High Comedy At Spurs

Several years ago I spent an agreeable few days in Venice. Pretty soon I ditched the guidebook and ended up just meandering through the narrow streets or toodling round the canals on the vaporetti rather than seeing the sights. I loved the atmosphere but didn’t achieve very much.

A quarter pounder with onions outside the Colonel’s burger van in the Paxton doesn’t quite have the same ambience as a macchiato and ice cream in San Marco but the pleasant disorientation is not dissimilar, a blissful disconnect between surroundings and emotions, being there but not fully involved.

This is an odd phase for Spurs fans. There’s so much going on – new manager, different formations, the dust not quite settled yet from AVB’s departure. Yet it’s hard to engage fully. It’s going on around me but I’m not part of things.

Not sure why really. Nothing but good wishes to Tim Sherwood but I can’t as yet escape the nagging doubt that this is all temporary, that Levy and Sherwood both have long-term plans which do not necessarily involve each other. Levy will continue to seek options for another appointment in the summer, someone with kudos and experience, while Sherwood in the short-term is going along with the party line – plan for the future, no new players this window, leaving us with only two strikers is perfectly acceptable – and knows this is his chance to create a reputation for himself as a manager, but not automatically of Spurs.

For the moment, Sherwood’s gaze is fixed immovably upon stamping his authority on the side, and a frankly scary gaze it is too. Sometimes we ask the children I work with how they know their foster carers mean business, they reply simply, “It’s the look.” All the complex interaction and attachment theory takes second place to the look, and I reckon one glance from Tim sends a few of those players scurrying to do his bidding, double quick. And that’s a good thing – he’s working hard to get things right. Still, a lot of attention has been focussed on Tim’s team selections and tactics but again we’re waiting until the team of injured players return to contention to truly see what the rest of the season holds.

I guess I thought we would be somewhere else right now. After New Year was the time the plans, the training, the talent, would begin to bear fruit. Not a conscious thought, you understand. Sometimes you define your hopes only when they fail to materialise.

Plenty of time to ponder the meaning of it all during the first half on Saturday. I watched incredulously a comedic tour de force of slapstick and pantomime. This was a surreal masterpiece with an entire team apparently unable to pass the ball to each other, or run around with even the vaguest purpose, or defend, or attack. Walker and Dawson were our very own Chuckle Brothers, competing to kick the ball as hard and as far away from a team-mate as possible. Adebayor played statues; Soldado came to the party as the invisible man but no one knew if he had arrived or not.

Dizzy and disoriented, I waited open-mouthed for us to pull ourselves together but things just got worse. Palace didn’t help. Half their team of giants were lumbering around in those padded superhero suits that kids dress up in, with six-packs of stuffed cotton-wool. If only they had scored, it would have brought me back to reality. But they couldn’t, not through any skill on our part but through their own role as sidekicks, setting up the gags and executing with wild passes and misplaced crosses.

If the humour begins to flag why not get in the way of your team-mate’s goal-bound shot or wait, here’s a penalty! Dembele obligingly fouled Chamakh – that will teach him for trying to run back and tackle! Puncheon stepped up and with exquisite comedy timing choreographed his routine with the sole purpose of placing the ball into row Z. Not blasting you understand: make ‘em laugh is the motto and that would have been too obvious. Lloris added a neat touch, quietly fist-pumping as he lay on the floor, as if he had had some role in a penalty miss that left the crowd past derision into helpless laughter.

We were chuckling too at the absurdity of this game, one of the most inept 45 minutes I can recall from Spurs, so bad that the crowd were past anger. Just as bizarre was the fact that although Palace could have been three up, we came closest to scoring in the first half, when Adebayor might have got his head closer to Lennon’s cross and then Bentaleb’s sweet first time long-range effort hit the woodwork and defied the laws of physics by twisting along the goal line and out.

At half-time Sherwood got the look going. He had been dancing around on the halfway line like a demented jester for much of the half – he must have been furious. To his credit, he got through to them. Without playing especially well, Spurs upped their game to get enough of a grip to overcome a poor Palace side. A early goal helped settle any nerves. Never mind the cultured stuff. Route one, Adebayor headed down perfectly for Eriksen to smash it gratefully into the net. Manu had one of his sedate afternoons – in the first half he was at his most energetic when shouting long and hard at the bench about something or other – but his presence offers the option of the high cross or in this case, long ball.

Talking of odd things, has a player ever scored for Spurs having been sold? On came Defoe and soon afterwards reacted with quick feet in the box to stab home our second. Today there are pictures of him in Toronto doing the scarf overhead thing beloved by new signings the world over, greeted by concerted indifference from passers-by in the airport. Saturday he’s back on the bench, presumably? Like most things about this game, I don’t get it but I’m grateful for the goal, JD.

