Kaboul On Fire As Spurs Pass Test Of Character

It’s said that sport doesn’t build character, it reveals it. Whoever coined that expression could have had the North London Derby in mind. For Spurs fans, it demonstrated the application and sheer bloody-mindedness that many of us believed our team crucially lacked. It was a point won, hard won indeed as Arsenal pressed for a winner for what felt like hours but was only the final fifteen minutes. With a level of composure to match our effort, Tottenham could have won all three.

Hat-tip to two Spurs defenders, Younes Kaboul and Danny Rose, both of whom I have wondered about recently. Kaboul in particular appeared to have gradually succumbed to a series of injuries that left him stiff and wooden where once he was supple, creaking where once he was the quickest in the side. When he was recently made Spurs captain, many doubted his place in the starting line-up never mind as skipper but yesterday he proved manager Pochettino is a shrewd judge of character. He scored the winner when we last won at the Spacedome but the man of that match was William Gallas, and Kaboul followed his compatriot’s example with a similarly ferocious, driven performance.

As the crosses came in, Kaboul was solid and brave. One time, facing his goal and deep inside the area, he hooked a shoulder high ball away with his foot. His commitment quickly spread to the rest of the back four. Vertonghen was excellent in the second half, intercepting, blocking and tackling. A late improbable break could have pinched us a winner. We’d been pushed back so far, you felt as if the Belgian was just grateful to get out of our area,  but after a great run his choice of final ball was poor, something that described many of our attacks throughout the afternoon. Suddenly his absence at the back put us in danger but we scrambled it away.

Naughton also did well, his place in this side a reward for a good display in the week against Forest. On the other flank, his full back partner Danny Rose did us and himself proud with his finest game for the club so far. Character, you want character? This is the man with fear in his eyes, or at least he was last season after a series of blunders including an horrendous error in the Cup NLD last season. Written off by many, replaced by new signing Ben Davies – not so. His determination to keep his place has improved his game no end and he was excellent throughout, especially in the first half when many of the Arsenal attacks came down our left and despite the pace and power of Oxlade Chamberlain.

Arsenal had the better of the early exchanges in an opening that was brisk rather than derby-style helter skelter. We started with a 4-2-3-1 with Mason in alongside Capoue for his debut. If Pochettino was preaching high tempo and pressing, his pleas went unheard. We were sluggish so the manager switched to four across the middle with Adebayor working the line up front and Chadli wandering around aimlessly. It looked as if we were conceding ground around the halfway, drawing up a defensive line 40 yards out in a departure from our usual approach.

It worked for the most part. Arsenal were less able to initiate their passing and movement in centrefield. In the second half particularly they were forced out wide, still dangerous but those crosses are easier to handle than the bewildering passing patterns they are capable of. In the second half Sanchez and Welbeck did not have a chance. Also, the back four dropped deeper, making it hard for the Gunners to get round the back.

Arsenal had most of the ball but we had some of the best opportunities in the game. On several occasions we were on the break but the man on the ball chose the wrong option. Lamela and Eriksen were both guilty. However we made three good chances, Manu just failing with two and Chadli totally fluffing the third, the best of the lot.

Lamela was fully involved but his vain appeals for fouls that never were became tiresome, especially as he himself was in danger of totting up two bookings as the referee’s patience became thin. Mason’s character was tested but never in doubt. A fine, brave effort, I’m not interested in passing percentage or over-enthusiastic tackles, I’m looking long term and he showed he has the talent and attitude to match.

In the second half we relieved the early Arsenal pressure by scoring. Eriksen’s challenge fell at Lamela’s feet and for the second time in three days his instant left-foot pass opened up the opposition. To Chadli, one touch and perfectly slotted in across the keeper. The Belgian may be our answer to our lack of strikers. In midfield he allows the game to pass him by but further forward that’s four he’s scored now.

Arsenal cranked it up and despite our best efforts equilised when Oxlade Chamberlain banged in a loose ball after some loose defending. In the past we might have caved in but Kaboul drove us on.

During matches Hugo Lloris has the ashen, hollowed-eyed look of a man who has survived a serious accident but remains haunted by the trauma. I guess that’s what playing behind the Spurs defence does to you. Look deeper. It’s the mask of concentration of a player totally focussed on doing his level best for his team and that admirable attitude enveloped his back four in a reassuring certainty. Penned into his 6 yard box – Spurs for the most part defended deep so Arsenal could not get behind us – he was impeccable in the air and just fabulous on the ground. On several occasions he dropped low to smother and block. His second half save to a Mertesaker header was outstanding. The centre half hurled his considerable weight towards the ball and met it smack bang on the middle of his forehead. It was heading low into the corner but Lloris plummeted to his left and kept it out with the strength of a single giant hand. For an agonising moment it looked as if the force of the header was unstoppable and it had crept over but the Frenchman rose triumphant, vindicated by goal line technology. It won us a point.

