I didn’t get to see my old yiddisher aunt very often but when I did, at some point in the conversation she always gave me the same advice. “Boychick, listen to an old woman. You need a good basis in life. Make sure you have a good basis.”
Turns out basis could mean, well, anything she wanted it to mean. If I should be a doctor, lawyer or accountant, so much the better but get a job that made money and lasted a lifetime. Qualifications, a very good basis. A good woman, and steer clear of shikses. Or a couple of lamb chops in the freezer, just in case.
Sound advice, though, that’s stood me in good stead and applicable in any situation, although I confess I’ve not followed it too closely. Social worker – feh! What’s with those people? I guess the footballing equivalent is an uncompromising defence. Can’t do without it. No point having these fancy-dan flighty forwards, as I’m sure auntie would have said if she didn’t reject football as a worthwhile activity so comprehensively, if you let them in at the other end.
Spurs have conceded one goal in five away league games, five all season and three of those in one match. So why kvetsch? Surely everything is just fine, the perfect basis in fact for a great season. Tottenham Hotspur not giving goals away. Hard to believe and hard to believe there’s a ‘but’ floating around here somewhere. I don’t know which is more bizarre. A good point away from home but the prospect of more still tantalises.
Yesterday’s first half against was the season so far in microcosm. By far the superior side, we failed to score, our fluent, neat approach play producing a few chances and a few more shots from range but no goals. It’s a good season so far but it won’t get better until we turn dominance into chances and chances into goals.
I won’t dwell on problems that have come to rule recent match reports. Playing two inverted wingers creates more bother than they are worth. We’re lucky to have two wide men as good as Lennon and Townsend – I like them both. However, their pace and ability to cut to the byline or into the box is largely nullified when they come inside. As they cut across, they slow down. If they pass, it’s more likely to be sideways not forwards, and usually they face a packed defence relieved to find safety in numbers rather than being isolated and exposed out wide. I’d willingly trade a couple of long-range pearlers for a ready supply of crosses or through-balls.
TV and the feeling that actually we weren’t going to concede every time the ball went into our half gave me the luxury of studying Soldado’s movement off the ball. As the wingers get the ball, he moves into space but then often stops as he watches them wriggle across the box. He doesn’t know what to expect or where to go. He likes to meet the ball in front of him and slide off the defender’s shoulder into the channels. In fact, everyone stops. The momentum that kept Everton on the back foot for the first 30 minutes disappeared each time.
The same thing happened to Spurs when Ginola played, which is why I’ll never put him up there in my modern Spurs greats. All eyes on him, the reality is that he often slowed everything down. If he didn’t know what he was going to do, then his team-mates certainly didn’t. Pass and move – it shifts the ball quickly and draws defenders out of position.
Soldado needs help in the box. Lennon and Townsend are not the best players for that. Twice Lenny got the ball in the box on his left foot, once to cross from near the byline, once to shot. Both times he turned inwards to get the ball on his right foot, both times the opportunity was lost.
Bobby the soldier did not have a good one. He missed the two opportunities, neither straightforward, that came his way and could not keep hold of the ball. More worryingly, at times he followed the poor example of his team-mates by hanging back when he should have been bombing towards the 6 yard box at full pelt. Too many of the forwards opted for the comfort zone at the edge of the box. Too many providers, not enough finishers. Siggy made a noticeable difference towards the end, lifting the whole side who had appeared weary until his arrival.
Sandro efficiently protected the back four where Daws and Chiriches handled Lukaku well enough. Vertonghen had a good game, undeniably, but odd what the commentators see. Provan gave him man of the match saying he hadn’t put a foot wrong, but just before he was way out of position when the Everton sub waltzed his way through the defence only for Lloris, ever alert, to deal with it. Also, he could have lost the match with a missed tackle on Coleman that looked as sure a penalty as the same player’s foul on the Belgian in the first half. Still, he and Walker linked well with the wingers, which is the way to go and should have brought more reward in the first half.
Back to the penalties: one each but ours was more crucial. A goal up when we were playing so well but struggling to score could have altered the course of the whole match. However, the game was poorly refereed throughout.
Lloris proved he has the head of a battering ram and the heart of a lion, refusing to come off when Lukaku accidentally crashed his knee into the Frenchman’s head. For the second week running, the spirit and motivation of the squad was demonstrated by players refusing to quit after an injury. It was the first time I’ve seen player and club doctor arguing over whether to stay or leave the field. Hugo has gone up even more in my estimation – he was fearless and impeccable after the bump – but he should have gone off and AVB should not have given him the option.
As an aside linked to my last piece about the crowd and impatience, note that the Everton fans were straight on to their players when they missed two easy passes with less than ten minutes gone.
This is all becoming a bit samey. Patience is still the watchword but I need a change and so does Villas-Boas.