AVB’s Reign Begins. In Defeat, Some Positives

The better team, dominant indeed for extended periods. Friedel has a quiet afternoon. That superiority isn’t converted into goals. Sure we come close, hit the woodwork maybe, but all the flowing football means little if the chances aren’t taken. Time passes, we fade, our opponents take full advantage of rare but significant errors and we are punished, albeit with at least one excellent strike.

A cursory glance at that summary of yesterday’s game and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s the new season but the same old Tottenham. Yet there was plenty to admire in a good performance characterised by movement, pace and possession, which augers well for the months to come. Cut out the sort of unforced errors that cost us dear and invest well in the market, then we have something to look forward to.

The speculation regarding our style under Villas-Boas became substance. This is what we know.

We know that as expected, AVB’s Spurs play an intense pressing game, hunting in clusters to restrict both time and space not just for any opponent on the ball but also for any team-mate he seeks to pass to. This left a weakness on the flanks, however.

That the famed and feared high line helps to compress the space still further when we do not have possession but it was not really in evidence too much. Newcastle never stranded our defenders.

That we’re offering a 4-2-3-1 with two predominantly defensive midfielders, Sandro and Livermore yesterday, and that frequently one of them drops into the back four at the earliest sign of attacking pressure. Bale, Sigurdsson and Lennon were the three further forward, swift and eager to support lone striker Defoe. Those runs from deep created opportunities because we had numbers forward far more swiftly than last season. Our totals of attempted and successful passes in the final third were very high, double that of Newcastle.

That whatever we call the formation, flexibility is the key. Lennon and Bale swapped wings, Sandro often went forward. So did Walker, who searches with masochistic relish for any opportunity to make a lung-busting 50 or 60 yard foray forward to turn defence into attack. Benny’s caution meanwhile was conspicuous by its contrast. That whatever the formation, possession is precious. That it’s tiring – we were noticeably less effective in the final quarter and that was not just about Newcastle’s improved second half performance. We cannot afford the luxury of going behind in games in the second half.

That Sigurdsson is an important player. In that central role, he put in both hard yards and clever touches, linking up with Defoe every chance he had. He’s been given license to shoot often. That he and Rafa may not be compatible in this line-up. Rafa has less energy, although he works much harder than many Spurs fans give him credit for, but he has the passing range to unlock defences. Several times we saw his long diagonals trying to pick out a man in the box, but this was not the way with our lack of power and strength up front.

That AVB is capable of surprises. Leaving Vertonghen on the bench in favour of Gallas was most unexpected. It could also signal the fact that we will not be after another central defender in the foreseeable future.

That AVB can clearly get his message through to his players. In a very short space of time they have become comfortable with the new system. It suits their skills and physical attributes, and there was an air of confidence from front to back.

That some of AVB’s decisions will frustrate and bewilder. Bale and Lennon were less effective after they swapped wings yet we persisted with that set-up for too long.

That we need a striker. But we knew that already.

Despite the defeat, there are genuine and lasting positives to take away with us. There’s plenty to show that the formation suits us, the players are motivated and we can play attacking football without forgoing the defensive fortitude often lacking last season that will serve us well in the long  haul between now and next May. At times the movement and pace stunned the Geordie defenders.

Having anther striking option would not necessarily have won this match,

Sandro Tweeted This Self-Portrait On Friday – “I miss play for my team.”

although it might well have done so, but it will win games in the future if we play like this. Defoe did well yesterday, using his brain rather than shooting on sight, or even when he can’t see anything but the centre half’s backside in front of him. He took up excellent positions, moving into the channels in tune with his team-mates. He certainly applied himself for the whole game even though he had some quiet patches where we did not find him. But we need more. We know that, AVB knows that and so does Daniel Levy. Expect business this week – maybe the defeat will hurry things along.

Last season we did not see the best of Newcastle against Spurs and for the first half that’s the way it carried on. Their back four was easily isolated as we made full use of the space in front of them. Siggy, Bale and Walker galloped into the gaps. Lennon had the beating of his full-back. Because we could pull the ball back into the space in front of their defensive line, the lack of an authentic centre forward wasn’t so apparent. Lennon set up Bale beautifully but he hit the bar, while earlier a  better choice of final ball could have produced a goal. JD hit the post after a brisk, flowing move, starting from deep.

