceremonious manner, because no sooner have our intrepid heroes shipped six goals in one fell swoop than they find themselves farmed off to Antarctica, or that frozen planet in the Star Wars film, or wherever the dickens this lot play their trade. This, of course, is because the Europa League waits for no man, and as sure as eggs is eggs we find ourselves now on the cusp of the greatness that is qualification for The Next Bit Of This Slightly Tortuous Saga.
Qualification has already been successfully navigated by our superstars, and a couple of well-timed nods and winks will apparently guarantee us top spot in the group, and whatever riches that entails. However there is nevertheless an entertaining undercurrent to this distraction, because AVB has a coin to toss. Tradition dictates that he rest just about everybody involved last Sunday, with a view to keeping them fresh for another thrashing this Sunday – but given the debacle and all its trimmings one wonders whether he might be tempted to drag last Sunday’s lot back out for more. Not as punishment you understand, but as an opportunity to right some of the myriad wrongs. Certainly the likes of Paulinho, Lamela and Dawson to name but three have a few lashings of professional pride to restore, so our glorious leader might consider shoving them back out onto the greenery, and asking them as he does so to show a bit of decency and buck up a few notches.
Alternatively, this might be an opportunity for a spot of formation tinkering. Four months too late admittedly, but an opportunity nonetheless. Glenn Hoddle seemed to have caused a bit of a stir amongst Spurs-supporting chums of my acquaintance, by suggesting just prior to the City game that we dabble in a 5-2-1-2/3-4-1-2 looking number, with wing-backs and a lone chappie in the hole (although it looks a tad light on width and creativity to me, so goodness knows what our umpteen wingers would do with themselves while it played out). Perhaps a little more navigable for our addled minds might be an old-fashioned 4-4-2, as briefly and lamentably dabbled in at the start of the second half against City.
Whatever the decision, it all points towards a team selection with the potential to get the juices flowing. The game itself jolly well ought to be a formality, what?
This ought to melt the internet for a day or two, what?
Aside from any individual mishaps that contributed to the goals themselves (and I think I might have spotted one or two) the thing that really left me wanting to voice a few choice words of opprobrium was the general mentality when our heroes were in possession. Even at three, four or five goals down, and with the outcome no longer mattering a jot, for the sake of my own sanity I needed to see this Spurs team sprinkle just a modicum of creative ingenuity into proceedings, because frankly, aside from the occasional penalty I cannot for the life of me see where the next dashed goal – or even shot on goal – is coming from. Mistakes will happen at the back, but by and large our defence has muddled through this season. However, for all the possession we have had – all season, not just today – you can count the number of slick chances created on the toes of one foot, and it really is becoming a trifle perturbing.
‘Tis a criticism that could liberally be sprinkled across the team, but the lucky chappie attracting the brunt of the AANP ire today is Master Paulinho, for the painfully leaden manner in which he shovels the ball from Point A to Point B. For the first 30 or 40 minutes the deficit was but one, and we had plenty of possession in midfield, but whereas Sandro can perhaps be exonerated for lacking a surplus of creative nous, given that his principal duty is to hunt and destroy, the onus was on Paulinho to make the initial prompts and prods. Alas, Luka Modric he seemingly is not.
Holtby and Lamela were similarly ineffective, the latter in particular bearing the deportment of a young man in desperate need of a few hearty steak sandwiches. The lad is probably best shunted into a box marked “One for the Future” and allowed to bed in accordingly over a period of months rather than years, for at present it seems that a mere puff of wind is enough to send him flying. Dembele at least seemed motivated by the white sticks and netting at the far end whenever he picked up the ball, and given his willingness to take on a man I wonder whether, not for the first time, whether there might be a case for playing him in the hole.
And an AANP match report during season 2013/14 would only be a unconvincing doppelganger were it to omit the traditional diatribe against Soldado, who once again carried himself like a blighter not terrifically familiar with any of those around him, or the ball, or the net, or the most basic concept of the game, particularly when a couple of early opportunities fell his way in those halcyon minutes when the score was but 1-0.
One could go on. However, between this lot and the English cricket team it just seems that if it is not one ball-based sport engineering the mother of all debacles it is dashed well certain to be another, and rather than wax lyrical about the ghastly lumbering of our defensive troupe I would prefer to bang my head repeatedly against a wall until next season comes around.
It’s a rummy thing, but having spent all season enviously eyeing the opposition net from around 20 yards, we now toddle off to the home of the Champions-elect, where they routinely run rings around all-comers, and I feel a darned sight more upbeat about our chances of finding the net. The primary reason being that old ‘Deep-Lying Opposition Defence’ chestnut, which has become rather a curse at the Lane, but tends to be less of an issue on our travels - and against this free-scoring, attack-minded mob and their glittering array of creative superstars it ought not to be a problem at all. Marvellous!
