Spurs Conform To Type

Look on the bright side. It’s a long time since I left the Lane so numb with disappointment and dissatisfaction, so it must mean that most of the time, we’ve been doing OK but frankly after watching this sorry mess of incompetence, I’m struggling with the optimist thing. Instead of reaching for the podium we’re not so much looking over our shoulder as being engulfed on the top bend like an 800 metre runner who went too early in order to win the premature cheers of the crowd. Ten minutes before kick-off, the turnstiles were disconcertingly closed for a few minutes. It seemed strange at the time but perhaps it would have been better if they had remained shut and left me in the street.

Watching Spurs struggle was painful enough but nothing compared with the shot through the heart that is the league table. This was our year, the moment when the long Age of Suffering came to an end and we emerged from the cold dark ages into the light, reborn as the team everyone wants to see, our rivals vanquished as the balance of power finally shifted in our favour. We deserved it, wonderful players at last fulfilling their potential. Pace and movement, grace and beauty, style and glory.

Instead we are fast in danger of conforming to type, pretty boy losers who can’t hack it with the big boys, fancy dan chokers grinding to a halt when the pressure is on. What was so galling about yesterday’s insipid collapse was that we had appeared to have worked through our problems and gathered ourselves. The performances were there if the goals weren’t always. Yet yesterday we turned in the sort of effort that I thought had been been banished long ago, shapeless, devoid of ideas and second best in virtually every challenge.

Still, we are hanging in there, our fate in our hands if we have a storming end to the season. Part of that Spurs stereotype is that we are formidable cup opponents so we’ll see. Too early to write us off but yesterday was crushingly awful. I was left hoping for one of those decisions that the big boys get allegedly but instead of two offside goals or a crazy penalty, all we got was a let-off for a possible Adebayor push in our box that frustrated Norwich. I’ve not seen a replay but it looked a good shout to me. In reality we seldom put sufficient pressure on our opponents to earn anything and long before the end the fans were cheering defenders if they thumped the ball high and long into the stands because at least that was an improvement on what had gone before.

Harry Redknapp has to accept his responsibility for this debacle. By opting for 4-4-2 he upset Tottenham’s rhythm and balance, characteristics which he himself has spent years creating. Over the last week or so I’ve heard countless pundits say that Spurs look better going forward with two wide men. It’s true – we do look better but what catches the eye doesn’t necessarily win matches. We are better all round with a 4-2-3-1 that provides a solid platform for our hugely talented front players to cast their spell. Individuals look comfortable with this set-up. There’s always someone available for a pass. They look up and a colleague is working those familiar patterns.

All teams have a blip, a flat spot during a long season. Ours coincided with a few injuries, plus the fact that, again as is always the way in this league, teams learned what to expect and began to suss out how to play against us. Also, Redknapp tinkered, going on the offensive against Ar****l and others with two up front. Because it left us vulnerable, he eventually changed back. Yesterday showed he’s not learned that lesson after all.

Earlier this season in the fixture at Carrow Road, Spurs mesmerised the Norwich defenders with a dazzling display of counter-attacking football with Bale and VDV in free roles. Yesterday, Lambert comprehensively won the tactical battle. He kept his midfield four fairly tight and narrow. As a result, there were few gaps and they consistently outnumbered Modric and Livermore in centre midfield. Meanwhile, Bale and Lennon were allowed to drift too far forward – Redknapp described us afterwards as playing four up front – thus unbalancing the equation still further. They effectively played themselves out of the game.

Also, and to Norwich’s great credit after Sunderland’s stultifying lack of ambition on Saturday, Lambert was keen to get the ball forward. Wilbraham helped out in midfield but was quick to support Holt up front. With their midfield voraciously gobbling up anything loose and constantly getting to the second ball, this meant we were never allowed to be comfortable at the back.

Redknapp admitted his folly during an odd post-match interview on 5Live where he acknowledged that he changed the formation for this game and that it did not work. He sounded bewildered, as if forces beyond his control were at work. He said that the extra man in midfield had done well for us lately and he had changed it but didn’t seem to know why. Norwich’s application and effort, plus a superb second, made him pay. What’s worrying is that Redknapp, the so-called great motivator, had no answer. He could have altered it during the game but didn’t. If the manager doesn’t know why he does things, then we are in trouble. ‘Miles too open’ we were. Yep, so do something. He brought on Adebayor but this became a like for like with Saha, still two up front, running away from the ball and waiting instead of mixing things up. Very much like for like – Adebayor was just as ineffective as Saha.

That said, the players themselves were universally poor. Before their opening goal, we had three separate chances to win the ball but missed each tackle. For the second, a great hit but no closing down. No longer “Ledley” in the crowd, who now spit out his surname in abrupt disgust. He had another poor game. So sad. Nelsen was a reassuring figure when he came on. With Kaboul hurt, we may have to rely on a player older than our highest squad number.

Modric was our most creative player when on the ball, one-twos and a few incisive first-time through balls. His problem was his inability to get on the ball often enough. Well before the end, he looked shattered, unable to summon the strength loft a late, long free-kick anywhere near their box. There was nothing: he was gone and if he wasn’t fully fit, all the more reason to help him out with more fresh legs from the beginning in centre midfield. Walker had his worst game while Bale was a sporadic threat and he hit the bar with Ruddy beaten although from the opening quarter he rationed his runs as he felt his groin and legs after every lung-bursting effort.

