Plenty of Spurs places on the web where you can find anger as we slip down the table. I’m fond of describing the significance not of individual matches but sequences that crop up as the season plays out. A combination of computer predetermination and evolving circumstances throws up intriguing little sets of fixtures. Take our last segment of the year and it’s relegation form. Don’t forget, after the big sides, this is our winnable run-in.
Tottenham On My Mind, however, is a site of sadness. Flashes of fury quickly passed. The team deserve it for a pallid impression of their real selves on Saturday evening. It looked the same. Same characters, same passing, same runs down either wing, the midfield dominance. But there was nothing really there. Lifeless apparitions going through the motions. I bet if you put out your hand to touch the chest of any of them, it would have gone clean through.
Sad now, because of all recent Tottenham teams, I feel so close to this one. I’ve agonised over their growing pains as they made mistakes, so many mistakes. I’ve stood up for Modric as his apparently frail frame became the target for lesser men. I knew he was tough, and so it proved. I’ve worried for Bale, youthful and timid on the wing, until suddenly he had a growing spurt and put it all together. Ledley I’ve nurtured through each sinew sapping sprint, looked anxiously to see how he recovers following every crunching tackle, marvelled at a calm diligence and dignity that I could never have come close to in my wildest dreams.
These and others I’ve watched, wondering if they can find the answers to maturity through experience. No good telling them, they have to live it and find out for themselves. Then suddenly they were pinging the ball all over the place, pass and move, push and run. The game is easy, it’s just the players that make it difficult goes the saying and this lot made it simple. Made it heaven. Beautiful, beautiful football I’d waited a lifetime to see. Gone, all gone. So sad.
Sad that against inferior but well-drilled opponents, once again we did not have the nouse to find a way through. They did try, for the most part, they just didn’t think. Modric did many of our good things but that’s not saying much. He could and should have done more to take the midfield by the scruff of the neck and dominate. Not for 90 minutes, 20 would have done, 10 or 15 even. In that short burst we could have turned the game because Rangers had little interest in even holding the ball up front when they cleared it, preferring to sit back and wait. That would have been enough, but nothing. Parker too: plenty of effort and he does the same things as he did before Christmas. Except he does it all half a yard slower. He’s a fraction late into tackles, just one the tail of the runner into the box, a touch off-balance when he passes or shoots. So sad.
It’s wrong to invoke the spirit of Barcelona when comparing football tactics but I’ve seen them recently try to over come a packed defence. Inter did it last season at the San Siro and went four up. They hold the ball in the middle while two, usually three forwards push up onto the opposition back four. Then either a ball is played to feet, back to goal and they look for a one two or more usually one or possibly two of them come a few yards off their marker. The defender then has an invidious choice, If he goes, then he leaves a gap. If he stays, the player is on his own in the danger area between midfield and the back four. Barca vary it by having their attacking full back join in, moving into the space that’s vacated out wide.We could have done that. Not as well as them but we could move like that. Broken things up. Shifted their centre backs out the way. Instead we aimlessly buzzed around the back four like a wasp in the autumn trying to get through a pane of glass. Sad that we bring on a winger, Lennon, who is playing well admittedly, just send over a series of crosses for defenders to head away because our forwards aren’t very big. I’m sad no one noticed that they weren’t very big because it’s clear to me.
Sad that we never learn our lessons. Once again, we begin by not playing well but managing to muddle through. For the first 20 minutes, our defence played as if they had never met before and were terrified by the presence of these strangers. Wild lunges, crazy mix-ups, yawning gaps ripe for exploitation. Yet we muddled through, until once again conceding an avoidable goal. From then on, as against Norwich, Everton, Chelsea, Stoke, it’s an uphill struggle. Once again, we were unlucky with a referee’s decision – Sandro made a brave legal tackle – but Friedel had so much time to see that leisurely freekick loop towards his goal. He seemed transfixed by its progress and his geriatric topple in the general direction of the ball was far too late. He’s been the unobtrusive foundation of our success this year. We should allow him an error becasue he’s made so few, but this one hurts.
Sad that if a side takes its lead from their manager, they are as bewildered and powerless as he is. “I’m not worried about the way we are playing,” says Harry. I don’t get angry with him when he talks like this. Genuinely I don’t believe he thinks through what he’s saying so it has little meaning. The media never challenge their darling so he just caries on. I think I should be angry. Anyone might think his complacency insulting to the loyal fans who can see all to clearly that we have real problems. We lack that edge, making and taking chances, being dangerous for extended periods, breaking down teams, that’s what makes the difference, that’s what he’s not giving us. Contrast the attitude of the QPR players. The manager has given them a shape, they sick to it, it works. That’s the way it should be.
Sad that this, the team that was to take us to glory in style, is falling apart as fast as my dreams. It will further disintegrate come this summer if we fail to reach the Champions League, with no prospect of decent replacements. This wasn’t the fate of this wonderful side. Sad that we’ve conformed to type and can’t hack the pressure. Sad that amongst other fans in London, we’re a laughing stock.
True story. At half-time for the first time in a while I lit our woodburning stove. Open the box with the pile of newspapers and there on the top is the Evening Standard on the day Harry was found not guilty. I screwed up the cover and it went up in smoke. You want symbolism? I’ve got it. Sad that an ordinary side could beat us to easily. Sad that we’re going down without a fight.
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