Spurs match reports

Spurs 2-3 Arsenal: Four Tottenham Talking Points

1. Corners Again, Blast It

Some have, understandably I suppose, raged that our first half was various shades of abysmal; and on the telly-box last night Ashley Williams, not a chap to whom I’d ever paid much attention previously, drifted into existence and promptly plummeted in my estimation by opining that the other lot were “magnificent” and “dominated the whole first half”; and I suppose rather than scratching the perplexed head I should celebrate the varied opinions and perspectives birthed by democracy.

But I don’t. Woolwich certainly defended stoutly, and goodness knows they took their chances in a way that had me casting covetous glances, but the suggestion that we were dominated in that first half seemed to overlook actual events and skip straight to the half-time headline. While the scoreboard was pretty emphatic, that was hardly a 0-3 sort of session.

Defending on your perspective you might suggest that our lot shaded the midfield joust in that first half, or you might suggest the other lot shaded it, but the crux of it is that whichever side did the better job of things did so by a whisker, for affairs in the middle third were pretty tightly-contested. On the one hand our press was pretty good, and their passing pretty poor; whilst on the other their defending prevented our heroes from flooding through and making merry.

As such, our first half harvest consisted of two near things from the bonce of Romero, a tight offside call and a clear opportunity for Sonny that he sent off into the gods; they, meanwhile, launched one attack of note but managed to score thrice; and life does not get much more vexing than that, what?

However, simply to lament that if were not for conceding from corners we’d have been slap bang in the middle of a contest at half-time is to miss the point, and by a considerable distance. The art of defending corners is every inch as critical a part of the game as shading the midfield. More so, you might in fact argue, as you’re a dashed sight more likely to score from a corner than from the halfway line. And the fact that simply earning a corner is near enough sufficient for any opponent to score against us frankly has the steam billowing from my ears.

But there we are. Just like last time out – and the previous time, and the time before that for goodness’ sake – simply swinging the ball into our six-yard box did the trick. Never mind that all eleven lilywhites were smartly assembled, and doing their best to lend a spot of credibility to the narrative by engaging in that push-shove routine with the nearest opponent; once the ball was airborne they all melted away pretty quickly, and the surge of Woolwich forwards from back-post to front progressed in relatively unencumbered fashion.

None of which would be a problem, by the by, if young Vicario took it upon himself to club everyone out of the way and batter the ball into the distance like a man possessed, or even – if you can wrap your heads around the absurdity – catch the blasted thing. But this, of course, is not really his style, he being a ‘keeper who prefers to stick to his goal-line and leave corner-related incidents to the Fates, seemingly reasoning that as a mere goalkeeper he is powerless to intervene in the journey of a ball approaching him at catchable height.

I actually allowed a smidgeon of sympathy to depart my soul and wing its way to Hojbjerg for his own-goal, on the grounds that he at least made an effort to get involved; but I was careful not to go overboard on that front, for the daft young melon did somehow contrive to station himself the wrong side of his man and facing his own net, with predictable results.

The Havertz goal contained no such noble efforts from our lot, facing the wrong way or otherwise. The fact that Havertz was sandwiched between our two central defenders and was still treated to a free header from about a yard out spoke volumes about the security levels that exist about the place. On top of which, lest we forget, at the death we had to rely on VDV to clear off the line yet another headed effort from a corner.

It is this utter impotence at corners, rather than any other element of our performance, or the various officiating calls, that has had the AANP blood boiling in the 24 hours since. That a bunch of handsomely paid professionals, with 15 days to work on the issue, could offer so little resistance every blasted time boggles the mind and then comes back up to boggle it further.

The post-match mumblings of Our Glorious Leader on the topic hardly put the mind at ease either, he disappearing into an odd, existential waffle rather than pledging to work on the issue day and night until the soles of their feet bleed and they head away footballs in their sleep. The problem seems blindingly obvious and yet, at the same time, blisteringly easy to resolve, which I suppose adds to the general sense of exasperation it engenders. As it stands however, we’re giving up at least a goal a game in this manner, and it’s become pretty farcical.

2. Kulusevski (and the Immediate Future of Maddison)

In weeks gone by I have pretty forcefully lent my voice to the campaign to have Kulusevski demoted from full-time duty out on the right, on the grounds that the young buck insists on spoiling the great finale of any given attack by cutting back onto his left foot at the critical moment.

