Stomach Churning? Shouting At The TV? Yep, Spurs Are Back

My season starts in the same way, at the same point, every year. Take a complete break over the summer these days. No friendlies, don’t even know what the new kit looks like. Need a rest, especially after last season’s debacle. Spurs’ first game, I’m keen but slightly detached. What will be will be and all that.

We begin well enough, interesting to see how we set up, Hammers come close but I have the luxury of the TV angle via my stream and it’s going wide. Then, it begins. Our marking is poor, they have a great chance. Should have scored and my stomach turns over. The bile rises, I feel sick, churning, stamping my feet, shouting at the screen. That’s a relief. Football’s back and everything is reassuringly normal.

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It’s good to win on the opening day of the season and the manner of victory with a classy goal deep into added time was sheer delight. Kane, on as sub for Adebayor, spotted the runner and slid a perfect angled ball through the hapless Wham back four. That the runner was Eric Dier, full-back, on debut, 93rd minute, was a bit of a surprise but his calm, controlled finish, rounding the keeper before stroking the ball into an empty net, was worthy of Greaves or Gilzean. If my ‘new season resolution’ is to enjoy the Spurs, that’s the way to go, gents, thank you kindly.

This came on the back of a resilient hour when we were down to 10 men after Naughton was sent off for handling a supposedly goal-bound shot. Great to win but this was a mostly ordinary match between two ordinary sides. Our goal, however excellent, was our only genuine chance in the whole game. W Ham obliged by missing theirs plus a penalty. Other sides won’t be so generous but first game, down to ten men for much of it so no real conclusions to be drawn. Like I said, let’s enjoy the moment.

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The penalty incident seems the obvious turning point. After we mastered early possession, without doing anything dangerous with it, our opponents stifled us in midfield and were on top. We muddled away a couple of efforts, swarming round attackers in the box, then close to the goal Naughton hurled himself in to block a shot. It was ball to hand but those hands were held high like a goalkeeper. Penalty, I’m afraid. Cue cries of ‘unlucky’, ‘seen them not given’ but after a chat with his linesman, the ref made the right choice. Naughton saw red – blocking a goalbound shot with his hands, I guess, even though it was probably going over. Inevitable. We had a couple of ball to hand pens last season. Fine if refs are consistent with this interpretation all season. Bet they won’t be.

Bright start, no goals, opposition get back into it, cock-up. The Spurs way. New season, new manager, same old story. But wait. Fans of rival clubs have more in common than they would care to admit. The Hammers I know could describe their side in the same way. Miss a penalty, then the real turning point of this match came in the second half when Adebayor knocked the ball past centre half Collins, who duly obliged by bringing him down even though it was nearer the halfway line than the goal. Already booked, Collins was gone and if Manu did little else yesterday, he knew what he was doing right then. The man advantage tossed away.

In a match without too much goalmouth incident, the other significant moment came late on. Lloris, superb in this fixture at the fag end of 2013-4, dashed out to thwart Downing’s close-range shot as finally WHam breached our defence. It was a proper save, not just an arms-and-legs-flailing block.

So Mr Poch, what do you have in store for us? W Ham’s first attack didn’t amount to anything but our response was indicative of the shape of things to come. Bentaleb and Capoue, our two defensive midfielders, dropped back straight away, taking up deep positions a few yards in front of the back four and in the gaps between them. The midfield three of Lamela, Lennon and Eriksen fell back behind the ball, leaving centre forward Adebayor up front. That DM positioning is key if we are to overcome the huge problems of last season when the back four were unprotected and therefore vulnerable.

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When we had the ball, the three interchanged positions, they seemed to know what was going on and filled the space left as their team-mates moved around. The full-backs came forward to help out and Bentaleb joined them, staying deeper than the three but involved while Capoue hangs further back.

