Spurs’ Nine Games of Christmas

Each season offers up its particular challenges, determined by the vagaries of the fixture computer, the luck of the draw in the cups plus the team’s form as it ebbs and flows, as it always does whatever standards we set. It becomes a set of sequences, groups of matches joined together by importance or chronology. The Nine Games of Christmas were not one of those connections that would have leapt out of supporters’ ritual pre-season scrutiny of the fixture list. However, as the good ship Tottenham starts to take on water and sit lower in the water, circumstance has given Christmas a new meaning for Spurs fans.

How Villas-Boas addresses the problems in December on and off the pitch will determine our fortunes for this season and for at least the next few. It’s Tottering Hotspur with the focus squarely on the faltering effectiveness of his tactics and team selection. On top of which, sections of the media are at his throat, a combination of unjustified venom festering ever since he was ridiculed at Chelsea then had the nerve to get another job in the Premier League, and indignation that our boy has the chutzpah to challenge their wilful misinterpretation of the inclusive phrase, ‘we are ashamed’.

What makes this sequence so fascinating is that it is a real mixture: winnable home games after Christmas versus West Brom and Stoke, enticing away fixtures at Fulham and Sunderland where again three points are possible but you never know with away games, and three matches against top six rivals in Southampton, Liverpool and United. Add a home league cup tie against West Ham that will played with real ferocity and it’s got everything. Anji, play the ground staff and tell everyone else to put their feet up.

It’s vital we pick up some momentum after the crushing indignity of defeat at City. Comparing AVB’s expression after Fulham went a goal up on Wednesday with his exuberant relief at the final whistle gave a hint of what this all means to players and manager. 70 minutes in he was as white as a sheet, dead eyes staring blankly as once again it looked like a decent Spurs effort had fallen apart. Shifting from first half containment to second half attack, we had the better of a belting game and playing some fine football. All undone after another defensive cock-up. In a sick and twisted replay of goals conceded this season, Dawson’s pass into midfield found everyone in place for the transition from defence to attack. So when it was intercepted, Fulham could run through and score.

Building up some momentum dictates how matches turn out, and the outcome of those sequences. Hard to put your finger on what exactly makes the difference. In games, it’s certainly to do with pressure and possession but sometimes a single comparatively minor incident like winning a 50/50 tackle or a poor refereeing decision can set the pulses racing for players and fans alike, and so the game turns again.

Goals help – that’s an understatement if ever there was one, and this goal undid all our good work and AVB’s cunning plan. he was over-cautious in the first half. The selection of two DMs did not have to be negative. Rather it gave our attacking players some freedom. Lamela took advantage. Given a more free role (or perhaps he wasn’t paying attention to the manager’s instructions), his runs from midfield and interplay were effective for a time – and he got back to defend. Not a great performance but for the first time he looked as if he was getting to grips with the English game, appearing somehow more muscular and grown up. Or perhaps my stream was playing up, who knows?

More missed chances, Defoe and then Paulinho wasting good moves that would have justified AVB’s set-up. However, we did not pressure Fulham enough – given their recent problems we should have gone at them from the start but it was half-hearted.

Second period, AVB changed things – see, he does you know – and we looked much better. Again we missed chances – I would have played Soldado for this one, he can rest later. We look good on the counter – our best efforts all came from breaks at pace. We have the players for that and it’s a set-up we should try more often, at home as well as away, starting attacks from deep rather than leaving men upfield.

The Fulham goal changed all that. We bunged on everyone to get the goal, (three wingers at one point?) but momentum shift come from unlikely sources. Chiriches kept his long range shot down but no one expected that to go through so many players without a touch. fortunately the Fulham keeper was one of those bystanders. Holtby won it with a fine long range Bale-esque effort cutting in from the right and left-foot, top corner.

We still can’t score from inside the box and this nearly went badly wrong but it worked out and for the moment that’s enough. Add this to the performance against United and the players are feeling good again. When you think things are going your way, sometimes that indefinable quality, that certain something where it all works, can mean more to fragile psyches than sustained periods of good football.

But in the end, it’s good play that counts and in that respect, Hugo Lloris excelled. Several fine saves won this one for us. It was a great second half, bonkers end to end thrills and spills. If only I was able to enjoy watching Spurs play….

