Before beginning the gruesome business of the post-mortem I think it’s worth doffing my cap towards Man Utd – they were a quality act yesterday. I demonstrated in my preview that mathematics is hardly the academic subject of choice at AANP Towers, but nevertheless it really did seem that being reduced to 10 men made them play as if they had 12.The Luka-Shaped Hole
If absence makes the heart grow fonder my feelings for Luka Modric had turned into a complete man-crush by the end of yesterday’s game. The problems caused by his absence were two-fold. For a start – and admittedly it’s not rocket-science – we massively missed his contribution on the left. Robbie Keane was a square peg in a Luka-shaped hole, and came nowhere near replicating the class of the Modmeister, for which he can hardly be blamed I suppose. Curiously, by the second half it seemed that ‘Arry simply dispensed altogether with the whacky idea of deploying someone on left midfield, and left BAE to attack, defend, bat, bowl and keep wicket all on his own up and down the left-hand patch. Keane took up permanent residence in the centre, and even his replacement Kranjcar seemed only to station himself towards the left with reluctance.
The other problem caused by Luka’s absence was the very fact that Keane was removed from attack in order to play on the left. To date this season, Keane as a striker has been able to drop back as necessary to create a temporary five-man midfield. We could have done with that at times yesterday, as the Man Utd midfield bossed things. In fact they themselves made use of an attacker dropping deep, with the dastardly Berba occasionally sticking out a languid leg here and there in midfield. Our own attacking pair, of Crouch and Defoe, did not really offer that flexibility. Conclusion? This was all Modric’s fault.
The Second-Best Midfield
Anti-climactic stuff from Lennon, who could not have been more thoroughly shackled if he had been trussed up in a straitjacket with a ball-and-chain on his ankle for good measure.
The Hudd started fairly anonymously, and his influence waned thereafter. If the big lad wants to know the sort of standard he should be striving to emulate he need only look at the man whose shadow he chased for an hour yesterday. Scholes gave a masterclass in how to keep things ticking over in midfield. Tackling aside, mind.
I actually thought that Sergeant Wilson began the game in encouragingly bright and breezy fashion – as typified by the tackle that led to our goal – but once he received his yellow card his options were rather limited, and his half-time withdrawal was understandable.
And so, for the first time this season, to your hero and mine, Jermaine “Sideways! Backwards!” Jenas. Believe it or not I was rather impressed by the entrance he made, taking the fight to United as soon as he entered the fray and very nearly scoring a peach of an equaliser. However, that was about as good as it got. We’ve waited about four months to lay into Jenas, and had to wait another 20 minutes or so after his introduction yesterday, but once the poor blighter made a mistake by golly White Hart Lane let him know about it.
Discrimination at White Hart Lane. Despicable, In This Day And Age.
There was one curious incident in the second half when Crouch and his marker (I forget who) prepared to challenge for a header inside the penalty area, and the marker did his level best to yank the shirt off Crouch’s back in a most sordid manner. In hope rather than expectation I glanced towards the ref – and saw him put the whistle to his lips. Scarcely able to believe it I let out a celebratory yelp, only to see the ref award the free-kick to Man Utd. It’s a phenomenon that unfortunately follows Crouch wherever he goes, and one to which we will all have to become accustomed in future weeks and months.
That aside Crouch did what he is paid to do, and can hardly be blamed for his team-mates’ propensity to belt the ball at his head and yell “Go fetch”. I prefer him coming off the bench as an impact sub, and yestrerday’s evidence did not alter that opinion, despite the first-minute assist.
Elsewhere on the Pitch…
Nicely taken goal from Defoe, on just about the only occasion he touched the ball. Another good shift from BAE. Unfortunately the best player in lilywhite was possibly the one in green, Cudicini making two or three very good saves.
We had our chances, notably in that little 20-minute second half spell, and were only a couple of inches away from equalising through Jenas or Crouch. In the final analysis however, the scoreline did not flatter United. The sending-off of Scholes presented the perfect platform for us, but rather than relentlessly batter down the United door we knocked a couple of times and politely waited for them to open up. We have certainly not become a bad team overnight, but there was proof, lest it were needed, that we remain a work in progress. And a poorer one for the loss of Modric.
Graham Roberts is one of the players featuring in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book looking at players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. Feel free to share your favourite memories of the man – or browse those of others – right here, while memories are warmly welcomed on players already featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes – Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here