Awkward. Maybe we should begin at the beginning…
The Glorious First Five Minutes
Ah, ‘twas a pleasure to be a Tottenham fan. Our heroes produced some ovely stuff. Swift, slick passing; patient but pacey; sideways if necessary but probing forward whenever opportunity even threatened to knock. L’Arse struggled to focus upon the little leather orb, and the whole thing was crowned with a delightfully typical Tottenham goal, albeit aided by quite extraordinarily inept defending.
Alas, what followed was downright blasted awful.
The Crouch ApproachHaving spent all season passing the bejesus out of opponents, our heroes hit on the dubious tactic this afternoon of eschewing pretty passing for a slightly less refined approach of smacking the ball heavenwards towards Saha and Adebayor, and hoping that by hook, crook, chest or gangly limb the ball would somehow or other stick there. There was something eerily Crouch-esque about the whole thing, evoking painful memories of unpleasant hoicks that pybassed our midfield and ruled out any opportunity for us to play our natural passing game on the green stuff.
Further woe was to be had by the collective decision of the midfield to station themselves Alamo-style some 10-15 yards ahead of their own penalty area and wait for l’Arse to attack. The rationale was presumably to allow for counter-attack revelry, but the effect was instead to invite relentless pressure upon poor old Friedel and his worryingly popular net. Every time we cleared to halfway, l’Arse were able to amble forward at will into the final third, and catastrophe duly ensued.
More GrumblesCuriously, the sending-off of Parker in the dying embers was a darned sight harder to swallow here at AANP Towers than any of the unabated awfulness that had preceded it. United at home next week are beatable, but sans Parker it becomes a lot less likely. (On which note, Sandro looked every inch a man who hasn’t played in a month or two, all misplaced passes and niggly fouls.)
The “winning” of the penalty by Bale was also disappointing. If ultra slow-mo, zoomed in replays prove there was contact I’ll happily retract – but to this disgruntled viewer it appeared that Bale took a dive, which would be cheating, and not for the first time. Not at this club, please. Bale in particular is comfortably good enough to excel by fair means rather than foul. On a brighter note, the handsome young Welshman’s turn of pace in the first place was outstanding, matching the excellence of the pass from Modric.
Returning however to the grisly business of head-shaking and repeated tutting, the initial team selection seemed at the time a tad curious, and in hindsight fairly ill-judged. Saha upfront instead of VDV was a bold call, particularly away from home, but was understandable to a degree, in terms of giving the centre-backs all manner of complexities (and a goal within five minutes provided a degree of vindication). The selection of Kranjcar ahead of Lennon will require a little more explanation in order to placate the teeth-gnashers of AANP Towers, particularly if the plan really was to play swiftly on the counter-attack.
Punters Across The Nation Stare Quizzically At Their “’Arry for England” PlacardsSilver lining? A 0-0 against Stevenage followed by a thrashing in our local derby – from 2-0 up, and despite two significant half-time managerial changes – have probably done as much to slow down ‘Arry’s charge towards England management as anything else will all season. In truth however, this is no sort of positive at all (and nor is it likely to make the slightest difference to the summer’s managerial moves).
Despite all this, there is no particular need to panic. Play this way every week and I’ll happily send out the memo that the time is ripe for every man and his dog in the N17 area to scuttle around like headless chickens. However, resume normal service next week, and continue until the end of the season, and this whole episode could have attached to it a post-it note marked “Blip”. An unsightly mess for sure, but this lot can and do perform a whole lot better each week.