Send For Sandro

So far this season Spurs have been all feline grace and power, leaving the fans purring with delight. Yesterday all we could do was retch and heave, coughing up a giant spittle-ridden fur-ball that covered north London. We were heavily defeated and deserved it.

The Hammers completely dominated this match, not in terms of possession or territory – they were pinned back in their own half for extended periods – but the manner in which their tactics dictated the game’s shape and pattern. Spurs spent 90 minutes trying to catch up. Like some sadistic episode of the Crystal Maze, the boleyn boys set us a series of puzzles to which we could never find the answer.

Big Sam is fond of his equally large centre forwards. Poor man, he’s never quite got over the fact that Kevin Davies has got older as the years passed. As the Hammers struggle for form and goals, I swear he wakes at night in a cold sweat screaming, ‘Just give it to Kevin…’ before sheepishly realising he’s had to make do with Carlton Cole. Maybe he’s discovered the way out of this recurring nightmare. How about passing the ball? Worked a treat yesterday. Bereft of centre forwards, he packed his midfield and told the front men, or rather the least defensively minded midfielders, to close down in our half. We couldn’t play out from the back and could never settle on the ball. They seldom allowed Vertonghen to hold the ball so it ended up at Dawson’s feet, which in turn meant it was only a matter of time before they got the ball back again.

Elsewhere they closed down ferociously and funnelled our wide men into the middle where they were gobbled up by hungry defenders. We spent most of the time trying to thread the ball through non-existent gaps before giving up the ghost and just cut out the middle man by passing it directly to them. Eleven men back within 35 yards of goal is hard enough to overcome even on a good day, which this most certainly wasn’t. However, the hammers made it more difficult by playing the ball out of defence and then in the second half becoming increasingly adept on the counter. They certainly have a better grasp of the offside law than the Chel**a players demonstrated last week.

From Spurs’ perspective, this performance was devoid of any redeeming features. Lloris did all he could, Dembele was the best of the outfield players, a dubious honour, and Townsend at least occasionally took the game to our opponents although without end-product. Tottenham are a work in progress and there will be bad days. As I said recently, the surprise has been how well the squad has settled down. What concerns me most is how easily we forgot the lessons that apparently we have learned so far. They showed little movement and less patience. To break down defences like this, you have to move them around, stretch them with a bit of width and break that up with some direct running. Against Cardiff we scored in the last minute with our 29th goal attempt, yesterday we ran out of ideas or invention well before half-time.

Also, a few of the niggles that had been around, things that needed more work, became ruthlessly exposed as major faults. In response to the pressure, Villas-Boas rightly pushed up another midfielder but it should have been Dembele not Paulinho. I understand why the manager wants some passing from the back and the Moose did well enough but his shooting, ability to pick out a pass and above all his strength with the ball at his feet surely could have been better employed around the edge of the W Ham box.

There was no leadership or direction. Eriksen, lofty and aloof, played the game at his pace, oblivious of the fact that the game left him way behind. Sigurdsson and Townsend provided little width. Siggy failed to take up dangerous positions in the box to support lone striker Defoe while Townsend’s reluctance to cross with his right foot meant he was running inside and across the back four, where he was less dangerous. We get width from our full-backs. The lacklustre Walker did not exploit the space out wide while Naughton, a right-footer, also comes inside by instinct.

At the back, Dawson was exposed on three occasions, two around the half-way line and was furiously backpedalling for Morrison’s third but although every goal links to a greater or lesser extent to defensive failure, this blog will stick by its rule and praise good play when it happens. It was a shame the talented but dissolute Morrison should come good against us but that was a fine goal, weaving into the space left by Vertonghen as he rightly tried to do something different further up the pitch.

After a dull first half, we upped the tempo at the start of the second. This was our best spell, but when the chance came, Defoe, one on one, failed to lift the ball over the keeper’s legs. One further chance was cleanly hit and well-saved but straight at the keeper. And that was that. A corner at the other end, not for the first time in his Spurs career Vertonghen was drawn underneath a set-piece cross and Reid headed goalward. The ball rebounded to him from a team-mate and he slotted home. Then Lloris saved Vaz Te’s shot but the rebound hit the W Ham man as he fell. He knew little about it but in it went as Hugo threw his hands heavenwards. Morrison finished it off.

