Shattered Spurs Bow To Red Power

Yesterday Spurs meekly succumbed to Liverpool’s power, pace and team-work. Rodgers and Pochettino are disciples of the new football, play at pace, work as a unit with and without the ball and press until the life is squeezed from your opponent. Three games, 12 goals with none in reply, show the Reds are streets ahead. It’s what you’d expect, given the constant chopping and changing in the Spurs ranks. Remember that the Liverpool board gave Rodgers the time he needs, let’s give Pochettino the same opportunities. In the meantime, his players need to start by giving more effort than was on display in this sorry effort.

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The referee’s whistle was the signal for Liverpool to launch a ferocious assault on the Tottenham defences. They hurled themselves at every Spurs player who had the temerity to have the ball at their feet, two or three men blocking, hustling, niggling in a frenzy of pressing. The intensity was terrifying and Spurs had no escape. Trapped, we repeatedly conceded possession and Liverpool pounced with the same high-speed passion in attack.

Balotelli missed from close-range, Lloris getting down quickly to save his low header, before a poor clearance from a penned-in defence led to a lightning break and cross that found Sterling at the far post. It could have been one of several Liverpool forwards – we were all over the place.

That early onslaught finally abated after twenty minutes, by which time the game had been won and lost. There were other moments, including a highly debateable penalty, but the Spurs midfield were shattered and never recovered from the shock. The forward midfield three, so prominent against QPR, were utterly ineffective. Chadli posed and preened but allowed the game to pass him by, as he tends to do unless it’s played at a pace that suits him. Lamela kept going but discovered in a generally central role just how little room there is in a PL midfield. Bentaleb was swamped. Eriksen was the most disappointing, a man who has the ability to make an impact but who faded away before being substituted ignominiously early in the second half.

Only Capoue resisted, working hard throughout the match to break up opposition attacks. He was Spurs best player and you wonder what we missed last season when he was persona non grata.

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After twenty minutes Liverpool funnelled back but still controlled the game, pressing but from starting positions ten or 15 yards closer to their goal. Adebayor’s lob went just over and the Reds missed a couple more, including another Ballotelli effort, wide after a howler of a fluffed Lloris clearance left an open goal. Chadli had our best, indeed only chance, catching a high ball well but it was too close to the keeper. Mignolet made his only proper save of the entire match. It offered a tantalising glimpse of surprising vulnerability in the Liverpool defence that Spurs never again exploited.

Despite being decidedly second best, being only one behind at half-time meant we were still in it. That changed when Liverpool were awarded a penalty. As Dier came across Joe Allen, his arm clipped Allen’s, who thereupon hurled himself into row K and the ref gave it without a moment’s hesitation.

My gripe with penalties like this one is they defy the laws of physics, never mind the laws of football. In the outermost reaches of the universe, galaxies and black holes are created and destroyed according to immutable laws of matter, mass and motion. Yet entering a Premier League penalty box is like going through a portal into another, parallel reality where these laws apparently do not apply or if they do, are random and inconsistent.

There was contact and Dier should have known better but neither in themselves are reasons to give a foul. There is no possible way that knocking Allen’s arm could have led to him falling in that way. It did not have anywhere near the force to cause him to lose his footing. Matter, mass and motion. A rugby player in a similar situation would not have gone over, instead would probably have dismissed it as having the power of an insect momentarily landing on his or her arm. A distance runner would not have gone over if they had been jostled in the 10k.

And that’s never mind the outbreak of WWE every corner. Or the fact that those incidents were never, ever given as fouls until comparatively recently. Or the referee missing a huge tug on Adebayor’s shirt, so big that you could hear a cartoon sound-effect ‘boing’ when the fouler let go.

Both have an incentive to stay upright and until footballers have the same, the diving will go on. This isn’t about Liverpool, Allen or any team – Spurs players have done exactly the same. It’s about the game. If referees stopped giving those oh-so-modern fouls, the players would stop falling over so easily.