Prior to kick-off yesterday, however, I quietly applauded his selection, reasoning that his forte is in carrying the ball over halfway and setting things in motion, and that against the division’s more progressive mobs this skillset might bring home the beans.

And all things considered, in the first half I thought he made a pretty good fist of things, not least because he indulged that urge of his to cut inside and hare through the middle, rather than hugging the touchline. One never really knows with our lot whether these individual forays into other positions are based entirely upon the whim of the individual or ordained from on high by The Brains Trust, but either way, the net result was a Kulusevski who caused a few problems in central areas and added a bit of heft in support of Sonny.

However, if I were gently encouraged by Kulusevski’s efforts in the first hour or so, I was even more deeply enamoured of his performance in the final half hour, when Maddison was withdrawn, various pieces were rearranged and Kulusevski was ordered to spread the good news from the Number 10 position.

Where Maddison had willingly but rather ineffectively dropped deep and tried to thread short, forward passes through impossibly tight gaps, Kulusevski seemed more inclined to puff out the chest, hitch up the shoulders and barrel his way through the centre. Sometimes it worked, quite often it didn’t, but it seemed that he – along with Johnson on the right, and the newly-installed Richarlison up top – helped to put us on the front-foot.

A little unrefined as a 10 he may be, and perhaps not as possessed of the defence-splitting pass, or vision to spot it, as Maddison, but Kulusevski does force the issue and give opposing defences a thing or two think about, not least his tendency to barge uninvited into the penalty area like some uncouth party-crasher. On top of which, when barging about the place as a Number 10 he does not need to keep cutting back onto his left foot, as he can simply point the compass North-West and make full use of that left foot from the off.

This is not to say that Kulusevski is the answer to all our creative ills, but with Maddison having gone distinctly off the boil since limping off against Chelsea back in November, I’d be perfectly at ease with a world in which the latter was quietly deposited on the bench for the next few games, and the former given free rein to carry the ball from a more central coordinate.

3. Richarlison

As mentioned above, Richarlison’s introduction seemed to contribute to a general positivity about the place. What he lacks in finesse – and basic ball control – the peculiar young bean certainly makes up for in the noble arts of Making a Nuisance of Oneself and Starting Fights in Empty Rooms, and while I actually struggle to remember too many deft touches and moments of ingenuity, he bounded around the place starting arguments and chasing causes, both lost and up-for-grabs, from the moment he entered the arena.

A different sort of beast from Sonny, no doubt, but exactly what was needed in the circumstance (that of having just pulled back a goal for 3-1). Where Son’s forte is in getting behind defenfers and haring off like the wind, Richarlison’s is in ploughing straight into them with a scowl.

I also appreciated the fact that as and when our wide-ish sorts tossed in crosses, we finally had someone on the premises with an inkling of what to do with them, Richarlison being pretty willing to hoist himself up towards the heavens and thrust a neck muscle or two. Compare this with Son, a forward I can barely remember challenging for a header in his entire Spurs career, and it did feel like we had an extra couple of routes to goal in that final half hour.

I don’t doubt that if Richarlison features more in the coming weeks I’ll find plenty of reasons to berate the fine fellow, his technique with ball at feet still requiring a spot of polish for a start, but the added dimension or two that he provides as a focal point of attack is a pretty welcome addition to a team that in recent weeks has at times appeared to forget the point of the exercise.

4. Romero

One probably ought not to let the narrative conclude without at least acknowledging the curious, rampaging efforts of Romero.

Now being an old-fashioned sort, AANP still likes to peddle the outmoded notion that a defender’s primary role is to defend. Not to play out from the back; not to bomb forward to support the forward; but to defend. And seeing Romero join the massed ranks who watched and flapped his hands a bit as a yard in front of him Havertz nodded in unchallenged, I did spit a feather or two. Room for improvement in the day-job, no doubt.

That said, if ever a team needed hauling up by its shoulders it was our lot at half-time yesterday, and Romero seemed pretty happy to stick his hand up. Admittedly this involved him first tearing up whatever instructions he was given about where to position himself and what to keep secure behind him, but he did it to pretty good effect, so well done him. Quite why he was flying up the centre of the pitch to charge down Raya’s clearance is beyond me, but there he was, and he also had the good sense to round off that episode by giving the ‘keeper the eyes, in order to roll the ball in.

