All Good Things Come To An End. Shame It Had To Be Like This

You know what they are going to do. You don’t like it and wouldn’t play that way if it meant 80 points a season, but that’s what they are going to throw at us and if we’re not prepared, it’s down to us.

I don’t like it but I’m not going to go on about it because then I’ll end up like Arsene Whinger, always complaining about injustices that his precious little angels have to face when they play those awful big boys from up north. Have to rise above all that. Have to fight for the right then play them off the park, even if there is less of a park than last week.

I admit I didn’t take kindly to the refereeing. A hand in the first goal, another off the line, indiscriminate wrestling in the box at corners plus an offside miss by two yards, one of the worst decisions all season. In real time I thought Manu might be on but I was shocked when I saw that amount of daylight. But we can’t control refereeing whereas defending is down to us and if we can’t handle a ball slung into our box we’re not going to stay in the top four.

Above all, I don’t like us looking like mugs and that’s how we finished the first half. The signs were ominous from their first attack, where Etherington’s shot was well saved by Friedel who was more alert than the 3 midfielders gazing on from the edge of the box. But we didn’t learn anything from that escape.

There are different schools of thought regarding defending those throws. One says crowd the near post and the target man, Crouch in this instance, for obvious reasons. The other says that this in fact makes it easier for the attackers because it commits defenders to that one area, thus leaving room if there should be a successful knock-down, they get in each other’s way so they can’t jump cleanly and they also obstruct the keeper.

We chose the latter but with the wrong personnel. We know how to deal with Crouch – little guy on him who gives him a nudge so he can’t jump while the big guy challenges in the air. But we failed to do that. No one knows better than us, yet we failed. Inexcusable. Also, Adebayor was the wrong man to mark him. Gomes used to come, Friedel stays back. No matter, provided that we have a plan and this was absent. Down to HR this one. We changed it in the second half with Bale involved.

The second goal was lousy marking. Yesterday Kaboul needed to be on fire but ended up a smouldering wreck, a burnt-out funeral pyre for our hopes (steady on, go easy on the metaphors). I’m a big fan but on the very day we needed him to dominate, he looked lost and forlorn. He failed even to back his pace near the end and extinguished our revival with a needless tackle (the guy was going nowhere). Later, Gallas showed him how it was done, shepherding an attacker into the safety zone.

Our opponents have been criticised on the boards and twitter for their rugby tactics but in truth they played the numbers game and there’s nothing illegal about that. For those set pieces they had men in the box. That’s what it’s about, the percentage game. That’s Crouchie’s game – of course you will always get something from that and they had the men waiting for those ill-directed touches. We should have  matched them. They got men back too, five or six across the box, 12 yards out. Nothing to do with the pitch, although it is plainly absurd that teams can alter the markings to suit themselves. They didn’t mind us having the spare man out wide because they backed themselves, rightly, to win the cross ball. Percentages again.

Harry sussed that and we kept them occupied in the second half with Defoe and Rafa more central, Walker offering width on the right, freed up by three at the back, a brave piece of tactics by Redknapp that nearly paid off. Should have paid off but I’ve promised not to whine.

The opposition fans were livid when Luka went down. Unrealistic but I kind of like football being played in a bear-pit atmosphere and backs against the wall suits Modric down to the ground. He was outstanding in the second half and did everything possible to get us firstly back into our rhythm and then into the match. Manu had a poor first half but worked harder in the second, his movement giving space in the middle. Unfortunately VDV was anonymous throughout, just when we really needed him, so those gaps were not used well.

Defoe struggled to get on the ball and hung back crucially on two occasions when we managed to get behind their defence: the deadly cross was wasted. A word of praise for Bassong, who did well. He’s not had a good year so some praise when he does OK.

A frustrating afternoon because of our opponents’ style, our defending and the ref, made worse by the context of the pressure at the top. City might do us a favour tonight. However, it’s one loss after a superb run. Time to start another, to take it to Sunderland from the off and then the vital benchmark game versus Chelsea. Also, the old Tottenham would have been beaten after 20 minutes whereas now we knew we were in with a fighting chance of a comeback that so nearly succeeded. No doom and despondency, then. Frustration is unsettling but I can live with it, for the moment anyway.

15 thoughts on “All Good Things Come To An End. Shame It Had To Be Like This

  1. We did enough in the second half to more than make up for the poor start, but that start was just as inexcusable as some of the decisions.

