If Spurs top four ambitions are more than mere pretension, tonight’s match is the biggest of the season so far. Not only do we face one of our biggest rivals for a top spot, we badly need to boost our flagging form and morale.
After a good period, we’re now looking over our shoulders at Birmingham. With all due disrespect we should be streets ahead of them. I only watched the first half of their game against Blackburn last night, then I turned off as a blank screen was more entertaining. They won’t be able to stay up there for too long because they can’t score enough goals, but it shows what can be achieved in the Premier League with a strong work ethic and disciplined defending. I notice that McCarthy, in justifying how his poor lambs needed a rest against Man U, quoted his fitness coach’s ‘effort ratings’, which were high on Saturday and apparently this increases the likelihood of them picking up an injury if they play again in the week. I wonder if we have these – I suspect not, and I would prefer to have a ‘scintillating cross field 50 yard pass’ rating or ‘breathtaking dribble leaving countless opponents floundering in my wake’ score, which I’ll wager Wolves do not account for. But the reality is that we have to graft discipline and effort onto our game if we are to get anywhere. It’s as much about positioning at the back and for the defensive midfield as it is about sweat and toil.
McCarthy uncovered our dark secret, that you can come to Spurs with a plan and make it work. You can’t do that against United, hence the team changes. Actually, it’s more of an open secret. Stoke knew, and so will Mark Hughes. He’s been criticised by some of his own fans for being too negative, despite the attacking talent at his disposal, but tonight this approach will suit just fine. Expect them to defend deep and in numbers and look to hit us on the break, although with Bellamy and SWP not available they have lost some of the weapons to get at Corluka and Dawson, our slow defenders. Bassong must remain alert; his positioning around Daws could be the difference between winning and losing. He’ll have to take his side of the box and be around to cover.
For Spurs, Harry might be tempted to make changes after Saturday. One radical option could be the different tactic of attacking full backs, i.e. Hutton and Bale for Corluka and BAE. This bold option would increase our attacking options and put pressure on a City defence that has been known to
wobble. Lescott and Toure have not settled as a partnership, while the left back situation is difficult without the injured Bridge. However, this could leave us vulnerable in defence. Wilson, poor uncertain and worried-looking Wilson, can’t provide enough cover at the moment, but although he needs a rest we don’t have enough faith in JJ for this crucial game. I suspect the same team will start with the exception of Crouch for Keane. Modric is not fit enough for 90 minutes and maybe Wilson can have Saturday off. Lennon should get as much of the ball as possible to exploit that left side.
BAE might be absent – he seemed to be in some discomfort from his groin on Saturday and it has been rumoured that he needs specialist treatment plus a few weeks rest. I wonder if that might coincide with the Africa Cup of Nations… At least the fracas has been sorted out. Having read about it, I was amazed at how little happened when I saw the video (on the Sun website if you haven’t seen it). The club have done well by stepping in to mediate but there is little credit to the supporter who first abuses one of our players and then runs to the police when he provokes a reaction, or indeed to the person who filmed the thing on his mobile and received a few hundred quid from the Sun. A big help to our efforts, thank you both. I reckon the fan has suddenly realised his mistake – his season ticket in the Jason Dozzell Memorial Lounge, or whatever those seats by the tunnel are, would otherwise have been in jeopardy.
BAE seems so detached at times, you wonder what goes on in his mind. He’s been quoted as saying that he is not that interested in football, he just sees it as something he is good at and can make money. He goes through half a season without altering his expression, yet he can be wound up, witness the fan’s comment or the latest of his brainstorms at Everton 10 days ago. My son went to Bolton away and afterwards stayed around the players entrance. All the players came and signed autographs and posed for pictures, except Benny who strolled over to the coach behind the protection of his giant headphones. He’s a decent footballer who has worked hard on his game. Maybe he is a bit off because of that injury, hence the lack of movement down the flank on Saturday. A rest could be the cure.