Spurs Embrace The Mediocre In The Europa League Again

Europe used to inspire Spurs. Now it just brings out the mediocre. Since we got back into the Europa League, we’ve never got to grips with the away leg. The mantra is familiar – keep it tight, keep the ball, no need to take any risks – but unfortunately so is our response. We seem desperately compelled to do the opposite, every time. Against Dnipro on an admittedly treacherous pitch, we were wide open at the back and wasteful with the ball. Add some missed chances and all in all, this was another one to forget.

Half-time, one goal down with the home leg to come, could have been worse – all of that. I’m looking forward to next week – with the goal to catch up, there will be expectation and tension under the lights and we will have to go at them. Perfect European conditions, in fact.

There’s nothing of any significance to take from this match except for the fact that it took place at all. Played against a backdrop of violence between protesters and police in the capital Kiev, the expectant faces of the fans were in stark contrast to the images of a government opening fire on its own people that played simultaneously on the evening news as we kicked off. UEFA should have postponed it until next week at a neutral venue. It was incongruous to see supporters in their scarves, cold blue jackets and silly hats, but football has always been an escape from reality. As the camera dwelt on the crowd close-ups, you sensed their minds were elsewhere.

We fielded a strong team and left at home the players who could most do with a break, bar Bentaleb. This young man relishes a challenge but needs a rest, mentally as much as physically and this was a trip too far.

He and Capoue failed in their mission to protect the defence by simply being bypassed by the Dnipro attack. Capoue was nowhere for much of the time. Naughton and Rose strayed as far as they possibly could from the two centre halves, creating inviting space for the strikers. Unfortunately for the Ukrainian team, they suffered a collective loss of muscle control and capability once they got into the box. I can’t recall a series of such feeble finishing efforts over 90 minutes. A couple barely had the velocity to reach the keeper from 12 yards out.

Friedel was excellent throughout. Part of being a keeper is working the percentages. Get the angles right, make it hard for the striker, don’t commit too early, don’t go to ground. hH doesn’t need the spring in his legs to achieve all if that and he presented a formidable barrier throughout the match. I suspect as the game went on, the mere sight of his approach from his line was enough to put off the Dnipro forwards. Without him the result could have been a lot worse.

At the other end we more than had enough chances to settle the tie then and there. In fact, some of the game was enterprisingly open. But we wasted opportunities, usually with a poor final ball or shooting when we should have passed it. Andros, you know you’ve got to sort that out but he was not the only culprit. Townsend looked really shaken when he was taken off. Usually, players on the bench obey the unwritten laws of substituted players – cursory pat on the back/high five, then leave them be. Yesterday, the unused subs looked anxiously along the line as Andros was hunched and lost, praying almost, comtemplating something.

Soldado missed the big one. An uncharacteristically fluent move involving Paulinho and Naughton put him in front of on open goal, a few yards out.  He missed. By a long way. Any sort of goal will change his whole approach and at least he’s working still to take up the right positions, and still for that matter looking heavenwards every time he doesn’t get the pass he expects. Right now, as he shaped to kick the post in frustration, you expected him to miss it.

As the game was petering out, we contrived to set up the winner for Dnipro in a piece of football in keeping with our overall performance. Capoue had three or four players clustered ahead of him at the edge of their box. Clustering is not good but we’ll leave that one. He managed to miss all of them with a ten yard ball, whereupon Dnipro countered. Daws sold himself inside their half when there was no need, Verts was exposed, had no help and brought down the attacker. The penalty was converted.

Can’t shake that lingering sense of betrayal around Ramos. As soon as he arrived, I printed up the t-shirt: We can be heroes, just for Juande.” That’s genius that is. Then he’s gone: wasted, all wasted. Good luck to him and I’m sure he’ll get a ripple next Thursday at the Lane, although Ledley King won’t join in. In a biography as mild as camomile, he’s critical of Ramos’s lack of understanding of the players and the English game, or more precisely of his lack of effort in trying to understand the game, including insufficient preparation for games other than against the big teams. Led sees the good in everyone, so by the standards of the book that’s cataclysmic.

In injury time as we hurriedly pressed for an equalizer, the ball came to Sherwood at the edge of his technical area. Unerringly he sliced it straight into the dugout. You never lose it, son. One to forget for all concerned.