Pochettino defended from the front as he did against W Ham keeping two up and bringing on Lennon on the left to match Oxlade Chamberlain’s pace. Adebayor kept working. Drifting wide meant he was seldom a threat in the box but it opened up space for others. I had hoped Eriksen would have made more of that than he did, indeed had hoped for more full stop.

After our recent league performances I felt like watching this one from behind the sofa. As it was, I made it onto the cushions and spent the majority of the time writhing in anxious contortions – normal for the NLD in other words so that’s Ok then. Thank goodness that after all these years it still matters. Age is irrelevent – you’re old when you don’t feel it any more.

There is something different about the derby these days, though. It’s something that is hard to admit but it’s this: we are the automatic underdogs. When I was younger, the most significant derby stat was that the win-lose-draw record for both teams was identical, even after all those years and despite periods of Arsenal dominance, most notably in the thirties and their Double. Now, regardless of the figures, they are the dominant force. Hard to stomach and hard to type but that is in the air for every NLD now.

Not saying we should accept it, certainly not drop our heads, as fans I mean, not the players. We are Spurs, we are N17, we are proud and we are so, so devoted and faithful. We the loyal supporters have more to be proud of because we have been tested and not found wanting. This performance and point was some reward.

However, we have much to do to get back to those heady days only two years ago where the 2-1 win at White Hart Lane seemed for a tantalising moment to be the tipping point. We were a young side on the up, Wenger’s methods were failing him at last. Yet we fell back and they retrenched. That story has been told in this blog – Levy failing to capitalise on success on by signing a couple of players at the right time (and there were several opportunities) good players not being replaced, the revolving door for managers. Arsenal had their financial problems. Now they earn £1m per home game more than Spurs in match revenue. Their wage bill is higher than Chelsea’s and they won’t fall foul of FFP because of that income. One manager in 18 years, we’ve had 11 or 12, i forget exactly, under Levy. We could fall further behind.

To play with fearsome effort and commitment yesterday was a fine achievement for Spurs. Let’s use it as a foundation to build another team and aim high. After all, we proved Arsenal aren’t as good as they think they are and we were better than I expected.

Still plenty of time to vote for Tottenham On My Mind in the Football Blogging Awards. Thanks to the many who have already done so, like them just click on the button at the top of the page. Much appreciated – as ever, couldn’t do it without you. Regards, Alan

32 thoughts on “Kaboul On Fire As Spurs Pass Test Of Character

  1. Thank you for a well written, well reported article. I watched this one at home after recording it and I had to keep stopping the action to keep my blood pressure down. I was pleasantly surprised at our attitude and agree about Kaboul.
    Is there any more news about why exactly the owners of Archway Sheet Metal are being so awkward? We need our new stadium fast!
    If Levy has successfully negotiated the relocation of about 70 other site owners around our ground over the past seven years or so I can’t see what they hope to gain as they will have to move in the end. Can’t a really generous offer persuade them to move, I wonder? It would be better than travelling to Milton Keynes…

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    • You’re welcome.

      Archway Steel seem to be holding out for as much money as possible. I reported their ‘off to dontgiveaf**kistan’ tweet, think that sums up their attitude. Levy doesn’t like being beaten in a deal but hardly a reason to not sort given the money we will earn from the new stadium. So I don’t know why Levy has not sorted this out. Enter conspiracy theories – does Levy have a reason for delaying – such as selling the club? MK will be horrendous.

      Regards, Alan

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  2. Excellent analysis Alan.Especially from your bunker behind the sofa.Its easy for us to get intimidated looking at the 40 million plus players in their blazing red surrounded by the monstous colliseum of theirs..though Im old enough to remember the 3492 fans that filled Highbury for a football league game between the arse and Leeds in the sixties…fickle lot they are.
    I love what we did,our back four solid,our attitude,steel. The tactics accomplished.For a change no embarassing ourselves.
    that in itself is a pleasure.

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    • Absolutely. Past pieces on the NLD have featured the fact that not only do we lose, we find some way of ballsing it up. So different yesterday.

      Cheers, Alan

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  3. It was fabulous to see Spurs add a bit of grit to their game for a change and I don’t see what Wenger is moaning about with all the dubious tackles that normally arrive from the likes of Arteta, Wishire, Koscielny, Gibbs, Flamini and even Ramsey.

