Drama, Tension And Comedy: Of Course, It’s Spurs!

Spurs’ European campaign has produced tension and drama at times but frankly when messrs Cloake and Powley produce the 2040 edition of the Glory Glory Nights 2012-13 won’t merit more than a page. There have been too many inglorious nights, nothing dreadful but too many the definition of average.

The elongated format saps the energy of fans and players alike but Spurs have done their best to inject much-needed drama into the competition. Barely able to muster a consistent, coherent performance throughout, save for a silky smooth dissection of Inter Milan at the Lane, instead we opted for the tension born from brinkmanship with desperate surges for late goals in half of the ties. That we got them says much for the determination of the squad and the individual talents of men like Bale and Dembele who delivered their best football when under the greatest pressure, the mark of greatness. Their late goals home and away versus Lyon were remarkable.

Yet it all ended in a moment of tragic comedy. In the grip of a penalty shoot-out, one down after Hud’s poorly placed opener was too close to the keeper, our only striker, experienced in European and international football, chooses to approach his penalty with a silly walk last seen in my primary school playground when we finally got tired of 3 and in and began to muck about before the bell rang. My mate Trev was the best. He would have wanted to improve on Adebayor’s style but it would have got a few giggles. Into the sky and over, Spurs were out. I’m certain that somewhere on the net Spurs fans will be slating Manu’s smile as he walked away as a sign of his indifference but I’m with him: you have to laugh or else you’d cry.

Spurs fans are used to the side raising their game for cup matches but in Europe ours fell away. Apart from Inter at home when on the back of the north London derby win, anything suddenly, miraculously seemed possible, we’ve not put in a consistent effort. Lax defending and an inability to retain possession characterised several dull games.

The league format means that it doesn’t really matter – stagger through, there’s no incentive to reach the heights – but these faults became real problems against better teams in the knock-out phase.

Monday’s piece posed the question, ‘is it only us?’ in respect of Spurs’ faltering league form but it applies equally well to Europe and last night – is it only Spurs who do things the hard way? The match was classic Tottenham, that mixture of quality and frustration that entices and infuriates us all. It was also this European campaign in microcosm. Commitment aplenty, an inability to keep control of a match once it has been established, ‘WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?’ defending, wayward passing, high drama and telling late goals.

We weathered an early storm from the classy Basel attack and established if not dominance then a measure of possession and therefore control. We went a goal up, a calm finish from Dempsey after a defensive mistake. This was naturally an incentive to immediately forget about careful build up and give the ball away at will. Dembele made the fatal mistake, a basic error in midfield letting in the excellent Salah. One each just at the point when we should have exploited our lead and territorial superiority. Instead, we were determined not to keep the ball and the defence was wilting. Naughton got near his man only by fouling while Dawson appeared to believe he was on holiday at a water park, competing to see how far he could slide on the soggy turf.

We can’t defend corners – episode four or is it five? A cluster of defenders were sucked into the near post and taken out of the game when the ball was flicked on. Friedel had no cover when he parried and the Swiss touched it in.

But this is Tottenham in Europe. Pressing unconvincingly, Huddlestone placed a fine free-kick onto Dempsey’s chest and he did the rest. The commentary churlishly focused on defensive shortcomings but the American scored a fine goal that hopefully will give him confidence for the rest of the season.

It was our mess and we almost got ourselves out of it. Despite their shortcomings, I have to admire the attitude of the players in battling out extra time while running on empty, especially after Vertonghen’s tired mind forced a mistake that led to a justified red card. Mentions in dispatches for Daws, Walker and Hudd, the latter for sterling work as a makeshift centre half in Jan’s place.

Lewis Holtby had his best game for Tottenham in the centre of midfield where he belongs. He worked hard, kept his position and took responsibility when he had. Something similar may be said of the highly promising Tom Carroll, who understands what is required of him despite his lack of experience and never shirked his duties for a second. Finally, I must give Dempsey full credit for his two goals. He’s been rank lately and deserves to be praised.

Ten days off now, a much-needed chance to draw breath and rest weary limbs. I suggest Dembele is ferried around in the manner of an Egyptian pharaoh, not having to lift a finger. He needs a break more than anyone and will be crucial if we are to make the top four. Our Andre has shown he’s able to raise the team’s energy and spirits after a defeat. We still have so much to play for.

 

 

 

11 thoughts on “Drama, Tension And Comedy: Of Course, It’s Spurs!

  1. It’s been an odd competition. We’ve rarely played well but got to the Q Final. We lost this game in the first half of the first leg. Without Bale, Lennon and Defoe, we’re just treading water. Fingers crossed for the last few games.

