Every Little Bit Hurts

The lasting effects of this horrible slaughter could reverberate down the years. Not because of the score – we’ve shipped five against them before and we’ll do so again in my lifetime. Not even because the top two have left us far behind in their wake. No, it’s because after this, how we can trust our Spurs again?

Just as they lull you into some sense of security, the defence disintegrates. Media and fans alike are drooling over our attacking play but lately it’s been the low number of goals against that has really put us up there with the contenders. Last week we played poorly but did not concede, and so it was yesterday. Two goals, one a deflection, the other a dodgy penalty, then our opponents kindly miss or hit the post when well placed. We’re on to something here. At the beginning.

The people who sit behind me at the Lane are long-term fans and good company. Like many of us, they do this thing near full-time, practised comedians performing their schtick. Six up with only 5 minutes to go? Can’t possibly relax. Injury time? Do me a favour, anything could happen. Referee puts his whistle  to his lips – maybe, just now, I could start to think about enjoying the game… I’m with you, Mark, every time. That’s me. Never take anything for granted. Worry about each and every permutation as the ball gets near our box. Except recently I’ve realised that without me consciously altering my attitude,  I feel different. I’m not seeing catastrophe on the end of every aimless long ball or skidding shot.

But I tell you now, that’s over. I miss it already. Even went so far as to say I enjoyed Spurs matches, as opposed to enjoying the victory. Gone now, consigned to the dustbin of memory. From now on, for the rest of the season, back to the gutwrenching stomach-churning carnival that is me and Spurs. The trust has gone.

The build-up to this match was supremely tense even by the standards of the North London derby. This one mattered because it a win would set the seal on our supremacy, what I called when we won at the Lane a seismic shift in the balance of power. Two places but ten vital, gigantic, enormous points ahead, the win would mean it was real, we wouldn’t have to wait until the end of the season for the reckoning. On the morning of the game I felt so sick, I didn’t eat anything, and for a portly chap such as myself, that’s the longest I’ve been without food since that virus 20 years ago. That’s how much it meant.

As you’ll gather, I didn’t feel any better afterwards, although my chosen coping mechanism became not starvation but comfort eating. A shovel of roast potatoes and there’s still plenty of room for trifle. The whole trifle. I can’t put it off any longer. Without the benefit of any replays, as being the mature individual I am, I’ve turned off all the subsequent sports programmes and deleted ESPN goals from the phone, here goes.

This disaster was created by two related factors: a gross tactical miscalculation and a shoddy attitude from the players. The latter could have been caused by the former – the players looked totally bewildered for much of the game. My problem is, the tactics can be rectified but what has this defeat done for morale? Long-term is what interests me, between now and the end of the season. In the same way that the reds of north London were rejuvenated by just two goals in 5 minutes or the reds of Liverpool by a single missed penalty, this sort of battering can cause hidden damage. Like bindweed, the seeds of doubt could throttle the growth of healthy robust football.

We won’t know until the going gets tough, until we go a goal down and have to fight back. For much of the second half, it felt like everything we’ve achieved this season had gone right out the window, to the point where I barely recognised our players. You’re not seriously telling me that was the impeccable Scott Parker not closing down the cross for the first goal then getting himself sent off with a ridiculously impetuous tackle? Our Scott Parker, come on…

Redknapp has to accept much of the blame. I admire his attacking instincts and playing two up front could have put pressure on their shaky back four. However, it’s not if we have to have two up front in order to attack and score goals. Rafa clearly wasn’t quite fit but an extra midfielder or Defoe shuttling between Adebayor and the midfield would have been far more effective. Compounding the gaffe was the choice of Kranjcar in midfield. He doesn’t work hard enough at the best of times but in a four playing against their five, he’s a liability.

Then there’s Bale. If he stayed wide left, he would not only have been an effective attacking force but also he would have occupied Walcott and Sagna. As it was, the two of them had free rein, lining up to pressure the exposed Assou Ekotto. Our players had no idea where Bale would pop up so they seldom got the ball to him. Not that Bale knew what he was doing. He’s a superb player but not the brightest on the pitch when it comes to positional nouse. He needs firmer guidance than he received yesterday.

Wenger lapped it up. After the opening quarter, he completely won the battle between the managers. His average midfield could not believe the time and space they had. With Bale and Niko drifting forward, that’s four men committed upfield when our opponents got possession. Two of their goals originated several touches before the killer pass to set up the chance, when we naively sold ourselves in midfield and there was no back-up so we were stretched. We’re two up, away, in the Premier League, against a five man midfield. The formation was madness and we were punished.

The arrival of Sandro and Van der Vaart at half time gave the side a shape that they might have started with. However, neither were fit. Poor Sandro was desperate to impress but a yard off the pace. Rafa disappeared. Even then, with no change to Bale’s role we stayed narrow and gave Walcott the freedom of the right side of the park. They couldn’t believe their luck.

