Spurs Maintain The Momentum

Ironic that as the minute’s applause in celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela had barely died away, the Barclays adverts flickered around the pitch perimeter. Not so long ago, or so it seems to me, we boycotted Barclays because of its persistent links with the apartheid regime in South Africa. Cashpoints were picketed, and we didn’t buy their apples. The ANC probably did more to bring down the government but it felt as though we were part of the struggle. Many still feel a deep connection with a man whose principled, single-minded compassion created fundamental political and social change, an example to all yet sadly highly unlikely to ever be repeated in contemporary politics.

Plenty of time to watch the ads in the early stages as Spurs versus Sunderland took a while to get going. Perhaps I am in sync with the team, understandable after all these years I suppose. This is the pattern lately, a slow start then build up a head of steam as time passes. I know my knowledge of male grooming products began and ended with Old Spice and Brylcreem but a skin product named Nip-Man – that’s a joke, right? And sorry to disappoint relatives and friends but you can forget the Stubhub gift certificate for this and any other Christmas. This blog does not wish its readers a Merry Tixmas. Tixmas for goodness sake.

Christmas is a time for tradition and Spurs have created one of their own in time for the festive season, the defensive cock-up. After a sedate first half-hour where our new centre back partnership of Capoue and Dawson looked unsettled without Sandro’s protection in front of them, Lloris’s horrible error put us one down but shook us out of our stupor. His feeble punch went straight to Johnson who scored easily.

From then on, we dominated the match. As at Fulham in the week, we should aim to impose ourselves on teams from the start. We haven’t got the defence to absorb relentless attacks and in this opening period we looked lousy on the break, wilfully moving the ball slowly even when we had time and space.

Having the ability to pull ourselves back from a deficit is laudable. Personally I would prefer if we didn’t make a hash of it in the first place, much more sensible. Recent victories should not obscure this fact. Never mind all the talk about tactics, formations and the merits of AVB’s managerial style, we make too many basic and costly mistakes at the back. Our early season parsimony was not due to mighty defence but our relative lack of errors.

It helps to get back quickly. After Defoe missed one opportunity and Chadli headed straight at the keeper from a corner, the value of the latter’s height and power in the box was shown to full effect. A long cross seemed to be predictably drifting wide but Chadli nodded it back and Paulinho was more alert to the loose ball. I had given it up but he didn’t, and touched home from close in. The Brazilian’s starting position was deeper yesterday, alongside Dembele as DMs, and for me he looked all the better for it.

We came out after the break with a welcome eagerness, dominating the next twenty minutes where the game was won. AVB confounded his detractors by making two significant tactical changes. The high line was notable by its welcome absence again. AVB and I still shudder at the sight of Daws stranded on the halfway line against City. Also, a right-footed winger on the right. Lennon was outstanding, and when Townsend came on as sub to play wide left, he too looked so much more comfortable.

Holtby has a painter’s eye for the angled pass and on 65 minutes with a single devastating brushstroke intended to complete this canvas. The ball sliced through the entire defence, ending at Defoe’s feet deep inside the box as he skipped across the line and free of his markers but his judgement was less certain. His diagonal beat the keeper but slid wide of the far post. It was a frustrating miss, not only because it created 15-odd minutes of palpitating anxiety whenever Sunderland hacked the ball upfield but also because a goal would have demonstrated that finally, we really could make and take a chance inside the area.

There were other opportunities for proof, mostly from players, Lennon and Walker notably, getting to the byline and crossing. I’ll just repeat that for newish supporters or those with merely normal memories: getting to the byline and crossing.

Defoe hit the post twice, coming across the defender to the near post, the classic striker’s move. One header on the right, one deft flick on the left, both were reactions, both were unlucky. These and others – Holtby’s blocked shot, Paulinho’s header – from providers cutting close to the byline. If only they had done that for me, sighed Bobby Soldier, sinking deeper inside his padded coat on the bench.

All these chances yet the winner was pure good fortune. Dembele charging forward on the left and his cross/shot hit O’Shea and into the net. An own goal but one made because we attacked from dangerous angles. It shows again the value of the Moose upfield – let it go, Al, just let it go – but overall he had a strong match before he went off holding his hip.

