Depressingly Familiar In The NLD

So let’s get this over with. Another defeat in the derby. Another reminder, if any were needed, of the gulf between the two clubs and how far we have to go. More pain for Spurs fans that is never dulled by the sad, predictable familiarity of it all.

On March 3rd last year an ambitious Tottenham side expertly guided by a young manager beat the wanderers 2-1 at White Hart Lane in a pulsating match. Many gunners agreed with me that this marked a tipping point. On the way up, we passed them sliding down the greasy pole, their manager subject to bitter, sustained criticism from his own fans and unable apparently to convince both them and his players of the efficacy of his methods.

This seems light years ago now, events in a galaxy far, far away. So much ancient history, in fact, that I’ve checked back to make sure my memory isn’t befuddled by a lack of sleep this morning. Nine months on, Spurs have imploded while 55,000 gunners sing Wenger’s name to the rafters. Pointing out the fickleness of this behaviour is justified but scant consolation. He’s kept faith in the way he wants his team to play, we’re still painting the Forth Bridge, shiny and gleaming in parts but never finished.

There are extenuating circumstances. Tottenham put out a good team but it was nowhere near full strength because of a hospital ward full of injuries. At least with Sandro and Paulinho we could have put up a fight in midfield or had Vertonghen to inspire us at the back. No criticism intended of one of their replacements, Nabil Bentaleb, given his debut at 19 in the NLD, looks an able, promising central midfielder with good mobility and touch plus an eye for the pass, typically an early one to keep the ball moving. He intercepts rather than tackles but is effective in so doing.

I look forward to his further development as a Tottenham Hotspur player under a manager keen to give youth the chances they have lacked not just at Spurs but throughout the Premier League. Sherwood is keen to stamp his mark on his early tenure in the job and in any walk of life I have some admiration for women and men with the courage of their convictions. However, persisting with his 4-4-2 for a cup tie of this magnitude was overoptimistic at best, foolhardy at worst, in reality probably somewhere in between.

A flexible, mobile five in midfield would have been better. Sherwood can do flexible and mobile, better than this season’s version of AVB. Adebayor’s significance in our current set-up cannot be over-emphasised. Yesterday he kept going but looked lethargic, quickly tiring after an enthusiastic start. You can never tell with him. I think we sometimes over-interpret his moods – it’s natural that he will be tired after his absence and so much football in a short space of time.

Whatever, it made a huge difference. Several times he half-turned to take the ball past a defender only for his marker to easily tackle him. Dropping back when we lost the ball, he faded after 15 or 20 minutes, precisely the time Ars***l took a grip on the match, never to let go. It was always going to be hard in that area – Manu’s disappearance made it impossible. Afterwards Sherwood conceded we were weary – if he knew that beforehand, he should have compensated in his team selection.

Spurs started brightly. Bentaleb was prominent in the middle and certainly not over-awed, pointing and hustling for all he was worth. Our opponents could not settle and another of our busy men, Eriksen, missed the best early chance, clean through but shooting straight at Fabianski. Sadly it was the only time in the match he was seriously called into action.

Unusually for the NLD it was an open game with Spurs successfully keeping the tempo high when we had the ball and getting the ball forward as quickly and smoothly as possible. This desire to pass it forward is one of the big differences between TS and AVB. Lloris saved from Walcott and Eriksen put a free kick over after Dembele had been fouled. Twice Soldado’s swift turns took him away from his marker – more please.

Halfway through the first period, imperceptibly and without any fanfare, the balance of the game shifted. Now, the gunners were pushing us back, able to shift the ball from side to side and stretch our four out of shape. They looked sharper near our box, able to up the pace suddenly as they neared the area whereas we in similar circumstances ground to a halt.

Their goal when it came on the half hour was well-taken but too easy. Walker was drifting a few yards out of position on the right, which as we know is a fault in his game he seems unable to eradicate despite his good performances this season. Ars***l shifted it from right to left, Cazorla was the spare man.

The NLD is nothing without its tradition and so history repeated itself. Spurs imploded. This fixture seems to bring out the worst in Spurs. There have been times when L’gooners have simply been far too good for us. I don’t like it but there you go. After all, plenty of time to have gotten used to that over the years. What grates is our unerring ability to cock it up in this fixture. Maybe it’s just the way it looks because of the importance of this fixture. Plenty of cock-ups in other games, let’s be honest. But surely – 5-0 and Liam Brady at WHL, the double Double indignities at the Lane, we score four they score one more, Simon Davies sent off and a deflected goal, Manu scores and gets himself sent off, 2 up under HR, lose 5-2…

We came out after the break with renewed application but weren’t really getting anywhere, save for an Adebayor chance well-created by Eriksen and Lennon. His control was good, his shot mis-hit. Then Danny Rose, hero on his debut with a winning volley that will never be forgotten, turned villain. Last defender, on the halfway line, the attempted Cryuff turn wasn’t the best option. It was stomach-turningly, spectacularly awful. Rosiciki ran through and gleefully scored.