The match drifted to a conclusion. Palace were never going to score so we didn’t bother defending corners and their giants queued up to head it wide. They were unlucky early on but the organisation that confidently resisted our first half attacks broke down too easily in the second. Their supporters are second to none, however, loud, scurrilous and funny. Good luck to them.

We were dire, got three points, let’s move on. But not before praising the performance of young Nabil Bentaleb. If he is anything to go by, Sherwood is a fine judge of a player. Upright, mobile and aware, his passing is quick with a sure touch and weight. Highly promising and apart from decent supporting roles from Lennon and substitute Naughton, the only one to rise above the dross.

25 thoughts on “High Comedy At Spurs

  1. Bentaleb certainly looks like he has the skills, but there is a nagging bit at the back of my mind that says he is not going to be a stranger to receiving cards…
    Excellent as always Alan, and like you I just can’t see TS being manager come the start of next season – but stranger events have happened in N17 as we all know.

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    • Suspect no one knows this better than TS himself – but he has been given a chance so would be foolish to turn it down. It’s hard to see what he must achieve in order to keep his job. CL qualification seems the minimum, even then Levy on past form would just see it as making the club more attractive to a manager with more kudos.

      Then again, we have no chance of CL qualification on current form so it won’t arise.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  2. A perfect summary of the game and this bizarre position we find ourselves in. I’m not sure we are entirely beyond anger. There was plenty of invective aimed at Kyle Walker and Danny Rose from the area around where I was sitting. Would make Alan Pardew blush. I wonder if Kyle Walker has decided he’s had enough and wants out – to PSG, Monaco or wherever.

    We were lucky to not go in at least 0-1 at half time. If we play like this against the top 6 teams we will be slaughtered. And yet we beat Man U at OT AND are still only a couple of points behind Liverpool and Rodgers rightly reckons they are in for a shout at the title……!

    I still look over at the dugout and wonder what Tim and Les are doing there. Good luck to them though. Hope they succeed beyond their own and the fans’ wildest dreams. Being prepared to bring through young players like Bentaleb is a major, major plus point for Tim. For that reason alone he deserves to be given a fair chance to establish himself. Does make you wonder why we blew the Bale money on the big signings, and where this leaves Franco Baldini. Maybe in the summer, Daniel Levy will have to decide who he is going to support – Tim or Franco.

    COYS

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    • Cheers Russell, I agree. Good luck to Tim and Les, which sound like a duff pubsinger duo, but not what i expected at this stage in the season. Whispers already that Capoue, Holtby and Chadli might be off, a sign that already the new manager has different ideas from that of the DoF. More change, more delay.

      Let’s hope Palace was the blip, not the United result being the one out of the true pattern…

      I like Walker despite his infurating defensive positioning and lack of concentration. he’s back to using his pace and strength to mostly get himself out of trouble. He’s very committed – pumping up and down that line for the team when others have slowed down.

      Regards, Alan

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  3. Winning when playing badly, sign of a good team. Actually that’s the most stupid cliche in a game full of stupid cliches. They missed their chances, we took ours. That’s how most football matches are won I suppose. No mention of Eriksen here; I must say he’s impressed me lately. I’m thinking new, goalscoring, Modric. We’re away next week – phew!

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  4. Just seen Russell Child’s post. It occurs to me that Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, being largely homegrown talents should be supported to the max (also Tim and Les – why shouldn’t they be there?). They are both fantastically athletic players with pace and skill. They both sometimes make the odd blooper, but you’ve got to go with that and they’ll improve with support. The people shouting abuse really need to get down to Barnet FC more often (the abusers aren’t good enough for the mighty ‘O’s). Most Prem teams would bite our hands off to have Rose and Walker. Some, only some, Spurs supporters don’t know a good full back. OK, we lost to Arsenal, get over it.

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    • I think our full-backs are not top quality but better than most give them credit for. See above and passages in the blog recently re Walker. Rose we have seen little of. I am not writing him off after the Arsenal game. He’s worth a chance to have a run of games and to show he can get over that mistake.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  5. It might just be me, but Dembele didn’t really challenge Chamakh, who deliberately, and quite spectacularly, planted his leg across Dembele and dived.

    An ice cream in San Marco’s is a lovely thing …

    I wonder if all the injured players being available might complicate things for Sherwood, as it seemed to for AVB.

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    • I haven’t seen a replay. It looked innocuous from where I was on the day but these days refs tend to give those fouls. I blame to players more than the refs – if there is contact however it came about, it is hard for the ref to say it is not a foul.

      Not sure I actually had an ice cream in San Marcos, come to think of it – too bloody expensive.

      Cheers, Alan

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  6. We don’t know if he has most of his first choice players out injured, do we? He has three players out who would be in my first XI, we’ll see if Tim has a definitive first XI when they are all back. I would imagine having fewer players to choose from makes it easier to select an XI from such a large squad, with not much to choose between a fair few of them.

