Wow. I thought my preview yesterday was pessimistic, but the players outdid themselves last night.
“I foresee only a lethargic and complacent performance, until, perhaps, shaken out of ineptitude by the concession of goals… We’ll qualify, probably, but we’ll do it the hard way. I can certainly see us scraping through on aggregate by losing 3-1 or 4-2 on the night – it would be the Tottenham way.” – Me, yesterday (http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=276)I’m still too bewildered by it all to have a good proper moan. That feeling of incredulity and humiliation is becoming a twice-weekly ritual now. My immediate post-match summary, to whichever poor sod is within earshot on the night, that it was “Possibly the worst Spurs performance I’ve ever seen,” might as well be shaved into my head, so that when I bow my head in shame at the final whistle of each remaining game this season it is there for all to see and I can bypass the hassle of verbal comment.
Where to start? (I think, in honour of my intrepid heroes, I’ll wait 90 minutes-plus before starting). The game – Spurs’ season, so many of Spurs’ seasons – in a microcosm was the build-up to Burnley’s second goal. Some Championship player stumbled across the halfway line, ball at his feet. Zokora and Hudd backed off. The Championship player meandered to the right, Zokora and Hudd backed off. The Championship player stopped, had a cup of tea, checked his facebook page – Zokora and Hudd backed off, the fear of God in their eyes, treating the lad as if he were an entire pride of rabid lions, hungry for the meat of under-achieving, prima donnas. The Championship player eventually looked to his left, played in another Championship player (unmarked, naturally) and before you knew it half the Spurs defence had been turned inside out and the ball was nestling in the net.
I appreciate that for both Zokora and Hudd to have flown in with diving tackles might have been reckless and left yawning gaps behind them, but one of them could have seized the initiative, shown some desire and just shunted the lad sideways or something. I’m possibly being unfair now, as this might have meant a speck of mud on their nice shiny white shirts.
So, we’re off to Wemberley. Huzzah! With not a hint of dignity, the Spurs players celebrated the late escape almost as if they’d earned it. On this form, and against Man Utd, we could become the first team ever to lose a Wembley cup final by double figures. It won’t happen though. As it’s Man Utd, and Wembley, and a chance for glitz, glamour, celebrity status, a night-out in Faces, WAGs and generous tabloid exposure, the players will excel themselves on 1 March. They’ll be
unrecognisable. They might win it.As my brother said, at least they were entertaining last night.
They were awful, I countered.
Yes, he replied, but they’re comical.
Yes, the tactical bit. Any Spurs players, and quite possibly ‘Arry himself, will stop reading at this juncture, possibly confused by the connotations of the term, and its relevance to the celebrity lifestyle.
The Burnley players are not technically better than ours – if they were they’d be playing in the Premiership, and would have the international caps that our lot have. However, they played last night as if their lives depended on it. As if this was their cup final. Our players went if for the 50-50 challenges in perfunctory manner, because they had to.
At 18 stone and 6’ 5″ (or whatever he is) Hudd should be winning everything in midfield – he didn’t. He never does. As weren’t 2-0 and toying with the oppo, he was largely anonymous. Modric had some good touches, and didn’t seem to mind getting dirty. Bentley’s attitude was admirable, as on Sunday. Assou-Ekotto almost scored the best own-goal since Gary Doherty’s David Platt-style overhead volley vs Leicester in 2003/4. One game isn’t enough to judge Alnwick, especially as it was evidently the first time in his life that he’d played in goal.
The 4-5-1 formation ought to have brought some joy, stifling the Championship midfield, but succeeded only in leaving Defoe isolated upfront. Again, however, I commend his ability to shoot on target, and hard. Do it often enough and it will bring goals, whatever his limitations in other areas.
And one final rant, about The Mentality of The Common Sportsman. Why do players need to be staring defeat point-blank in the face, nose squashed up against its window, before they start competing? The fact that we were losing 2-0 to a Championship side didn’t fluster the Spurs players, because they were on their way to Wembley. Yes, yes, but losing 2-0? To a Championship side? Where’s your dignity, chaps? It’s the same with the England cricket team. Give them a target of 150 to chase down, and with 120 on the board they’ll be making heavy work of it. Yet, against the same oppo and on the same pitch two days later, when chasing 250, they’ll breeze past the 150 mark without any hint of difficulty (only to start falling apart at the seams at the 220 mark). Couldn’t the Spurs players have set out to win the 90-minute game last night? No chance. It wouldn’t be the Tottenham way.