9 thoughts on “Spurs Embrace The Mediocre In The Europa League Again

  1. Hard match to predict on that surface. Even if Tim had done his homework as prodigiously as AVB would have done, it’s a bit like calling an FA Cup result in the old days when Giant-Killing was more prominent on those awful pitches. OK, maybe I’m doing Dnipro a disservice, as they’re a top Ukranian team with some decent players, but it’s hard not to think that we had eyes only for Sunday against Norwich, and considered this game an almost ‘given’. The trouble is that it may prove hard for us to progress to the last 16 now ..and, as Spurs fans, and despite what we say, we want to chase the glory of a ‘cup’. A PL 4th is pragmatism (or rather 5th in our case) whilst cup exploits can produce the very thing which has fed our history.
    Soldado (as cheesed off as I have been with him this season) played well and, frankly, anyone could have missed that chance the way it flashed across and bobbled high on that surface. He desperately needs some luck to get going though.
    Bentaleb and Capoue were poor but will play much better on better surfaces, so no real concerns there. Same too with Townsend, although he’s got a long way to go before he starts to achieve what Lennon has done for us over these past years.
    His crossing and his shooting from distance when far better options are on are driving us all mad. I genuinely believe that if both he and Lennon start games on either flank, however, we can benefit from getting some of the pace back that made us so potent a few years ago, and with Eriksen starting to show us his playmaking skills it might not be long before we feel Modders has been replaced. I’m not saying we can produce as many chances as we did back then (many of which went begging because we didn’t have a box striker) but there should be no more excuses for Soldado once we do get our act together in the final third.

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  2. Horrible performance wasn’t it. Alan, hand-on-heart, do you still believe in Soldado? It might still come right but I now have very little confidence that it will. I see that AVB allegedly put the kibosh on the Benteke (I would still like to see us re-visit him again) deal. I would like to see Harry Kane given more game time. he looked excellent in that cameo against Hull earlier in the season.
    All the best.

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    • Jeez, got to 9.30 last night and I’m moaning: “Oh shit, I forgot! the boys played tonight!”. Missus C: “What time? Did you miss it?”

      Thought I’d ruined my evening. But from the scoreline and Alan’s uncomplimentary post, sounds like early onset dementia does apparently have advantages after all. Oh well, it’s an ill wind…

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  3. Europe used to inspire Spurs. Well, if they turn it round next week, Benfica have already won their away leg. Spurs v. Benfica, shades of 1962, should inspire Spurs, surely ?

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  4. Poor, awful football. Ours players are paid to entertain, and that was missing big style.
    Still think there is enough about us to beat them comfortably at the Lane, with, hopefully entertaining footy.
    Keep up the good work Alan.

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  5. Fielded a strong side , modest or COY to say the least , let’s call a spade a spade , we played a kak side bentaleb my word , k I will be nyce , this was not his cup milk , siggie is tried and tested perfect for the conditions and thrives in and behind the striker , not even considered. I’m gona try my level best not be over critical of tim , but this stuborn streak needs to end , we /i demand a selection of a well balanced team , townsend was far from match fit , but we will blame the pitch , dawson was literally spun inside out and left to dry , soldado k he missed a sitter , but his vision and on the ball presence , garanteed he will come gud as his class is not even question , erickson out wide ?? I knw I said I aint gona be ova critical of tim , howver as a player we loved u , as a mngr , well u starting to look more and like an avb , get it together buddy , u odd to knw beta .. COYS

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  6. Some nice gallows humour Alan. And don’t we need it at Spurs.
    I’m a Soldado (and Lamela for that matter) believer.
    Remember a star player is not just for pre- Xmas .
    Form/Class? How does that one go..
    I can wait for next season for these two to shine.
    Spurs players minds especially Verts seemed to be elsewhere as well as the crowd.

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  7. There was nothing significant about this game,Alan?
    I think what was significant was our attitude to the game. To fly all the way there and back,and worse..have our fans fly there and back and offer a kind of wet noodle version of a fight to me is significant.You can take our third or fourth teams but juice them up to fight for their lives.Yes the pitch is crap.The stadium is crap.The tournament is crap.But we are Tottenham.Lets fight like we want it.
    To be honest I didnt watch all the game.Its also some time out of my life too (which has been moving on at a fair rate) and to watch another one of these lacklustre gory nights (I remember the real ones) was just too much so I turned it off.
    Significant? yes. It was.

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