Dier is promising but he showed his inexperience in allowing the possibility of a penalty. He looks like the sort of player who learns quickly: let’s hope his team-mates do the same. Pochettino has had five competitive games with his squad, Rodgers has had a hundred and boy did it show. Throughout Spurs failed on the basics – pressing together without the ball, making themselves available for team-mates with it. Back to the bad old days of looking up, finding nothing was on, trying to beat an opponent then getting caught. Time and again we lost possession.

Two down, Pochettino kept up his policy of active substitutions by bringing on Dembele and Townsend. His plans were destroyed by the winger’s first touch. Receiving the ball 60 yards from his own goal, he foolishly tried a drag back. Promptly tackled, Moreno ran most of that distance to our goal without being challenged. Covering the Liverpool forward line, we failed to get in the way of the man with the ball. A fine goal but entirely avoidable. My fear for Townsend is that these problems of poor choices and not knowing when to do the simple lay-off were around 4 seasons ago when Redknapp gave him his debut. That said, play him on the left where he can run at defenders.

My worry that Kaboul will never be the same player after his injuries is sadly being supported by the evidence. He was dreadful. Vertoghen did not stand out, except as backdrop as Sterling whizzed past him. Lloris made valuable saves but his poor distribution in the first half increased the pressure on an already beleaguered team.

Time to draw breath and work on that system.

24 thoughts on “Shattered Spurs Bow To Red Power

  1. Okay, Alan, but early days (what 35 more games and several months to go) and on a more positive note, we’re still tied with Citeh and Pool, and above our real competition, ManU and Everton, and even L’Arse! But what’s my South Wales team, Swansea (with our former Sigi) doing up near the top? Okay, it’s early…but we need to give MoPo the whole season, Rodgers was dodgy his first season, and more to implement his philosophy, system and get the right players for it. COYS! Oh, wait, here come the nay-sayers, who’d rather be proved right (that we’re useless, etc) than just support our team for the whole season. 😉

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    • good to hear from you Ashley. Make take longer than a season – after the end of the window looks like we will have to rely on Poch and teamwork. I’ve not actually looked at the tables – in the old days they only produced tables after three games. 6 from 9 is OK but Liverpool reminded us how far ahead the top four or five might be.

      Regards, Alan

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  2. Absolutely right about the penalty. But you failed to mention that Allen had already been booked. So another booking for simulation would have changed the game even more. Allen cheated. Dont be fooled by the experts who mouth the nonsense “well…there was contact” and “the player is entitled to go down” A penalty has to be caused by a foul, not a brush. And a player who falls over as if shot when touched on the shoulder is cheating.
    Liverpool were better than Spurs but the best two chances in the first half came through long balls down the middle of the Liverpool defence. If Ade had scored 2 minutes after the opener who knows what the outcome could have been. We werent outfought or outthought…they have the pace up front that we dont have and that is crucial to Pochs methods. And it looks like that is an issue we are NOT addressing this window.

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    • Good article. One observation about the penalty – if you pull someone back anywhere else on the pitch (no matter how tamely), it’s a free kick and a booking for the guy who does it. Dire was incredibly naive, but I’m sure he’ll learn a lot from it.

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    • I had forgotten Allen had been booked. Long balls – yep, that’s what I meant about Liverpool’s surprising vulnerabilities. I didn’t watch MOTD but assumed that’s exactly what they say, and it annoys the hell out of me.

