Sometimes a bit of distance helps. Time to breathe. Sense of perspective, which is impossible to achieve in the midst of the white hot heat of a Chelsea derby with Champions League qualification hanging on the result. May the deity who does not exist strike me down but yesterday I had Other Things to do, so no blog. Not a bad thing. Time to pause, disentangle the loose ends of a tension-filled evening. deep breath, take a moment. This sound advice doesn’t apply to Spurs defenders at a corner, by the way.
Performances and results can be both good and bad at the same time. I could press the pause button for a month and still not reach a firm conclusion. A draw was bad – the CL is now out of our hands even if we win the last two games. The draw was good – we twice came back from a goal down, saved a match where at one stage we were being outclassed, notched a point. The draw was bad – I had hoped we would win. The draw was good – it was more than I expected.
That’s a contradiction, but hey, we all know that contradiction, the unity of opposites, is fundamental to society and our full understanding of the nature of reality. Big shout-out to all you Maoists out there. That’s what we saw on Wednesday, the reality of Spurs. Tottenham are in fifth place because we are the fifth best team in the league.
The magnificence of the week where we defeated Arsenal and brushed Inter Milan aside did not as I said at the time herald a new balance of power but was in fact the highpoint of a season that has since declined. We’ve not played well for a while now. The sublime seven minutes versus City, Bale’s sublime seven seconds last week or two ropey goals to salvage a point at Wigan have covered the true extent of our dip in form. You know what, I’m disappointed but not too down about it. That ridiculously wonderful week remains glorious, not because of the immediate consequences but because it showed what we are capable of and what we should aspire to. We’ve overachieved to reach this point, whereas our rivals are uncertain of their future. There’s so much to be proud of.
Let’s take the Chelsea game. That slick midfield trio tore us apart at the Lane earlier this season. They were on top for much of the first half and at times threatened to repeat their trick. However, we dragged ourselves back into the game with a combination of hard work and application plus a few tricks of our own. It was an unequal contest on paper. By my reckoning our starting eleven cost a couple of million more than Fernando Torres, yet in the build-up no pundits mentioned that as an example of the imbalance in terms of the resources available to the respective managers. That’s because we are seen as their equals, which in itself indicates some of what Villas-Boas has achieved in such a short time.
The pundits did reveal the truth after the match however, albeit inadvertently. Souness, one of the few I admire, trotted out the hackneyed line that our Andre was fortunate to inherit the side from Our Glorious Harry Redknapp. Not so. He has had to replace half a team, the best half aside from Bale. Modric and Van der Vaart sold, King, the finest British centre half of his era, retired, Kaboul, our best current centreback, injured all season. Then he’s had to cope with Sandro’s loss, the lynchpin of our side. Against them, Mata, Hazard and Oscar. How many times do we have to say this before it is heard? Yet still Villas-Boas cannot get the credit he deserves for punching above our weight. It’s a backhanded compliment that people now expect Spurs to play so well, that our standards are so high that we are criticised for falling below these rich expectations, but it takes only a moment of perspective to uncover the reality.
With the positives comes frustration at what might have been. Never mind what if we had a striker, what if Adebayor had played for the rest of the season as he did on Wednesday. His goal astonished as much as any of Bale’s this season. Winning a scuffled challenge deep in his own half, on he went, and on, as fast as his spindly pipe-cleaner legs would carry him. Lennon’s shrewd run occupied a couple a defenders just long enough to give Manu some room, by no means the first time this year that Azza the unsung hero has worked hard for his team-mate to take the glory. A gem of a shot, floating into the top corner, the most precious of accolades, a flat-footed keeper helpless in the face of such brilliance.
The frustration of a midfield unable to protect a back four. Analysis of individual goals in blogs has been rendered pointless if Gary Neville is poised by his touchscreen. All I would add is the position of our midfield. Three blues were between them and our back four when they began the move that led abruptly to their second goal.
For a time it looked unequal but we gradually inched our way back into the match, keeping the ball better and playing as a unit further up the pitch. As Chelsea tired or slowed because they thought the game was won, this allowed Vertonghen to push up, gave Parker a fraction more space, which sadly these days he needs, and with the introduction of Siggy and Dempsey we could put more pressure on the centre of their back four. We had an outlet. Nothing was going on down our right but Adebayor was drifting left. (AVB again…). To begin with, this gave us an outlet as we relieved the pressure on our defence. then, gradually, this became part of our attack. For the first time we employed some combinations between our players. We had three, Manu, Benny and Siggy, to their two. Moreover, Manu was thinking quickly as well as moving into the gaps. One touch, Siggy filled one of those gaps and finished with aplomb. The runs from midfield, a goalscoring midfielder, that was why he was bought and he fulfilled his promise.
Mentions in dispatches for Lloris, who stayed calm and did what he had to when he had to do it, and Walker, who takes up some crazy positions but worked tirelessly and defended well. He does what he does because he wants to do well and I can handle that.
Fourth was always between Spurs and Arsenal. Look at what Chelsea have at their disposal, with a manager who knows how to organise a team. We’re ahead of Arsenal in so many ways – I wouldn’t take any of their back five. Yet since the derby they are unbeaten. Our problems are not up front, they are at the back. All this tactics, the hope, the despair, the promise, all the philosophy and words I spew out. No point if we can’t head away a corner. It’s odd how these grand schemes fall in the face of humble problems. Last season, how we bemoaned the fates – the injuries, Fulop, the dip in form, Bayern Munich. I tell you what’s truly ironic. We are the fifth best team over the season because we can’t clear a corner.
SPURS LEGENDS IN ACTION
The John White Memorial Match will take place on Saturday 18 May 2013, with kick-off at 2pm.
The match is being held at Colebrook Royals FC, Grange Farm Lane, Chigwell, Essex, IG7 6DP. (Close to Chigwell tube station)
One of the heroes of Tottenham Hotspur’s all-conquering side of the early 1960s will be remembered in a special memorial game featuring the Spurs Legends team on May 18.
The official Spurs Legends team, which tours the UK regularly to help raise funds for worthy causes, is set to take on FC ScotSpurs, a dedicated team of Scottish fans of Tottenham, in a memorial match for John. Guesting in the FC ScotSpurs side willl also be Flav, Charlie Marks, and Thelonius from TFC podcast.
Poignantly, John’s son Rob is set to captain FC ScotSpurs against the team of ex-White Hart Lane favourites, which regularly features the likes of Mark Falco, Paul Miller, Tony Galvin, Clive Wilson and Darren Anderton.
Please support the event. Rob is a great friend of Tottenham On My Mind. Hope to see you there.
Tickets will be on sale on the day, priced at £5 for adults and £1 for under-16s.
Money raised from the event will go to the Tottenham Tribute Trust, which is an organisation that reaches out to members of the Spurs family who are facing hard times.
Donations can also be made via: http://www.justgiving.com/fcscotspurs