Flowing football from Tottenham Hotspur took Spurs to fourth place in the Premier League and provided great entertainment for the large crowd basking in the unexpected autumn sunshine.
Moving with style and purpose from the off, Spurs threatened to overwhelm Burnley in the first half. Once we figured out that their back four were playing a high line, the offsides stopped and we slotted the ball into the gaps in between and behind their lumbering defenders. Some of our moves were pure beauty, graceful passes, long and short, finding a succession of willing runners. Although it mattered little to the final outcome, I was furious with Defoe for missing that straightforward left footer with the target at his mercy, because that gorgeous move deserved a goal to be endlessly drooled over on MOTD and Sky.
Jermaine Jenas was at the heart of everything for the entire game. He drove us forward, always available then equally well attuned to the whereabouts of team mates. Short or long, yesterday afternoon it was all the same to him as our strikers fed hungrily upon a series of perfectly weighted passes. Even a performance as superb as this will not silence his doubters, however. No player provokes such extreme reactions on the blogs and messageboards, and in a sense this game epitomises the problem rather than settling the argument. If he is capable of playing this well, why doesn’t he do so every week? It’s the frustration born of this inconsistency that riles fans so, even those like me who like to see his name on the teamsheet. However well he does, he appears to have the stamina and talent to be better, it’s as if he’s inexplicably holding something back.
In my preview of the match, I stated that I like Burnley and that’s not altered after yesterday. It’s not just because of the generosity of their defence. They had an attacking outlook, always seeking to get men forward, although this admirable attitude is their undoing. Welcome to the Premier League, no wonder they are regularly slaughtered away from home. Open attacking football – whoever heard of such a thing? The very idea! I was surprised at how few fans had made the trip. It may not get any better than this, my northern friends, so enjoy it while you can.
The other thing I learned about Burney is that they are not very good. Other teams would certainly have made more of the gaps in our defensive formation. This is Spurs, so there is always a ‘but’ somewhere, so here it is. Winning 5-0 should not hide the fact that three old problems have returned, in evidence not only yesterday but over the last few games. First, we are giving the ball away far too often. Yesterday our opponents quickly learned that with a little patience, we would present them with possession soon enough. Palacios was particularly culpable and together with rash challenges and another needless booking, his form continues to be below the standard of last season .
Second, we do not close down at the edge of our own box. Remember a few seasons ago when we were the patsies on every Goal of the Month as long shots flew into the net. That was because we gave them time to line up the delivery and it’s fast becoming the norm right now. We must cut these problems out now.
Lastly, we let teams back into a match that previously we have controlled. We started the second half poorly, although one factor was down to a tactical change from our opponents, whose back four played deeper thus preventing the runs behind them and making JD and Keane play more with their backs to the goal. In the end we scored five, could have easily had eight or nine, but if Blake’s clever response to Cudicini’s dozing at that free kick at 2-0 had gone in instead of hitting the post, we would have been rocked back on our heels.
I remain fascinated with Harry’s team selections. Next month marks the anniversary of his first year at Spurs but he’s still trying to figure out what his players are capable of, both as individuals and in terms of the best blend. Dropping a guy who has scored a hat-trick in midweek was a brave decision (I was certain Crouch would start) but fully vindicated as Keane and Defoe were far too much for Burnley to handle. Not so long ago, the accepted wisdom dictated that they could not play together effectively. I think Harry has put that one to bed, thank you very much.
Neither did I believe for a moment that Huddlestone would play centre half, but he was our other star performer. At Derby he began in that position and it looks like he may have a future there. Another player who creates controversy amongst Spurs fans, to me his main fault is not slowness of foot but of mind. He does not anticipate well, certainly if the old adage that the first yard is in the head is true, then it has not yet occurred to him. Yet yesterday he was particularly strong coming out of the back four line to snuff out danger. Dare we hope this could be a pointer for things to come? A centre half with his ability to pass the ball so well from deep is good for both defence and attack. The test will be very different against better strikers, of course, but perhaps he will find things easier with the play predominantly ahead of him, facing one way.
I felt Gomes was sure to play; his fragile confidence must have been undermined by Cudicini’s selection. Carlo has done well enough over the last few games, especially getting down low and quickly as a shot stopper. However, every game there is an inexcusable mistake. Nothing was going on when he gave the ball to Blake at that free kick and it could have altered the course of the match.
Doubts aside, leaving the ground with a 5-0 victory feels wonderful. Our third was an excellent move, long ball from JJ, Lennon quick and sure, great first time finish from Keane, and from then on there was so much to enjoy. Must mention Kranjcar’s first half crossfield pass to Lennon, not so much inch-perfect as millimetre perfect. Great fun, and that’s five goals on four occasions, it’s not the end of September yet.