Spurs v City – I Feel Fine

Forget the goalkeeping heroics: the story of the weekend is the emergence of Spurs as a genuine force to be reckoned with.

In my season’s preview, I stressed above all else that we had to respond to the pressures of expectation by taking the play to our opponents and dictate the game. Every match, every stride, pass and touch. Using that as the benchmark, the draw against Manchester City was a fine performance that augers well for the future.

Infused with optimism that really is not like me at all, I took in it all those precious moments of anticipation before kick-off. Shaking hands with the seat-holders around me, who I’ve seen every other week for many years, see in fact far more frequently than my ‘real’ friends these days, yet we still don’t know each other’s names. The ground full and shiny, a roar at the first whistle.

As ever it’s also the moment when it suddenly occurs to me that things may not proceed as smoothly as my fantasies predicted. City have a mighty team, the experience, quality and muscle of that midfield. Yaya Toure is huge. 30 seconds in and they have 11 within 25 yards of their goal. Reality bites.

From the first whistle we went hunting for the ball, teasing and probing City’s massed defensive ranks. Modric busied himself from the off, covering ground, available for team-mates and searching for passes, either wide or into the channels at the edge of the box. Huddlestone had a quieter but effective game, not afraid to put himself about a bit with a couple of sly late nibbles at City players’ ankles. Both put their foot in when it mattered.

Sometimes, though, it’s the attitude and approach that signals the true state of play. Throughout we were impressively purposeful and confident, barely a moment’s complacency in the 90 minutes. Hud again marked it for me. In the past he’s hidden from the challenge and slunk away when the first passes go astray. Now, there’s an air of authority about him. He put in the yards and maintained his concentration. He wanted to make things happen rather than wait for colleagues to take over the centre before he gets going. Again, he was not our best player by any means but he symbolised this new attitude. Dare I say he looked like man not an overgrown boy.

Luka’s excellent first half kept everyone moving. The interchange in the centre was good and throughout the match we had width from Lennon and the superb Bale, raiding with exhilarating power and precision for the entire game. Those curling crosses at pace will lead to many assists over the coming season and he was unlucky when he hit the post.

Unlucky – lazy writing, you make your own luck and if the ball hits the post, sure, it’s close but it’s a miss nonetheless. But ‘unlucky’ is my mind’s entry into the fact that our sustained first half superiority didn’t lead to goals. Hart was fantastic, the reaction save from Defoe bettered only by the gravity-defying leap into the top corner from Benny’s deflected shot. JD had probably the best chance but his effort was smothered well. Sharper finishing would have made the difference but I don’t feel inclined to be over-critical, although he should score more one-on-one.

City got a grip in the second half as they pushed De Jong into a more central role. However they seldom threatened and the brave double substitution reinvigorated our play as Keane and Pav’s movement created further chances. In the end, the pressure told. The ball bounced clear in the box and Bale moved on to it. You work and work, something will come up. Not luck, you see, keep grafting and there, suddenly, is your one precious moment, when time stands still, acres appear where once there was barely room to stand, the target is wide and inviting…..

The ball dribbles onto rusty shale, a crunching that sets the clocks in motion once more, the chance gone, never to return. The raging after that miss soon subsided and this morning there’s an air of quiet satisfaction despite the loss of two points. Our team play was outstanding, considering that it was the first match of the season. We (almost) always had plenty of men both in attack and defence, worked hard as a unit and tracked back for 90 minutes. In the first half City broke swiftly after we had a corner, yet by the time the ball reached our box we had 6 men back. That would not have happened last season.

We missed chances but at least we made them against a team with a disappointingly negative outlook. Understandable as it’s an away match versus one of their closest rivals but City have such quality I had expected more. There will be more as the season progresses, I’m sure.

Tactically, our 4-4-2 was seldom outnumbered in the middle but up front Crouch and Defoe still operate as individuals. JD’s off the ball play continues to improve but his runs should be sharper. When the ball is coming from the right, he usually drops away instead of running for a ball down the right channel. It’s because his instincts take him towards goal but often he needs to wait for a pass or three as the move develops rather than go too early and be marked out of it.