My son who was at the match tells me Danny’s mum was there, in the Spurs end and happily chatting to supporters before kick-off. It’s tough being a pro, worse perhaps to be a parent when your son makes a mistake like that. She must have wept at the things she heard about her boy. I hope she and Danny stay strong.

And that was that. Spurs had the lions’ share of possession for the rest of the game without getting anywhere at all. The gunners strolled through the last half-hour, absorbing our efforts without breaking sweat. They did not play especially well and there’s a crumb of comfort in the fact that they only scored through our mistakes, but they did not have to be at their best to win at a canter.

Another depressingly familiar feature of these games: Spurs working hard, looking for chances, movement pretty good too, then the truth gradually dawns. Nothing was happening and nothing ever would.

Walker did his best to put things right, flying forward at every opportunity and occasionally giving us a glimmer of hope in his work with his partner Lennon but nothing really came of it apart from a few easily defended crosses. Lennon could have done more to take on his full-back but they always had two or three men to cover. Cazorla’s handball in the box looked as much hand to ball as ball to hand but nobody seemed that bothered. Everybody knew we were beaten.

Sherwood needs to reflect on yesterday without panic. Palace next Saturday will need the attacking approach he favours, so the team should look forward not back. I think Capoue could and should play a part in the next few games. Meanwhile, back to the doctors and physios – those get well soon cards won’t be enough on their own. Defeat hurts, but the fact is, the result merely told us what we already knew.

30 thoughts on “Depressingly Familiar In The NLD

  1. There is no point in comparing ourselves to Arsenal because they are unfortunately much better than us.

    There cannot be a single Spurs fan who wouldn’t prefer to have had Wenger as our manager rather than all the ones we have had in charge during his reign. Wenger’s team has always managed to finish above us and now the gulf is far greater than last season. His teams play in the Tottenham entertaining style and he always seems to find great young talent. If Spurs had got him then we would be in front of Arsenal all these years.


    • If we had got Wenger at the time he joined Arsenal, we would have probably sacked him before the turn of the millennium. He joined Arsenal when they were at the top or challenging for the top. We had Andy Sinton, Chris Armstrong and Ramon Vega.


    • Matt, you speak the truth. Of all the terrible things about them, we both know the very worst indignity – they play better football, the way it should be played, the way we want to play.

      Regards, Alan


  2. Spot on observations by Matt.They say the worst mistake you can make in life is to keep making the same mistakes.I just hope Tim Sherwood learns from his mistakes and learns fast!.Also can we have defenders at Tottenham whose first instinct is to defend and not think they are an extra forward please!……..


    • I think Tim has learned a lot in a short space of time but was over-optimistic – or foolish. Over-run in midfield, too much faith in Adebayor. We’ll see on Saturday..

      Regards, Alan


  3. I don’t think Danny Rose will be dining out on his wonder strike any more! Hope the lad learns from this and raises his game accordingly. Our fans should get behind him now rather than castigate, as we seem to do all too often.


  4. Too much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    At the end of a busy period with a very lengthy injury list and depending on a player who has run around like a lunatic after not playing for, what, 9 months, we got beat, but created some excellent chances, away (yes, away) to the team at the top of the table with the best defensive record.

    Arsenal are better than us, but once we have all of our players back, and the seven summer signings fully bedded, I have a feeling we will be much better than we are – Arsenal may still be better than us, though I don’t know that they will, but they are not and will not be much better than us. That is hyperbole. Also, it would help if the current manager had had more time to work with his players.

    Like losing any NLD, losing yesterday hurt, but leet’s not go overboard, eh.


    • It just bothers me that Sherwood is trying to make a point of pushing Bentaleb (who is an outstanding prospect) ahead of Capoue in a NLD! Also does anybody believe that Chadli adds anything whatsoever to the team??? To sub him on for Soldado at 2-0 down was unbelievably depressing. Chadli is not a match winner/changer and if Sherwood thinks he is then I am very worried. Give Lamela a chance, at least he gets you on the edge of your seat and tries to attack the defence. Chadli is a joke!


      • Like all new managers, he has his own ideas. Capoue seems a better option for a game like this. He wants to move the ball forward and Bentaleb has a range of passing. Other things he can’t do. And Sherwood needs to factor that in too.

        Cheers, Alan


    • Sherwood needs time, first to give his fit players a rest, second to get the rest fit. A glimpse of Paulinho before his sending off has whetted my appetite for more.

      Never thought we would win this one but can always hope.

      Regards, Alan


  5. Hate to say it Alan, even with the best manager in the world we would not have beaten them.
    It’s the never say never attitude that the Arses have. It seems to me when they play us, they and their fans are up for it. Maybe it’s a must instilled by their club, where as us it was missing on the day.
    Secondly they had home advantage and had the 12th man in their fans. Had we been at home, I think it might of been a different outcome.
    Also the squad still is gelling. We needed quality not quantity when bringing some of these players in.wenger said it. It’s best to bring players in slowly to keep the squad settled, and be able to gel a lot quicker.
    As always a good and honest read Alan.


