After the famous revelation of erstwhile coach Gus Poyet that Bent and Pavluychenko couldn’t play together – just a couple of weeks after signing the Russian for however many million pounds – I was intrigued to see if and how the pair would combine today. In the absence of the injured Modric to play in the hole behind a lone front-man, in a 4-5-1, ‘Arry opted for the two strikers in a 4-4-2 today.
Watching on tv rather than at the ground somewhat limited my ability to observe them, but the plasma screen in the pub suggested that as a partnership they did little to indicate an innate understanding. The theory that they can’t play together is presumably based on the fact that they’re so similar (that’s playing style, not physical appearance). In a nutshell both seem happiest when playing as the furthest forward; neither seems inclined to drop deep. At times a couple of weeks ago, in the Carling Cup v Liverpool, Pav and Frazier Campbell showed the odd sign of instinctive awareness, playing cute passes to each other without needing to look up etc, but alas there seemed to be little of that this afternoon.
However, the “two-forwards-in-a-4-4-2-rather-than-one-in-a-4-5-1” drum is one I’ve been banging for some time on these pages, particularly for home games, and I reckon it paid dividends today, not least for the goal. This occurred when we gained possession by accident rather than design (although much credit to Lennon for robbing the snoozing defender). Lennon found himself in possession unexpectedly, and looking up there were two Spurs bodies in front of him. The combo of him on the ball plus two forwards appeared to scare the bejeesus out of the Blackburn defenders, who back-pedalled and doesy-doed before Pav evenutally finished. Had Bent been on his own up-front I suggest that the Blackburn defenders might have been able to marshall the man on the ball and the man in support more successfully. Credit also to Pav for checking his run, while Bent and Lennon pushed forward, which again dragged the Blackburn defenders around.
Generally, Bent and Pav made some similar runs, but the mere presence of two dedicated forwards plus the man in possession seemed to give the Blackburn defence enough to think about. Playing two forwards does require the midfield pair to be particularly bright and energetic – but then playing just the one upfront generally requires the midfield to make sure they’re supporting. Another counter-argument is that 4-4-2 when we’re struggling for possession leaves both strikers starved of the ball and out of the game (as Blackburn’s front pair were today). However, too often this season I’ve seen a high ball lobbed towards Bent playing on his own, and for all his willing chasing it’s often no avail. My vote is cast in favour of 4-4-2.
Elsewhere on the pitch – great stuff from Lennon, who showed that an inability to cross need not hinder a winger if he’s capable of using pace to beat his man and then drilling the ball in low. Not only did he set up the goal, he also caused the sending off by beating the same man twice, enticing the two late tackles. Bentley by contrast seemed a little too eager to impress against his former side, although he delivered the good occasional set-piece. Jenas, as we all know, is a willing worker with a good attitude but isn’t good enough and therefore will never have his own song. Hudd has a lovely pass on him – and therefore has his own song – but with the pace of an anaethetised sloth is hardly the complete midfielder. Woodgate had a blinder, aside from his missed header in the second half. Generally there was a a touch of sloppiness in our play, both in passing and finishing, esp when against ten men. Need to be a bit more clinical there chaps, although we did create a number of good chances.
And the Daily Gomes Report. Inevitably, he dropped his first cross, but thereafter did the basics adequately. While his defenders (Woodgate in particular) did a sterling job in front of him the stats don’t lie – he kept a clean-sheet, and also sported an impressivley colourful mouth-guard, the first I’ve ever seen on a football pitch.
All in all – a home win against Blackburn is what I’d have expected before the season began, but something I wouldn’t have envisaged during the Ramos reign in August/September. Good work chaps, keep it up.