Slip Sliding Away

At the risk of letting light in upon magic, I sometimes prepare a few things to say before the game starts. Bit of background, some context maybe, the key themes to put the match into the context of what’s gone on before. For this one, as recently as last week I resolved to stand back from the clamour about this being the 4th place decider. Whatever the result, Liverpool away was the real deal because I had long since given up on the Champions League, even if others hadn’t. The Europa League was the only prize at stake, and given the anti-climatic season’s end, I would have been satisfied.

That innocuous introduction seems absurdly  presumptuous now, just a few days on. Through no shortage of effort or application, we struggled to break down the resolute defences of first Blackpool then Manchester City, dominating both games in terms of possession and territory but with only a single goal and point to show for it, and that a long range effort. Make that one win in 13, and as if things couldn’t possibly be worse, Liverpool score 5 Fulham with a star performance from a striker we were seriously after.

Defeat is one thing but life, rub it in our faces, why don’t you. Last year’s hero turns villain with an undignified own goal for an undeserved winner. At the end, caution and negativity triumphs over the cavalier devil-may-care attacking darlings of the neutral who wants exciting, open football.

We the fans watch and feel the process, the ups and downs of our fortunes, but there’s always one moment when the true impact hits, whether that be pain or joy. That instant is different for each of us: mine was 5 minutes before the final whistle last night. I knew the wheels had come off, we all did, disappointment but I never had outrageous expectations so that had cushioned the blow. Until then. For in the eyes of the City fans, desperate and twitching for the end yet simultaneously giddy with the ecstasy of what is to come, I saw me, 12 months ago almost to the day. Defeat was not so much disappointment, it’s deprivation.

Suitably crushed, in the spirit of comradeship I wanted to tell them what all Spurs fans knew – we were never going to score. On twitter, most seemed to have turned over to watch the Apprentice. Ironic then that the programme’s lead character Alan Sugar took us to midtable mediocrity whilst trousering tens of millions in personal profit.

In many ways this match was our season in microcosm. After a few early scares, we gradually asserted ourselves through some fine possession football. City had done their homework and tried to exploit our season-long weakness of keeping too large a gap between the centre halves and the back four. The difference when we attacked was marked, with their fullbacks tucking right in. Rose made one or two positional errors to start with, but he’s quick and a quick learner. Get the positioning correct and with that pace he’s looking a genuine prospect at full-back – he had a fine game.

We were under real pressure but to the players’ credit we seldom played as if this were the case . Then we threw it all away. Crouch’s’ lackadaisical effort to clear that ball, off-balance as the messages from brain to foot took even longer than usual to pass along the nervous system, was poor but the real problem was the dozy marking that enabled Milner to put the ball across from close range. It’s a short corner with no one there. Kids stuff. We’ve been there before, so often.

Spells at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second were as good as any we’ve seen this season. Flowing, composed possession football with Modric the heart and soul, Sandro driving on in the middle and Lennon as a bright as a button on the right. After a dreadful start, Pienaar picked up the pace and made his contribution. Van der Vaart worked hard across the box.

All to no avail. Few chances and sadly the two gems, Modric in the first half (I was certain that was in!!) and Pienaar in the second, were missed. Nothing much going on once we get to the edge of the area. Too often we made good passes wide to left or right to produce good crosses but after a while you realised that in fact this was the soft option. City were far happier heading these away, as were Blackpool on Saturday, than if we had burst for the heart of their defence. Crouch was awful, City defenders ravenously gobbling up the supply of weedy predictable  knockdowns with Peter the Grate oblivious to the presence of the goal itself a mere 12 yards distant.

A few comparisons with our usurpers makes for sobering reading. Up front, at first sight there’s not a lot of material to work on, seeing as we penned them back for the majority of the game, yet what they did offer was noticeably more incisive than the majority of our work. At the start of the second half we broke down the right and lennon crossed. In teh middle we had four or five players busitng a gut to get into the box. One of them, Pienaar, forced a brilliant save from Hart. The real reason why we don’t score more is that we did not do that again. Goals can come from the midfield as well as the strikers but not if we sit back in the comfort zone at the edge of the area. Late on, it was Corluka and Lennon who reached the byline. Good crosses, both watched by three or four players who should have been bombing into the 6 yard box, looking for a touch or nudge, anything. An own goal, even….