One of my suggestions to heal our Andre’s self-inflicted wounds was to return to a few things that worked last season. Yesterday Walker and Lennon were reunited down the right. Both made a full, flowing contribution to this win. At times they looked like they were enjoying themselves almost as much as I was. Little Azza was just terrific, buzzing up and down, irritating the Sunderland defence like a wasp after an icecream on a summer’s day. He’s learned to vary his game, not only when to take the full-back on or tuck inside but also to sense the pace of the match, picking things up with a dash forward or a calming touch or two to allow team-mates to readjust position. That is the difference that to me gives him the nod over Townsend right now. Andros is still inexperienced: let’s hope he learns, just as Lenny did.

The pair helped each other out at either end of the field. Defending is not part of Lennon’s natural game, whereas Walker quickly gets bored defending, yet time and again he was back, notably towards the end of the game to prevent Sunderland from crossing the ball. Both were tireless. Walker took stick from the crowd when he stayed down after a challenge – he was knackered after several lung-busting runs then using his body strength to stave off an opponent. He’s improved his play and this was his best game this season. If only he could learn to tuck in at the back every single time to bolster his centre-backs.

Capoue did well enough after a shaky start. He could have done with closer attendance from Walker to help out but when Sunderland went longer later in the game and pinned us back into the box, he and Dawson won most everything. Daws was especially strong at the end. Back in the box not stuck upfield, it’s what he does best and his presence was reassuring. Sunderland’s one decent chance went straight to Lloris, who showed his mettle by claiming one important ball to partly banish the memory of his mistake. Capoue won a header then instinctively went to go forward to where the ball landed, pointing to his team-mates to pounce on the loose ball as he would have done, but he can’t be in two places at the same time. That’s what you get with a midfielder at the back.

Holtby did well but tired. This is one problem with all the chopping and changing. Players get gametime but seldom play for 90 minutes. Holtby has been with us for almost a year yet I would be surprised if he has played more than a handful of full games.

AVB brought on Sandro, not in the starting line-up because he does not feel fit enough yet to play three games in a week, to shore up the defence. It was just at the right time and he did well. However, it could have been our downfall. With the stiff uncertainty of a man who has just come on the filed, Sandro handballed a corner but the ref, who was poor throughout, turned a blind eye.

And on moments like that, the game turns. We fully deserved this win, in the second half playing some of our best football of the season so far, yet we win by an own goal and the penalty that never was. That momentum again, we have kept it going and players and managers know it, judging by their expressions at the end of the game.

No complaints, it augers well for the rest of this important month. Just one caveat – we have done well against three teams who allowed us to play a bit. It remains to be seen what happens when sides park the bus at home, as did Hull and West Ham. That’s for the future = the team and manager, that’s a big ‘we’, have earned our praise for their response after the City debacle, so let’s enjoy it with them.

23 thoughts on “Spurs Maintain The Momentum

  1. I thought we played well as far as possession goes.As usual. But up to the time we scored our second (they did) we have very few chances.even though tons of possession.After that,if we were in control before and we were in total control from that point.
    We need to up the tempo in the first half an hour of a game and pass quicker to get the openings and get ahead. But when we have done that in the past,losing possession happens more often and with a high line it leaves us vulnerable.
    In this game we controlled the whole game and they didnt have enough quality to take advantage of the few chances they got.
    Defoe offered more movement but he didnt get very many chances until after we got our second.
    This problem of a slow build up is a problem and when it changes we cannot afford losing the ball and the high line being vulnerable

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    • We made more in the box chances in this one than we have in a single match all season. i reckon – sure there is a stats site somewhere that could confirm or deny! In that respect this was better in the second half than for many a match. That’s to enjoy for now but against a better or more defensively organised side, it remains to be seen.

      Regards, Alan

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  2. Another 3 points and back in the hunt again. It was a credible team performance. Whilst not firing on all cylinders, it looked a little more solid with yet another variation of the squad and everyone working hard to grind out a result. Think the Liverpool game will be a good test of where we really are now.

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  3. Im wondering why our away success has been relatively so good. I think our total system evens up the game (no not the City one!) a bit more.
    On the negative side it doesnt allow for so much freedom to create but on the positive side it does keep on focussing on the task and probably because we are thinking rather than feeling,we are shutting out any thoughts of the away crowds etc. Just an idea about it.

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    • i have to say that really nothing beats man to man marking.Instead of relying on calls from linesman and refs you take the responsibility.The field is bigger for sure but that doesnt have to be negative.Possession isnt everything as we have seen.
      Its can be a sleep aid.