Furthermore, City will be without Kompany, who as well as (or perhaps because of) being possessed of a most peculiarly-shaped head is also quite the defensive lynchpin for this lot. Minus this chap they start to emanate the distinctive whiff of defensive fallibility. And on top of that, last time out against Newcastle, we actually managed to carve out some genuine, bona fide goalscoring opportunities. Not just the speculative 20 yarders, but actual chances from six yards out. Of course we would not have scored one of them if we had played all week, but baby steps, what?
There is, I suppose, a cloud to this silver lining, for while City’s attacking instincts might theoretically open things up for us at one end, this will be of limited value if we spend the afternoon chasing their shadows. In particular, the notion of Aguero and/or Negredo running rings around Daws rather makes one anxiously take a seat and reach for a splash of the old life-restorer. Regular visitors to these four interweb walls, as well as wading through great bally oceans of spam, will be well aware that our loveable captain is admired for many reasons here, just not for his defensive prowess. Should this turn into a backs-to-the-wall Alamo-style affair played on the edge of our area he will be jolly useful, but heaven help us if any of City’s millionaires decide to put their head down and run at him within the high defensive line. Kaboul, Kaboul and thrice I say Kaboul – get him back in the team.
Eriksen is out, having had a tap on the ankle, which presumably means a starting berth for Holtby, and the continued absence of Rose means that Vertonghen may again do the honourable thing at left-back. It seems rather a shame that we cannot field 15-20 players at once, as Monsieur Capoue is now fit again as well, which leaves AVB needing to select two from Sandro, Paulinho, Dembele and the aforementioned.
I cannot really imagine our esteemed leader suddenly deciding to live by the sword, so presumably Soldado will once again be the square peg at the apex, making runs that nobody feeds and lounging around by halfway when we need him to buck up and charge. Quite why we invested so much effort and money in obtaining the services of a blighter who, four months in, does not remotely fit the system, is beyond me, but ‘tis a grumble for another day. For now let us just close our eyes and hope for another clean sheet and late penalty.
A point at Goodison probably ought not to be sniffed at, even if we cannot help but wonder what might have been, in that heart-warming first half in particular.
Our heroes came out of the traps as if feral animals scenting blood, hunting down the blue mob in packs and shoving faces into armpits like it was nobody’s business. Foremost amongst the cast in this respect were Holtby and Vertonghen, both of whom were particularly prominent as we piled forward in the first half. In the opening 45 in particular Holtby enjoyed one of his finest jaunts in lilywhite, while Vertonghen had the bright idea to saunter through Everton’s fairly flimsy right-hand side at every opportunity, and with Walker’s willingness to overlap meaning Baines was forced to mope around inside his own half, young Townsend bore the look of a man thoroughly enjoying his playground-esque brand of take-on-all-comers football. On top of which Sandro doing what every good beast should do, his repertoire including occasionally shoving aside the man-mountain Lukaku as if he were one of the diddy guests at my niece’s fourth birthday party.
The only frustrations in that first half were that we were left to rue using up our quota of penalties for the week; that Lennon evidently eyes his left foot as something completely alien, planted there by mysterious forces while he slept last night; and that poor old Soldado presumably suffers from halitosis or some such similar affliction, which means that no-one dared wander within 15 yards of him. Understandable enough, for these are delicate moments amongst chums – but aside from the awkward social context it does create the dickens of a problem because not a soul appears able to offer any support to Soldado in attack – and should he himself peel out to the right then we might as well aim for the corner flags, because nobody will pop up in the area.
Alas, albeit rather inevitably, life was not half as bright and breezy in the second half, as Everton upped their game and for significant periods we found ourselves penned further and further back. On the bright side, deep defending is grist to the Dawson mill, a world in which his lack of pace cannot be exposed, but his heart-on-sleeve penchant for last-ditch heroics come in handy.
To their credit our heroes continued fighting the good fight, and the intermittent second half attacks looked threatening, but as ever any shots of note were catapulted in from at least 20 yards.
‘Tis an issue that segues neatly into the ongoing Soldado issue. The blighter simply does not fit our system. Or maybe our system does not fit him? Either way, there are two crucial components to this - Exhibits A and B if you will, with the former being Soldado and the latter Our System - and no matter how we try to sugar-coat the issue they still remain about as successful a combo as two chaps trying to negotiate a particularly intricate transaction over the telephone while hindered by the fact that neither speak the same language.