Good fortune in the first two goals – MOTD replay also showed Vertonghen being pushed in the back as he leapt, two hands but not picked up on in the analysis because it did not fit the chosen MOTD  narrative of tough West Ham – but a win that was completely and utterly deserved. Time for reflection during the international break but I suspect AVB would like play again tomorrow, just to get this out of our system.

If Sandro is fit, he has to return to offer much-need strength and drive in centre midfield. Rose could find his prospects improved by his absence – there’s been nothing down that left. Of the rest, Soldado, Paulinho and Eriksen need more time to get used to what’s being asked of them. I would rotate the squad for at least three cup games – some are being overplayed. The biggest question is this: Villas-Boas does not yet know his best eleven. He thought he did and he’s allowed this side time to gel, but the balance is not right yet. Plenty of time to ponder in the next fortnight.

The Y word debate overshadowed the build-up to this game. Fans responded in typical fashion – they ignored everything and did what they wanted. Plenty of chants with the Y word, although I can’t vouch for the suggestion that 10,000 voices shouted, “Pid” or “Mid” in unison. I could not hear any abuse from the opposition, although I read some reports of this on twitter and I’m not sure that the chant of ‘Paulo Di Canio’ late on was purely a vote of sympathy for the ex-Sunderland manager.

I’ve written about this before and so I’ve not repeated myself recently. I am probably in a minority of one as a Spurs fan who takes Baddiel seriously, it’s just that I don’t agree with him. I was around in the mid/late seventies when Spurs fans embraced the abuse they received in most away grounds and thus neutralised the hate. As a jew myself I understand better than most just how complex an issue this is. Instinctively I never use the word – not a thought-out position, I merely noticed last season that I’ve never used it to describe myself as a Spurs fan. Context is everything and in our hands it is not a term of abuse.

 

24 thoughts on “Send For Sandro

  1. An eloquent and insightful, as ever, if somewhat chastening write-up Alan.

    We looked good at the start of the second half, but the goal from the corner knocked all of the stuffing, and patience out of us. Got to score when creating chances. Well one very good one.

    I, like you and a good many I imagine, have been waiting to see Dembele played further up the field for ever it seems; I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    I trust the Hammers in your household were sensitive …

    Claret and blue makes the cockerel spew; it was ever thus.

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    • Ah, you have a good memory…miraculously household members were very keen to watch MOTD2.

      Right about taking chances but the real problem was that we did not make nearly enough of them in the first place.

      Regards, Al

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  2. What a train wreck that was. Still feeling numb. Thought we looked a tad leggy right from the off. There wasn’t enough pace and thrust all day and IKnowAlanGilzean is right, we are not clinical enough when the chances do come along.
    AVB, I feel, needs to react sooner. Mourinho would have made changes at half-time, or even earlier.
    Sorry but Naughton doesn’t cut the mustard at this level. Vert on the left and draft Chiriches in if Rose is not fit.

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    • The balance of the midfield is not right somehow – Siggy and Townsend decent players but there’s something not quite right about them in that three.

      Regards, Al

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  3. yes good article…but let`s not get carried away!

    we are 3 points off the prem leaders after 7 games – would we have taken this at the start of the season? definitely

    everyone was saying after our first 2 games we lacked any creativity…eriksen comes in and is hailed as a saviour – now after his first poor game he is “lofty and aloof”?

    dembele was our best player in the previous 3 games (cardiff, chelsea,anzhi) and now everyone is saying sandro must play and would have made all the difference yesterday, i`m not so sure he would have in such a congested midfield….our only joy was out wide (townsend looked our most dangerous player) however it was our full backs that let us down yesterday naughton is simply not an attacking force and walker was unfit

    why did walker play 90 mins?….when it was obvious after 20 mins that something was wrong and they should have brought on chiriches

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  4. Playing essentially the same eleven that graced the ploughed field in Muscovy less than 72 hours earlier strikes me as less than astute managerially and tactically. Times arriving for AVB to demonstrate that he can cut the mustard for more than a season anywhere and instill a touch of forward looking aggression into the build up play. My suggestion: a £2,000 fine for a square ball pass and £5,000 for any back pass when there are four or more players further advanced.

