Spurs away and just like the old days. An inferior side produces their best because we let them play. Shaky at the back, vulnerable to the simplest long ball. Can’t keep hold of the ball or close down our opponents. One difference, mind – we won.
The familiar 4-4-2 created plenty of opportunities early on. We used the width this formation offers to good effect, trying to pull Blackburn’s central defence out of position through a combination of searing runs from deep and beautiful long passes sweeping across the field. Adebayor was under orders to pull out wide too, although given the space on offer I would have preferred him to remain more central, but every time the ball came into their box there was no shortage of willing recipients.
This counterattacking at pace took the breath away at times. My kind of football, and although Manu had a quiet game, movement of this nature would have been impossible with Crouch leading the line. It culminated in a fine opening goal. Walker picked up the ball near halfway, kept going, and going, and going…then a neat ball, even though he was moving at a rate of knots he had the presence of mind to not only pick out his man but also to use the ball with delicacy and precision. Rafa stroked it home, a top class piece of football all round. We should have had more to show for our dominance in this period of the game.
I thought Blackburn were supposed to be rubbish and their manager out of his depth. No one told their players. Most managers in the country would envy their application and energy and they forced their way back into the game as the first half wore on. No wonder Spurs have looking at Hoilett. he impressed me last season and with some coaching on his final ball is a genuine prospect.
Credit to them therefore but old faults reappeared in our play that worsened as the match went on and made the last half hour a nail-biting stomach churning 30 minutes of anguish, on my sofa at least. Like I said, just like the old days.
Lennon’s selection was in part down to the problems experienced last week when we failed to handle Newcastle’s width because the full-backs were left exposed. He did some decent chasing back but not enough and was hesitant coming forward. Also, the whole midfield four at times did not work back hard enough, Bale being particularly guilty, and there were big gaps between our back and middle fours. Too much space, not enough pressing. The marking for the equaliser was crazy – from a set piece we were outnumbered in our own box – and throughout the second half the crosses rained in without us making any appreciable effort to stem the flow.
Once the ball got into our box, there was trouble. Too much room between the defenders and too heavy a reliance on Blackburn’s ability to provide a wayward final ball. Set pieces were a nightmare as Kaboul and Bassong struggled. When we won the ball, too frequently we gave it away again. Unlike us this season – this is an aspect of our play that has improved massively.
I feared we would concede. Sure, I wanted the three points but there was something daft going on in my head about not wanting to tarnish the memory of Rafa’s two goals, as we did when JD scored a blinder at Wolves but we drew. His second was a sumptuous thing of understated beauty, an effortless arc inside the post, struck first time at pace. VDV had a fine game. My criticism at the break was that he should have dropped back more to help out the midfield. However, what do I know? I’m not a great one for stats but in the first half he ran further than every other Spurs player. So much for those who say he’s unfit and lazy. Done properly, that free role takes a lot of effort but it paid off yesterday. A class act.
On the balance of play and chances, Blackburn earned at least a point. However, they suffered the fate familiar to many teams at the bottom of the Premier League – they weren’t sharp enough in front of goal and wasted what came their way. I admire Redknapp for wanting to keep the the team’s shape but I was crying out for Sandro or Livermore long before the end. Boy is he stubborn. In the end, the last ten or fifteen minutes were our best defensively and Blackburn’s effort petered away feebly.
Walker had another fine game. he’s majestic coming forward and as I noted in my description of the goal, he has considerable presence of mind in addition to his power. Defensively his positioning needs work but he has the pace to get out of trouble, with time to spare to come across the box and help out his team-mates, as he did on several occasions. Who scouted him at age 18 or 19? Give that man the freedom of the borough.
Neither Parker nor Modric imposed themselves on the game, without playing badly. Bale was great going forward but poor defensively. He must work on this.
And we won. Win when not at your best, that’s the measure of a good side. You’ve heard that one before, but certainly there is a resilience about Spurs that has come from our European exploits last season. Also, today notwithstanding, we keep possession better and Freidel provides steadiness at the back. Maybe he can’t get up into the top corners any more but he marshals his defenders and cuts out the errors. Most importantly, away from home we are scoring more readily than last year, which gives us something to protect and makes it much more of a challenge to beat us.
Some anxiety and fear, but this is Spurs. The magnificence of those two goals will be the memory marker for this game, and 5 wins in 6, 5th in the league, I’m really not complaining. In fact, couldn’t be happier.
Coming up: stay tuned for a review of Gazza’s new book and a chance to win a copy. Oooh.