When Harry said he was going to play the kids, I didn’t think he meant kids. They did us proud last night, Livermore and Carroll in particular performing with integrity and application helped out towards the end by a goalkeeper old enough to be their dad. Not everything worked but that’s only to be expected. Great result, no complaints.
At the start of the season Redknapp threatened to play the kids in the Europa League, but interestingly the names he mentioned at the time were Livermore and Townsend, young men with some on-loan league experience under their belts already, and the 25 man squad was deep even without Rafa. Injuries and an evil fixture list meant that assessment had to be revised to the point where the bench could have been the local pub team for all I knew, although the excellent Windy’s Blog will have all the information your heart desires.
Although Redknapp has sounded unhelpfully dismissive of the demands of the Europa League, I suspect this is born more out of frustration than a lack of ambition. He wants to shine in Europe: with all his experience he’s not had a proper tilt at this until last year. The ridiculous fixture list is not his fault. Thursday, Sunday, then Tuesday, it sounds like an end-of-season fixture pile-up after a bad winter but in fact it’s the powers that be killing the golden goose. Even I cannot work up any enthusiasm for the Stoke game. Absolutely no disrespect to them intended – they have done a fine team-building job over the last few years – because home to the Arsenal would be still be tarnished.
Back to the positives. Most impressive was the assurance and poise displayed by our young men last night. The joint was rocking and rolling, intimidating atmosphere but their concentration seldom wavered. Livermore once again willingly took on the responsibility of being the midfield leader. I’ve commented before about his discipline and understanding of his role, of maturity above his years. Carroll is over-ambitious at times – the simple ball is best to keep possession – but I applaud the way he calls for the ball, moves and makes himself available even if he himself is under pressure. Can’t ask for more.
These two set the tone for this solid effort. We kept our shape and the ball for most of the game, two banks of four when not in possession and quick to get forward when we had the ball. Too quick sometimes – cue a fearsome touchline rant from Jordan, presumably asking them not to over-commit and for Gio to link forward more. As individuals the back four were average. Walker didn’t get forward, Bassong’s late failure to challenge gave PAOK two good opportunities and Townsend needs to be told passing is allowed. However, as a unit they were seldom stretched. They held the high line, thus playing the Greek team offside, and the fullbacks didn’t wander. Credit to Redknapp for the tactic.
It worked: PAOK were naive and lacked ambition. I kept waiting for them to break loose but they never did. Wonder if they were intimidated to some extent by playing the CL quarter finalists? They were poor and hesitant.
The Europa League and another penalty won by Harry Kane. Anonymous last night, against Hearts twice and on this occasion last night, when he gets a chance he looks every inch the striker, quick, good touch, eye for the goal. That’s the promise he brings. Anyway, the penalty that wasn’t. Not given but stonewall, I believe the term is. It shouldn’t be, because stonewall means to delay or slow down, to block something. Certainly not certain. Pedantry feels so good all of a sudden. I’m not prone to it, but it’s such a release….
But the ref wasn’t a homer, he was just lousy. Cudicini was daft to leave his hands so close to the forward a couple of minutes later – the bloke stuck out his foot to make sure there was contact. The ref gave encroachment, it was but that mild encroachment happens all the time. Then Carlo pulled himself together. Lino waits until the keeper commits. So Carlo feints right then left suddenly. Lino sees him, has to push it further into the corner out of the way but too far and wide. Carlo grins.
Cudicini the heir apparent when our first choice retires? He’s lost some of the spring in his legs but PAOK went for the bottom corners not the top and Carlo can get down as fast as James Brown. Three good saves, one great.
Gio has never done a thing for us. He’s played out of position. The only thing I got from the Copa America was a sense of bitter envy at my fellow bloggers who had the time to watch it, but in other internationals I have seen, he plays across the front but behind the striker, not stuck out wide. Just because he can beat a man doesn’t mean he’s a winger.
Released from the burden of being the main front man, Pav could have done more with the ball. As ever, he and we were better when we passed and moved, not run headlong into tackles.
Like a sprinter at the Olympics, Spurs have to conserve energy for the later rounds but can’t totally ease up for fear of not qualifying. It’s a delicate balancing act. Redknapp is banking on wins at home plus a point or two away. That should be enough and he will play a strong side at home to get us through. This was a bonus and we are on our way.