It’s a muddle of a thing at the moment, because when he wants the ball fed into the channels we are busy recycling it in midfield, and when we need him to hold the thing up with a bit of sweat and body-strength he seems to be running away from the ball as if allergic to the thing. The end-result of which is that I can only remember about one and a half chances falling his way from open play all season.
Over in this part of the interweb I am still inclined to think that if we are in the Top Four by 1 Jan we will be there come the season’s end. Still, this goalscoring issue gives our intrepid leader something to ponder over in the coming weeks, in case it has passed him by in the last few months.
It’s a pretty dashed confusing time to be a denizen of N17, what? On the one hand we have statistics, and results, and the league table, and all those other things that I spent hour upon hour poring over as a student armed with Championship Manager (as it was then) – and they all point towards our heroes making a jolly good fist of things. On t’other hand however, the evidence of the eyes has us chuntering away, sages that we are, about creativity and lethargy and those blasted defensive teams who sit back with their umpteen players and taunt us.
As it happens these latter problems ought not to be quite so prominent this weekend, as Everton do not really come across as the sort of troupe to spend their weekends camping around the edge of their area. Presumably their game-plan will involve occasional attacks, and as such there ought to be some wide open spaces for our heroes to counter-attack. Touché, and a suitably evil laugh, for this should therefore be a more straightforward kettle of fish than those we have wrestled with in recent weeks.
There is, alas, a less salubrious element to this prospective sequence of events, which is that, in short, Daws will be going toe-to-toe with that Lukaku chap – if we were partial to a flutter around these parts we would be jolly well be telling Ray Winstone that our weekly shilling will be on the hulking chap in blue. The chances of Monsieur Kaboul being drafted in seem remote, so Lloris had better be on top of his game and ready to mop up the mess that Daws will inevitably muddle himself into at some point.
Sooner or later one would expect Lamela and Eriksen to flick through their respective back-catalogues and stumble upon those lashings of awesomeness that prompted us to hurl around buckets of cash with such gay abandon this summer. The AVB mantra however, appears to be ‘Softly softly catchy monkey’ (or, more accurately, ‘The minor cup competitions for you young scamps’) when it comes to embedding these chaps into the lilywhite m.o. Presumably therefore Messrs Lennon, Townsend, Sigurdsson and Holtby will have a polite scuffle in the changing-rooms to decide who starts proceedings. These little games of starting line-up bingo do at least make for a fun distraction as the clock ticks down to kick-off.
Given our travails so far this season, and the healthy start made so far by our hosts, I must concede that the heart does not quite brim with sunny optimism ahead of this one, and as such I might grudgingly concede that a point would be adequate – but fie upon that, it blinking well feels like time our lot made a statement, and as mentioned, away days such as these ought to be viewed as an opportunity for three points.
Ah, the first-time pass. Scourge of the ball-watching defender. Slicer of the well-drilled bank of four. And as conspicuously absent from our game-plan for the first half half or so as it was instrumental to operations thereafter.
The Opening Half-Hour: Ponderous
I spent most of those opening 30 minutes wanting to offer my kingdom for a first-time pass. Or some off-the-ball movement. Or any line of attack that was not based around Dawson, Chiriches and Vertonghen rolling square balls to each other (and occasionally back to Lloris to cede possession through the medium of a skyward punt). By goodness it was pedestrian stuff. And not necessarily the fault of the man in possession either, as the lilywhite cup could not have been accurately said to have overflowed with options. In fact, our heroes seemed content to adopt a Subbuteo routine of simply adopting a spot of turf and resolutely sticking to it for most of the first half, and with Villa content to soak up pressure and play for a counter-attack I found myself idly toying with nearby blunt objects with which to potentially bash in my own skull at the frustration of it all.
The goal itself may have been a tad fortuitous, but for a few minutes thereafter, and for most of the second half, life became decidedly more fun, as gaps opened up and we were able to get behind the Villa defence. AVB dashed well needs to refine re-examine that “Breaking the Deadlock” file, because having each man in turn ponderously take two/three/four touches before rolling the thing sideways neither strikes fear into bellies of the other lot, nor puts fire into bellies of our lot, nor has any humdinging effect on the bellies of anyone in the vicinity, which is really the whole point of the game.
The Bonny, Blithe and Gay Second Half
Marvellously however, as mentioned, things perked up after the goal, and moved on apace in the second half (bar the five-minute wobble when Benteke came on and seemed to bellow so loud that he made Daws and Chiriches curl into little balls and cry rather than try marking him). Glory be, our heroes began shifting the ball at pace, with first-time passes and movement and lots of little legs scurrying around, until the chances started to flow. The poor old full-back tasked with sitting on Townsend ran completely out of steam, allowing the young bounder to gallop to the line like it was going out of fashion, and to his credit he put his head down and sprinted for the line as often as he cut inside to let rip.
