Another Year Gone, Another Chance Wasted

Despite Spurs’ defeat, or perhaps partly because of it, this weekend conclusively demonstrated that the F.A. Cup is a vibrant, precious competition. At a time when the suggestion to do away with replays is being actively considered, the F.A.’s absolute priority should be to safeguard its future. The impact of the defeat sank in as the draw was made. I’m an old-fashioned fan who believes in the pursuit of trophies, of something that lasts, of moments that last a lifetime. Spurs weren’t part of that draw and it hurt.

Lax and lacklustre, this was the worst performance of the season. Our familiar weaknesses up front were cruelly exposed by lousy defending. Leeds lapped it up with two fine finishes and they worked hard to limit our opportunities, but this was largely down to us.

Misguided team selection was the core of the problem. Although we’ve done well lately, this was a painful and stark reminder of how far we still have to go. We cannot handle making too many changes all at once to the core team. Yesterday’s back five are all good players. Put them together for the first time and they were all over the place. Naughton and Caulker are still learning – it was all too much.

Remember when everyone was trying to second-guess how Villas-Boas would play? The high-line was the thing, the back four defending high up the pitch to cramp the space and style of our opponents. They didn’t like it at Chelsea, bound to go wrong at Spurs. We’ve not seen so much of it because our Andre has learned a few lessons the hard way. Yesterday afternoon, it went wrong, so very wrong. At least three times the trap was sprung. Long ball, one touch, well-timed run and two beautifully taken goals, one Friedel save.

That wasn’t all though. Vertonghen and Caulker were as poor as I’ve seen them. For the second, Caulker took the scenic route to the tackle and by the time his tour of the area was complete, Leeds were two up. Friedel and Lloris have two completely different styles of goalkeeping. The high line needs a sweeperkeeper (new word there, today TOMM tomorrow the OED) and the Frenchman should have played. In passing, several teams came to grief after changing their keeper. No consolation but it shows the value of a settled back five. 

Villas-Boas also took an unnecessarily cautious approach with two defensive midfielders, Huddlestone and Parker. Leeds can play a bit but were most effective with the long, straight ball. This not only unsettled the defence to a ridiculous degree, it took them both out of the game. They were simply bypassed, taken out of the equation with no role to play. Warnock is a master at this level – his tactics were just right.

So we were found wanting when we tried to attack. Hud kept the ball moving but lacked targets up front. Parker worked extremely hard – I had hoped his motivation would rub off on the others, but apparently not. Parker needs to make the tackle or the drive forward, then offload to someone who is more creative or can make a decisive effort on goal. This is not a criticism, just a focus on his strengths. As I said last week, it’s disconcerting to find him as the man furthest forward, yet there was little else going on ahead of him. 

Demps’ movement was decent but he missed a couple of good ones, Siggy invisible when he should have been hanging out in the box. Lennon dashed, Bale got going in the second half but to no avail. Both attacked in isolation with little support. Leeds worked hard in midfield with Brown nibbling at heels just as he did all those years ago when he toiled to keep us up in that dreadful season of Pleat as caretaker. However, when we looked for room in and around the box, we could usually find it. Did nothing with it, mind, but it was there.

We were trying to close a two-goal deficit with two DMs, Siggy doing nothing and no dedicated striker. Dembele came on but played too deep. In and around the box he’s our most creative midfielder – he can pick out his man with a pass and he has a fine shot. It’s imperative that we find a way of enabling him to play further up the field.

Strikers – we learned nothing new. We need one, a good one, or else all our efforts will be in vain. Obika moves well, he’s been well-coached clearly, but he was another who found the play passing him by. He too missed a chance with a poor first touch but that’s not the point – we should not be going into a match like this with an unproven young player as the only sub striker. If the rumours about Defoe’s injury are true, we are in plenty schtuk.

Striker and midfielder have been on the list since the end of last season. The damage was done in August, now it’s the worst time to buy but no more about the transfer window until it’s over. In any season I want Spurs to have a right good go at the cups, especially the FA Cup. Another opportunity wasted by self-inflcited wounds.

Cheer yourself up: The Tottenham Shop sell all manner of interesting and unusual Spurs memorabilia and have kindly offerred an exclusive 10% discount for Tottenham On My Mind readers and code tottenhamonmymind. Very kind of them to be sure.