    We need to play for whole games, and not just ‘turn it on’ in patches.

    The line-up was naive, and looked ill-prepared. I think we’ve been fortunate of late with how we play away from home, and this result may have been coming.

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    • I’m keen on Parker and Sandro as two DMs and this is the type of game that would suit that formation. Know what you mean that we might have been due this one. However, not sure if Sandro was fully fit. Also, I’m not keen on changing successful teams just for the sake of a throw-in and after all, we have been doing well lately….

      We missed Dawson and King, we are all tending to forget that we have reached this place without 2 England centre halves being regularly available.

      Regards, Al

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      • Yes, it would seem rather churlish to accuse the manager of picking the wrong team when it was more or less the same team that got us up to third in the first place, but I think that’s what differentiates a good manager from a great one; the ability to foresee what needs to be changed and change it before, rather than react later.

        The phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is often true in football, but a little too simplistic for my liking. Probably a poor analogy but you wouldn’t race an F1 car on dry tyres on a rainy day, even though it had won the last 6 in fair conditions on them.

        Credit where it’s due, Redknapp’s change to 3 at the back at half time worked well, and dispelled the myth that he’s wholly inept when it comes to the finer nuances of the game (in normal circumstances it would have seen us finish with a point at the very least). His starting formations on the other hand tend to rely on us coming out of the blocks on top, because when we don’t, we struggle to compete with the teams who, let’s just say, are less attractive on the eye. When we do, and we hit our stride from the off, we often struggle to take that dominance through to the final whistle, usually due to not putting enough daylight between us and them, which always gives the opposition hope.

        It might not appeal to some, but I’d like to see us start some games with a more solid lineup, win the right to play, then win the match finishing strongly with the opposition knowing that they were well beaten from start to finish. A trade off in the ‘Spurs’ way’? The ‘glory game’ (insert your Nicholson/Blanchflower quote here) at all cost is all very well and good, but it’s unlikely to bring the league title back to WHL as long as there are teams like Stoke around.

        In short, we have to either stay as we are, but start being much more clinical, or use different horses for different courses (perhaps both).

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        • Which only goes to show that the best thing about this blog is the comments.

          I agree. At the start of the season I suggested that we had to be more boring. I probably used other words but that one will do for now. I also reckoned that Sandro and Parker with 3 further forward is the way to go. Not all the time, and it’s not negative, just stronger, makes best use of what we have.

          So Harry’s done us proud and Azza’s played some blinders, but as you say, not all the time.

          Regards,

          Al

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  2. Got to stop letting teams get at us as they did in the first half,or letting teams get a toe hold with lazy starts to the second half as has been the case recently.
    We made Walters, Crouch and Shotton look good players, which they’re not.
    Gallas looked rusty and timid.
    That aside, a great re shuffle and terrific second half shift that should have seen us take all three points. If Foy and his cronies had been on their game Stoke would have played with ten men (maybe even nine, Woodgate should have gone) for most of the second half.

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    • Agree re their players. Benny was left unprotected – Bale should have dropped back to help. Basics. And last season Gallas took a while to get going, same this time round.

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  3. I agree with TMWNN that the lineup was all wrong. A lot of tweets and comments these last few months have suggested playing two defensive midfielders for these tough away games but somehow that message didn’t get through to Harry. Why leave Sandro on the bench for a match like this one?

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  4. Sandro wasn’t fully fit (training injury I believe), therefore would only have been risked if one or both of Modric and Parker got injured

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  5. Shawcross’ performance would have done the most cynical of Italian defenders proud. He combined solid defending with the most “streetwise” defending. It was a masterclass of its type but at this stage of the development of the game of football, it should not be allowed to go unchecked.

    On at least four occasions he restrained an Tottenham player who was attempting to score in the box through sleight of hand or, when necessary, outright mugging (and that’s just the stuff that I spotted). Each occasion merited a penalty. Moments after a particularly blatant mugging of Adebayor he deliberately blocked a shot on the line with his arm.

    Hilariously, Shawcross indirectly got Kaboul his first yellow, for having the cheek to protest about having been mugged by him.

    It was as if he had been administered a magic charm prior to the match which prevented the ref from spotting any wrongdoing.

    And yes I agree that we should have been much better prepared…but I am still fuming!

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