Romero was also in the thick of things for our penalty, dishing out a bit of opinion and muscle when the ball was crossed into the area, immediately before it fell to Ben Davies who has promptly hacked down; and I seem to remember at least one crunching tackle high up the pitch that won possession and kept us on the attack, contributing to the general sense that this was a game he was determined not to see peter out in silence.

He might have had more than just his one goal of course, those first half headers doing the agonising thing – but for all the frustration of his near misses, the marginal VDV offside and even the bonkers decision to wave away Kulusevski’s penalty claim, ultimately I still fume and fume some more at our defending from corners.

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19 replies on “Spurs 2-3 Arsenal: Four Tottenham Talking Points”

Wholeheartedly seconded. Though as Cheshuntboy notes, “birthed” needs to be expunged from the jolly old vocab, what?

Sorry to say the goalkeeper is presently the problem when it comes to set pieces especially the corner kicks.
Must replace him with a goalkeeper of much experience that does not panic

Great summary as always AANP but I’m not sure you mentioned corners at all! OMG, we’ve had this same issue for 20 odd games now but the boss keeps doing the same “we need to get better at that” stuff. Vicario is truly struggling with the demands of set pieces and we’re kind of hanging on sublimely to his brilliant saves early on in the campaign (none of which he needs to do any more as the opposition just knocks them in at will with no way of saving them).

Ange is charming and I admire his single minded approach but we have the Spursie Groundhog Day again whereby we lose form post-Christmas and you enter every game knowing you are most probably gonna blow it again.

Loved Romero in the game though, but he doesn’t do that every game either and I don’t know why he got nominated as centre forward.

My true concern is why Son and Maddison are so off form?

Spurs seem a little stuck in no mans land, have a good solid agile keeper that has an achilles on corners, great defensive players which somehow haven’t completely got the notion of defending capably even though Romero is dynamite and Van de Ven lightening? Perhaps the problem here is the inverted wing backs not supporting enough when needed. But it is in midfield to attack where the real problem lies. so much possession is squandered in fruitless attacks which end up sideways, backwards or without attempt either on or of target. The net result is an attacking and largely offensive, which fails so often to produce actual opportunities. In short Tottenham as a team needs to be more direct and clinical in its approach, and seek to create a far higher volume of actual chances than they presently do! I really like Postegolou but am a little concerned that his tactics are a little one dimensional and predictable at times and evolution and growth is an absolute must for the ensuing season lest things begin to unravel!

Lots of witticisms (but ‘birthed’? Pelham Grenville Wodehouse would have raised an eyebrow at that Generation Xism, surely?), but a distinct failure to point the finger where it clearly needed to be directed, at the Antipodean porker responsible for preparing our shambles of a team. All the pretty football in the world won’t help if the fundamentals are wilfully ignored, and Postecoglu’s early season credit with most of the Spurs fans is surely now well into the red, and likely to see his account closed, if he doesn’t start addressing the basics PDQ. It’s what professional football is all about, mate!

I was no fan of Conte, in that I never thought for a single moment that he was the right choice for Spurs (though his record elsewhere speaks for itself), but the fact is that Spurs were in the CL places when he left, and the total collapse which followed was under the Stellini/Mason mismanagement, and we’re still only level with last season’s points total as things stand – how many more points do you think we’ll get from the fifteen available? Fifteen? My best guess is six at most, and that ‘s not my idea of success, with no cups or Europe to distract us from the demands of the PL.

Do you really think that being in the CL places when Conti left was due to him!! Do you remember our 10!!
Most commentators agreed that Spurs would finish around 9th this year without Harry. We have overachieved largely due to the style that Postecogleu has re-introduced – I am more pessimistic than you – at current levels we may get 5 points and qualify for Europa League. For me a better option for continued progress than the CL.

Conte got us into CL places??? You’re having a laugh! That was due to 1 man – our number 10!!

We’ve been letting the opposition score from corners and free kicks into the box for many years. It is not particularly Postecogleu or Vicario related. There was no way for Vicario to save the first goal, in past years this area was well defended by one of our own. PEH didn’t know what he was there for – hopeless. Havertz goal was a CB problem – he should never have been allowed such freedom but our main issue is that we need defenders who want to put their head on it and win the ball. This should be meat & drink for Romero.
Of course our coaching team has a responsibility to train the team how to defend corners as AANP rightly points out it is (almost) as important as coaching the attack.