They looked comfortable and Capoue was our best player until he dropped back to centre half. However, it was all a bit cluttered – they were too close to each other – and we didn’t have a shot on goal in this early period despite being on top. Possession is important as they shifted the ball from side to side. Repeatedly we tried lofted passes in Adebayor’s direction, which seemed to me to be tactics not desperation. What’s certain is that they didn’t work. Like all our work on the ball in the first twenty minutes, it was overly deliberate and the big Hammers defenders easily dealt with them.

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Eriksen and Lamela showed glimpses of promise on the ball but faded all too easily when Wham flooded the midfield and made things difficult. They tossed a few balls into the box from deep but we did little to stop them and looked unnecessarily shaky in the box. Dier’s selection shows Pochettino is looking to the future – if ever there is a match for Dawson it’s this one as we know the ball is going to ping in repeatedly. Dier is promising but the opposition forwards got in between the centre halves and missed a couple of good opportunities.

Despite the sending off, Pochettino remained resolutely positive. Capoue was our best player at this juncture. I would have brought Dawson on and kept Capoue where he was as DM. However, the Argentinian did not want to waste a substitution, so Capoue became centre half and Dier right back.

It looked as if it was only a matter of time before the Hammers scored. After half time we were pushed back. Adebayor was isolated and detached from the midfield up front, so we had no outlet. But we discovered another feature of Pochettino’s approach, his brave, attacking use of subs, which turned the match in our favour. Holtby and Townsend for Lennon and Lamela gave us renewed industry and, in Townsend the ability to take the game to our opponents. At this stage in his development, Townsend needs a yard or two to look dangerous. Close him down and he’s not learned effective options. Yesterday he posed problems every time he took the defence on. It felt as if our manager would have made the same changes regardless of W Ham’s carelessness in dropping to 10 men.

And make no mistake, the players were encouraged to get forward. Dier’s willingness to get into opposition half seemed reckless as the minutes ticked away and we were on for a decent away point. Stay back, let someone else make the runs…hah!

Early days, 10 men, no time for judgements. However: Bentaleb had a good game and a man who did not appear in any of the papers’ ‘best Spurs team’ has caught the new manager’s eye. He keeps the ball moving and finds space wherever he goes. I wonder if Kane may have to adapt to a role similar to that of Rodriguez at Southampton, a forward able to drop back when needed. Kaboul was poor outside the box – as captain he should have set a better example.

13 thoughts on “Stomach Churning? Shouting At The TV? Yep, Spurs Are Back

  1. Welcome back, Alan. Look forward to reading your analysis this year as always.

    Always good to beat Wham, especially after last year’s disastrous (in footballing terms) games against them. The natural order of the Universe has been restored.

    Thought Dier’s goal was very well taken indeed. He could be a key signing. Also good to get a late winner as it shows that we didn’t give up and had a desire to win.

    The substitutions were very good. There is a strong and young English core to our team. I remember Jol saying that was an important part of our identity which we lost in the Ramos period.

    Having said that, I hope Lloris is given the captaincy if Dawson leaves. Hugo is a key player for us and his 5 year contract extension was encouraging, even if it means we only get another year or two from him. Likewise Vertonghen where there are positive signs that he’ll also stay.

    Until the substitutions I thought we were pretty poor, which is surprising and depressing given that MP has had a decent amount of time pre-season with the squad.

    Too early to start moaning. Let’s see how we are playing by Xmas. By then we should be able to tell the kind of pact our new manager is having.

    I reckon we will have has a good season if we don’t sack him!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alan,
    welcome back , great to see the EPL kick off and bury the mind numbing summer of baseball I have to endure over here.
    Early fixture play, obviously abit unsure of the system but atleast we grab victory from jaws of defeat, honestly when is the last time you saw a Spurs team actually ball it up when down to 10, instead of the usual fold over and get whacked 4 nil. That if anything is hopeful, could we be developing the long lost backbone?
    we wait and see
    ed

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  3. This wasnt classic Tottenham…wait maybe it was….but the one thing I liked was the way we never panicked and just went about business.A little controlled and imperfect but never panicking. Poch’s is comfortable with himself you can see that and the team looks comfortable with itself you can see that too. We need to see more generalship on the field.Players taking it on more and taking control of the midfield. Eriksen was not very effective and Holtby who looked better when he came on also did not take control. We needed that but being much more steadier was a direct reflection of thge manager.
    In Poch I trust.

