Spurs match reports

Spurs 3-1 Palace: Four Tottenham Talking Points

1. Vicario’s Error

A chiding is due of young Signor Vicario. This is quite the rarity, as the loveable imp tends to do far more right than wrong in the cause, but I fancy he dropped a rather large one yesterday, for the Palace goal.

It was the way in which he set up the wall – or, more specifically, the location in which he set up the wall. Put squarely, he popped the damn thing in the wrong place. Or perhaps he put the wall in the right place but then positioned himself in the wrong place. Either way, neither he nor wall were covering the great big yawning gap to the left (as he looked) of his goal.

It was awfully rummy stuff. Akin, it seemed to me, to a builder constructing a roof but leaving a hole of considerable diameter in one corner of it, possibly on the grounds that he didn’t anticipate any rain falling in that spot.

Anyway, whatever the reason, that lad Eze’s eyes almost popped out of his head, and he simply drilled the ball into the vacant spot. I read variously on some of the media outlets that he scored a ‘terrific’ free-kick and other such rot. This, to be clear, is tosh. It was not a terrific free-kick, the fellow did not even not to curl the dashed thing, or bother with lifting it up over the wall and back down again, or any of the other intricacies and technicalities that tend to make well-taken free-kicks stand out as things of beauty. Eze simply needed to kick the ball in a straight line, which for a professional footballer is many things, but certainly not ‘terrific’.

For Vicario, however, it was a moment of ignominy, and might have cost us pretty dearly. Whatever the Italian is for ‘Tut tut’, this needs to be communicated to the fellow as a matter of absolute urgency.

2. Werner

That Werner fellow makes one scratch the head a bit, what? Difficult to know what to make of him at times, I mean. He has my full backing, of course, and never shirks his duties, and is no slouch over ten yards, and so on. Crucially, however, he also makes me tear my hair out, howling to the sky and cursing his entire lineage. So two sides to the coin, you might say.

The standout moments yesterday involved a goal not scored and a goal scored. There was all the other usual Werner guff of course, for those of us playing Werner Bingo – the straightforward ability to outpace his full-back even with ball at feet; the occasional cross that sailed into the stands; the tendency to suck momentum out of an attack by turning backwards to receive the ball and then passing it backwards instead of gathering it and galloping – but there were two particular highlights to his 1st March showreel.

Firstly, the miss, which, within the category of the things was rather a corker. Too much time, I suspect was his problem, given that he actually began the operation inside his own half. It all started pretty promisingly, the fact that he set off from inside his own half meaning that one could wave a derisory hand at the linesman and yell, ‘Fie to offside!’ while scuttling off towards goal. This Werner achieved with minimal fuss.

And on the matter of relocating from halfway line to shooting distance, the young cove seemed similarly inclined to dispense with pomp and ceremony, and more in the mood for getting down to brass tacks. “The penalty area, and schnell!” appeared to be his logic, and I was all in favour.

At this point most neutral onlookers would have observed that all was going pretty swimmingly. The decision to take a touch that sent him on a more central route, rather than maintaining his inside-left course, struck me as intrepid, and possibly a little unnecessary, but I was inclined to defer to his superior experience in such matters. “He knows what he’s doing,” muttered the AANP internal voice, in an attempt at self-reassurance. “Probably a right-footed gambit.”

At that point, however, Werner started to stray from the script, and without really knowing where he was going to end up. A spot of improv is all well and good, as long as one has a vague idea of what one wants to achieve by the time the curtain comes down. Unfortunately, one started to get the idea that Werner was instead banking on the notion that things would probably take care of themselves and he could just tag along for the ride. He took another touch to the right, and what had looked like a pretty straightforward shooting opportunity now adopted a rather unnecessary layer of complication. Where a moment earlier all options were on the table, the clueless nib had now backed himself into something of a corner, with only one real option: round the ‘keeper.

The problem with this was that the ‘keeper was by now also privy to the masterplan. In fact, all of us were. Werner knew he had to round the ‘keeper, but the ‘keeper also knew that Werner had to round the ‘keeper, and in those sorts of situations – well, everyone just sort of cancels out everyone else, and the whole thing becomes a bit of a damp squib.

Which was exactly what happened, leaving us all to recall those grim warnings upon his arrival that for all his many talents, Timo Werner cannot score.

The truth of this statement seemed pretty undeniable, but the second half brought to our attention the caveat, penned in the tiniest font imaginable, that actually Timo Werner can score – if given an open goal from about five yards and without the luxury of time to overthink the bally thing.

Johnson squared it, Werner banged it in and a solution duly presented itself: Werner can score by the hatful, as long as his chances are presented at point-blank range and requiring only one touch.

(By the by, I suspect I was not the only one who chortled gaily to themselves on witnessing how Sonny dealt with his Werner-esque chance, just banging the ball home as if it were the easiest thing in the world).

3. Van de Ven

Slightly odd to say in a match in which our goal was under pretty minimal pressure, but Van de Ven struck me as head and shoulders above the rest yesterday. Although perhaps the very fact that our goal was under minimal pressure could itself be deemed Exhibit A in the case for VDV’s outstanding contributions, for the magnificent young squirt managed to extinguish every Palace attack at source and single-handedly.

Any sort of dubious circumstance, whether caused by him, by a teammate or landed upon us by a spot of Palace counter-attacking, was instantly quelled by VDV putting his head down and absolutely storming out of the blocks. As such, Palace attacks barely merited the name, they being cut short by VDV typically before they had advanced to within 40 yards of our goal.