Amidst all this one ought not to forget to send a sizeable bouquet the way of young Sandro, who spent his afternoon harassing the dickens out of any Villa player who dared to think about starting an attack. Back in the days of yore, a youthful and rather wanton AANP would pass his summer mornings by catching ants and the like, and dropping them into spider webs, just to observe the manic reaction of the spider in galloping across and clambering all over the unfortunate young bean. And thus, like some human-sized two-legged spider, did Sandro snuffle the life out of Villa at every opportunity. Good to have the lad back.
And on to the latest installation of The Great Soldado Debate. The lad certainly knows what to do once inside the area, his goal today taken with aplomb – indeed several plombs. (And bonus points all round for the one-touchery that got him there in the first place.) But beyond that marvellous finish? Admittedly in the second half he put in some yards, making himself available down the right flank and holding up the ball (although it did not seem to occur to any of his chums to fill in the attacking void thereby created and bust a gut to get themselves into the area), but in the first half in particular one struggles to make the case for him having offered a plethora of options, and the Villa centre-backs seemed contented enough. ‘Room for improvement’ is probably the euphemism of choice.
Despite the slightly negative tone of these witterings it is a most contented AANP readying the nib for a spot of shut-eye tonight. All the necessary boxes have been duly ticked, and importantly so given the horrors of last time around. Concerns there be for sure, around that lack of incision as long as affairs remain goalless, but Rome was not built in a day, what?
As ever following an international break it feels like the best part of a lifetime since we last convened around these parts, and given the sour – if entirely ludicrous – manner in which we parted, it seems fairly reasonable to speculate that our esteemed leader has spent the intervening eternity knee-deep in cogitation of the highest order. While there was no doubt a generous sprinkling of bad luck about the way we fell behind to West Ham having pummelled them for the best part of an hour, AVB might nevertheless be well advised to solve a couple of the riddles posed therein, and with unfettered alacrity.
Soldado? Defoe? Both? Neither?
It is not exactly a secret of the highest confidentiality that Tottenham Hotspur Version 2013/14 is being set up with the ultimate aim of feeding the boy Soldado. Evidently the various cogs do not yet quite mesh with the seamless efficiency one would want, but once things do fall into place the team will be geared towards him and one imagines he will score goals by the bucketload. Alas, at times it seems the supporting cast have yet to stumble upon the formula that transforms Soldado from the lonely-looking lighthouse he currently resembles to the unstoppable goal machine he threatens to be. The poor blighter has the misfortune to be neither a hulking man-beast of the ilk of Drogba nor the sort to drop deep and go foraging when the going gets tough, a la Rooney, so until the whole team sings from the same hymnsheet – the hymnsheet entitled ‘Let’s All Club Together To Create Dozens Of Chances For Soldado’ – he will presumably continue to lollop along a little forlornly.
Given Soldado’s travails, and the form of Defoe in the minor cups, the rationale behind Defoe’s selection against West Ham was understandable - but fairly ineffective. A different sort of beast, Defoe is likelier to collect the ball fairly deep, run at a defence and shot from range, and although against deep-lying opponents at the Lane this is of limited value, there may be more success away from home and on the counter. I do not particularly subscribe to the view that Defoe only scores against weaker teams (par example, his finish against Man City last season was top-notch, and against a mean old defence) and would be happy enough to see him given a run of games. Frankly however he currently resides in a box clearly marked ‘Impact Sub’, and here he will stay. I do, in my idle moments, wonder whether AVB might be tempted to deploy him today, given his success against Villa in the Carling Cup (or whatever it is now called) a few weeks back, but having fired blanks against West Ham one suspects his chance has passed for now.
Another option might be pairing the two of them. There could hardly be a less likely scenario today – given that we are away from home, the team is absolutely not set up for a front-two and it has not been done before, bar the final fifteen minutes against West Ham – so I get the feeling that should the suggestion be made in the corridors of power at the Lane a couple of burly security chaps would frogmarch me off the premises before I could finish blurting out the suggestion, but if nothing else these two are unlikely to get in each other’s way, and if Jay-Z and Kanye have taught me anything it is that one never really know what harmonious – if sample-heavy and profanity-riddled – delights can be produced by two like-minded blighters until they bally well throw caution to the wind and link arms.
Ultimately however, Soldado will probably remain the focal point of things and we will all simply have to remain patient and wait for things to click. Which is fortunate, as we Tottenham folk are particularly renowned for our lashings of patience, what?