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    • Our injuries are not just about numbers, it’s about key players and Vertonghen is top of any list.

      Lots of talk about Eriksen as a 10. I can see that but he looks better by being more involved in the game. useful goals/assists from him.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  7. Got to say Alan, got home and my wife said to me, you look like you lost, and I know we won. What’s wrong!
    I reply. Worse football I’ve seen in 1st half and I am still in a state of shock, even after winning the 2nd half.
    Palace fans singing to us is this the Emirates :-(. They put us to shame. What’s happened to the hard chore singers in the park lane?
    Can’t wait for the likes of Sandro and Vertongon to come back, then we will see how really good we are.
    Keep up the good work Alan.

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    • I feel the same – a truly odd match with an atmosphere to match. I think the crowd felt the same way as you and I. A collective sinking of hearts?

      Cheers, Alan

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  8. Ahhh, the poetry of cogent and passionate writing…nice, Alan. And, like you, mate, I’m feeling generally numb after the last few seasons of hire and fire, and letting our best players go. “I get up, I get down.” But a month after that 0-5 tonking by Pool, we’re still only 2P off them — how is that possible? I hear the Twilight Zone opening notes coming on — doo-doo-doo-doo… doo-doo-doo-doo — “There are two headlights ahead coming straight for you, you have now entered the Spurs fan zone!” 😉

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    • Very droll Ashley. I didn’t mention it but of ocurse you are right about another factor adding to the surreal atmosphere – how on earth are we only 2 points off the CL places after that display? Feh, why wonder why? It just is so let’s enjoy it.

      Cheers, Al

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  9. There is certainly a feeling we’re treading water. All the incredible and aggressive optimism at the start of the season has gone. And simple curiosity and hope have replaced it. Our away record is good and we’re finally coming to terms with things at home, but there is a ‘learning curve; mentality and ‘suck it and see’ attitude which does not auger well for what was supposed to be our breakthrough season after 3 terms of unfulfilled dreams and rotten luck.
    From the Arsenal game on we looked sluggish in taking the attack to the opposition (having too many defensive midfielders and no ‘set’ playmaker or balanced wing play did for that) and then those home games, barring just fleeting moments of excitement and true creativity, which started to become like fingernails scraping down a blackboard. Also, the new players weren’t really improving as the season progressed. Lamela, Chadli and Soldado, (even now) have still to reach, just once, the giddy heights of their transfer money, while Paulinho remains the enigma he started as. Back in August, with the hefty buys and the returning injured, we had seemingly forged a talented, strong and deep squad which many thought would propel us to a title challenge ..at least.
    However, not making the wisest and most balanced use of Bale’s departure money, plus AVB’s unwillingness to adapt before and during games, and never knowing what was remotely our best team or the players’ best positions, made us too predictable and easily worked out by even the lesser sides. It was only a matter of time before Chelsea and City found their tempo, and with Arsenal and Liverpool having taken us by surprise, and looking unlikely to relinquish their position, then even if we finish above Man Utd, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee even 5th. Ironically, our defensive solidity was one reputable footnote, at first ..until AVB truly got caught in the headlights with the West Ham game. Failing to learn from that supposedly one-off freak result, it was only a matter of time before the defense (fed up with not much happening at the other end of the pitch) gave up the ghost altogether and lay down in front of City and Liverpool.
    OK, maybe it wasn’t like that, but it felt like it. We used to simply ‘outscore’ the opposition. With AVB we were praying we could just ‘score’! So now to Tim, and you have to admit he’s kept us in the frame so far, but you’re right Alan ..there’s a feeling he’s just keeping the seat warm for yet another manager ‘saviour’. It all feels so odd. We’re still in the hunt ..although, as I’ve said, hope has replaced optimism and expectation. Spurs have to keep winning in order to just keep the top four or five in sight ..because they’re winning too, and looking more convincing while doing it. How we play against the big boys in 5 key games will determine things hugely and whether we have to start all over, yet again, in 2014/15. .

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    • As I’ve said before, Chris, I didn’t expect the new players to reach peak form very quickly. It was always going to hold us back, and every year there has always been something to hold us back…

      Soldado a major disappointment though, an example of how poor management can ruin a player. We bought him then did not know what to do with him.

      I see wining against the top five as a bonus. It would help if at least we did not lose to them but I’d focus more on winning games consistently against teams around or below us, then see where that gets us.

      Regards, Al

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  10. As surrealistic as it is,there is comfort in seeing your team struggling against a team of no names. Its become part of our heritage.We seem to be up (not a few times this season) for the big boys and have played like blaumanges against the minnows for a long time now and eeked out scores.Its comforting its same old same old.From Stevenage to Watford to Fulham to Stoke we have struggles but give us United away and we fly.
    Surrealism with little or no magritte

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