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  4. Lennon was very good indeed. The last few seasons it seems his Spurs obit has been written, but he keeps coming back and he’s a key player for us imo. Not last because he’s developed into one the the very much wingers in terms of defensive work. I thought your write up of him above was excellent Alan.

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  5. Sorry. Not least because he’s developed into one of the very best wingers around in terms of defensive work. I thought your write up of him above was excellent Alan.

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  6. We’ve been here before with Lennon, time and again. Very good for a third of the season, injured for another third and not very good at all for the other third. He has never weighed in with his share of goals either due to his complete inability to strike a ball with any accuracy or power.

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    • TMWNN,the Boy Hotspur man,Lennon is not there to score.Yes he is in the forward line but his runs open up the defence,the problem is somebody needs to get open inside and we need a strike partner for the striker who is taller than anyone else in the forward line

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      • Obviously it’s not Lennon’s sole responsibility to score goals, and you’re preaching to the converted about getting more players in the box, but he is a forward and in AVB’s system of using the fullbacks to give width, Lennon will be asked to get in the box looking to score more often than previous managers. On his day he’s brilliant, sadly due to injuries or lack of form, those days are few and far between. Like Defoe, unreliable.

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        • I think Lennon shines at certain times.Like within a 6 game range he will be tremendous and he has had a few really good games in this run. Fo me its not even a big conversation.

          Bigger conversations for me are about the high line and its reliance on perfect syncronization and the whistle of the ref.
          The importance of the forwards in general being more instinctive rather than fixed to the system and seeing space and getting into it like water finds its level. Is the system too restrictive?

          Lennon’s has been the least of the situation. We ignore the immaturity of Lamela and go on about a player that has been creating,one of the few

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      • Ron, TMWNN is a long-standing and most welcome contributor to Tottenham On My Mind, always keen to read what he has to say.

        And it would help if Lennon did not have to cross to small people…!

        Cheers, Alan

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        • I agree with that. But he does cut it back too.
          Cant see any of the wingers as the problem at the moment.Its one of our bright lights but its funny that every time you read some speculation about players we will buy its always a winger or a midfielder.two area where we are covered

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    • Maybe TMWNN, but this was by far the best performance from a Spurs wide player this season, we need him. Highly frustrating the way he does not get power or accuracy from his shots but his crossing is much improved. Not perfect, but better. Decision-taking improved too and I’d give him a run in the side.

      Regards, Alan

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  7. Good to see Spurs picking up points again. Was a bit worried when I saw Chiriches as well as Vertonghen injured, but Capoue plugged in well I thought. We’ve got 4 more league games and 2 cup ties in December, before the transfer window opens. Think we should continue settling in the players we have with maybe 1 or possibly 2 new signings in January to cover weaknesses.

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    • Yes, December is an important month and AVB has to have the courage to give players coming in games together. Shame that after the summer spree, we have to talk about buying again, kind of an indictment of where that money went.

      Regards, Alan

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  8. The Sunderland game reminded me very much of our early season performances with our ability to grind out the correct result. If we can progress rather than take another step backwards then we will be absolutely fine this season. We aren’t the finished article, and will have other games where scoring can be a problem, so getting back to defending well again is very important. As a holding player myself the Man City performace is an example of how not to defend any footballer could learn from. Positive signs are there though – Dembele is getting more involved, Paulinho is looking dangerous, Soldado is linking up play better, and I don’t know how many seasons our results need to suffer when Lennon is injured before everyone realises just how important he is. If we defend resolutely, and attack more as a team as we’re starting to do then we’ll have a very strong team. A positive result against Liverpool will go a long way to getting people to take notice of us again.

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    • It is not surprising that while Lloris has been strong and continues to be the first name on the team sheet, he still seems to show some residual effects from Lukaku’s knee to the side of his head. He has been just a bit sluggish, not quite as definitive off of his line, re two bad errors at City, a split second slow at United and the weak punch at Sunderland. He may still have some post concussive problems? These injuries,as we are seeing all too frequently in American football, are truly devastating, under diagnosed and certainly under treated. I was shock when AVB let Hugo continue against Everton, watch the replays he was knocked out, the NFL (under pressure from veteran groups and a huge lawsuit) , have moved to standardized testing for in game head injuries and subsequent followup. Maybe the Premier League will follow.

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