As honeymoon periods go, six games sounds about right, which means that around about now we can start gauging just how good Spurs are. The draw with l’arse, and wins over Liverpool and Man City could probably be attributed to the natural “bounce” that comes with the installation of a new man at the helm, as well as a fair share of luck. However, irrespective of our form, and the stage of the season, Fulham away is a game we ought to win if we seriously want to finish in the top 6 and secure a UEFA Cup spot. Fulham are no pushover, esp on current form, and away from home is (bizarrely to me) always tricky – but I repeat, if we want to make the UEFA Cup, we have to win games like Fulham away.
The form of our strikers presents ‘Arry with a pleasant dilemma up top – the 4-5-1 system with Bent on his own in attack, and Modric behind him in the hole, has worked particularly well recently, with Bent scoring 5 goals in 2 games, and Modric looking increasingly dangerous (if still lightweight to the point of emaciation). However, Pavluychenko and Campbell struck up an instant rapport on Weds, as we switched to 4-4-2, linking well and each bagging a brace. I suspect today will see a return to 4-5-1 with Bent, particularly as we’re away from home, but I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of the system. Even during the thrashing of Zagreb a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that crosses into the box were a tad pointless as Bent was often the lone target, surrounded by two or three defenders. I suggest that a 4-5-1 system really needs at least one runner from midfield mimicking a striker (ie pushing very far forward, towards the 6 yard box), and prefereably another midfielder arriving from deep, towards the edge of the penalty area, giving an option for a more pulled-back type of cross, and also stretching the oppo defence. With Jenas, Modric and Bentley in the team we ought to have enough runners from midfield to work this, but our lack of presence in the area, particularly when deploying the 4-5-1 formation, is noticeable.
Fulham away also takes me on a trip down memory lane, to one of the definitive all-action-no-plot games. ‘Twas a sunny September afternoon last year, when I went with my kiwi mate for his first ever football match, and my first away game. Away games rock. The atmosphere was cracking (presumably because only the die-hards are sufficiently fervent to go to away games), and as it was still the halcyon era of scary Martin Jol, we had Berba and Keane upfront. Berba scored one of his truly extraordinary goals that day, a volley on the run which left the keeper rooted to the spot, and we were 3-1 up and cruising. Fulham’s defending made the Three Stooges look elegant, with fully-grown men bumping into each other and falling over, presumably while humming to themselves the Benny Hill soundtrack . Anyone with an inkling of plot would have boringly opted to close down the game and nullify any Fulham threat, but all-action-no-plot Tottenham opted instead for the vastly preferable, if high-risk, kamikaze route. Jenas from six yards chose to pass rather than shoot, as only Jenas can, providing some useful insight into why, after five or so years at the club, he still does not have his own song (bar, perhaps, vituperative screams of “You’re sh*t Jenas”). We conceded an unfortunate own-goal, then in the last minute conceded an overhead bicycle kick goal, and drew 3-3. Crazy times, left me cursing all the way home, but it neatly encapsulated in 90 minutes the all-action-no-plot world of Spurs – and let’s face it, it was a million times better than a nil-nil bore-draw.
Back to today – it’s a big test of our top-six credentials, let’s see how we fare…