Spurs Start Season Well Shock Horror

This game had what football calls the makings of a potential banana skin. Strictly speaking, the ‘potential’ is redundant because the banana skin either exists or it doesn’t, unless it is Schrödinger’s Banana Skin. The metaphor is sound even if the alleged properties of said skin exist only in a world governed by the laws of physics in a Tex Avery cartoon, but then again over the years those laws have often applied to our defence.

I prefer the term cock-up and this had all the ingredients. Spurs spending a fortune with classy new players up against Plucky Palace, underdogs who will rip into the fancy-dan slow-starting north London rich-kids from first to last, with a former Arsenal centre-forward popping up to score the inevitable late winner. You can’t tell me it didn’t cross your mind.

Spurs had no intention of conforming to type. In a composed, balanced and solid performance, we were the superior side

A Penalty??!!?

A Penalty??!!?

and should have won by a margin greater than a penalty that on another day may not have been given. Despite all the new men and the lack of pre-season togetherness, players found each other relatively easily and movement all round the field was good for the first game of the season. They looked sharp and motivated, our centre forward is off the mark and Kaboul returned to first team action. No rash predictions but that will do for me.

In my pre-season preview I wondered if it would take time for the new players to settle. In fact, Villas-Boas gave all of them a role they were comfortable with. Paulinho and Capoue know everything about the art of defensive midfield play. Of course they do – it’s what they have always done. It’s a fit as snug as a hand-stitched bespoke suit.

In Britain there’s still the lingering feeling that defensive midfielders are given that job because they can’t pass or move as well as the more creative footballers. Paulinho showed DMs can play. He has fine positional sense and works hard without wasting any energy. His rangy sniping in the middle picked off Palace attacks before they could going and he and Capoue, who came on early in the second half, were usually first to a loose ball. Both turned defence into attack with ease and we kept possession in an unhurried manner in spite of Palace’s energetic pressing game. Highly impressive.

Soldado took up good positions but did not get especially good service. Anyway, there was barely room to breathe in the box. Holloway used similar defensive tactics as he did when he was last in the Premier League, packing the centre and so forcing us out wide, then five in a line across the six yard box to greet a cross with two others to block the cross at source. It worked for Blackpool – we couldn’t find a way round it when we played them.

Certainly the game began where we left off last season, with plenty of possession but no chances. Walker was excellent going forward and combined well with Lennon, passes inside the full-back slicing through the flank. However, Palace were quick to get back and Lennon took a while to realise that he had no time for a second touch. The closest we came was a Dembele shot that went just over.

In the last fifteen minutes of the half, we picked up the tempo and the chances did come. Sigurdsson missed the best one, Chadli and Soldado so nearly created something and the Belgian should have committed more fully to a far post header just before the break.

The breakthrough came with a penalty – finally. An omen? None for an entire season then one in the very first game of 2013-14. You know the story – Palace will feel hard done by, we think it was justified. This season I am minimising exposure to endless TV punditry for the sake of my sanity so I have no idea what the MOTD and Sky inquests decided but on two views, I’d say it was but could have been influenced by the appeal Clattenburg turned down moments earlier. I suspect that was playing on his mind. Soldado took it calmly.

Look out, Palace sneaking up...

Look out, Palace sneaking up…

Spurs sat back a little too much but by and large defended well. We were caught by the long ball a few times and there’s the lingering anxiety regarding the ease with which Palace strikers got into the spaces between our back four. However, Lloris was quick and alert after a sedentary first half and swept up behind the defence. Danny Rose made one superb last man tackle and Lloris’s double save late on saw us through. However well Palace harried and chased in midfield, they posed comparatively little threat up front.

We should have wrapped it up in the final quarter. Chadli had a couple of efforts, Siggy missed again but overall did well, covering a huge amount of ground in the central advanced midfield role that suits him best. Defoe failed too when well placed, that flaw in his technique when he’s not quite on it, falling away as he shoots and dragging it wide. Throughout it was noticeable how many men we had in the box when we attacked, a difference from last season.

