Once again Spurs have waded through a stodgy game and come away with three points without playing well. Let’s enjoy it. Not the football itself – flashes of brilliance from Eriksen, Adebayor and Chadli stood out because they were so rare in a staggeringly ordinary match. But we’re winning so let’s freewheel to the end of the season, whistling a happy tune.
Not much happiness at the Britannia, oh dear me no. Both teams struggled to get going, working hard but lacking cohesion. I checked my stream – thought it must be running slow but that was just the players trudging through treacle. Then in a flash of inspiration, Adebayor touched the ball past the defender and Danny Rose, um, rose at the far post to decisively head home his inviting cross. Shouldn’t have been so far forward – disgraceful!
Then Rose was victim in an incident that exposes another element of watching Premier League football these days. Prem fans are cosseted and privileged yet apparently carry a massive sense of simmering injustice. Fans of many clubs seem to think their players (Spurs are like this sometimes too) are never in the wrong. It’s always the opposition and the ref, usually both. It’s part of the culture of criticism that has enveloped the modern game. The real game, watching in the flesh, is faster than ever but not on television where everything is slowed down and analysed into oblivion. Refs make mistakes. Players go over the top. Players dive. But they don’t always do that. Nevertheless there’s now an element of doubt in every tackle, every time a player touches another.
Late in the first half, Shawcross went in high on Rose. The ball was bouncing a foot or so off the ground. Both players were entitled to go for it. Rose got there first, Shawcross was late. He was rightly booked but because he had been yellow-carded already, he was sent off. Ref completely right.
Cue Stoke apoplexy and Spurs ineptitude. Not a hint of blame for a defender’s daft challenge? Not a jot. I think Rose, my player, was extremely stupid with what he did next. Not a question of bias. He stupidly pushed a defender in the chest having been cynically late-tackled. Ref booked him. I’ve not seen a player dismissed this season for raising his hands to chest height. Head height is different. Players often push each other and get booked. Ref was right but in this case Rose was foolish as he had been successfully wound up by Stoke players and crowd.
Now a liability, Rose was rightly substituted by Sherwood. I can’t be arsed to listen to either manager post-match but as Hughes is in a state of permanent indignation, I guess there was no room for doubt in his mind.
Stoke with 10 men were a far more formidable proposition than Stoke with 11. At least, they were because of our reaction. It’s a measure of our fragile collective team psyche and lack of on-field leadership that we played poorly from this point onwards, until the final minutes when finally we grasped the fact that if we hold on to the ball and don’t constantly give it away, we might hang on for the points. We sat back, looked dismal in possession and generally waited for Stoke to score.
Obligingly they missed the chances they made. Lloris was admirably solid, a tonic as gaps opened up in front of him. Dawson and Kaboul helped out with a couple of finely timed interventions. Hughes did the right thing in boldly attacking when he went to three up front but his forwards let him down.
Last week I severely criticised Nacer Chadli’s lack of application and effort. So it is only fair that I compliment him this week because at last he realised that his central midfield role involves working back as well as starring on the ball. He overcame a niggling knee problem and often appeared in between the two centre backs to help out at the back. Credit where it is due – well played sir.
At the end we could have had another – Kaboul irresponsibly charged upfield – if only we knew where the keys to that bus are, if only – but in the event his cross could have been turned in by Kane, while Paulinho, who was poor throughout, missed another opportunity.
Sherwood can’t find the bus either so we’re unable to park it even if we want to. We could have done with some solidity at the back but we turned out winners in a forgettable end of season stodge memorable only for the reaction to two bookings. See – I’ve reached the end without mentioning Charlie Adam.