These heroics appear not to come without a price, as at least once a game – and two or three times yesterday – he seems to go to ground with an anguished yelp and the crestfallen look of a man realising that a valued limb is about to fall off. If such moments cause him pain he should spare a thought for his legions of onlookers, because each time he collapses in such fashion the AANP heart skips a good beat or two.

He got through proceedings relatively unscathed, however, and while his presence alone hardly guarantees our imperviousness to counter-attacking danger, he does a jolly good job of things on that front.

4. Another Slog

The three points were vital, and the 3-1 scoreline looks straightforward enough – and indeed, it was peculiarly comfortable to see out the final ten or so plus stoppage time with relative ease, rather than clinging on for dear life or – worse – desperately trying to magic a goal out of thin air.

Nevertheless, whichever bright spark came up with that “All’s well that ends well” gag was rather stealing a living in my book, because the first half was another illustration of a certain bluntness in our play. The only chances we created stemmed from pinching possession in our own half and counter-attacking. Of chances created against the defensive 11 there were none.

A slight improvement came about in the second half at least, although I confess to lacking the technical nous to understand whether this was due to an improvement on our part or a more advanced setup on Palace’s, which perhaps left more room behind them.

Either way, in the second half Werner seemed to have more joy against his full-back, and Maddison started to show the odd glimpse of a return to his pre-injury form, one or two shrewd diagonals missing their mark by a whisker. (Good also to see his quick thinking and impeccable technique in creating our second, for Romero.)

I confess to giving the forehead a few extra creases when Johnson was introduced. I have no problem with the chap himself, but he was deployed seemingly to act as a second right-winger, in addition to Kulusevski, a tactical innovation that threatened to make my head explode. As it happened, however, whatever the hell it was it worked a treat, as it was Johnson’s honest beavering on the right that created our long-awaited first goal, so I suppose Our Glorious Leader is due the approving nod for that one.

All told, however, that joyless first half continues to eat away at me. The challenge of sides that sit deep en masse is not one we will have to face every week – Villa away next week, for example, will be a pretty different kettle of fish – but the moments of attacking inspiration for games such as these still seem a little thin on the ground.

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9 replies on “Spurs 3-1 Palace: Four Tottenham Talking Points”

Picking all the priority points as usual at AANP. I thought the free kick was a bit special in that it was hit particularly hard and well-directed. You might well be right about the position of the wall – personally I was debating/focusing on the usefulness or otherwise of the ‘draught-excluder’ – it seemed an unnecessary embellishment and in retrospect he would have been better used as another brick in the wall.
I was also spending too much time thinking about what I was going to say about Werner in my post-match discussion with my son. The sentence starting ‘I don’t see the point….’ was dominant until he started taking on his full back and putting in crosses or pull-backs. But he is still an enigma, quoted as saying earlier in this season that he is there to assist rather than score – he needs to get his priorities right, but it was encouraging that he took those ridiculous gloves off after 5 minutes.
I have the same point of view about Johnson, sure he harried the Palace defence to deliver Werners goal on a plate – but he is a long way short of what you expect from whatever it was we paid for him. At this point I would normally wax lyrical about the Academy boys – especially the 11 Santiago, who never hesitates to leave a full back on his arse and is supremely confident in a 1 on 1 with the keeper (check his goal against Fleetwood). But the U-21 were very poor against Everton in my curtain-raiser and left me believing this was a very bad omen for the main game.
I was very wary of so many (journos & pundits) jumping on our bandwagon so quickly and so happily abandoning it when the opposition realise we can really play and they sit deep behind the ball relying on the odd counter-attack. We are thriving on Postecogleu’s honesty, possibly playing a bit above our real level – but if I try for an unbiased assessment of the season so far we are good value for 5th.

Yes, 5th feels right at present. The whizzy one-touch stuff in evidence pre-Christmas has disappeared, would like to see more of that again, feel it might help us in the tricky art of breaking down a defensive XI. Either way, it remains an area for improvement in an otherwise pretty impressive season.
Good point on Werner, and a noble sentiment of selflessness on his part – if he wants to create rather than score then so be it, but for heaven’s sake man, don’t neglect the vital art of finishing!

My biggest frustration were those corners – we must have had over a dozen and every one of them was so poor ?????

Hadn’t noticed at the time, bar one soggy Maddison effort, but given how successful the Woolwich lot are on this front it does seem an oversight.

The final point is to me the one that needs addressing. Angeball is well known so what to do about teams having that knowledge. It seems a nut that Pep has cracked but it’s got to be more than just find a new Rodri or KDB.

I really do think it is a case of getting the right players in (or developing current players) – good enough and strong enough to play Ange’s game. I watch the U-18 and U-21 games on Spursplay and they have adopted the Ange philosophy – so they should be feeding the 1st squad in the coming years. I really don’t think we want to adapt our game to the opposition – we have to be good enough and smart enough to beat allcomers.

Fair enough.

But NB the defence as a whole were excellent, including E Royal who did v little wrong and quite a lot of good tackling.

Madders in the second half was outstanding. LoC might have come on rather earlier. Johnson will be fine when he learns to shoot. Bassouma looked more like himself in the second half.

So vexing that (as has been the case for some 50 years) we’ve dropped so many footling points for no clear reason. With just a bit more application we could be right up there…

About the Vicario’s free kick boob…I think the chap was confused in seeing Son in that 2-man wall behind Palace wall. What’s the point of Son in the wall when everyone knows he doesnt do headed balls???

Poor Vic was probably covering for Son by shifting a bit too far to his right

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