Other than the defending corners debate and Vicario’s competence or otherwise in that specific and under normal circumstances, quite limited area, AANP as usual covers the main talking points with his standard eloquence. I don’t know about Ashley Williams but Barmy Ronay, writing in the Guardian, maintained that “Havertz channelled Harry Kane in dropping deep and spraying passes” – not an accurate quote but thats the rough idea. Arsena only had 37.8% possession overall and a lot of that was attributed to Raya holding on to Brennan Johnson mis-directed crosses for as long as possible! 0-3 was not a scoreline that reflected the state of the game over the 1st 45. VDV’s goal – should not have been disallowed according to pundits Tim Sherwod & Ian Wright – Porros’s shot was delieberately played by the Arsenal defender albeit with his knees, followed by a ricochet off an Arsenak head to VDV, who although in a marginal offside position, should not have been penalised. VAR did not take the same POV – Dermot Gallagher seemed to support the studio pundits but I could not hear over the volume of abuse I was spraying at Michael Oliver. How this fool did not see the foul by Rice on Davies when he was less than 5m away with clear line of sight and had to watch TV to make the correct decision should be beyond me – but in this referee’s case- it isn’t!
The only 2 players who stood up as having what Ange would describe as ”ticker”, an essential feature of the NLD, were Romero and Kulusevski. Both were exceptional in their effort if not their end product. Richy also had kind-of the right idea – passion and physical superiority plays a part in this sort of game.
Maddison needs to be left out to consider the value of his recent contributions – when we signed him I had him down as a playboy, injury-prone fancy dan, and had to swallow heaps during the first chapters of this season. And ! want to be proven completely wrong.
Sonny has also lost something, he blasted one into the stands in the 1st half but there were a couple of later occassions when he had the ball on the edge of the penalty area and I expected a curled effort to nestle into the top far corner – but he never took the opportunity to shoot.
I cant close without having my weekly rant at Werner – imo never a starter and certainly not in the NLD. In his 1st start – he completely missed the team huddle before kick-off, in his 2nd appearance he had to be called into the huddle (is that the right word?) – this week the camera zoomed in on the huddle and as it finished, Werner popped his head out before the rest of the gang had unlinked arms and shot off as if he was missing an important appointment somewhere – have a look at the footage on the replay – what is wrong with this guy. Hopefully it is a hammy and I dont have to obsess again.

Look at the numbers. The average goals conceded by the team finishing 4th for the last 11 years is some 40 per season. We’ve already conceded 52 this year.

Angeball goes nowhere unless that absurd total is much diminished. It can be done. Remember 2016/17 when we conceded only 26 ALL SEASON?

It’s hard to blame the midfielders for this dismal performance when they’re instructed to play so high up the pitch. In the PL almost every team will have the guile and pace to beat our high line at least once a game. Then something stupid happens, and the goals add up inexorably, whatever the attackers manage to do. Seven conceded v Newcastle and Fulham – and with no reply?? Simply unprofessional if not downright negligent.

It was a stupid mistake not to play Richi from the start v Arsenal. Son in the middle just looks lost – can’t head the ball or hold it up.

Another season frittered away. Why expect it to change next year?

Hear hear – common sense rather than wishful thinking! How long is the ‘project’ that seems to have no timetable and no stated destination going to last? Until ENIC find a buyer and then it all starts again, is my guess.

100m Rice. For that much you might expect him to deliver with great accuracy. Similar story with Kai. Saka is well on the road to super stardom. Maybe 5 years and vast spending sometimes manifest on the pitch? Supporters of Big A have all noted that Year 1 is always rocky and urge patience.

Just to square the circle on the corner kick issues here is Ange’s words from today’s pre-match press conference:
‘On whether Spurs need to be better at defending set pieces: “I don’t see it an issue and I know that answer doesn’t satisfy people. We work on it but there are far more important things we have to focus on as a team at the moment.”‘

Hmm, doesn’t satisfy me too much but who am I to judge the bleeding obvious problem? 🙂 I hope he proves us all wrong when we lift a cup next season.

Oh good, it isn’t an issue. Glad Our Glorious Leader has cleared that up.

“There are far more important things” but we concede from every set piece and willingly provide the set pieces in every match. Perhaps the Ange honeymoon is now over.

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