      Best, Alan

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  3. yes we know pooch needs time3 the biggest problem is levy and his deep pockets bargain basement players pooch will not get support from levy just look at the new signings rodgers has bought in sorry fellows supporter for 50 years as long as levy has the purse strings no chance you only have to look at the top teams to see there buying pofwer so spurs supporters be realistic it will be a while before we get top 4 lets hope some silverware at this moment when the stadium built wouldent surprise me to see them sell the club but lets wait and see spurs forever

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    • I didn’t want crazy spending in the window but Levy hasn’t backed his man again. Can’t shake the feeling that’s what attracted him to Poch in the first place. Cheers, Alan

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  4. LFC supporter here. A wonderfully objective analysis. But it’s early days, so don’t despair. You are in better shape than Liverpool was under Hicks and GIllette, and in Pochettino, you have one of the most talented managers in the league. Given time and support, he will certainly mover Spurs forward, as Rodgers has done at LFC. One advantage of appointing him is that his footballing philosophy shares a good deal with that of AVB, so you are not starting from scratch. At the same time, his skills in coaching, man-management and in-game adjustments are evidently superior. That said, neither Liverpool nor Spurs has the financial resources of Chelsea or Manchester City. Unless FFP really bites (which I tend to doubt), the title is going to be very difficult for both of us.

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    • Interesting view, thanks Michael. Friend of mine, home and away Red, said he and everyone around him were worried at 2-0 in this fixture last season that Liverpool could still cave in. Every Spurs fan I know thinks we were taken apart and had no chance.

      The problem at Spurs is all the chopping and changing of manager and personnel, so not quite from scratch but Poch clearly doesn’t fancy several good players he’s inherited, AVB was bought men he didn’t want etc etc fade to black.

      best to you, get ahead of those blues and gunners, eh? Alan

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  5. What pain that was and you you saw the interview with Poch,you could see the words were not matching his feelings after the game.
    I really couldnt take much away positive from that. It was a thorough disappointment.
    I was itching for them to bring on Holtby for the ineffective but pretty well knew that while he was on the bench,he had left the building. It was nonsense.incoherent nonsense. We were ran off the park but a team that was more focused and quicker,a team with an edge.
    We looked defeated from the off.
    The goals,the penalty is just commentary.The story of the game was the commitment,intensity,the lack of flow and the impotence of us and the exact opposite from in.In our park no less. A crime.
    It was Poch’s gig and Poch’s nickel and it was Poch’s responsibility.
    II gave him at least till the end of the season. But I hope we dont have to suffer too many of those.

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      • Alan, mate, good to be back. I’ve been encouraging Yankee pals over here (on both coasts) to become Spurs fans, and join the LA or NYC Spurs groups — in LA, we get up to 150 of us, men, women and kids for a NLD game, with all the chants but more friendly banter than you’d expect with any rival fans. I think I’ve gotten about 5/6 to join up. Thing is, one of the new ones, a novelist and father, has been getting himself and his son into footy and Spurs. He asked the other eve if I could turn him onto some websites, and of course, I included your eloquent blog along with DML (not for the comments), the official site, NewsNow, etc. But having read the comments on this new excellent blog, I wonder if I’ve steered my pal wrong. The reasons why Yanks become Spurs fans, when I ask them, is because of our kit (the all white Euro strip and cockerel is still very appealing), our illustrious history and echoes of Glory, and the fact that we are not money-bags (like the New York Yankees or Red Sox or Dodgers) but we have potential to get better and hopefully recapture some more glory. They also like the fact that Ted Lasso was our manager for like six minutes! But I fear when he reads these posts with words like “depressing” “impotence” “ineffective” he may get turned off, wondering what has he gotten himself and his son into. Us self-flagellating Spurs fans. Ouch! I have very realistic expectations for the season, top-6, a bedding in of our new system (Rodgers took two whole seasons to get it going — interesting to see how he handles extra CL games), giving our new guy a big chance to develop his philosophy, and maybe some Cup glory. We’ve already had a taste of it in the first 3 league games — that late goal vs W-Ham for the win, our fans at the Kings Head 2 went bonkers, and that dismantling of ‘Arry’s team…Maybe I should tell peeps to take reading any Spurs Blog with a huge mountain of salt, LMAO! Like I said, luckily there’s only 35 games and several months to go, otherwise I’d be tempted to off myself already!!! COYS! 😉

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        • Good man – more converts. Hallelujah, praise the Lord Billy Nick!