24 thoughts on “Another Year Gone, Another Chance Wasted

  1. When Dembele is missing in the midfield we are shocking we have hardly won a game without him, same as last year when Modric was injured, Huddlestone is worse than useless its like playing with ten men. We have no depth in the middle of the park.


  2. Self-inflcited wounds indeed. AVB didn’t select the right team and they weren’t motivated enough. Leeds badly wanted it and won it with something to spare.


  3. And now the last few days of the real reason for football on Sky, transfer deadline day…… Will we be linked with everyone and buy no-one?

    Yesterday we were just not good enough, in almost all areas, and we lost. That is the game, and a lot of changes made contributed to this. The statement on the official site was a bit lame for me, just a look forward message, it seems the FA and League Cups are destined for reserves and youth now, no actual desire to win it.
    Will be very interesting to see what team takes the field for the Europa games now – another winnable cup if the desire is there.


    • I feel more disappointed as the week goes on, Simon, rather than less. It’s really sunk in that the Cup is important for us as well as being a great competition, and to hear that the players could not apparently get motivated makes it worse. Villas-Boas has played strong teams in most of the cup matches this season, he obviously felt confident enough in the sqaud to make a few changes, which after all were hardly untried players. Let’s hope he’s learned that in future he can’t do the same. But as I said in the article, Warnock won the tactical battle. Andre was outsmarted.




  4. I think yesterday was probably a day for Dawson, as BOTH Vertonghen and Caulker lack the authority to effectively organise the back line.
    I’ve been saying for a while, that Caulker is STILL only potential and needs a experienced head next to him (in the shape of Gallas/Dawson) to consistently perform, and that Jan Vertonghen best displays for the club have ALL come at left-back,

    Despite the belief from most Spurs supporters, and media sources, that the Belgian International can- do no wrong, following his summer move from Ajax, I have watched carefully as the young defenders form HAS declined drastically.
    While there is little doubt that Jan will prove himself an excellent long-term addition to the Tottenham ranks, his displays at the moment are shorn of ANY authority, leadership or conviction.

    Strong words I know, but the sooner Gallas/Dawson returns, the better, as Vertonghen current form dictates that he makes at least one (potentially) goal costing error a game.
    Too frequently OUT-MUSCLED and often caught ball -watching, the 25 year olds slump in form can be traced all the way back to Norwich, in the C1C.
    Even though Jan DID NOT start that game,his impact, coming on as a sub, (scoring an own goal and then being out-muscled aerially for their winner) have seen his displays gradually dip. Maybe playing him at centre-back against Norwich, midweek, will allow him to put to rest some of his apparent demons, however I can’t help but think that Grant Holt will be relishing the prospect of lining up against a confidence-stricken Vertonghen.

    My thoughts and opinions on Vertonghen AREN’T based solely on yesterdays showing and I in NO way hold him solely responsible for our 4th round exit of the competition. However, his poor display (in a position he claims is his best) did serve as another reminder of of the worrying lack of authority/leadership at the heart of our defence when both/either Gallas or Dawson are missing…..

    I understand that Jan is STILL adapting to a full season in the EPL, but the nature of his mistakes are not something you would come to expect from a full International, who CAPTAINED his previous side and who has played a considerable amount of CL games.


    • I agree that Vertonghen’s form has dipped and with your thoughtful comments. This game was made for Dawson, it seems to me. Too much chopping and changing in the back four. I’d play Walker Dawson Vertonghen Assou Ekotto for the next 5 matches at least. Get them playing together with Lloris behind them, get them settled. For a class player like Vertonghen, he can play his way back.

      Regards, Al


  5. Listened to it on the radio and it just sounded awful. Cup defeats still hurt and it’s made all the worse when we’re beaten by a long ball team under Neil Warnock. The team put out should have been enough to win or face a replay and you do wonder about our desire in League and FA Cups. Football costs too much money to go and watch a team not giving it their all. I felt sorry for our travelling fans.


  6. Excellent blog and assumption of the game . In my view AVBs team selection was the problem, making 5 changes from the Man Utd game. I would certainly have played Dawson alongside Verts. Huddlestone should never have played and could not understand why Dembele was on the bench. We were crying out for a striker yesterday to put chances away . Caulker and Naughton are not good enough for the current squad.
    Still AVBs comments – seemed not to bothered to have gone out of the FA Cup , stating that we had to concentrate on 4th spot and Europe. Try telling that to all the Spurs fans who made the trip to Ellend Road.
    I really hope that Spurs bring in a striker this week or we can forget about finishing 4th .