City do not get numbers forward but those that do come late into the box. Silva is especially good at this, Tevez when he plays, Toure latterly. They come onto the ball, often simple short stabbed passes into the gaps between defenders. We on the other hand are static and stationary, ahead of the ball and waiting for it. Problem is, so are  their defenders.

Secondly, when they were on top early on City’s front three closed us down high up the pitch, stifling our development of the passing movements we love. We don’t do that, and we easily could.

Thirdly, and most crucially for our season, City did not concede and held onto a lead. They cut out mistakes at the back and didn’t give us any room. We played so well to keep the ball despite their efforts – sure City are defensive  but we pushed them back for extended periods so they didn’t have that much of a choice. We are able to play like this – Milan home and away anyone – but we don’t do so often enough.

This blog tries its best to avoid cliches but unashamedly adopts Danny Blanchflower’s famous quote: “the game is about glory, doing things in style.” I keep returning to this because it sums up what I believe about football and what I want from my beloved Spurs. There’s no way I wish to play like City, but the sobering thought that lingers this morning is: they are 4th, we aren’t. As the quote continues, the game really is about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom as City did last night. It’s just that sometimes, there is a balance where caution and graft takes its place alongside the beautiful attacking football. The lesson to take from this match and from this season is that we haven’t got the balance quite right yet. Like an F1 car running low on fuel, on the screen in isolation everything looks the same, bright, shiny and streamlined. Pull away and in wide angle, compared with the rest of the pack, it’s going backwards. The nearer the destination, the more you’re slip sliding away.

13 thoughts on “Slip Sliding Away

  1. When I watch us this season I see Arsenal. A horrible thought I know but bare with me. We all know how much they struggle at times to break teams down, especially when van Persie isn’t playing. We seem to have followed a similar pattern of late. Like them, if we can sign the right players in the right positions we could be real contenders.

    My fear is if signings are left to Redknapp we’ll get mediocre, overly expensive, West Ham knock offs. Judging by his comments in the last 2 months he’s also happy with what he’s achieved at Spurs and we should be too. That’s not a sign of a manager who wants to achieve more, a manager with ambition. He should feel the disappointment of a great opportunity lost this season as much as we do.

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  2. why would he, he’s got what he wanted….to be mentioned in the same sentence as managers with ‘genuine pedigree’. Slot in ‘the sun’, that is his measure all over. Don’t get me wrong if I’m having a sh**, or am in a cafe and my beans need mopping up, I’ll have a quick read too.
    Rednapp = no class / no history / n loyalty, all the trade marks of a passing trend…..

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  3. Fair summing up I’d say, but you missed the fantastic save Hart made from Crouch. I’m probably more phlegmatic about my boy’s. I cheered when we were crap, or even when we’ve won something. I wasn’t happy about Harry’s appointment and still couldn’t tell you how he managed to do what he did, but he did it! Its easy slating post mortem, but I believed everything that was going our way last season, came back to bite us this term. We’ve four-five strikers and Harry’s bought four of them. Fans are crying out for new blood up front, but who?. Personally as I’ve said before its the defence that worries me. Since Dawson’s return the goalkeepers gone, the organization is kaput, and if I see another header won in the middle of the penalty area, I’ll tear out my remaining few hairs. Needless stupid penalties and rash errors have created a shakiness that wasn’t evident when King was captain. Dawson is a fine player, but a captain, a general, no!. Harry has unwittingly uncovered a gem in Rose, why? because he allowed a full back to go out on loan, when no other cover was available. We missed Huddlestone, a fit Tom is an asset. Sandro is getting there, but he will dip and come back stronger, its the nature of things. But we must get rid of some of those who are clearly not good enough, and that means King, Woodgate being pensioned off, Jenas, Pienaar, Kranjcar and Bassong and all of the forwards. That’s wholesale changes at the extreme, and who’ll fill there shoes? What players are we now going to attract?, what funds are available, what players are available?, is Harry going to available and if so would you if you were Levy let him loose with the purse?. Harry’s buys are pretty poor all things considered. Pienaar?, Bassong? Palacios?, Keane?, Crouch?, Defoe?, apart from Kabul who else would you say was worthy?. Now put yourself in Levy’s shoes for a while and what would you do? Harry wanted Joe Cole and Phil Neville and is also rumoured to be going in for Johnson! Ok over to you!