          I’m aware of the vibrant Spurs support in the US – big communities in Chicago and NY, many fans travelled the country in the summer for the tour. Thanks for mentioning Tottenham On My Mind, not the most popular blog but read by a few literary types and journos. Spooky still doing great things too.

          As to the attitudes, I reckon the comments on this site anyway cover the whole range of emotion. They are authentic. Football makes us angry, irrational sometimes, because we care. It’s all part of the culture of being a fan. At Spurs we are philosophical. I watched Sunday’s game with a student from Italy. I told him – ‘this is part of being a Spurs fan, the one thing you can count on is disappointment.’

          So steer your friend away from the culture of criticism and unrealistic expectations, he’ll enjoy the game more, and he can come on here and have a private moan 😉

          Regards, Alan

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  6. It was depressing that we were beaten so easily. We were bereft of ideas and desire (with a few exceptions.)

    On Sunday we were shown to be light years away from the top 4. I really didn’t think we would roll over this year as we repeatedly did last year. We’d better brace ourselves for more thrashings like this.

    And it sounded like we were playing at Anfield. The deflation of our fans was palpable.

    Whatever else happens we must stick by MP. He needs 3-5 years minimum.

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    • Long-term indeed. Levy hasn’t given him the money so let’s hope he gives him time and trust. may be worng but don’t think Poch plans to hang around for 5 years. That’s depressing, isn’t it…

      best, Alan

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  7. Not a disaster but thoroughly disappointing all the same. Last Monday, Liverpool were destroyed by pace down both flanks, particularly the left. On Sunday, there was little of that. Much of the problem was Kaboul and Verthongen who lack pace and couldn’t / wouldn’t fill in for Dier and Rose leaving us open when going forward. Capoue did his best but couldn’t hold everyone off.
    Eriksen was well off his game and both Dmebele and Townsend, when they came on, showed all their flaws. I just don’t ‘get’ Dmebele as a player. He seems to have all the attributes to be a great footballer but does little other than run and play the ball across the midfield like a pretty version of Vinny Samways.
    Perhaps more worrying was the lack of fight in a lot of the players. Liverpool were well organised tactically but in any 50/50 always appeared likely to come up with the ball. We seem to lack heart and Holtby, Sandro and Dawson had that, for all their supposed flaws. I’m sorry to see all of them leave. The transfer window offered little and therefore we’ll need to give the manager time to work with the players he has. There’s no plan B.

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    • That’s what you lose when those players go. Regardless of their merits, they would at least shake up the side in search of something from that game. I meant to say that the team could not generate anything to get them going. I saw them against City, when they did not look good and certainly didn’t start so quickly. We never posed them any sort of problem.

      Regards, Alan

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  8. I think we signed some good players it looks like but these wet noodle attempts at putting the eggs in Southampton’s basket to pry away their players was another game we lost.
    We all think Tottenham is a big club.Dreams from the past and our ongoing attitude show that and maybe our balance sheet too but are we? Maybe thats what gives Levy the hubris to make ridiculous attempts at players that cant come to Tottenham because he believes it too.
    Not being able to sell players we have bought couple with ridiculous attempts at buying players that wont come at the last minute leaving us selling only the players who we could get anything for must be part of whole story when assessed.
    Sandro and Holtby sent away. Naughton,Townsend and Lennon still here.

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    • really no place for Sandro? Anywhere in a squad that has to get us through the EL as well as the PL? I know he’s not fully fit but surely he has a role. Shame

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  9. Nice match review. Pochettino definitely deserves time. I think he’ll do very well. I agree with all except the penalty. Here’s why:

    Modern football analysis trends in the UK are so anti-diving that they miss what defending players are doing. Of course the impact is no enough for Allen to truly lose his footing, but this was no, innocent, slight leg to leg contact! Dier used his arm to pull Allen back and check his run. This was a deliberate attempt to impede Allen. It also slowed Allen down and allowed Dier to catch him up a few strides. It effectively meant Allen’s legitimate space, created by his movemen was illegally reduced and he could no longer turn and run to goal.