8 thoughts on “Spurs’ Nine Games of Christmas

  1. He does change things.Its true.The change helped us win the game.But for a master tactician which seems to be AVB’s billing wouldn’t he have thought of this 45 minutes earlier instead of using both Kapow and Sandro to stem the Fulham tide.
    Even with 6 defensive players on the field Berbatov found many gaps in the high line.
    But if its wasnt for the 7th defender,Lloris,we probably wouldnt be back in 6th,a position that offers some defence for AVB.
    Townsend has been trying for months to score from 30 yards out.Its not easy. This must be part of the plan musnt it????
    I am still with AVB but I,like Shmaltz Herring Sugar do not get these tactics. The Bored Room are now asking him to put in two strikers and he has been hesitant.The reason: Where is he going to take the other one from in his cherished system?
    I suggest dump Walker.Use 3 at the back.2 DM’s and you have it.
    We can have 5 marking Berba next time.

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    • 2 DMs enough for 4 at the back to give freedom for full-backs to get forward. Depends on awareness – players need to know when to move up, when to drop back, regardless of position. Good and bad in this match. 3 points, that will do, move on.

      regards, Alan

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  2. Still all over the place.
    Good players ..no pattern. Some are the wrong sort of players, but decent players all the same, who do not know how and where to fit in to this set-up. Seamless football? ..the opposite.
    No chances in the box, except when they DO come they either fall to a DM who skies it or shoots straight at the goalie, or the ‘box striker’, who’s so surprised that a ‘chance’ has arrived, he misses too.
    Defoe ‘runs about’ but is no box striker …Soldado is a box striker, but doesn’t run about. Instead he waits endlessly for the chances that rarely come …because WE STILL HAVE NO CREATIVITY IN THE FINAL THIRD!!
    We didn’t last year either ..but we had Bale. The fans could see that Bale was masking our limitations and imbalance, so why couldn’t the board and manager? Parker and Dembele were not the midfield fulcrum that great teams can be built around.
    So when we get Sandro back, what do we do? .. We add two more DMs and shift one (Parker).
    Er ..what about our playmaker (or even two or three like most top teams ..Chelsea/City have about 8 or 9 between them)?
    We get Eriksen as an afterthought!
    So now HIS injury (although he hadn’t proved yet that he was our playmaker/saviour) plus Rose’s damned ‘toe’ has shown just how this hugely expensive and large squad is hit again by imbalance. Stupid isn’t it!
    Levy and Baldini ..for all your brilliant negotiation skills and personal contacts around Europe (respectively) you did not buy the right players! But then, Mr Levy, that’s been the story for the past 3 or 4 years when it’s come to slotting in the final pieces of our fine squad(s).
    For a while we looked strong and powerful this season (barge, possess and bully our way to a top 4 finish?) but never ever imaginative in the Spurs’ way! Now we’ve even been sussed on the former. Like a boxer, the smaller guy sits back, lets us swing wild slow and cumbersome punches constantly, until we’re exhausted (the George Foreman ‘mummy’ routine), and then hits us with rapid sucker punches.
    Three speculative long shots and a free kick have constituted our 4 goals in 6 premier games recently ..while from open play this season in the PL, we probably haven’t scored more than 3 goals in total in the box ..and we’re already deep into December.
    It’s incredible that we’re still in the top four race, despite those stats ..and that does at least say a lot for our squad’s persistence and resolve ..but the management and board need to finally find the answers to these ‘wasted’ years of Tottenham being CL quality yet ultimately kept back.

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    • Really I think AVB needs this a lot so he is fooling himself.He is living an illusion and that is he thinks we are in control. But you are right 2 X 30yd shots do not constitute an attack.
      To play 2 DM’s shows how fearful he is of the system going down but it will if he doesnt use the one thing that has defined him…tactical knowhow.

      1. Mix it up in the box and get Soldado fluid.
      2. Make sure Holtby or Eriksen and Soldado have a channel by having him run to the passer sometimes
      3.Dont be so predictable with the high line and play defence occasionally and spring from there the counter

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    • Top four to me was fun to enjoy but always a bonus. We never played like a side that could sustain top four and we still don’t. Stay in touch, work on the pattern, try different things, find something that will work, and here’s to 2014.

      Regards, Alan

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  3. Just wanted to say that I think this is the best blog on spurs on the web. On the substance people forget how lucky we are to actually be a serious force again. We have one of the best chairmen in the league. Levy should hold his nerve and AVB should spend less time worrying about the press. And I really like Holtby’s attitude…

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