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  2. There’s no doubt we’ve flattered to deceive in Europe this season and reached the quarter final stage by the skin of our teeth. It even looked for a short while that we might actually make it through last night’s tie as were were finishing normal time the stronger but Jan’s red card put paid to that. The penalty shoot out ot ended predictably with Adebayor’s surreal cartoon character run up summing the whole thing up. Here’s to the prospect of Champions League football next season!

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  3. There is definitely something lacking about Spurs, good as they are. I do not know what it is. Something always seems to go wrong in almost every match. It is always a ‘deja vu’ story..

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  4. sort out their transfer policy, spurs are never going to be a top eurpean or four side whilst thay dig around for bargains at the end of each transfer window & pay miserly wages ( in football terms). what they need is to bring in two quality strikers, & a playmaker in the middle, whilst bringing on some of the under 21 prospects.
    it’s a fact though that the teams which do well both domestically & in europe pay he most, levy & the board doen’t want to do that then we have just got to accept that we are about as far as we can go.

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    • Yeah, good thinking-let’s go ape and spend, spend spend-It makes perfect sense in this day and age to go on a bender-In case you’ve not realized-we’ve already posted a loss!

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  5. I think we are actually punching at our weight … that is as a good second tier team in the Premier League with a good showing in the secondary competition in Europe. Its a place to build from and has to recognised as this. It will take more time and sensible long term investment to move up from here. Things seem to go wrong because we build expectations on a run of good results and even the ability to win when playing not so well. I know this is a boring attitude in the quasi bi-polar world of a football fan but I just think that’s how it is.

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  6. Watching League games with Lloris in goal and the European cup games has demonstrated that Brad’s day is done – and not primarily because of the goals against disparity.

    I haven’t seen a pointed reference to this but, tell me, fellas, are there any stats out there covering retention from goal kicks and penalty area clearances involving the the goalie’s boot rather than the arm?

    During the past few European games I have been amazed just how often and how reliant Friedel has become hoofing the ball aiming it at nobody specific in the general area of twenty yards radius of the centre spot. In itself, not a bad move if it is then controlled, used well exploited by a white shirt to develop a coherent attack. My straw poll count over the league and knock-out matches estimates that 80-85% of such moves immediately, or within two touches, gives the ball straight back to the opponents. What’s even more galling (particularly with Basle) is that they then use it to devastating effect. Our back four and midfield guys scampering after the lofted clearance like greyhounds after the hare at Walthamstow, have immediately to rotate 180 degrees in their runs upfield to leg it after a speedy dribbler or (more often) an incisive through ball.

    I ain’t a genius. But AVB and his regiment of helpers are. (Why else would they draw such hefty salaries?) Has no-one thought about suggesting, “Hey, Brad, these guys haven’t got the balls (sic) to challenge and retain and then capitalise on a 60 yard punt into hopeful land”? Or maybe they’ve got too many of these balls? (Notice that, clever play on words – move over Stephen Fry.)

    I’m glad we’re out of this competition, but will only remain so if the players no longer apparently are given the opportunity to use the excuse of weariness, burn out or boredom to bugger up the remaining eminently winnable league fixtures.

    So there!

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  7. Tottenham Hotspurs, the drama queens of English football! Shakespeare could’ve written a play about us (“A Dramedy of Errors”) with lines like: Jermain (I-see-no-one-else-but-me) Defoe – “To thine own self be true”; Ade – “Out damn spot (kick)!”; Sir Gareth of Bale – “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”; Mr. Lewis/Levy: “The Shylocks of Enic”; us fans – “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”; and for our heroes on Thursday night – “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” ‘Twas ever thus!!! COY-MFS!

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  8. Seven consecutive penalty shoot out losses, five consecutive European quarter final defeats and seven consecutive FA Cup semi final failures. Do those horrific stats not tell us something about our mental strength? How to break the hoodoo?
    I’m a fan of AVB and, even if we don’t get top 4, will deem his first season to have been a success. However, I do find some of his decisions as regards selection and substitutions eccentric and he has fallen into the Harry trap of not rotating enough. The likes of Livermore, Carroll and Hudd have been underemployed. And we were never going to win the Europa League with Gallas and Friedel in the side. There would never have been a corner from which Basel scored their second goal had our sweeper-keeper been playing.

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  9. Soon as it went to penalties, I went and cleared up the kitchen. It sounds trite I know, and really I know it’s more complicated than that, but even on £50K a week I’d be outside every daylight hour that God sends practising kicking a ball in the direction I want it to go in.

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