I’ve pointed the finger at Redknapp, who looked unwell on the bench. However, when Dawson came on, even before he’d put on the armband the camera caught him bellowing at Sandro. I thought he told him in no uncertain terms to stay back in front of the back four. Too late by then but I wonder if Harry’s expression was rage not sulk because his players had disobeyed orders. Clearly Sandro was too far forward too often but I suspect Bale and Niko were on the end of a mouthful too.

Enough now. I’d rather concede 5 goals than not have 7 points in hand but I don’t accept the club’s’ reaction that this was a ‘bad day in the office.’ I had a bad day in the office last Wednesday. All I did was eat too many biscuits, get a headache and work a bit late. I didn’t crash and burn in a tangle of flaming wreckage. I wish we could play right now to generate new memories and begin the answer my query about the consequences for the rest of the season.

No solace or distraction to be found in escapism either. Later, in the car, the MP3 is on random. First song up, ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’, a 60s soul belter by Peggy Scott. Why yah hurt me, baby? Even plastic and transistors have it in for me. Here’s a link, click and let’s relive my misery together.

30 thoughts on “Every Little Bit Hurts

  1. No, and Spurs didn’t crash and burn in a tangle of flaming wreckage either. They lost a game of football but are seven points clear and there’s another game to be won next week. Get behind the lads!!

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    • That formation would have been attacking, pressured their defence more than we ended up doing and crucially would have helped us keep our shape when they had the ball. But if Bale either won’t come back to defend or is told not to, the formation’s irrelevant. then when you have Saha and Niko looking on as well…

      The half time subs were an admission that we got it wrong. Problem is, we got it wrong again in the second half.

      Regards, Al

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  2. Sunday’s debacle is only useful in dispelling the overly simplistic notion of never changing a winning side.

    Apart from Kaboul, that was the same side and formation that trounced Newcastle.

    If Redknapp’s thought process actually was, ‘It worked against Newcastle at home, it can work against The scum away’, I hope the FA come calling sooner than later; we could still win the cup.

    And for £200k a week,or whatever he’s vulgarly being paid, you’d think that Adebayor would at least play along with the rivalry thing, rather than hugging them before the game. We know it means fuck all to most of them any more, but there might have been kids watching – a bit like telling them that Santa doesn’t really exist, but live on the telly.

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  3. We looked a mess out there. I don’t have much to add to Alan’s piece, which sums it up for me and far better than I could. It”ll hurt for a long while. But I think it’ll galvanise us if anything. The two up top won’t be tried again in a hurry against a side we need to respect, and I expect us to beat but no less than draw at home to Man Utd next week.

    We are we are after 26 games because we deserve to be. One admittedly salutory lesson shouldn’t change that… he said hopefully

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      • Us Spurs fans have been saying that the England job is a poisoned chalice for ‘Arry. But the way that seemingly true fans (fair weather/fickle?) are going on about him here (vitriolic, condescending, reactionary, you name it), I’m wondering whether him continuing as our Boss is also a poisoned chalice! 4th-5th-presently in third and this is what he gets, crikey!

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  4. Tommy Harmer: Alan’s right. Crashing and Burning in a tangle of flaming wreckage is exactly what we did.
    As far as I can gauge, on seeing the team sheet, many Spurs fans, myself included, thought “What the f—? No Lennon. 2 up front.”
    Redknapp is an enigma. He says: “We play with wingers. That’s what we do here at Spurs.” Then he proceeds to jettison what it is that makes us special: Pace and Width. Lennon and Bale hugging the touchlines, Defoe running at them. We win that game.
    I hate to say it, but it looks like Ledley may finally be running out of gas.
    Third and the Cup is still on but somehow, it seems like so much more of a long shot than it did after thirty minutes of yesterday’s game.

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  5. An absolutely gut-churning match to watch. The negatives just kept piling up. Bale’s role has visibly changed and we are visibly worse for it, carrying a loose cannon more interested in falling and writhing at the merest whiff of contact. Yes, he has come up with some great — and important — goals. His wonder strike at Eastlands was then counterbalanced by his late delay in playing in Defoe and we suffered. At The Emptycrates, 2-0 he merely had to roll the ball across goal for Saha, but took the chance on himself, as if he were the model selfish striker. I read somewhere that Bale must think he’s the next Ronaldo, only what we saw was Ronaldo McDonaldo.

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  6. What was the thinking in Niko starting and Rafa on the bench. If you are fit enough to be a sub then you must be fit enough to start. Rafa has been the link between defence and attack all season and by starting him behind adebayor with lennon and bale wide, would surely have been a better bet. I know hindsight is a wonderful thing but those of us who watch this team week in and week out would never have started such an important away game with that line up. All I can say is thank god its Man Utd next so that we can get this showing out of our system as quickly as possible.

