I’m not sure what the seven stages of grief are (or whether there are actually eight, rather than seven?) but the mood around these parts is encapsulated by nothing more than a wearied, philosophical shrug.This sort of shambles can no longer really be classified as just an isolated incident. We seem to be returning to the good old, bad old Spurs. Which is a shame, because over the first couple of months of the season I genuinely believed – fool that I am – that we might have turned a corner, and evolved into a team that routinely turned over the Premiership riff-raff and won all those “home-bankers”. Alas, not so.
Not for the first time a bunch of spoilers have turned up, defended for their lives, taken their only chance and scuttled off back up the High Road before we can even yelp “But just look at how much possession we had, dagnabbit.” When we score first (and early) in such games the floodgates tend to open, which is dandy. Generally however, that 10-man-defence-and-double-marking-of-Lennon routine is one that befuddles us. Plenty of encouragement then for other Premiership strugglers to adopt a similar mentality, and food for thought for our glorious leader, who needs to stumble upon a way to un-fuddle this problem pronto.
Despite this however, there is no particularly profound sense of morbidity at AANP Towers, just that philosophical shrug. The football we are playing is still decent, if not exactly scintillating. There was a slightly anxious resort to the long-ball once Crouch lollopped on, but generally we stuck to our principles, used the ball fairly intelligently (for this I doff my cap at Kranjcar once more) and made a handful of half-chances, against a side camping around their own penalty area. The defeat to Stoke earlier in the season, and also Man Utd a couple of months back, had me cursing far more angrily because on those occasions there seemed to be so little invention and movement. Losing at home to Wolves remains a horrendous result, but we have not become a bad team overnight.
The blow of yesterday’s defeat is also cushioned by the fact that our direct challengers generally seem to be matching us stride for stumbling stride. Villa may have overtaken us but their next faux pas is likely to be just around the corner. Man City and Liverpool both have the worrying potential to string a good half-dozen successive wins together, but neither have pulled away from us. We ought not to rely on others slipping up, but the fact is that everyone is doing it, even Chelski and Man Utd.
Disclaimer: As a fan, with no control over what happens on the pitch, I can get away with saying this. However, if any of the players adopt either of the sentiments voiced in the previous two paragraphs they ought to have limbs chopped off. Those guys ought to be busting a gut to win every time, because i ) it is within their control, and ii) they are paid to do as much.
As for matters on the pitch, ‘Arry sprung a bit of a surprise before kick-off. The absences of Bentley and Pav were understandable given the recent rumblings from the corridors of White Hart Lane, but while I searched high and low there was not a Jenas in sight. Interesting. Might we have benefited from the presence of his rarely-spotted alter ego – Genuinely Potent Attacking Jenas – in the second half, when Crouch was winning the occasional header but no-one was around to pick up the scraps?
Keane coming in for Crouch was an eye-catching selection. While the pointy-shouty tantrum he threw when not awarded a first-half corner was one which my two year-old nephew would have stepped back and observed in awe, that it was his most notable contribution says much.
At various points we had Defoe, Keane, Crouch, Modric, Kranjcar, Lennon, Giovani and the Hudd on the pitch, and still couldn’t score against a team that had kept only one clean-sheet all season. I am tempted to suggest that perhaps a genuine dribbler – a la Taraabt – may have helped to draw defenders and squeeze an opening (although dribbling is one of the assets Giovani supposedly brings), but the problem does not really seem to be a shortage of attack-minded personnel.
Tactically there were a couple of grumbles. We might have benefited from greater willingness from the central midfielders to get into the area for crosses, particularly when Crouch is on the pitch doing his nod-down routine. And a propos Crouch, bona fide crosses – ie from the wing, getting to the by-line – rather than long-balls from deep, might work better for the big man.
Generally however, although it’s a lazy conclusion at which to arrive, the principal problem was the same one we’ve had since the days of yore. A bloody-minded desire to accept nothing less than victory at any cost was conspicuous by its absence. Daws seems the only blighter with any leadership juices flowing through his veins. Somehow ‘Arry has to find the football equivalent of the Sword of Omens, to turn our poor lambs into a bunch of bad-ass commandoes with fire in their bellies.
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And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here