    As for our Kaboul since he had that injury a while back he hasn’t been himself and yesterday we saw the old Kaboul back to his dominant best. Kaboul at old used to be one of my favourite players especially under Redknapp. Sometimes Harry used to have to play him at full back and he was very good then. The guy is so quick for someone his size.

    I hope the Spurs team learnt a lot from their performance yesterday in as much that you can’t always play the pretty stuff and you need a bit of grit. Wenger has been installing that for years with his Gunners team.

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    • I didn’t bother with the lost-match comments but inevitable that Wenger would complain about tackles/time-wasting/bookings. Remember there’s so much he can’t see from two feet away from the touchline. Managers are so odd sometimes – they never see how stupidly inconsistent they are. They all do it.

      Kaboul was once the fastest player at the club over ten yards, quicker than Lennon. Thought last season would be the one where he established himself as one of the best in the PL but by the start if this, wondered if he would ever play again.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  4. Great rearguard action and I can’t remember Kabul having a better game, but while I know you can’t have everything, apart from our goal we were sloppy in the counters. Arsenal gifted us a couple of superb opportunities in the first half.
    We simply have to be more clinical, but at least it made a change watching us hold off top opposition and then counter attack at speed, instead of simply prodding the ball around in the middle of the pitch and waiting for our fans as well as the opposition to die of boredom. That last half hour against Forest possibly marked the turning point for us, and I’m so glad that Mason has stepped up to the plate. He may not be as silky or protective of the ball as Paulinho or Dembele, but he wants to get forward with enthusiasm and quickly, plus he is more creative than Holtby, and not as lightweight as Caroll. So what of P, and a to a lesser extent, D, now? How much of a hindrance have they been to our natural attacking game in the last 18 months, rather than help? The aim now must be to ensure Bentaleb doesn’t end up the same way. Capoue is developing into the fine DM I always believed he would be, but up front Eriksen must play centrally. Lamela’s getting there, but still frustrating, and Chadli CAN run if he wants. Not sure of the substitution decisions. Lennon for Eriksen was a waste, and Townsend should have come on and played wide right after his great performance on Wednesday ..but all in all the match was a positive step and good basis for the future. Like I said in my last post, don’t worry about our defense (we have top options}, just let us go out and score more than the opposition!

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    • I watched on Sky – that half-time montage of our fluffed breakaways was hard to watch! The justified praise for the gutsy performance masked our wasteful approach. Agree re Capoue and Mason. Paulinho – he’s not interested, get rid. Sad but true. Eriksen must get involved more.

      Best, Al

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  5. Brilliant write up Alan.
    What can one say, absolutely happy with us yesterday. Still buzzing and proud of all, more so Kaboom, Rose and Mason. Lamela great pass for Chadli, and had he not panicked with that dreadful clearance we would have one for sure.
    Had me Gooner cousin over to watch the game with me. I said before the game no piss taking on whoever looses. When we scored he walked out into the garden and only came back when I reassured him they were on the up, even when they scored he sensed this was not a winnable game. End of game he had a look of doom and gloom and said we had ruined his weekend..poor soul, bad looser even in a draw.
    Going to work tomorrow with my head held high and will face those Gooners like a proud fighting cock 😉
    Voted for you Alan on the FBA site as I could not find the button on the top of the page.

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    • Always proud, man, always proud! Thanks for the vote, much appreciated. Some fans of the big clubs fear that loyalty, don’t want to lose to it.

      Regards, Al

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  6. great analysis.spurs now have a manager who is great tactical ability.i believe our ascent to the top has begun.all we need is to buy in to the project and not allow negativity to make us digress from the task at hand.

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  7. I agree with Koko totally Alan,
    This was one of your best write ups, being a fifty plus I too spend alot of time hiding behind the sofa on such occasions.
    Kaboul was superb, as was Lloris, but do I detect that Rose and Naughton are suddenly looking like effective full backs?
    This current team showed that they CAN battle, all of the old criticisms, no spine, lack of application, were for one match anyway,
    thrown aside.
    How nice to see an Ars—l mid-field player caught in posession and punished for it, Eriksen’s tenacity and Lamela’s slipped pass were matched by a cool finish. (Chadli in attack is certainly worth thinking about)
    The most important thing from yesterday for me was not that this team needed to grow a pair, but that they already had them.
    Poch has talent, he can improve this team tactically and make them mentally stronger.
    The question is, will they be once more neutered by owners who’s methods are becoming more and more questionable?

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    • Kind of you. Good to be able to write about resilience and application. Wouldn’t bank on support from above, not if the past is anything to go by. More faith in Poch, though, but it will take a while.

