Spurs are off and running. The rest have two games start but at least we are in the race. The season starts here.
Just as this new season had worked up a head of steam with the window closing, plenty of interest in how new arrivals and reinforced squads would fare, cracking football and lots of goals, the international break brought everything to a grinding halt. Like a train stopping sharply in the middle of nowhere when you are already running late for a party, for Tottenham fans it compounded our growing frustration. Even when we arrived, we hadn’t dressed properly or looked in the mirror and finished our make-up.
We weren’t ready. Without speculating over the reasons yet again (I’ve really had enough of the window), we did not sort out our business at a time when everyone knew the stakes were especially high. A couple of players and we truly had something. It wasn’t merely knowing who would be joining, it was also the possibility of a last-minute signing or departure hanging over the club that held us back. Two heavy defeats against the Manchester teams who both as it turns out are reaching new heights of brilliance didn’t help.
Now we know where we stand and can get on with it. Although I would have wished for more quality signings, this squad is more than good enough to compete in the league and all the cups, with cover almost everywhere, alternative tactical options are available and healthy competition for places. Post-match Redknapp sounded grumpy. He blamed the outgoing players as a disruptive influence but I wonder if subconsciously he was expressing that same frustration over failed purchases, an atmosphere of uncertainty and in his case the possibility that the chairman has not done as he asked. Like the rest of us, he just wanted to get on with it too. The Everton postponement was in hindsight a blessing in disguise because we clearly weren’t properly prepared.
For the sake of historical accuracy, Tottenham Hotspur’s 2011-12 season began about 57 minutes into the Wolves game. Our opponents just about shaded the first half and we had Friedel to thank for a few saves to keep us going, although we had a couple of chances ourselves. The messy beginning to the second period was resolved when we kept the ball for a few minutes and moved it around smartly. We had to wait another 10 minutes for the first goal. However, this was the moment when not only did we assert ourselves but a collection of talented individuals composed themselves into a confident, competent team.
No single player stood out: we have a solid team effort to thank for the win. No one man was at the top of their game, and that makes the victory more enjoyable as there is more to come. This proves the value of having the right men in the right place doing the right things. You don’t have to be all on perfect form to play well as a team.
Adebayor clearly wasn’t match sharp but he didn’t have to be to bring out the qualities of his team-mates. He can run across the line from side to side (or in his case stroll) or drop deeper if needed. Back to goal he can hold it up, facing it he causes trouble, it’s all the same to him. He’s there to make little runs in the box, either creating room for others or to pick up a ball into the channels. A toe-poke is all it takes sometimes, right place and someone being there on on the end of it.
Parker made some mistakes, losing possession unnecessarily a few times. He more than made up for this with his pass and move style that set us going, blending well with Modric: this could be a mouthwateringly tasty mixture in the future. He works hard and knows the needs of the back four when we don’t have the ball. He times his forward runs nicely, coming in the second wave so to speak when the gaps are clear in front of him.
Friedel had little to do in the second half but he exudes a sense of assurance in the box that we haven’t seen for so long now. King took 45 minutes to get into his stride – no criticism as I can’t recall a player who performs so well after injury disruptions like the ones he has had to ensure. An hour in and it was as if he’d never been away. It allowed Kaboul to do what he does best, to be decisive and commit himself. For the most part he did well – more of his trademark at-full-stretch interceptions in the box – and Walker is sufficiently aware and quick to slot into the gap left behind.
Bale didn’t stampede past defenders but he was unlucky towards the end and Harry’s decision to switch wings helped cover their left-side forays. Luka had a decent game, solid if not spectacular but he’s relishing this passing approach. He tucked in deeper to protect the lead for the final 10 minutes.
Two players that frustrate me, Defoe and Krancjar, did well. I don’t see much point in Defoe sitting behind the front man – he’s neither clever nor able enough to make the most of that. However, sitting left in the second half with Bale on the right made it harder for Wolves to start their attacks. My criticism of this so-called natural striker is his apparent reluctance to take up good positions in the box, so I was delighted to see his lovely finish to a delightful move for the second. A beautiful little goal, with the passing and movement that contributed to it. More please. Niko benefited from the solid platform behind and showed his best. For me the VDV role is his best position.
Ultimately the win was secured by 20 minutes of outstanding possession football after we scored. So often I’ve complained about how easily we give the ball away. Yesterday poor Wolves didn’t have a sniff and we closed out the win without any alarms. The shape of things to come – the team is the thing, keep the ball, work hard, concentrate and we can’t be touched.
Finally, a complement to Livermore’s growing stature is that Harry is confident enough to ask him to do a difficult job, DM to protect us from Wolves’ despairing attempts to get back into it, and young though he is, he knows just what to do.
Uncle Harry’s Long Arm of Comfort reached around the shoulders of one man who has complained about not getting away, Dos Santos. Shrewdly Redknapp put aside his obvious distrust of Gio’s abilities and brought him on for an ineffective but morale-boosting few minutes. I hope Gio got the message that now everything is settled, he’s a part of the squad too. Loved the way he looked up at the board before he came on. Me? Surely not? That is my number….