None of this should have happened. Never have I seen a Premier League team defend as listlessly as Spurs did against West Brom. Never have I seen a Premier League team concede the initiative as needlessly as West Brom.
First half – excruciating, mindless Spurs defending. Second – West Brom sat back and took their punishment. Draw probably fair although we finished by far the stronger. Think all the things players are not supposed to do – that was West Brom v Spurs. No pressing, no marking, little structure – even for our season this was an open mouth chin on the floor are those professionals DID HE REALLY JUST DO THAT sort of match.
Spurs began with the same line-up and formation as against Sunderland on Monday night. Eriksen was on the left, Kane just behind Adebayor and Chadli alongside Paulinho in the centre. Chiriches continued at centreback. I say centreback. Turned out he was so out of sorts, he must have picked up a dose of the plague. I say formation. What I mean is that for 45 minutes nobody knew what the hell was going on.
This crass, inept and mindless defending plumbed new depths even in a season where passing the ball to the opposition as close to goal and in as much space as possible has become a defensive art-form. Players and coaching staff abnegated collective and individual responsibility for their. Quickly it descended into farce. After half an hour, they were a rabble.
I admire Sherwood (remember this moment – not a phrase you will see often on Tottenham On My Mind) in the sense that we may as well go for a win in each of our remaining matches but surely chucking everyone forward in a formation based on the ‘gung ho’ setting on Championship Manager 01 isn’t the way to go about it. One or two defensive-minded players can hold everything together, allowing defenders some protection so they can defend and allowing forwards plus attacking fullbacks the freedom to create. This set-up has nothing to hold it together, like a perfectly assembled Airfix kit that falls apart as soon as you pick up.
Our Ledley sadly did not win much in his illustrious career but he still holds the record for the fastest ever Premier League goal. His former team-mates obviously struck a bet to see if they could deprive him of that honour. Under two minutes versus Liverpool, here from kick-off an Albion forward took on Rose in our left hand corner. The full-back allowed himself under no real pressure to be turned. Meanwhile Eriksen had wandered back then stood off and watched from a few yards away, wide not between the ball and the goal. Didn’t occur to him to get goalside. Lloris pushed out the resultant cross which was thumped back into the empty net. 26 seconds – hard lines lads, Led has 11 but still four matches left. I’m sure you will give it a go.
Two down in 3mins 50 secs. Eriksen had the ball under little pressure then obligingly fell over. Chiriches failed to reach the cross first and the whole back four had become drawn under the ball to the near post. Brunt volleyed the ball home. None of the midfield bothered to cover, natch.
Kane shot wide from the edge of the box and then from much closer in a few minutes later, a chance he should have converted. We knew then that WBA weren’t much cop at this defending lark despite the game being given to them on a plate. I predicted 4-4 at that point. Hopelessly wrong…
A penalty offered us a way back after the missed chances in this breathless, gawky game. Rose, touched from behind by the defender, reacted as if he had just lent against an electrified fence. He had barely finished his performance of rolling around when Adebayor stepped up and precisely placed the ball into keeper Foster’s arms. It was his worst penalty since, oh, the last time he took a penalty, an effort in Europe that’s still heading skywards.
Spurs had four or five men up for every attack, West Brom strolled through the wide open space at the other end. Lloris saved well before Albion went three up, the worst of the worst. Kaboul exercised his responsibility as captain by charging towards their corner flag with the ball. Bear in mind everyone else was attacking so the run was completely unnecessary. Nobody had the wit or inclination to cover. Inevitably he lost it. Inevitably despite this he still just ambled back. Inevitably Albion played the ball over his head. Sessignon was one on one with Chiriches, the only defender, and scored.
The effort of mind it must have taken the rest of the team to suppress their natural inclinations and years of coaching to run back and cover is only to be admired. Train that thought power and soon they will be able to move objects just by thinking about it. I headlined our abject performance against Liverpool ‘pathetic’ but this redefined the concept.
One exception to this criticism is Harry Kane, who stuck to his task and his position regardless of the mayhem around him. Refusing to be downhearted after those two earlier misses, he kept showing for the ball and was rewarded. First he came off the back four and found Lennon making a run out wide. The cross was deflected into his own net by the luckless Olsson. A complete fluke but not for the first time this season, we had a bit of luck to get us out of a hole.
Coming just before half-time, this gave us a boost. As with the Sunderland game, we dominated the second half without playing particularly well. Instead of pressing, Albion sat back, conceded ground and let us play. It was a fatal error that cost them two points and nearly the game because Spurs had more than enough chances to win this one at a canter despite everything I have said about the first half. Manager Mel said this change of approach was not due to his instructions but he didn’t seem to do anything to change it. Perhaps a relegation-haunted club’s fear of conceding another lead is too much for any manager.
Spurs took full advantage. Monopolising the possession, we spent the rest of the game trying to find a way through. Free from any left-wing defensive duties, Eriksen came inside and was much more influential, while Paulinho stayed deeper to allow Rose to come forward with a wild look in his eyes but in all honesty we didn’t need much protection at the back because West Brom hardly got the ball in our half. We pushed the Baggies further back into their half and had total control.
Our next goal came at the right time too. Just when we were flagging, Lennon to the byline, a perfect cross and Kane headed in, although three other Spurs men were in the queue for that same ball. Lennon has become a more all-round player but at the expense of his stock in trade, the run down the wing and cross, rather than to enhance it. Two assists from virtually the only two byline runs he made. A message there, I think.
Chances were made and missed by Eriksen, Rose and Lennon. The ref’s award of 6 minutes injury time seemed generous. In the second, Eriksen seemed to have delayed too much on a chance in the box but the crafty so and so just pulled it onto his right foot and shot high into the net. Spurs pressed for the winner to no avail.
Crazy to write that we deserved the draw after a diabolical first half but it’s true and it was that sort of game. Forget everything you have learned about watching top division football – the players certainly did – and I suppose it would have been good viewing for the neutral but nerve-shredding for the committed. As with the Sunderland game on Monday, we managed to lift ourselves and did not give up. That’s something at least but I can’t shift the hideous images of that first half defending.