It’s the little things that count. Chadli nonchalantly controlling a firm raking pass stone dead. Lennon covering when Walker went up in the second half. Soldado chasing back.

Good to see Kaboul back. Rose did well enough without being seriously tested (looks like he’s bulked up a bit without losing his pace) but he can be indecisive when moving up. He and Chadli need to work on their partnership. Shame Dembele went off – his inability to finish a game is worrying as he can be a key player.

Good start, no complaints.

13 thoughts on “Spurs Start Season Well Shock Horror

  1. What can i say, Spurs looked ok but hopefully will get better as the team get to know each other better. Passing is still a bit slow and allows defences to get into position, plus when we do create a chance our players are not clinical enough (same as last season). Personally i would like to see us get Lamela, Lennon needs to many touches and tends to run without much awareness of other players positions, and his final ball is not good enough, and his lack of goals is an issue ! Overall even though this sounds negative, i am positive for the upcoming season, our acquisitions have been v good so hopefully its onwards an upwards for the mighty Spurs !!!!!!!!
    COYS

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    • Does look remarkably positive for the coming season. You are right about Lennon but in his defence I would say that for someone like him who is more an out and out winger as opposed to a player who is comfortable out wide, he tries to take it to the byline. This can cause the defence problems if he crosses but is also easier to defend if you put two men on him. To combat this, as you say he needs to be confident enough to cross it first time.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  2. Very satisfactory start and I agree with most of the above. I thought Paulinho was quiet but I defer to the majority view he had a very good start, finding positions easily, making interceptions etc. without becoming too breathless. Good news is that he and the others will get even better. I’m guessing Sandro, Capoue and Paulinho are similar in the holding position, with Dembele more active in defense AND attack (maybe that’s why he can’t finish a game). Still unsure about Sig (I’ve always suspected he’s a bit lightweight) but he is certainly capable of covering for our playmaker (when we finally get him) and on the wing. Rose impressed me and looks as though he can finally establish himself in the left back role. We really are beautifully covered with defenders and defensive midfielders, and maybe, if Bale stays, we can get by with plenty of strength and pace, without a playmaker, and reach top four anyway. Imagine him, or even Dembele, in the Sig position yesterday! Anyway, thank goodness we had a winning start (after the disastrous ones of the previous two seasons ..thanks to Modric), and now we prepare for a completely different proposition to Palace away, in ‘push and move’ Swansea at home.

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    • Paulinho was quietly impressive. He and Sandro will provide real drive from midfield, important in matches like the Swansea game where the DMs will undoubtedly have time to come forward. Dembel could be that playmaker – he’s a very accurate passer of the ball – but judging by today’s rumours more arrivals are on their way.

      Regards, Al

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  3. I wasn’t as upbeat about the performance as you Alan, but it was satisfactory. I think Chadli put in one cross with his left foot, which didn’t go past the first man, otherwise he tried to come inside and was increasingly easy to read or dillydallied and the opportunity was gone. I liked with Paulinho and Capoue.

    Everyone else was adequate and they’ll be better performances ahead once they’ve gotten used to each other, I’m sure. We do need a schemer in midfield and/or a subtler link man behind the front man. I think Dembele can do one or the other but I was disappointed in him yesterday.

    Still too much deliberation or ponderous passing for me. Mind, the 1-2 between Lennon and Soldado in the second half which sent Soldad off down the right hand side and ended with his pass to Sigi being cut out at the death on the 6-yd box the highlight for me, and much more what we need to be doing. Lennon’s outside of the foot return down the line was sumptuous and quite perfect. Walker and Lennon did a similar move in the first half, which shoots a bit of a hole in my too deliberate/ponderous observation. We have pace in the side but don’t use it enough for me. The ball inside the full back for Lennon to motor onto made a heady appearance at reading last season but seems to be used ultra sparingly.

    All in all any win away in the premier league is a good one and we were well worth it, despite not being, understandably, at our best. A chance to see us in lilywhite shirt blue shorts and lilywhite socks, which was a plus.