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    • ur spot on mate, redkrapp is the first who needs to b shown the exit door then Levy has to sit down n decide where he really wants to take the club! Its really no surprise we’ve finished outside da top 4 the club made NO signings last summer, the club sat on their arses in the one window when we needed to kick on. Also some of my fellow supporters r quite frankly an embarassment,i cannot believe some genuinely believe we’ve had SUCCESSFUL season!! What planet r these so-called supporters on??

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  4. Another great article. I agree with the feelings you had alan-that negative football has overcome our swashbuckling attacking style. But as you said 4th wasn’t lost yesterday- 1point against wigan, 1 point against west ham, 1 point against blackpool, 1 point against west brom. No disrespect against these teams, but that’s not good enough. We get up for the bigger games, but have always failed to against the lower placed teams… We seem to have this attitude of just by turning up, we’ve got 3points. I don’t think its a time for scapegoats, and I still remain a nig fan of harrys, its been a learning season for everyone and although it will be that bit harder, we can still get 4th back next season. However, I think our lack of squad rotation has killed us, and it shows in the dip of form we’ve had at the end of the season. We’ve played the likes of bale game after game without a break its no wonder he gets injured and dips in form. It also doesn’t take a football expert to realise we don’t have the qaulity of strikers at present to play one up top. We got 4th playing 442 and almost seems like were accomodating van dar vaart to the detriment of the team.

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  5. I hate all the “manager out” blurb as i truly believe that stability is what will eventually make us a succesfull club. Redknapp has done a good job with excellent recources in my opinion. Like the comment made before most of Redknapp’s signings are struggling to get in the side when the majority of the team he inherited are fit. I know it is not always this black and white but if Harry wants to bang on about how he took us from the brink of relegation to the Bernabeu , then he needs to recognise the work that was done before his healing hands were applied to the first teams shoulders. I can’t understand why he is saying that we have had a good season!!!??? We will probably finish 6th below Liverpool and JUST above Everton. If you consider what a rotten start to the season these two teams had it is impossible to imagine why we let them catch us up. I really hope we miss out on the Europa league and i really hope we push on next season. Keep Bale, Modric and VDV and get in a top striker or two….

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  6. If you really want to know what direction Spurs are going in wait until the summer….

    Will Harry walk headlong into the deal offered up by Liverpool FC in this morning’s press “Aaron Lennon for Joe Cole + cash”??

    Please dear god no!

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  7. No goals. It’s quite simple. The Spurs of ‘we’re gonna score one more than you’ have become the Spurs of ‘we’ll let you score first then struggle to score as many’. The goals that do come are long range efforts and/or from midfielders. Crouch does well in Europe, but Premiership defenders have him sussed. Pav has far too high a miss rate. Defoe has been off the boil since getting 5 against Wigan, a combination of injury and seemingly not being trusted. I don’t think Keane will ever play for Spurs again. Defensively, Spurs are actually stronger than in years past. It’s as strong a midfield as I’ve ever seen. But think what a difference a 25-30 goal a season man would have made. In the absence of Lineker, maybe Harry can pick up Torres in the close season at a discount ;-). What’s to be done? That’s what Harry gets paid for after all, to work these things out, but if someone doesn’t start scoring some goals, we’ll have to start block booking 10th again. With the odd relegation scramble every few years.

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    • Agree with you scaryhead it is all about the goals. Except for one thing. Harry does not buy anyone. He sets the targets and the club goes out to secure the deal.
      Last summer/January Harry publicly stated interest in three strikers Bellamy, Carrol and Aderbayour. The club was unable to conclude deals with any of them and any other striker targets that went under the radar too.

      So that shows Harry did his part in trying to bring in strikers last summer and January but the club was unable to do its part and bring them in. With Bellamy, Carrol and Aderbayour up front with the chances our midfield creates we would be in the top 4 right now. This summer Harry will have striker targets again but the club might not get them again. Like you say if we do that then 10th place is calling.

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      • So the money Harry’s wasted on Crouch Defoe and Keane is fine by you?. Surely it has to be a case of moving them on along with Pav before any purchases can be made!

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        • Not at all. I was replying to say that Redknapp reportedly targeted some forwards but he said he does not actually do the deals. As for the forwards Defoe and Keane have not delivered in the past year or so and getting a fee for them is important of course. But do you think we should stick with all the current strikers through next season if nobody matches our asking price this summer. What do we lose if we just miss out on a top 4 place next year because we cannot score. The CL income alone is huge.

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