1. The Style of Play (Again)
I would normally pity the poor souls who part with their hard-earned wage, and write off an afternoon of their lives, to attend such a ghastly matinee as that, but on this occasion, mercifully, we were at least spared such punishment in the flesh.
Not that the 2D alternative did much to mask the unfolding rot. A peculiarity with The Jose Brand is that it relies absolutely entirely upon results for its success. In fact, its very raison d’être is its results.
The football itself at times borders upon the painful – for there were times in the first half in particular, when still nil-nil, that our heroes seemed to be actively looking to concede possession because the situation did not lend itself to a counter-attack, which rather beggars belief; and when pressed into a more progressive state of mind in the second half, when trailing, the absence of ingenuity was enough to make a grown man weep, or at least fling his hands heavenwards and curse the day.
So results, for sure, are front and centre of this operation, and when we proudly surveyed the land from atop the pile, any grumbles about the aesthetics, or lack thereof, could be merrily waved away. After all, if the open-topped bus could be booked for May ’21 on the back of a six-man defence and a few counter-attacks, I’m not sure too many of us would mind.
Over the last week, however, for one reason or another we have begun to depart increasingly wildly from the script.
Part of the problem with playing so defensively and deep each week is that the odds increase that every minor error can result in fairly seismic fallout. Against Liverpool we saw how a random deflection can upset the defensive ecosystem; today it was first a moment of mind-numbing stupidity; and then an unwelcome ricochet. (One might consider the deflections and ricochets unlucky – but by defending so deep we rather make our own rotten luck, or at the very least invite it a tad.)
The crux of the thing is that while the rewards are high – table-topping and title-challenging, no less – the risks are magnified. Spend three quarters of the game camped on the edge of our own area and there is no coming back from a looping deflection or an Aurier brain-fade. On top of which, up the other end, there is minimal margin for error in front of goal,
And so on days like today, when the result is not produced, we are left instead to pore over the remains of a failed defensive performance, and frankly it looks utterly dreadful. These things will happen, but they cannot happen too often. Thrice in a week is enough.
As mentioned, the dirge-like output requires everyone in the back-line to perform pretty flawlessly, in order to set up the platform for the counter-attack and three points.
And to his credit, Serge Aurier has spent the last month or two pretty diligently abiding by what must seem to him a pretty radical reinterpretation of his day-job. By and large, the needless lunges and mad decisions have been rinsed from his DNA, and while a wild glint occasionally develops in his eye, it rarely manifests any more on the pitch.
Jose himself would probably have argued that the plan had worked in the first half, as Leicester, for all their sharper play in midfield, had barely tested Lloris.
However, Aurier’s retro moment of mind-boggling stupidity completely upended the Jose Masterplan. What might have been passed off as a solid, if utterly uninspiring, defensive display suddenly became a disastrous first half, as we found ourselves not only having created nothing but also a goal behind.
Difficult to know what to make of Aurier. For sure the blister has previous, but if this is merely an isolated incident then we can potentially sweep it under the carpet and look forward to another half-dozen performances in which he keeps his head down and steers clear of trouble.
On the other hand, I suppose we dare not contemplate that this might be the beginning of a full-blown relapse, and the return of the Aurier of the past couple of seasons, whose every appearance seemed to be marked by at least one completely unnecessary aberration. Time will tell, and he probably has enough goodwill in the bank for now, but I’m not sure many more such moments will be suffered too gladly.
3. The Ndombele-Lo Celso Dream Axis
Odd to say it now, but in the first five minutes or so I actually had pretty high hopes.
Proceedings began with Ndombele sending half the Leicester team into the wrong postcode with a series of his trademarked upper body swerves that are seemingly impossible to resist.
A couple of free-kicks were duly won, and the omens looked pretty positive, pointing as they did towards an afternoon spent on the front foot and giving the Leicester mob a few things to think about in the defensive third.
Moreover, this marked one of (if not the) first blessed union of Messrs Ndombele and Lo Celso in holy midfield partnership. Quite what the tactical implications would be were fairly happily overlooked, because the prospect of these two peddling their silky wares in tandem seemed to override any need for detail. “Just give them the ball and let them dovetail” was the AANP mantra, and when Ndombele began proceedings in that shoulder-swerving manner of his, the omens appeared good.