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  4. Hello Alan.
    I must find a West Ham fan and buy them a half of double diamond, they are after all such a charitable bunch.
    We were fortunate yesterday but like yourself I found positives, the main ones being Bentaleb and Dier.
    I was an AVB apologist and felt that he should have been given until the end of last season to try and brighten things up.
    Lets hope the owners show a bit more patience with Pochettino because like Ron, I trust him.

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    • Swedish Im at LEAST giving him this season ahope to see improvement in increments.I have seen a change already,at least in the way we carry ourselves,more positive and more deliberate and I am with the hope that the flow will always come.

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  5. Greetings Alan, hope you had a decent summer.
    Not a convincing start. Quite reminiscent of the start of last year. Lots of ponderous possession. Agree 100% with Ronwol, not enough assertiveness in the team. Sandro offers it but he appears to be totally out in the cold. Lamela looked physically stronger but chose the wrong option nearly every time he got on the ball. I was surprised to see Lennon start, and on the left where, as we all know, he has never been convincing. I don’t see him or Kaboul retaining their starting berths. It appears that Soldado is Poch’s third choice, I wonder if he will still be with us come September 1st.
    The biggest plus is Dier, he looks a proper Tottenham player, immediately at home at this level.
    It’s early days though and I don’t think our first eleven in a month or two’s time will bear much resemblance to yesterday’s starting line-up.

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    • How does lennon get into the team this man is usless cant take a corner or freekick because he does not know how to kick a ball correctly one goal in 34 games last season and managed only 10 crosses one every 3 games.he must never be picked again.

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    • Harvey, I have to say that calling an away victory, playing a man down for most of the match, against a team that mostly abused us three times last year “unconvincing,” is a bit unbecoming. And ponderous? I saw more second-level vertical balls and through balls than I saw the first half of last year. Maybe it looked ponderous because we had one less man on the pitch, I don’t know. Granted, I’m not leaping for joy (well I was in extra time) thinking this was the pinnacle of total football. But given the circumstances of the sending off, the implementation of a new system under a new coach, the absence of a number of first team players and the recent history of the rivalry, it seems like a cracking good start. You are completely right, it’s early days and this team will change a lot over the season. Honestly, how may of the top ten teams from last year looked particularly good yesterday? Not that that excuses anything, it’s just like you said early days in a long campaign and a battling win seems like a good place to plant our foot before we swing away to glory. OK, sorry for that last bit.

      Thanks for keeping on, Alan. I think our faith will be rewarded maybe not this year but certainly the next.

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  6. My stomach has been churning for the last 67 years except for the double year the best double team of all time. Sent from my Hudl

    TOTTENH

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  7. My stomach has been churning since I was 9, and all I got to show for it is bloody Crohn’s disease :(.
    On a serious note..”whoopee”!! We beat the team I mostly detests, even more than I detest the Arses up the road.
    Keep up the good work Alan.

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  8. Fine article, Alan, as usual. The only thing I didn’t really spot was your comments that “the opposition forwards got in between the centre halves and missed a couple of good opportunities” in relation to Dier. I thought he had a decent first game at CB and did okay when he moved to RB after the red card, without mentioning his spell in the last minute as Striker ! I think Kane is starting to show an uncanny ability to find space and, like Sheringham, a fast brain can make up for any lack of pace. I hope Kaboul’s lack of concentration was just a one-off to do with early Season (and possible transfer distraction?) rather than any longer term issue. If he stays fit I think his ability and power can offer us a lot, including cover at RB, if we choose other CBs. All in all, it was a very welcome win that, ironically, has kept Spurs fans expectations realistic! Charlie / ‘Minesadouble’ (PS: see you on 1st Sept).

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