  6. A very level-headed article and more of the same in the comments above.We are going very nicely overall so lets not feel too down about yesterdays loss.They are a very well oiled machine maintained by the same operator for donkeys years.We need to settle a bit more but we are already playing really good football under Tim and the confidence is growing.


  7. Fair and insightful write-up Alan.

    Arsenal were below full strength too, and I felt we could and should have done better on the day. Once they scored, even allowing for my innate pessimism when playing them, it looked all over to me.

    Wenger wouldn’t have been given the backing to implement the root and branch changes required if he’d joined Spurs rather than Arsenal. While their dominance over us these past 20 years or so starts in the boardroom, he’s the single biggest factor in their ongoing success. He’s a special football man.


  8. Perfect analysis Alan.
    Tim has made a tremendous start but it was poor that he failed to make the adjustments that were so obviously needed at half time. And to deny that we were overrun in midfield is a little bit head in the sand’ish…
    And then there is Soldado. Clearly an intelligent footballer but in forty-five years of watching football I honestly cannot remember any striker having that many shots at goal and hardly ever hitting the target. This season, from open play, I can recall his goal at Villa, the great save by Krul from his header and the scuffed shot against Stoke, I think. Is he trying too hard? Striking the ball with too much force? Probably. But Sir Les or whoever really needs to work with him, however experienced he thinks he is.
    Yesterday really hurt but I agree with SP (above). Nil Desperandum. We’ve still got a great squad and I believe that we can go far in the Europa.


  9. Gunners supporter here. Spurs do play good football. They will come good and I’m glad to see that at least some of the bloggers on here recognise AW for the good manager that he is. I think TS needs to be given time, but will Levy give him time. I also think that Old Arry should have been given more time to do the job. Thankfully Levy didn’t give him that time! Although I have been a Gooner I can appreciate good football and Spurs have played some this season. I just don’t get the nastiness from the fans (both sets). Isn’t football the beautiful game.


    • A gentleman sir, and always welcome.

      TS has until the end of the season – everyone realises that. We all appreciate good football, Spurs don’t play enough of it. You and I are about the same vintage – we both have good times to remember.

      Regards, Alan


  10. Defeat under Timmy: blame Avb
    Win with Timmy: praise Timmy for his tactical hung-ho.

    Avb three cups to win when he went. Timmy one to go…

    Avb brought all crap players and decided to sell Modric and Bale in two seasons!

    Avb brought Ozil to Arsenal and Willian to Chelsea and Moutinho to Monaco

    Long Live Daniel Levy, Baldini, Tim & co, and Freundy!


  11. Yes. They were too good for us on the day. There is still reason for optimism. A lot of injuries and I think Paulinho is our best player.
    We must beat Palace in the next PL game. It is imperative!!!!


  12. Totally outgunned (pardon the pun) yet again. For such a squad of promise and individual talent, so many look ordinary when put together in any formation against a well drilled side. Is it the injuries? Are these results representative of the team or the tactics? Are they ever going to gel? I’m just not sure anymore.
    Frankly, by Sunday I didn’t really care. As a Benfica fan, the death of Eusébio was of far more significance to me. A player on and off the pitch of far greater stature and significance to football than anyone on that field on Saturday.


  13. Losing to a well organized top of the league team isn’t the issue for me, even though they have serious injury worries. There are just too many gigantic and needless mistakes that are not acceptable at this level. Sorry but the dillydallying with the ball in dangerous situation, has become a disease and it often leads to an unnecessary goal against us. It is understandable at prep school level but not top class international players. Guilty of this are several examples, who shall remain unnamed. Another case is the regular habit of Loris dropping the ball at his feet until an opponent us within one step – why ? what’s the point ?, is he inviting trouble or just trying to de-energize opponents? I also feel we are back to side passing at a moment when the momentum has shifted to us. I don’t profess to have the technical knowledge of many of you but at least let’s cut out the nonsense. While it is one think for a manager to be close to his players, there has also to be basic discipline red lines. I cannot believe that these issues have not been ironed out – they are too obvious. Gel the players ? How, when a very promising addition, who at least puts life into the game by going forward, is not playing at all ? Soldado will come through I believe and we need to be eternally patient, Lennon has been brilliant, quite a few individual performances stand out, a great win at Man U, but let’s cut out the nonsense.


    • Well said. I was chatting on the comments section a couple of weeks ago. Reckon 70% of goals conceded have been from avoidable mistakes, not the sort that are always at the origin of any goal but big glaring howlers. Got to cut them out.

      Regards, Alan


  14. Another great article,Alan!
    When AVB offered little change in tactics,despite him being heralded as one with tactical nous,his tenure came to an early end.
    He was a man with one idea. An ideologue.Tens of thousands could have told him it wasnt working but he stuck by this simgle idea.
    Sherwood failed with his 4-4-2 with the one idea that he had owned as manager of Tottenham.Can he survive?
    A manager has to be able to adapt not fixate on one idea.


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