    I know these figures would be mere loose change to the likes of you and me but, hell, we got forty years of drudgery to make our pile; these poor youngsters only have twenty or twenty-five at best (unless you’re a Friedel, of course)!!

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    • Still time for us to be patient but after two wins, now he needs to rotate. Trouble is, most of them will be knackered after the internationals…

      Regards, Al

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  5. Hi Alan,
    My thoughts at half time were to play five in mid-field and one up front so as to try and secure a draw.
    My wife asked how the game was going, my reply was, ” We’re gonna get beat. ”
    I reserve the right to forget yesterday and move on.
    Regarding the chanting of the word ” Yid ” during the match.
    I do find it astonishing that so much focus is being placed on this when every week our ears are subjected to venemous filth from the mouths of supporters of all teams and yet nothing is mentioned.
    My pet hate is ” Your support is ……………” We all know the rest.
    A more cretinous sour grape of a chant I can’t imagine exists and yet week after week it infests the airwaves without being questioned.
    I can however turn the tv over so it’s in the end my responsibility if I listen to it or not.
    I’m not Jewish but remember using the phrase ” My kids are Yids ” quite recently on this page without getting a telling off.
    I presume therefore that you don’t find it offensive.
    If you did then I wouldn’t use it.
    But people should remember that offence can only be taken if the recipient chooses.
    We can decide not to be offended.
    This point seems to have been forgotten by many and should be used as a reminder when adressing the subject.

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    • I’m not offended in the least if Spurs fans use it. The reaction was way over the top.

      That Defoe chance would have changed it, given us some impetus but otherwise we got what we deserved.

      Regards, Alan

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  6. We needed to change it 10 minutes into the 2nd half, maybe even half time as Harvey says. Disheartening. Good piece by the way – really hope this is the low point of the season and not the warning of an oncoming slump. Re the Y word, I think more offence has been caused from the practical criminalising of Spurs fans than Spurs fans themselves have caused anyone else over the past decade by using it. I agree, context is everything here. I don’t think Spurs fans even use the word as a badge of honour anymore, for most it’s just a football word with no further thought. People say Y*ds (feeling the need to asterix it out offends me) as they would say Spurs or Lilywhites, most Spurs fans know it as a Spurs term long before even knowing the origins of the word.

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    • Surprising how few of the younger fans fully understand the history and context, which to me is key in understanding what’s going on.

      Suspect there will be a few more days this frustrating before the season is over.

      Regards, Alan

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  7. Hi Allen.
    Regarding Andros, I don’t think he played too bad. There were a few moments when he crossed good balls into the area and we were not clinical enough to finish, and that’s where we needed the likes of Ade to get on the end of them.
    Also when Siggy came of and Lamela came on why did he not switch him to the right and Andros on the left. Against Chelsea last week he took of Andros and played Chadli on the right, who prefers playing on the left, and that only made us weeker and less offensive when we needed to win the game.
    For me AVB needs, not only to work out his best squad but, play them in their strongest position .The man needs to change the game quicker and use our large squad to his advantage,but for me that does not seem the case. But in time I am sure AVB will work it out again.
    Regarding the Y word, we should reverse it to DIY army, and then see what they do about that.
    What amazes me the most is that every one assosiates Spurs as being Jewish which I am not, yet I know more Jewish Arsenal fans than Spurs, yet we were discriminated and never them which I find baffling.
    Keep up the good work Allen.

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    • Thanks. AVB could have tried Andros on the left, surely could not have done any harm. Needed to do something different, but also there is the problem of crossing the ball to a single 5’8″ striker…

      Arsenal have and have always had as many jewish fans as Spurs. It shows that the original of the term in relation to us was purely abuse,

      Regards, Alan

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  8. Don’t think sandro is at the races yet, was very poor on thursday.spending all that money on a million and one midfielders and no decent cover for full backs and yesterday being tactically out smarted by a retarded fat head AVB is beginning to look as much out of his depth than moyes!

