Even my wife wondered why on earth Spurs were playing football on a Friday. By the end of the match I knew exactly what she meant. As it was ESPN, perhaps Spurs prepared for the Saturday evening game, because they certainly weren’t ready for this one.
This was dire, as disorganised as Harry’s tax return. Various combinations and formations were unable to create anything or prevent a keen, able Watford team from making a series of opportunities that should have dumped us out of the cup. Frankly that was what we deserved.
I was excited by the team news. I rightly suspected that Redknapp would pick a strong side and the attacking 4-3-3 should have provided both strength in the defensive midfield areas – Livermore and Parker – with the enticing prospect of Defoe, Adebayor and Van der Vaart linking up front. In fact, nobody knew what the hell they were supposed to be doing. Modric was wandering in an indeterminate fashion on the left, or not when he felt like it. Watford powered through the rolling hills and green verdant pastures that became the gap between Danny Rose and the centrebacks. From this pleasant Hertfordshire stroll, Watford made 5 chances in the first 17 minutes. Just before the last one in that series, Luka’s despondent figure could be seen belatedly trotting back to the edge of the box, as if he had suddenly realised he was supposed to be defending.
Adebayor’s movement was good in the early stages as we made pretty patterns without getting anywhere. No matter, plenty of time, just building up some momentum. And that was it, really. You might have thought he would have run around a bit just to keep to warm, but no, his undergarments and gloves did the trick. Let’s merely say he was conserving his energy for a long season ahead, then draw a veil over the rest.
We left far too much space on either wing and Watford to their great credit made full use of it, either by coming down the wing or slotting willing runners into the channels. We were all over the place: the young attack of a lowly Championship side created vast gaps in ways that we’ve not been used to this season. We were fortunate that their finishing did not match the poise of their build-up and that Cudicini was in good form, And just fortunate, really. At one point all our coaches were in the technical area, so frantic were we to sort out this mess, but nothing much got through to the players. We carried on regardless.
The goal came against the run of play. For once Watford’s defensive midfield barrier was absent as Rafa advanced towards the goal. His shot was almost indifferent, nothing else on so I may as well have a go but even so, there was no real intent. The keeper misjudged the bouncing ball and we got away with it. It shows the value, I suppose, of having individuals who can come up with something when the team’s off colour. The excellent pass that set Rafa up, from Walker I think although my stream’s not so clear and I couldn’t bear watching it all over again at half or full time, took out 4 defenders.
That’s the last time you will read the word ‘excellent’ in this report. Lennon’s arrival signalled a change of shape and some chance of a revival. We looked better without making any inroads and as the game went on, Watford went into a purple patch that left us reeling. Kaboul was made to look a mug, Dawson got in the way a few times, that’s the best I can do, I’m afraid. JD was anonymous and Parker had his most ineffective game for us. He’s lost some momentum since his injury and although his ferocious appetite for the game is welcome, if he is carrying any sort of a knock he should have been rested yesterday.
Cudicini had a fine match. He doesn’t get up to the top corners any more but like Friedel he makes the saves that are makeable, gets down quickly and caught enough in the air to steady the ship. I don’t have ESPN at home so I don’t know if the MOM vote is usually as farcical as last night. Why don’t they just go straight to a vote on which team has the most fans watching? A Watford man should have taken it but Carlo was head shoulders above any other Spur.
Small mercies – we controlled the last 5 minutes. Dismal and apathetic, this awful performance should be consigned to the recycle bin of the mind. The FA Cup is nothing if not about tradition, so in these circumstances, after playing so badly yet still winning, I believe I am duty bound to say, ‘it looks like the cup has got our name on it’. Churlish to point out that the same is also said about by teams that play really well in cup games, but I’ll leave that rubbish to Adrian Chiles.
We tried a different formation and failed miserably. The players we have are great, we need a striker and maybe a defender in the window but we knew that before last night. The one element that has changed is Harry. We fall apart for the first time this season and Redknapp’s in court all week. Coincidence? Nobody knew what they were doing and HR has not been around. I’ll reserve judgement but coincidence only takes us so far. Let’s put this one away, enjoy the cup this weekend knowing we are through and soundly beat Wigan on Tuesday. Then we’ll see about coincidence.