Our full backs were cautious for the most part – I’m not sure Charlie crossed the halfway line. It meant that even when we pushed on, we always had three men at the back. This in turn gave the midfield some security to go forward and could be the way we maximise attacking resources whilst staying strong in defence when teams drop back into their half to defend. City made it easier because they were so narrow; it would be difficult if a winger kept Corluka occupied out wide. Dawson was scarily willing to commit himself, often inside the City half, but again this might have been part of the tactics because Corluka was usually behind him. It’s still reckless and Daws should make his choices more conservative before flying in. Get stuck in is fine, but miss and he’s on his arse and out of the equation.

Man of the match was Assou Ekotto, by a nose from Bale. Neat in the challenges and creative in his use of the ball, his long curling passes were a feature of our performance and his tackle on SWP was a match-saver (although MOTD showed his was the error that allowed SWP the space).

So early days but the signs are good. Points lost in circumstances where later in the season I may be feel less sanguine. Now, this feels like a promising beginning, and the first half especially was a thrilling spectacle. Roll on tomorrow night – impose ourselves in the same way and we’ll win.

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12 thoughts on “Spurs v City – I Feel Fine

  1. Fair enough performance. Not too sure about Benny as MOTM. As long as we beat Young Boys tomorrow, and Stoke on Saturday, I’ll be very happy.

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  2. Afternoon Alan,I have to say I was mightily impressed with our play,But we have to find a way of profiting from our dominance,kind of how Man UTD seem to gradually squeeze the opposition down into the confines of their own penalty area until each player seems to separate from the nucleus of the team,before imploding under the sheer strain of force.As if they had somehow found themselves under the waited depths of an great ocean,and having then failed of any strength to overcome the current above,taking to fall deeper until their body could contain it no more.

    Yet,I have confidence enough to believe this understanding will come with time and experience,and at least while we’re waiting we can enjoy the ride.

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    • Profound, my philosopher friend.

      You get the feeling that Utd would have indeed scored, but we did grind them down for ‘that moment’ and Bale put it wide.

      It’s more about ability. Crouch does Ok but his limitations emerge in games like this.Great for the knock-downs at corners – City zonal marking meant he had a good header from set pieces by drifting to far post – but hardly a danger in open play.

      Cheers, Al

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  3. BAE was definitely my MOTM too.

    Tough in the tackle, all action, and great passes to Baler too.

    Good to see him getting some credit from Spurs fans who often get on his back unfairly imo.

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  4. Another keeper plays his “game of the season” against us…

    Trouble is we have too many games where we don’t turn possession and shots into goals – not just recently but for a while.
    Do we need a new striker – surely we have 4 “world class” now, so who will we buy, and what will the financial constraints be? My view is always that if you sell a player for £20 and replace him with a player for £20, you have the same player, as market forces dictate the prices – so an investment is the answer, which will not happen until after Young Boys have been sorted.

    For me Bale was MoM – BAE did well to save his error, but I felt Bale edged it. (And obviously the actual MoM was Hart, sadly)

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    • Thanks for dropping by, Simon, always welcome here.

      I think different strikers give us different options. We have 4 quality strikers who each bring us different skills and abilities. Harry’s double substitution on Saturday altered our play as well as freshening things up. So your 20 quid can buy you different things. Crouch could be the final piece in the jigsaw for a team that plays off and around a big, relatively static centre forward, to me he’s holding us back but he’s worth as much to that team as a roving, quicker player might be to us.

      Word is that we’ve bid 12m for Remy but business will be done, or not, only after next week’s CL home leg.

      Regards,

      Al

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  5. Great performance from our side. The fact that we couldn’t score was frustrating, but City were embarrassingly dominated and that was more than I could ask for at the start of our campaign. Having said that, the forwards need to prove they can score, starting tonight against Young Boys. If not, then it looks like we have picked up from where we left off last season.

    COYS!

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  6. How wonderful to see Spurs play like that in the first half. Such panache and verve. I also think our bench looked as impressive as theirs.
    I agree with Simon above that turning possession into more shots and putting teams away is a problem that remains, but I think most everyone has the same problems. Indeed bar Man Utd and Chelsea. So we can improve in that way and I am buoyed by the game on Saturday. If Bale scores we are cock a hoop; the margins are that fine. In that way, I agree with Alan, we made the moment, which is important.

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  7. No surprise really on Saturday. Strikers who have not been scoring continued not to score. The real surprise would have been if one of our strikers had managed to find the net.

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    • I’m hoping this genuinely was ‘one of those days’ rather than another ineffective display from the forwards.

      I really hope we bring another striker in. Watching Crouch and Keane is painful, whereas Defoe and Pav blow hot and cold too often.

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