Friedel had little to do despite the Geordie’s much vaunted striking duo and Krul was much the busier keeper. Sandro and Livermore were booked by the over fussy referee. Hearty congratulations to Jake for his England cap. He was too enthusiastic today – he must learn than you can press without tackling. Today his timing was off.

Newcastle were better organised in the second half and their resilience and team-work born from a season together proved its worth as the game went on. The same can’t said for their off-field organisation. With Pardew in the stands, his efforts to communicate with the bench turned to farce. We found out that the radio doesn’t work and no one in Newcastle has a mobile so the coaching staff waited patiently in line to take messages downstairs like Roman centruions along Hadrian’s Wall.

In the end, despite our overall superiority, one mistake and one example of being taken for mugs won the match. Walker’s poor header was picked up by a proper striker, who did nothing throughout except turn and plant his one opportunity firmly in the far corner. That’s what proper strikers do, after all.

Defoe and Spurs deserved the equaliser. After our incisive, clean play, this was a messy one, with first Defoe’s header then his follow up hitting defenders, the keeper and the post before going in. The shame was, we couldn’t hang on. We gifted Newscastle  penalty winner. We were tiring and they had used the space we left on the wings well, something AVB will have to address, but Ben Arfa played us for mugs, darting for a gap between VDV and Lennon. We fell for it and he toppled, a clear but avoidable penalty. A disappointing end when we deserved more from the game but there’s plenty of good things to take away. I’ve predicted a stuttering start then improvement in the longer run. Let’s hope that ‘it’s a long season’ gives us something to anticipated rather than dread.

24 thoughts on “AVB’s Reign Begins. In Defeat, Some Positives

  1. Whilst I’m sure we’re all very disappointed, and feeling a little hard done by, with the eventual result, there is no question that there are plenty of positives to draw from the match.

    The performance of Aaron Lennon was a particular highlight for me. A constant threat every time he got the ball, he added invention and drive to a midfield that was otherwise lacking a real creative spark.He could also think himself a little unlucky to only have one assist to his name after only the width of the bar denied him a second. I have no doubts about his ability to become our star man this season should he manage to stay fit and focused.

    The signings of a winger (Adam Johnson would seem ideal, as he can play on both flanks), two strikers, with Kane going out on loan to a EPL team and two central midfield players (anyone except Meirales) should see Spurs achieve at least the same, if not better last season fourth placed finish.

    Plenty to be encouraged about. BRING ON WEST BROM!!!

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    • Sign Adam Johnson (10m), two strikers (20m and let’s say 8m), two midfielders (Modric replacement 20m & another 8m say).

      In fucking fantasy land.

      We’ll be luck to sign a Modric replacement and Adebayor.

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    • Wondered how others would see the game. Many as positive as I am, with that caution bubbling away underneath.

      Levy’s careful with our money, sure, but I reckon he will pay out big cash on a fee if it’s the right deal – quality player, youngish, on the way up. Our wages are the stumbling block. Players think twice because of no CL and our comparatively low wages. DL has to find a way.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  2. Thought we played well but the lack of striking options is the main concern. It’s getting increasingly irritating that we go into a season without key positions filled and bedded into the side. Hope AVB has checked that his car electric windows work for transfer deadline day?

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  3. Really dissapointed, its early days but it just seems like same old, same old, missed chances sloppy defending ,not really interested in if we were the better team if you don’t score it counts for nothing.

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  4. I was VERY encouraged by us. That was the most organised I have EVER seen us play. I have never seen all 11 men on the pitch working so hard for each other and so disciplined. I was, as many of us probably were, nervous to see what we were all about under AVB. Well, my nerves were subsiding before we even kicked a ball. Next Saturday I urge you all to watch our warm- up. Stefan and our new fitness coach (can’t recall his name for now) were really working the boys over. It looked urgent and purposeful.

    So, we didn’t get any points which is of course disappointing, however on the evidence of Saturday if we played like Newcastle I would be very worried now. I saw nothing and I mean nothing from them that made me think we are in trouble now. Whereas with us we looked sharp.

