That would be the perfect solution. If Spurs are to be at the cutting edge and include everything that the modern footballer needs, include a birthing pool in the new stadium. Heavily pregnant partners could then accompany their men to the ground secure in the knowledge that not only would the best possible care be available (after all Spurs have won awards for their medical facilities), but also the proud father would be on the spot should the sprog drop during a game. Dad could start and be called off as the moment approached. Instead of that rolling gesture with the hands, mimic a baby rocking and that’s the signal. It could tip the balance when it comes to transfers. We can’t match the fees and wages of others but we are the family-friendly club. And when it’s not in use, there’s extra bathing space after training.
Bale’s presence may not ultimately have tipped the balance between the two sides but it sure would have helped. Di Matteo will send the happy couple the biggest bouquet of all. Without Bale and the injured Dembele, Tottenham were deprived of rhythm and creativity. From the beginning our passing was disjointed, inept at times, and Chelsea relished the opportunities presented by our wasteful use of precious possession. A rally after half-time offered hope but then inexcusably we were sucked back into a morass of mediocrity and defensive errors were ruthlessly punished.
The defeat hurt but we learned what we already know, that we have a good team that is still building up the resilience and balance required to succeed against the best and that we find it hard to compensate for the loss of our best players.
Di Matteo’s high pressing game decisively won the tactical battle between the current and former Chelsea managers and Spurs had neither the wit nor width to get behind them. Mata, Hazard, Ramaires and Oscar pressured us from the start and we looked uncomfortable on the ball. Probably they would have done the same if Bale had played but his absence made their task much easier. His mere presence would have tied down two defenders and also, with Lennon, given us width from touchline to touchline so our opponents would have had to protect more ground. In attack we could have exploited the Blues’ narrow set-up.
Instead, it was Spurs who were narrow. Dempsey and Sigurdsson both had spells wide left, neither were effective. Also, we set up with two defensive midfielders It would be interesting to know when that choice was made, before or after the dash to the maternity ward. It might have been the plan anyway, to restrict the space in front of our box where the Blues like to swarm and outnumber opponents. However, it became another limitation on our ability to counter-attack. We sorely missed Dembele’s creativity and tackling, plus the interchange between him and Sandro that has unsettled opponents in recent weeks. Yesterday we were stale and predictable, at times looking as if Lennon had brought home from Poland some of those England sleeping pills.
The rhythmic control that has been the hallmark of recent performances was completely absent in the first half. Whatever the tactics, there was no excuse for this feeble, directionless effort. Our passing was dire, our ball-control rank. Players were constantly being caught in possession as we were too slow and failed to support the man on the ball. Dempsey was particularly bad, although he didn’t deserve the roar of disapproval that greeted another in a series of errors. It was still the first half. He’s better at receiving the ball and making something of it in or around the box than he is trying to be creative in deeper positions but he was the most wasteful of them all.
Villas Boas tried to do something about it as Dempsey and Siggy exchanged positions but it changed nothing, yet despite this we made and missed chances – Gallas alone in the box from an early free-kick, Dempsey missed, Defoe selfish. The opening goal was well-taken as Cahill volleyed from the edge of the box but it was poor defending. Not for the only time in this match, fatally Gallas’ clearance was poor and there was no closing down.
AVB was making further changes with only a couple of minutes to go before the half-time break, urgently calling players over. Something must have been said in the dressing room. The subs didn’t come out for their customary kick-about and from the restart we copied our opponents’ tactics by tearing into them higher up the pitch. I would have brought Adebayor on for Dempsey but perhaps the American was being protected by a loyal manager.
As it turned out, that change wasn’t necessary to alter the balance of the match. Vertonghen chased a lost cause at the far post and Gallas touched in his cross. We surged forward. Once the full-court press had been perforated, the Chelsea back four was exposed and found wanting. We took the lead with a fine Defoe goal, the striker classically moving across his marker to touch in a Lennon pass after the winger ran at the defence.
For a glorious 15 minutes, we dominated. Spark and bounce were discovered. Defoe and Lennon were excellent, including the latter launching two huge tackles on Ashley Cole. Then inexcusably we conceded first the momentum and then the match itself . A return to bad old ways and self-inflicted wounds. A little spell of Chelsea pressure became something more significant because we could not clear the ball and keep it. Gallas again cleared straight to an opponent, Mata this time, again he wasn’t closed down, again he scored.
They scored soon after. Walker left a vast gap between him and Gallas and did not track the run. Hazard’s pass was superb, damn him, and Mata finished. Credit where it is due. Walker was shot well before the end of the game. He wasn’t making the overlapping runs just when we needed them and going to get a drink from the bench with a couple of minutes left showed his mind as well as his legs had gone. His concentration lapse, missing a tackle then keeping the ball in play for Mata to set up Sturridge, meant we were done for.
Chelsea were the better side, although it pains me to admit it. However, they scored through defensive errors and we had more goal opportunities than they did. Siggy, in the team to score from midfield, missed two great chances. His value is limited if he fails. While I hate to discourage effort, he should slow down, stop and think about what he’s doing rather than hurtling about midfield because too often the game passes him by.
Adebayor had an immediate impact but missed his best chance from a keeper rebound, then Cech nearly misjudged a Sandro long-range effort.
Livermore had the right attitude when he came on, picking the ball up and moving it on quickly and simply. Lennon had a fine second half. Sandro could not exert much influence and was quiet when we could have down with his power.
At the back, AVB may have some decisions to make. Vertonghen had another good game at left back but in Kaboul’s absence we may be better off with his pace and intelligence in the centre. At least AVB may to revise his opinion of Dawson. Also, we have two decent keepers with different attributes and for the sake of consistency at the back, he should decide whether he prefers Friedal’s solidity and shot-stopping or Lloris’ command of his area. Chopping and changing doesn’t help build understanding with his back four.
A postscript before the game the woman steward at gates for blocks 26-28 had confiscate a drink in a plastic bottle from a young girl. The girl needed a drink to take some medicine so the steward gave her a carton from her own pocket. Very kind.
To lift the post-defeat blues, enter the TOMM competition to win a copy of the Spurs Miscellany by Adam Powley and Martin Cloake. For a review, see the previous article. Blogs like this one owe a huge debt to fanzines. What was the name of the first Spurs fanzine? The nickname of the club in the book’s title might point you in the right direction…. e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org