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  9. Hi Alan,

    Like most Spurs fans today I’m still in a state of shock about what was a complete disaster yesterday or as Harvey The Hudd so rightly put it – train wreck! I always look forward to your posts as they put things into perspective quite well and stop me reaching for the Valium.

    However, this is two weeks running now that AVB has been tactically naive. Last week the 2nd half against the chav’s was crying out for Sandro to come on and plug the midfield as they just overran us. Yesterday nobody seemed to know what they were doing. Players out of position and too slow on the break. Whilst I had no problem with Defoe starting, I was surprised that Holtby didn’t start with him as they seem to have understanding.

    There was also a sense of inevitability or déjà vu when their opener went in. Once again from a set piece (why do the opposition have no problem scoring from corners/free kicks against us when we find it so hard?). I stand in the Park Lane and there’s usually a chorus of COYS to try and raise the team, but this time there was just a resigned silence – memories of Wigan, Fulham, Wolves etc and of course this time it all got worse!

    I hope this is a one off, but I have a bad feeling about the rest of the season at the moment and yet another golden opportunity to break into the top four lost.

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  10. As with the Chelsea game, AVB was too slow to respond with different tactics and appropriate substitutions. Basically, he was outwitted in the 2nd half of the former match by Mourinho, and in the whole West Ham match by Allardyce. What’s worries me (apart from some decent spells in the PL this season) is that without the Bale effect we’re looking a bit slow and narrow in our build-up. I know it’s early days re settling in, and with AVB spoilt for choice in getting his formation, tactics and players right, but contrast that even more with the season in 2011/12, when Harry ‘loved watching us perform’ and Sir Alex claimed we were playing the most attractive football of all the top sides (at least up until early March when Harry’s eye wandered towards his England coronation).
    Our flowing (and effective) football then was predominantly based on an axis of Modric/Parker in the middle (by God those two complimented each other beautifully) and glorious pace on the flanks ..with either VDV supporting the striker, or going with two strikers. Just reflect, if we’d had just one decent box striker back then (to convert just a few more of the countless chances our midfield and wing play created), and if Harry had kept focus, we ‘might’ have actually won the damn PL
    Bene worked well with Bale on the left, and Walker with Lennon on the right ..and all the above kept a lot of pressure off our central defenders. Believe me, we were NOT that far off the title (even with what seemed like a smaller squad). Now, we have more ‘power’ than ever before and we’ve completely rebuilt! But that power has to be harnessed properly, and with guile and pace as part of the whole. Sig, for all his welcome goals so far, is masking the huge problem on the left flank, and I’m really not sure about the statuesque Chadli.
    Only Danny Rose has the pace to open up the left side. On the right, at least Townsend is giving a (hopefully fit soon) Lennon a run for his money, ably supported by an attack minded Walker (although why is he making so many defensive mistakes after his superb breakthrough year is beyond me). Eriksen has perhaps been unfairly labelled as our great playmaking hope! As of yet, he is no Modric ..but he is still just 21, can build his strength and energy levels, along with the thought processes that go into each game. As a potential string-puller, his strings were all tangled up on Sunday, plus he faded quickly against Chelsea. Twice AVB brought on Holtby too late for him. I do hope that Dembele pushes forward more from now on. That guy should be linking better with Soldado/Defoe, assisting Eriksen/Holtby more, and scoring great goals or at least be testing the goalkeeper every now and then. Remember what he was like when he first started with us? Paulinho, in contrast, goes forward too often. His strength, from what I’ve seen, is reading the game from his holding position and going forward only when it’s right for him to do so. Lamela? Possibly this lad is the biggest concern. At £27m you would expect to see something (anything) that alludes to his potential. Apart from glimpses I have not seen it; although I pray he will be a true ‘great’. I know that you, and many, want Sandro to play from the off more. There is no doubting Sandro’s qualities as a huge break-up player in certain games, and he has the potential to be the spine of this new Spurs, but he really shouldn’t have been needed for the West Ham game. The players in there were capable of changing and adapting in the face of West Ham’s tactics, as was their manager, but they didn’t adapt, didn’t go wide enough, and certain players, like Eriksen, should have been replaced earlier (yet again). Add to those missing attributes on Sunday, passion, focus, commitment and longer periods of ‘creativity’, and you can see why we came up woefully short. So no, I don’t think Sandro was the answer for this game, as good as he is. The answer is in most of the above.