    What is Allen supposed to do here? He knows the arm and pullback, though not enough to pull him to the ground impeded his run and meant he lost his opening to attack the goal in the same way. He can either accept a deliberate and cynical attempt to reduce his threat on goal or he can call the referee’s attention to the incident by going down. In my opinion, Allen made the correct choice, given the way the game is officiated at present.

    Until referees give fouls and penalties for foul play EVEN THOUGH AN ATTACKER STAYS ON HIS FEET, attackers will have to go down to get the foul they should be awarded. Sure, some players invite contact that is minimal to steal a penalty when there is innocent contact with no impedance to their movement or goal threat. This, however, was not one of those occasions. A silly, cynical pull back that narrowed the gap between the two players and was justly penalised.

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    • You’re right if you make the assumption, ‘given the way the game is officiated at present.’ I’m attacking that concept – I don’t think the laws should be interpreted that way. Think refs should not give those and players shouldn’t go down at the slightest provocation.

      regards, Al

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      • I meant “given the way the game is officiated at present” to mean that refs only give fouls when players hit the deck. This wasn’t a dive where Sterling runs past a defender and contrives to fall over the defender’s leg. Allen was actually pulled deliberately. Not enough to go down (even at 5’6″), but enough to close the gap and for Dier to gain a significant advantage. Watch it again and see how he gets closer by checking Allen’s speed. It closes the space for Allen to cut back toward goal. It’s a foul. Dier’s action is being currently being excused because of the simulation that Allen added to make the ref blow his whistle. Quite simply, If you pull at an attacking player who runs past you then you are giving the ref a big reason to blow for a penalty. It’s not clever defending, whatever the amount of force applied.

        We need refs to see these types of fouls and blow for them so attackers don’t have to exaggerate impact. Then when attackers exaggerate impact we have a cleaner context to view dives, because simulation is not necessary to get the proper decision. Right now, attackers need some simulation if a referee is to blow for certain types of fouls. That’s what I think needs to change.

        There’s a culture in England to criticize attackers who exaggerate contact, or totally dive but ignore the deliberate and cynical fouls that defenders commit. Lovren did one in the second half where he tugged a Spurs player in the area. That could have been a penalty. Skrtel is even worse than that, especially at set pieces. The state of PL defending is pretty dire. Way to many hands, bumps and tugs and focussing on stopping another player move or jump instead of the defender focussing on their own positioning or attacking the ball. Better refereeing (and I agree, calling some fouls and a new directive on wrestling at set pieces) is the only way to make defenders find other, better, true ways to defend.

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        • Appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts, Kam, on a topic that vexes both of us.

          Think your main point re refs seeing certain fouls and giving them regardless of players’ reactions is sound. The best example is when players are hit in the face and fall like a distraught heroine of a silent film in order to gather the ref’s attention.(Which while we’re on the subject annoys me far more than what happens in the box). I also agree that’s it’s primarily about consistency of application regardless of whether an attacker dives or a defender impedes.

          I would still like to see refs given the power to say, there was contact but not to the extent that the progress of the fouled player was significantly affected – no free kick.

          In the same breath I fully realise how difficult that is to apply given the current culture in football, both on the pitch and in post-match analysis and in that sense I can’t blame refs too much. If a player stays down after a bump on the head, we all jeer when that player has ‘treatment’ and then runs around like a gazelle once they return to the field of play. yet it would be a brave ref to wave play on, just in case there is a serious injury. I say this as someone who was 25 yards from Fabrice Muamba.

          Refs need more support from everyone in the game to sift out the simulation from the foul.

          Regards, Alan

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