    We did miss Modrich’s creativity and someone to work with Jermaine if we can sort this out then I look to this season with optimism. COYS

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    • We need that organisation – it’s been missing for as long as I can recall. Goes a long way. We will always attack with this squad, more on the counter perhaps, especially away. Need a new Luka too – where oh where can he be…

      Regards, Alan

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  5. Does anyone of you believe that Levy is paying a damn that for the second season in a row Spurs start the competition without key positions being properly filled?
    Saving his money, that’s what he cares about.
    Haven’t you still realise that?
    What else should he have done during the last two seasons to persuade you on that?

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  6. Positives can definitely be drawn from the performance, and from all of the posts I’ve seen, the general consensus is that the only thing that was wrong about last evening was the result.
    I don’t think we created enough chances, but that could be down to the striker. Benefit of the doubt.
    WHERE IS HUDDLESTONE? More suited for the first team than Livermore.

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    • In my preview, I wondered if Hud fitted in with the new Spurs. No pace, poor anticipation, less scope for his long passing. I would definitely keep and use him – I’m a fan – but he could be vulnerable.

      New blog – check it out and give her/him a try. Hard to get going without NNow or others so click click click people.

      Regards, Alan

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      • It is a shame that he hasn’t got that extra yard of pace otherwise he would be close to a complete player. Without it I think you’re right, AVB will be reluctant to use him as he does tend to slow the pace of the game right down. A shame as he is one of the sweetest strikers of a ball I have ever seen.

        Appreciate the plug! Yours is a very impressive blog. Hopefully one day..

        Regards,
        Eric

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  7. To be quite honest – seeing Spurs disciplined and working hard is not really acceptable. We dont want to turn into Swansea – hard working, pretty passing but no end product. Yesterday showed we desperately need flair in the middle and at least 2 more strikers. If Adebayor comes back then we will definitely need someone for when he has his usual period of losing interest. He is not prolific enough either at the best of times. Defoe scored as many as he did coming from the bench. Another disappointing summer of transfer inactivity and 3 points needlessly given away.

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  8. Modric’s money will not extend to a similar playmaker and another striker, assuming Adebayor
    stops fooling around and actually signs.
    Too much heart not enough head yesterday, yellow cards picked up on the half way line are evidence of this.
    prefer to start with VDV and bring Siggy on later.
    Playing without VDV and Modric leaves a big hole where our brains used to be.
    Plenty of positives certainly but ‘work in progress’ is the bottom line.

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    • Good summer Jim? Brains cost, more than sinew and bone. The system cries out for that extra touch of intelligence and guile. Agree re VDV.

      Regards, Al

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  9. Did you see vdv pointing frantically to friedel to dive left. Pity he did not take the advice. Overall we played well, but you worry when you play well and lose.. Based on reports looks like hudd might be out, which is a pity as his passing and his long range passing are fantastic. His fitness and concentration though are suspect.

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  10. The only positives to come out of this game is Livermore is not better at football than sat at Home Huddlestone fit but deemed not ready to rumble. Secondly why have our team who have knockout players running round wasting energy trying to stop the other team scoring then getting knocked out in the 11th round while we was winning on points. We played the best Football under Harry we waited 8 months for the best passer and hardest shot in football to return one killer pass to Galls a wonderful chip over the defence one stolen ball a run and shot in America and Abv leaves him out why because the frog throat wants Moutino or Merelis who will get overrun by this so called new football pressing with energy supplements legal and not legal i no 100 percent if we don’t have the right supplement like some teams have we will run out of steam on 80 mins and get beat a true fact

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  11. Goof write-up Alan. Like many I was pretty buoyed by what I saw on Saturday evening. I liked the set up and thought it brought out the best in Lennon. I like Sigurdsson and he looks like he’ll score goals, but Van de Vaart showed he’s a much more creative option in his cameo. I’ve heard and read a fair few disparaging comments about Livermore, but I thought he had a good game. The margins are very slim, we got punished for the only two real chances they had (and I think they are a good side) and were the more dangerous side overall. While we were tiring so were they, it being the first competitive game, and we continued to press to the end. We look like we’ll be fine to me.

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    • Agree on all of that. Livermore tried too hard as I said but could be vital this season. Not inclined to be over-critical of any of the team on Saturday.

      Regards, Al

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