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  7. Alan, my first post here. I look forward to your blog as much I do the next Spurs game. This one has been eagerly awaited and mildly cathartic in exorcising the demons of yesterday. However, I’m sorry but I have to sound off because I’m so angry about that appalling capitulation. Billy Nick always knew the importance of this game to the fans and must be spinning in his grave. Where was the pride? It’s like the bad old days are back again and all the good work over the past 26 games has gone to waste. I sincerely hope the wheels haven’t fallen off, because we could end up scrapping for 4th spot let alone 3rd! Getting back in the saddle and righting the wrongs of the weekend must be the main order for this Sunday. Admittedly it has to be done against a team that always seems to have the luck and ref’s on its side, but we’re long overdue a win against Manure. Will the international break be a godsend or a dammed inconvenience for us though? Thoughts anyone? It’s been pointed out many times now on this blog that Bale wandering all over the place simply doesn’t work. If we the amateurs can see this, why can’t Harry? I don’t have a problem with Bale switching wings, especially if Lennon is playing, because that increases the headaches for the opposition defenders. And as for him wanting to be like Ronaldo, which bit Gareth? The diving, cheating scumbag that everyone remembers or the great footballer that nobody outside of Old trafford does? I also fear Ledley may be past it now as he wasn’t at the races with the Woolwich’s pace. Finally, I love Harry, but I do wonder about his tactical nous at times.

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    • Welcome, welcome and thrice welcome. That’s a lovely opening and I’m grateful, but please promise me you enjoy Spurs more than this blog. For your sanity.

      The problem with the ‘international break’ is that it isn’t a break this time, just another waste of time set of friendlies. To be honest, i don’t know who is playing for who this week. Walker has withdrawn but he has a knock. Rafa and Sandro will be crucial on Sunday, both are not match fit, so I worry about that. I’ll reserve judgement on the indomitable Ledley. I wrote something for another site this morning and described him as still the best centre half in and around the box. On Sunday he was left cruelly exposed and any defender would have suffered in those circumstances.

      Our fate will be sealed not against United or Chelsea but how we do in the long run of tough but winnable matches after Chelsea.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  8. The question is, “Is has the bubble burst?” The absolute shocking display on Saturday gives rise to the thought that maybe it did. We were reputed to have the best midfield in the league. It certainly was absent against Arsenal. Every time we cleared the area the ball went to the opposition, likewise, when we cleared it also went to Arsenal, and our midfielders were nowhere to be seen. When is Harry going to tell Bale to stay on his wing, where he is dominant and not spend so much time trying to score every time he gets the ball? We were also very short on the opposite wing, Lennon would have made a difference, and in all we were very disappointing. I am afraid that if we do not play better over the next few games, fourth-place will be the best that we would get, and I hope the team rebounds or all those players that have said they are interested in joining our club next season, will have a change of heart and go to the teams that can promise them Champions soccer instead.

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  9. Give it a little rest, guys. We beat them at WHL, they beat us at the Emirates, honours shared for the season. A wash actually! And forgotten. I’ve worked with professional athletes most of my journalistic career. Next game, please! BTW, last season, L’Arse didn’t even beat us in the league, and ‘Pool haven’t beaten us in two full seasons. . .lots of positives going forward. Keep the faith and let’s see where it all shakes out in 12 games time. A true Spurs fan is one who sticks it through the good, the bad, the ugly and the generally indifferent — which prior to ‘Arry and MJ was a lot of years in a row.

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    • Wise words, Ashley. Interesting point re the psychology of professionals. As I said in the piece, I worry about the reasons behind and consequences of the collapse but professionals are used to moving on. Perhaps we fans should take a leaf from their book.

      Regards,

      Alan

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    • Your words are of calm and reason! I think it is all because it was “them” that did this to us and it’s us the fans who have to suffer the most! Someone once said “Spurs v Arsenal games are to endured rather than enjoyed”. I had hoped that as we’re the team on the up and they’re on the down that we could have turned all of the hurt we’ve had to suffer over the years around onto them. Just have to do the double over them next season now!

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  10. Another great article. I have only just resurfaced! I couldnt bring myself to listen to Talksport or watch any sport related programme yesterday. Last night when I got home quite late the first thing I did was delete MOTD to ensure that I didnt succumb and watch it. I will recover and will be back at the Lane on Sunday just like I have been for nearly 30 years.COYS.

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    • I have only just mustered the courage to read your blog.
      I classed last Sunday’s experience as a bad dream and only now that the final black remnants have dissipated, I’ve been able to read what people have been writing. It’s clear that for Spurs fans, last Sunday was a nightmare shared by all.
      What makes it so hard to take was the fact that at 2-0 up, we could have gone on and got a stonking result which would have reverberated around North London. It was in our hands and we threw it away, trousers and pants round ankles, bent over like a batty boy.
      Anyway, must move on. MUST!
      About time we beat ManU!

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  11. Pingback: Van Der Vaart insists Arsenal defeat was one off & could Harry be sticking with Spurs? – Best of THFC | Kickers.IN

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