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    • Walker and lennon linked superbly on a few occasions. That inside ball is a real skill. I think we will up the tempo as they get used to each other but for a first attempt, pretty good. We will have to learn to find a way past massed defences at the edge of the box in the middle – other teams will try the same thing.

      Regards, Alan

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  4. Agree with what everyone is essentially saying: that it was the first match of the season and not to get too worked up about it. For me, the most frustrating thing was not one of the new players we’ve recently brought in, but old timer Lennon, who continues to make really poor decisions (if he makes one in time at all) in and around the box. Too often he passes when he should shoot, shoots when he should pass, or just dribbles it into traffic and loses it. As always, he gets himself into great positions, I can’t fault him that, but AVB has got to work on his decision making skills and awareness; the missed opportunity to pass to Chadli being the howler of the game for me. Otherwise, the team as a whole played well for the first time ever playing together as a unit and I think they could really come good in a few weeks time.

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  5. Missed the first half an hour. I thought we played at an impressive pace and fluency for what it is a new team. I was frustrated by Rose’s use of the ball once he got into their half and am concerned by AVB’s apparent willingness to jettison BAE – who, in my opinion is a fine distributor of the ball. I havn’t seen Rose enough to rate him properly but AVB seems to be backing him. The attacking full back is an increasingly prominent part of our game which makes Rose’s role v important. He gets forward very well but I need convinving that he has the end product.

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    • You saw the first half loads of times last season, Tom, believe me…

      Full-backs have a vital role in this set-up. Two DMs offers protection to allow them to get forward, their pace helps them get back quickly. But they have to remember how to defend, something Walker often forgets.

      Regards, Alan

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  6. Alan!

    Can we dispense with the eyes averting, hard done by feelings for Palace and Ian Holloway, please?

    The penalty was nailed on, as dear old ‘arry would say, Moxy diving in to block Lennon’s cross, leg and arms out. Just happened to be his arm that blocked the ball. If that was a Spurs player we would be saying “what do you expect, you don’t go diving in like that”. It also wasn’t a foul leading up to the penalty, which occurred about a minute and a half before. Maybe Palace should work on clearing their lines? They had the ball several times before Lennon’s cross. As to Chadli’s tackle, well was a good old bit of shoulder to shoulder challenge, expertly done. The fact the Palace player wasn’t expecting it and went down in a crumpled heap was his problem. Gus Poyet was very clear on both this and the penalty, but Alan “Hotspur hating” Hansen could say when challenged as to why he thought it was a foul was “because I think he fouled him”. Never has £40k a week (or whatever obscene amount he gets) been earned with such reason, conviction and forthright argument. Maybe he could solve the Egypt crisis?

    Further, the other reason for telling Holloway to shut the f*** up is he had no problem in sending out a certain Charlie Adam to crock Bale at a pivotal point in our season some three years ago. Every one who was at the Lane that day winced in shock and was then up in arms at the fact he got away without a free kick let alone a booking/straight red against him for a very late lunge on Bale. Said Mr Adam then popped up and scored the Penalty which earned them a point and lost us two and Bale for the rest of the season, two points which would have secured our Champions League spot over the Woolwich.

    Anyway, welcome back Alan, I love and always look forward to the blog!

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    • Glad you look forward to Tottenham On My Mind, more of the same this season.

      I am increasing my enjoyment of football this season by decreasing the amount of time I spend listening to pundits, especially after the game and on TV. I’m fed up with the focus on fouls, wasn’t it/was it…other things happen in the game.

      So I called it only on what I saw on Sky at the time, right or wrong, not after the game and not based on anything said by a pundit. I only read the following day that Holloway was banging on about something or other. Its all about creating the Plucky Underdog image. As you say, he should spend more itme focusin gon his team not the officials.

      Regards, Alan

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  7. I thought it was an entertaining game and a great start. There looks much more to the midfield this year and whilst I enjoyed Bale’s performances last season, he seemed to be the only chance of doing something on far too many occasions. All the new players look a step up in class.
    So looking forward to our first home game.

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