Alas, thereafter things did not so much go downhill as fall directly off a cliff. Lo Celso’s principal contributions seemed to be lose possession and then slide in to win it back, before rolling around in feigned agony – until he ended up rolling around in bona fide agony.
With Ndombele having drifted to the periphery before himself being hooked, the dream combination ultimately turned into something of a disaster.
One hopes that Jose will not take this as his cue to banish any further of a future Ndombele-Lo Celso axis, simply on the grounds of one heavily undercooked display. Such a pair of talents ought to be able to combine to pretty decent effect, given a little love and tactical direction.
4. Bale (and Dele)
Another day, another mightily underwhelming extended cameo from G. Bale Esq. He did at least have the decency to look occasionally as if he cared today, at one point even breaking into a sweat to challenge for a 50-50. However, for those in the gallery eagerly awaiting a glimpse of the man who just a year or two back was still skinning international defenders and blasting the thing home from distance, this was another afternoon of frustration.
Bale’s introduction did precious little to improve, or in any way change, the dynamic of the game. It is probably reasonable to assume that the fellow is still not quite 100%, but by now one would at least hope to see a glimpse or two of the global superstar of recent times.
Frustratingly, of this there has been not a squeak. Were the name on his shirt anything other than ‘Bale’, it is difficult to imagine that he would be considered a better fit for the current eleven than any of Bergwijn, Lucas, Lamela – or, dare I say it, Dele Alli.
Admittedly there’s been precious little opportunity for Dele, but each time he has been trotted out, he has done so under the microscope, and to his credit has at least tried to contribute. Difficult to judge on the back of ten minutes here and there, but his brief fling against Liverpool at least saw him roll up his sleeves and get on the ball. Not much about which to write home – but not any worse than Bale, and to this untrained eye, probably slightly better.
With games coming every couple of days over Christmas, both will presumably get an opportunity or two. And in a team crying out for some attacking ingenuity, who knows, maybe this time next month one of them will be undroppable?
5 replies on “Spurs 0-2 Leicester: Four Tottenham Talking Points”
“Part of the problem with playing so defensively and deep each week is that the odds increase that every minor error can result in fairly seismic fallout”
It’s the whole problem. It’s ridiculous.
The whole team today were dreadful, but Bale was awful he just does not seem to be wanting to play football. I’m not Ali’s greatest fan but how he is not on the bench instead of Bale I don’t know. How JM can say we were the better team than Liverpool & now Leicester shows he his slipping into the old Josey.
The teams that have done well against Liverpool – Leeds, Villa, Fulham – all had a go at them, running at defenders with pace. We do well when we do this, but don’t do it enough. We don’t have midfielders skilled enough to hold the ball up to see a game out, so the ball keeps being lost and coming back at our defence. We also don’t threaten much from free kicks, which is something we could surely cultivate on the training ground. I’d like to see Dier (and Bale when available) take them. We have never really replaced Dembele, Modric or Eriksen. We could have had Bruno Fernandez for relatively little money but instead signed Gedson on loan.
Liverpool and Leicester currently have much better recruitment, and this needs to be addressed urgently.
Defense is the problem and Mourinho knows it. The 2 center fullbacks have elevation problems, teams are jumping over them for free headers on goal. Neither is fast enough to venture out of the penalty area. Now you know whom I describe. Atleast the Colombian can get into air and has a wider range.
One of first things that Pep G. did at ManCity was to sign a rugged and very fast outside full from Totties. This allowed both center fulls to join in offensive corners. Collapsed defense means that teams have freedom of action from Minimum of 25 yds from goal.Good ball-handling teams are not impressed with Tott’s pressing which really consists of Son , Moura and a few midfielders. I can’t call this team “London’s Lazies” but this is one of the slowest teams in the League. Teams which are overall inferior in personnel are being competitive when thinking managers work out a smart game plan. How ? They know Jose’ philosophy and that he rarely has an option B.