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  11. Early days, but I’ve got a nagging feeling the blue scum players might have been right about AVB. Our record number of PL points last season was probably more down to Bale than the manager. His reputation is based purely on a season at Porto where he had the Hulk and Falcao up front against poor defences. Has he ever built a successful team. Hope I’m wrong and that his stubbornness will make rather than break him.

    Defoe has been a good servant to the club, but a lone striker? Never. It’s madness that he’s still even being considered for that role. Complete lunacy to actually play him there. How is Soldado going to bed into the side from the bench?

    £100m spent but not one capable fullback at the club is cretinous and will be costly, but the most worrying thing of all is the dour, and in the main, goaless football being dished up in the Prem. The pub teams of the Losers’ Cup can only paper over the cracks for so long. AVB needs to get us scoring goals and quickly. Benching the summer’s star signing, when he, like everyone else, is struggling to find time and space in game plan that strangles the life out of matches was just a hopeful pot shot. Make no mistake, AVB needs to find a plan B and sharpish.

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  12. A few thoughts; Defoe should never start a PL game again, he can’t hold the ball up and does not bring others into the game. Dawson is a liability and needs to go ASAP. Naughton is not a Premiership player and should go the same way as Dawson. Sandro or Capoue, if fit, should play every game – a defence as vulnerable as ours should never be left without protection. Adebayor should be brought back as a squad player, he will sometimes be useful. Why did they let Beni go with no obvious replacement. I’m not convinced by AVB, with the squad at his disposal he should be doing much, much better.
    Mark

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  13. Good stuff here, and it fills in the blanks for those of us in the U.S. where the game for some reason wasn’t shown. I can understand why AV-B never appears to be enjoying what’s happening on the field. He picks 9/10ths of the team that has started so well, and they reward him by playing like a team of imposters. Sandro must be one of the first names on the team sheet. He was our outstanding player in the first half of last season until his injury and then Bale took over. Sandro plays with a direction and passion that has been missing from quite a few games. In the Arsenal game I was waiting for a full assault in the last 15 minutes but it never came, and we seem to take our foot off the pedal after going a goal or two up, hoping that we can ride out the rest of the game. It has worked out O.K. – but nothing more – until we get into those red blooded encounters where we come up short – don’t get me started about the team being emasculated of British players who intuitively understand the call to arms. We don’t have a player like Parker who can see when things are not clicking but can then inspire the others into giving everything for the final push. Most of our performances have been bordering on the efficient but at the same time appear anaemic and short of verve. As you say, AV-B is still struggling to find his best combination and he has to give players a chance to claim their place. But we lose games like this and it gets more frustrating by the week while we all puzzle about the contributions of Soldado and Lamela. So now we know our Achilles heel …beware Europa fixtures and then games just before the international break.

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    • Dave, I’m on the Left Coast — TWC had the game (TWC now airing online NBC Extra Time games on its channels in 740 range) on here in CA. And, there were 5 English players of our 11 starting vs W-Ham. As for frustrating, sure, but how long have you been a fan — you were probably lucky to miss the 90s. In fact, we’ve only won 3 Cups in last 29 years by my counting…tick tock…that’s a whole lot of “frustrating” going on, mate! And, Alan…excellent post again, sir!

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      • Ashley, lucky left coast; there was not a sniff of it here in Florida. Thanks for the steer on the contingent of English players- I’m clearly talking a load of balls. Been a fan since the 60’s and my first home game was a 5-5 draw against Villa in ’65, (I think). Was a regular in the East stand for countless years until my move to the States so I’ve done my time!

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  14. We’ve now played 7 out of 38 PL games and the 2 biggest signings (over £50million) are a problem. Soldado dropped on Sunday and Lamela not starting again. It’s amazing we spend that sort of money on players who are adding nothing at present. I hope they prove their worth in forthcoming matches, but they have not started well at all.

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    • Ardiles and Villa came from a different environment, and took some time to settle, but KB played them and they repaid his faith. AVB should do the same.

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