    • Agree with most of that, although Caulker can mature into a fine centreback and Naughton is OK to have in the squad. I just can’t get used to the fact that clubs and players do not put everything into a match like this one. And we really need that striker.

      Regards, Alan


  7. Thanks for nothing Mr.Levy – we have needed a quality goalscorer for a while and even more so since Adebayor went to the Africa Cup, but does our Chairman get his wallet out and buy one – NO NOTHING AT ALL. It doesn’t help when AVB says that we will manage during Ade’s absence – not playing the likes of Jon Obika in a big game we won’t – if we must play a youngster in a big game give me Harry Kane over the likes of Obika etc.
    Also I’d like to thank Vertonghen, Naughton & Caulker for doing sod all for 90 minutes also Messr’s Bale & Lennon where were you ? I know it was a Sunday – that don’t mean it was a day of rest !!!.
    The only consolation for losing yesterday is that we can now concentrate all our efforts on maintaining our 4th spot and finishing above ‘The Arse’ in the laegue and securing a CL spot next season.


    • Andre is just covering up for something he knows all too well, as do you and I – madness to go intot his game without a proper striker. Kane may well have come back from his loan at Norwich, not confirmed, but we need more.

      Regards, Al


  8. I have just read in the London Evening Standard that Mr Dembele has stated that the Tottenham players struggled to get “motivated” for the game yesterday and that it is quite hard for the players to “motivate” themselves every game !!! Well, I would like to ask Mr Dembele, if £70,000 a week isn’t enough for a player to get “motivated” could he please let me know in advance which games these are going to be, so I dont have to waste my money going to see a group of “un-motivated, overpaid” players taking the mickey (am trying to be polite here). I can excuse players and managers for many things. But NOT trying cannot be forgiven. It is an insult to every man, woman and child who turn out, week in, week out, in all weathers and travel huge distances to support football teams all over the country to learn that at times their “heroes” just can’t be bothered to try that hard.

    I’m afraid that i come from an era when Spurs would play 42 league games each season as well as turning out full first teams in League cup, F.A cup and European competitions and not once can I remember any player saying they were too tired to try hard.

    Well thats my rant over for this week Alan and I look forward to your next article. Keep up the good work


    • I downplayed that aspect of the game in my report because the motivation has been a positive feature of the whole season so far, so when I read your comment, the first I’d heard of what Moussa said, I was so disappointed. Agree with what you say – why can’t they get motivated? I was… you’re right, it’s the one thing that is unforgiveable.

      Regards, Alan


  9. Now that we have Holtby, a top notch “STRIKER” please please Mr Levy.
    I am praying Alan, that with Sandro and no formidable striker, we keep our 4th spot and not end up with egg on our faces again.
    No FA cup, but have the Europa still.
    Well said as always Alan.


  10. Alan, thinking around “Another year gone” |I wonder what has happened to Tom Carroll and come to think of it Andros Townsend, Livermore etc. It seemed at one pint that we hada number of young players who would be pushing for games in the first team however theyall seemed to have fallen short. My own view is that Townsend at least should be getting more time to find his feet on the pitch at least he may be a temporary solution to the no striker situation. HOwever more worrying is the total disappearence of Tom Carrol what has happened to him, Is he being given body building training? Have spurs dicovered a hidden drug regime or is AVB reprogramming Carroll’s game? One other point Alex Pritchard is thinking over a new contract and is looking a very exciting player, will he disapear to another club and do all these issue’s point to a problem with the club/ coaching regime believing that talent outside the club isbetter thn that in it?, After all Holtby’s stat’s are not that outstanding, in my view 4 goals and seven assists in 20 odd games and a similar percentage over his career is hardly World Class. Just wondering still think AVB is the present and future of spurs.


    • I’ve not seen Holtby for any extended time but he comes highly rated and anyone who has German caps at his age is worth a look. He could also fit in well, hardworking with an attacking eye. I’m not keen on judging players on their stats.

      Re Carroll, this very promising player will have limited opportunities as the season reaches its climax because of the pressure that’s around. Every match from now on, we will have to play at 100%. It’s a function of his inexperience but I’d like to see him on the bench. Townsend is cover for either flank but I’m not sure he’s good enough to start. Hope I’m proved wrong.

      Regards, Al


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