AVB’s Half-time Changes Wash Away The Stench

Belated though this blog may be, the stench of Sunday’s first half is still blowing in the wind. Can’t get it out of my nostrils. Boy did we stink the place out. If the Lane provided showers, unlikely as some parts of the ground only got hot water a couple of seasons ago, but if they did, at half-time I would have washed that game right outa my hair.

Never mind all the tactical bollo. Means diddly if players can’t pass ten yards to a team-mate. Throughout the half it went on, a determination to give the ball away, that precious object so beloved of AVB, revered, the Holy Grail. Just hang on to it lads and go from there. Nope. It became so bad at the end of the half, they were pausing before precisely picking out the opponent when it was simpler to pass to a white shirt.

Maybe it’s reassuring that they are the same as us. Mere mortals who bow under pressure, tiredness perhaps after a busy week means they can’t think straight or just a bad day. But I don’t want them to be like me. It’s like politicians who want to be men and women of the people. Shaking hands uncomfortably with the plebs in a meat-packing factory. Call me Dave’s shirtsleeves for the CL Final. Our passing was the footballing equivalent of William Hague in a baseball cap.

I don’t want them to be like me. I want them to be cleverer, more decisive, energetic and not collapse in front of the Dave channel every night. Same for Spurs players. Get it right. Put everything into every game. Succeed with gravity-defying leaps and improbable shots. At least the wind changed at half-time.

Writing about the game a couple of days on lends a sense of perspective. Three points helps with some welcome balance. Villas-Boas has yet to find his best team and this was one major step forward. He discovered Bale has to start left midfield, not full-back. I hoped the team had some possibilities. Width could come from Walker and Bale, cover from the midfield freeing them to go up and it makes room for another forward in Dempsey.

That proved to be a triumph of optimism flying in the face of reality. We were totally disjointed and dire. Players looked forlornly left like a lost lamb searching for its mother. They turned back into the Rangers massed ranks and promptly lost the ball. Again and again.

Good managers not only acknowledge their mistakes but can put them right. Caulker moved in to replace the invisible Sigurdsson, enabling Vertonghen to move to full-back, Bale to move up and Spurs to win the game. Jan the Man is fast becoming a White Hart Lane legend, charging forward or popping up in defence, he made a huge difference. A top class footballer. Whoever scouted him, take a bow. You deserve a moment in the limelight. His goal-saving tackle on Hoillet, while not quite in the Ledley on Robben class, was masterful and miraculous. Typically when we were at last on top we had to make a ricket at the back. Hoillet settled comfortably on the ball, straightened his tie and made sure his hair looked good for the celebrations. No problem: he had enough time for that and a cup of bovril, then Vertonghen swooped in as if from nowhere to take the ball rom his toe.

Although the second half was much improved, a slice of good fortune turned the game our way as Caulker’s header (he wins a lot in the opposition box) clipped Faurlin’s back, who made a fatally half-hearted movement towards the ball out of character with an otherwise fine performance and it rolled in.

QPR lost focus momentarily, Vertonghen galloped forward and Defoe banged in the rebound as Bale’s shot came back off the bar. From then on, the day was ours and we should have had more. Rangers will be deeply disappointed. In the first half they were as excellent as we were lousy. Before Sunday I thought Granero was an over-priced muesli but discovered he’s cultured midfielder. Zamora dominated our defence. He linked well with players around him and scored a neat goal but we gave him far too much room that deep into our box. Never did that for us but if he performs like that he could yet do something for England.

Special praise for Friedel who played them on his own for the first half. One save, strong hands to his left at full stretch, was outstanding. Hang on Hugo, you’ll have to wait.

So remember folks, the difference between try and triumph is a bit of umph….Try that at work everyone, see how it goes down….Playing badly and winning is the usual line but underlying the winning ugly schtick is something more permanent. Often it’s strength and mental resilience, or the presence of a match-winner perhaps. Against QPR it was a manager brave enough to make decisive changes early enough to make a difference, and that’s a precious quality to have.

20 thoughts on “AVB’s Half-time Changes Wash Away The Stench

  1. I remember AVB last season at Chelsea taking off Kalou and bringing on Malouda after just 30 mins in order to provide width against a Baggies side that was sat deep packing the centre. He’s not afraid to make a change to improve his system or to admit he’s got it wrong. A very admirable quality to have, how many other managers would leave it 70 mins or so to make a change?


  2. hope he dont start with siggy agains utd, he has been poor, but need time. play dembele insted, and bale at left winger, not roaming, and not right wing.