Defoe’s equaliser was a sweet moment out of keeping with the rest of our performance. If we could break through the midfield cordon, there was space between the Norwich back four. Only once did we exploit this, despite Defoe’s runs. Livermore found him with a perfectly paced through ball and his finish was calmness personified. It looked so simple and it was, yet that pass was never repeated. If we go 4-4-2, why on earth could we not see that?

I can only assume that Rafa was not fully fit and of course we know he’s had leg problems ever since he’s been with us. However, he is not only a top class player, he has the mental attitude to handle these pressure games. He’s the one who performs at the top of his game when the heat is on. How we missed him. As it was, several of the side showed their age, at one end in Ledley’s shot to pieces legs, at the other in the desperate inexperience of Bale, Lennon and Walker, matchwinners who made poor decisions. I know they have games under their belt but they aren’t used to this pressure at the top of the table.

Delayed by traffic, I parked further away than usual. Trudging back the car, I turned down Sheringham Road into Cromer Avenue. Even the Norfolk streetnames are taunting me.

13 thoughts on “Spurs Conform To Type

  1. I watched the BBC interview first thing this morning, and was baffled by what Harry was trying to say. He admitted the tactics were clearly not working, seeming oblivious to the fact that he could change it at any time at all during the game.
    And the move from win 9 out of 10, to 6 out of 7, to 5 out of 6 and now 5 out of 5 is becoming as annoying as the other number based phrase he is so keen on using…

    On to the semi final. An FA Cup will keep me smiling and sane

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    • Appreciate the way you sidestepped the devil numbers 2 and 8. Deft.

      And the way Wembley keeps you smiling and sane. Just screws me up inside. You must tell me how you manage that..

      Regards,

      Al

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  2. You (and most of the rest of us) are so right about 4-2-3-1. Arry is not so much a slow learner as incapable of learning. Regarding Ledley – ever since the last-minute pen against Citeh, the signs have been there. A manager who seriously wants to win matches would not have played him; I don’t think we’ll see him for Spurs again.
    And Defoe? Let’s not go there…

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  3. I just want to forget yesterday. Did we turn up for the game. Some of our players just don’t fit in the squad. Adi well I’m sorry it is a waste of money if we keep him next year. he has become an avarage player not even good to hold a ball in his feet and do a decent pass. Saha well just passed it I say. Ledley pack it up and retire too slow and yesterday was the worst performance I saw. Bale and Luca well not even an idea of your usual. Have to pick up where you left against Swansea. please Harry can you leave Bale on the left and Lennon on the right, why the hell turn them around. Bale is lousy on the right as also goes for Lennon on the left. BEA and Walker what the hell happened, where you there. Please stop going foward all the time and concetrate on your position. Long for Tom’s return so maybee we start making some decent passes.We pray to God that Arsenal beat Chelsea and for Chelsea to beat Newcastle. Well good luck and we hope for the best.

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  4. Great article and succintly put regarding HR’s inability to rectify what is happening in these games lately, and whether he agrees or not the England role has affected the squad and is atypical of his machinations to feather his own nest, to the detriment of THFC who gave him the opportunity to manage a top “6” club. It is in times of adversity that you learn more about the squad and the fans, it is galling to see how the England job has been allowed to detract from what at one stage was going to be a timely return to the ‘Glory glory days’ and in this regard DL has to take some accountability in allowing the Eng Mgr will / he won’t he ? to fester and seemingly trying to strengthen his hand and reputation as a ‘tough negotiator’ – try selling that one to the fans if we do not make 4th, as for compensation for HR it will disappear as rapidly as our stuttering conclusion to the season (nothwithstanding FAC SF) as even the FA are not that stupid? are they……………….? 😦

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  5. I don’t think it was the formation but the way we played. We normally keep possession but yesterday we seemed to copy Norwich and play in a hurry with many long balls. Why on earth didn’t he tell them to calm down, at half-time?

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  6. That HR interview (th eclip I’ve seen on the BBC website) is truly strange. He seems to be blaming the formation as if someone else chose it. Perhaps he is not managing as hands on as he was and that is part of the problem?

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    • My usual advice with Redknapp interviews is to not take any notice. Spooky at http://www.dearmrlevy.com says he comes up with whatever soundbite enters his head at the time. No one in the media ever confronts him so he just carries on.

      In this case, I’m sure he picked the team. The only explanation I can think of was that he knew in his own mind that he had made a big mistake. I’m sure he’s keen to play an attacking formation but he couldn’t avoid the evidence before his very eyes that it was not working.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  7. The night is bitter
    The stars have lost their glitter
    The wind grows colder
    Suddenly, you’re older
    And all because
    Harry’s turned into the Tinkerman (without the understanding of the strategy behind it)

    Top piece Alan, even by your very high standards.

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  8. (I was anonymous at 12-43pm April 11. I watched A Star is Born last night…)

    Moreover, I felt sure playing two out and out forwards up front would have been consigned after the Emirates debacle.

    Harry and his Busby Berkeley cast of coaches really need to get a grip and quick. Also, rotation shouldnt mean changing half a side at a time, but rather integrating/revolving one or two each game or two. We’ve run a few very key players into the ground I fear.

    Agree about VDV (and Gallas) providing the hard nosed winner mentality we will need in the run in. Big misses. I don’t want to say Harry (or the players) took Norwich lightly, but he took liberties and paid the price. Of course, Norwich were rather good and they didn’t have VDV or Gallas either.

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  9. Pingback: Spurs favourites for Dutch deal & Levy faces £10m transfer battle – Best of THFC | Kickers.IN

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