Lessons From England
Another mini-rant, while I have the floor – ‘twas interesting to note how England eventually turned dominance into a lead, and then maintained that momentum, even going so far as to score again, particularly against Montenegro. This has hardly been a speciality of our heroes, but given that we typically rack up around 20 shots on goal we dashed well ought to win games by more than the odd goal or two. The national side gave a glimpse of how to keep feet on the accelerator even after eventually taking a lead, and our lot would do well to emulate the approach. As, indeed, they did at Villa Park a few weeks back. (Given the successes of various rivals yesterday, the imperative is even greater.)
That our second string could trounce Villa in the Cup, on their own patch, just last month or so bodes fairly well, but this being a new day an entirely different kettle of fish may well await. AVB has sought to integrate the new faces at a gentle pace, sensibly enough, but after the huff and puff of our last outing he may be tempted to let young Lamela off his leash, while Aaron Lennon is apparently now fit again. Young Master Townsend’s international exploits have been well documented, and it struck me that he was ever-so-slightly more prone to pass than shoot while in England colours, which might not be the worst trait to transfer to N17. There have also been murmurs amongst Spurs-supporting chums of mine to give Holtby an opportunity in the hole, particularly if Eriksen is again starved of space. Here at AANP Towers the greater concern is that Dawson may again be given the run-around – Kaboul’s return to full fitness cannot come soon enough. However, when all is said and done, this still ought to be another three points for the collection.
That whole farce was so preposterous that for nigh on 20 hours since its conclusion I have been gently reclining in a darkened room with nothing but the dulcet tones of Julie London to nurse my hurting brain. If the sign of greatness is how one copes with adversity then our much-vaunted back-four ought to be wheeled out onto the High Road and pelted with rotten fruit and a selection of heavy, blunt metal objects, for their collective display of incompetence that ushered in the second and third goals. (Not that anyone should be particularly exonerated for the first goal either – a naughty push in Vertonghen’s back there may have been, but that West Ham were effectively able to play a one-two on our goal line smacks of somebody somewhere tripping over their own shoelaces.)
The Second Goal
Kyle Walker’s occasional moments of cerebral evacuation were never that entertaining in the first place, but now they are becoming a dashed nuisance make no mistake. I am generally loath to criticise the chap as he typically displays more fight than the rest of them combined, but on this occasion his pace was not enough to right the wrong of being caught near the halfway line when West Ham were bearing down on goal.
The Third Goal
Marvellous to see our brave young captain celebrate a new three-year contract with a typical moment of lumbering clumsiness, dangling a leg as the West Ham blighter skipped past him in a flash. He may exude lashings of gung and ho when winning headers, and think himself Hoddle incarnate as he pings those diagonal 70-yard passes, but Dawson’s bread and butter is to defend, and the chap has the turning speed of a dozy elephant and sprinting technique of one of the slower members of the Corluka clan. I am becoming rather fed up of seeing him discombobulated to within an inch of his life by a straightforward shoulder-dip and sprint routine. Watching a fleet-footed opponent dash towards him is akin to those prescient moments in the Final Destination films when some suspiciously good-looking young American lass envisages a cyclist crashing into a petrol tanker, being flattened by a falling piano and then having their head bitten off by a passing dinosaur. A useful squad member Dawson surely is, but the sooner Kaboul is fit and raring to go the better.
Not that young Vertonghen escapes blame either. To fail to catch a man running half the length of the pitch with the ball at his feet is unforgivable. Someone ought to tousle that immaculately-combed hair of his by way of punishment. That ought to elicit a few howls of anguish.
The First Hour
For all the idiocy that spread like a rash across the back-four in the latter stages it was still a rummy old thing to watch our lot dominate things for the first hour and then waddle off home three down to a team without a striker. In a sense it was fairly typical White Hart Lane fare, for many a time and oft have we hammered away at a defensive opponent and then been caught out at a set-piece. It seems a dashed shame though, because it felt like a goal was coming. Paulinho’s tendency to shoot from everywhere and aim at anything may incorporate as much wild missing as hitting, but his propensity to surge into the area to support the front man is a welcome one, and he seemed to push even further up the pitch after half-time, encapsulating a greater urgency amongst our troops.
Alas, Eriksen was denied much space, Lamela was fairly impotent when eventually introduced, and that whole left-flank business seemed to be quietly erased from our game plan. No particular need to panic, for I can hardly see Liverpool and Southampton challenging come May, but it is about bally time we put these meddling bottom half teams to the sword and tonked them with three or four early goals, rather than beavering away at nil-nil into the final half hour.