  3. When you’re being closed down and pressed as much as Tottenham were in the first half, the answer is not pass,pass, pass as Tottenham tried to do – it’s move into space for a pass, pass and move for the return, pass and move, pass and move. Had the formation been the same in the first half as it was in the second, it wouldn’t have made much difference on its own. The need was to pass and move in possession, and get behind the ball and press when the opposition had it. We had enough of that in the second half to rescue the game, though still nowhere near enough for my liking.


  4. I just hope we don’t do the usual on Saturday against manure, i.e. lose. 2 draws, 2 losses and 2 wins will at least have a certain symmetry to it.
    High time we beat them, though. Would really give the side some belief and keep the imbecile press off VB’s back for a while.


  5. It’s been a real curate’s egg of a start to the season, some very fine stuff , some good stuff with real promise, if not always sustained, and times where we look so supine and ponderous it aches and well just weirdly rubbish.

    It’s Huddlestone time imo.

    A word for Lennon, too. I think he’s almost gone up a level: going forward, knowing when to keep possession and when to risk a run down the line or infield, and in offering supporting to the full back. He looks like the system suits.


    • Agree with IKAG, I’d like to see The Thud start alongside Dembele and Sandro at Old Trafford. I also think Vertonghen should stay at left back to counter the dangerous Valencia.
      If we go there with no fear, we’ve certainly got the guile and pace to trouble them. The squad has more depth and balance to it than last year. There will be the inevitable hiccups but, all in all, I’m feeling pretty positive.


  6. A poor first half performance (with only Brad to save us from total annihilation) and a well organised QPR team exploiting the lack of Adebayor to hold the ball up. The tactical change at half time by AVB is to be applauded but was made easy by Sigurdsson who really had a stinker. Second half, we played our way back into it with Vertonghen and Lennon both outstanding.
    Two things still concern me week in week. The first one is the quality of our free kicks and corners. Far too many set pieces failing to trouble the opposition. The second is the atmosphere at White Hart Lane. For the last couple of seasons, we’ve really got behind the team but the increased expectations and booing at half time is unhelpful. The players and the manager know that first half performance was poor. All it did was provide encouragement to the opposition and their fans.


    • As i write we have actually scored from a set piece via Vertonghen but it is a big weakness. Not sure what to do about the atmosphere, except to repeat that while I know safety considerations are paramount, filling the Park Lane with that many away fans is no help to our singing.

      Regards, Al


  7. Am starting to feel very slightly more confident with A.V.B. in as much as he does seem to recognise that his first half system doesn’t seem to be working at The Lane where the opposition tend to defend in numbers and then hit us on the break. Maybe its time to try 4-4-2 in the first 45 minuites to hopefully give us an half time lead for a change. Would maske the half time mars bar all the more sweeter


    • Think AVB is by nature cautious. It’s about taking those chances that we make in the first half. We are still wasteful. Celebrate with two Mars if they go one up…

      Regards, Alan


  8. The problem on the weekend, was not that Bale played at left-back but more the fact that the team (including Bale) failed to string more than two passes together, all first half, meaning it was near impossible for either of our full-backs to advance into any sort of attacking position.

    Also if Bale was to play at left-back again, Spurs would need to find a player to fill his boots, in the left -wing position better than Clint Dempsey did on the weekend. Ironically, Kranjcar or Pienaar would have been perfect for such a role, given their ability to maintain possession and effectively link play down the flanks.

    Personally, I would be tempted to play Bale at left-back again (against opposition where we are expected to dominate possession, like QPR) but only if we can get the right kind of cover in that left wing position.i.e Isco, Willian or even young Townsend.

    AVB had the right idea on the weekend, the problem was the players failed to show up in the first-half.


    • Freely admit I was looking forward to Bale at fullback – thought it would add to the options not detract from them. As it was, Dempsey could not devote himself to staying well forward. Bale and Walker as attacking fullbacks could work with 2 DMs but Sandro’s strength means we look better with just him.

      Regards, Alan


  9. Lovely stuff.
    ‘Granero…overpriced meusli’ Classic.
    AVB is certainly sorting out his options . He is not afraid to try things
    and to change them when they don’t work, and quickly too.
    Vertonghen’s tackle on Hoillet was certainly ‘Ledleyesque’
    ‘Try/triumph’ is that an Alan original? Respect if it is.


    • Thank you kindly Jim. Things good with you? Heard triumph somewhere recently. Not The Thick of It was it? can’t bear that sort of thing!!! There’s no I in team and all that …

      Regards, Al


      • All well at The Musings and in real life too, thankyou.
        Much impressed with Townsend, who with coaching could become a real asset.
        Has shown some ability in every run out thathe’s had.
        Academy boy and only just turned 21.


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