      Cheers, Al

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  8. Thanks for the super and insightful-as-ever write-up Alan. I was at a wedding, so I missed this one. I was thrilled to find out Spurs had avoided the clear defeat I’d been expecting; and that they had been pretty smart about it. I’ve been critical (pretty much given up on) Kaboul (sadly, as he was very good before the bad injury) and Rose, and I am very pleased, hopefully, to have been proven wrong, for the nth time …

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  9. Honest, positive and witty write up, Alan. Spot on as usual.

    Showed real character on Saturday and the defence looked pretty solid. Hopefully we can build on this and press on.

    As I’m sure you know, saying or writing ‘chapeau’ in this context means hat-tip.

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  10. Saw the match on TV over here and thoughts were similar. Saw a tweet from a Gooner after 1 min- ‘what a joke Kaboul is’ and his performance brought a big smile to my face. Perhaps after so many injuries, there’s been a tentativeness there as he gets back up to full fitness? He looked very assured on Saturday. Rose and Naughton can look back on that game with pride and hopefully that will give them confidence too.
    I was less convinced by us moving forward but we were more direct in our movement. Whether this was deliberate or as a result of having more pressure on us when we had the ball, I’m not sure.

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    • Kaboul had an air of assurance that I haven’t seen so so long, I thought it had gone forever. I think that we are at the stage where we could be better away from home because we are set up to counter-attack. At home where we are expected to press forward, looks like we need more time to adapt to Pochettino’s press.

      Regards, Al

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  11. Good comprehensive analysis Alan!
    The fact that we didnt leave our back line isolated as we had done on previous occasions against the arse when we offered gaps galore between the midfielders and back four must have been encouraging for the last line.We kept our shape very well,so well.
    We didnt spring very well from defence to attack because of a few reasons.The fact that we had no confidence in the speedsters we have on the wings.Townsend has been a bust and Lennon looks disinterested most of the time.The other players that could have helped has limited game and thats Eriksen.
    He is at home with being closer to the wing I think sending in high balls to nobody and occasionally one flies in. He definately needs set pieces to survive. He was busy in the game defeding fom the middle but couldnt switch anything creative on at all.I dobt very much his ability to see creatively even though he is our main creative player. He could grow I suppose but it is in these games that you can and he hasnt.
    There is nothing else. Up front without support there is no service and the odd ball that found Chadli or Ade found them outpaced mostly or on the wrong foot by the arse.
    We need more. But the defensive pattern gave us some comfort.The arse,with plaenty of talent had a hard time with us. Kudos to Kaboul,Rose,Lloris who were magnificent.Naughton was steady,Vert excellent at times. Mason was another bright spark but we looked devoid of attacking ideas in general and players were not finding good channels.Liked Mason’s attiitude though.

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    • After watching the arse carve up Gala with their myriad of creative players who bought enough room for Welbeck,we can see how well Poch’s plan worked. He cut down their space.Yes they had chances but relatively few. We need to build from that.We also have to create ourselves.Short passes are not good enough,nor are crosses when there is nobody to nut them in.We have to create inside. Eriksen better start seeing the space.

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  12. what a horrendous showing tonight.
    We go half a step forward and two back….not good.
    Disgusting performances by Chiriches (never should be allowed to wear the shirt again) Paulinho…more of the same…Townsend….looked ok half way through from 3 inutes…just a schmuck….
    Davies….really nonsense
    Dier amd Bentaleb mediocre
    Soldado,a fraud

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    • Hi Ron,

      Too busy to do a report, or maybe couldn’t be bothered. I f I had, it would say’ Spurs reserves not very good. Who knew?’

      Honestly think that is all there is to say. We didn’t find out anything that we didn’t know already. Pochettino understands the significance of tomorrow’s game more than most fans, not just for himself but for Spurs. This is a real news story – he leaves, saints do well, we, not so much. The media are looking for him and Spurs are a target because of little return for all the money spent, so he rested the entire team.

      We were awful, mind. More fool me for paying to watch.

      Regards, Al

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      • I didn’t realise Paulinho was playing until he was substituted. And I had a pretty good seat.

        In future if Chiriches plays again he should be sent out in a clown’s outfit. And the crowd should be given old fashioned car horns to honk every time he goes near the ball.

        Massive game against the Saints tomorrow. I wonder if we haven’t flattered to deceive so far this season. Huge test for us coming up – whole season could turn on the result. Lose or draw and expect ‘Spurs in crisis’ headlines. A win and we go into the international break with a bit of breathing space.

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        • Should have brought my car horn. Could have got in the ground – most thorough search ever, discovered I had no flares under my collar but they didn’t check my bag….

          Doubts understandable…Saints at home a key fixture? Who would have thought it, but it really is…

          Regards, Alan

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      • As the days went on,I cant help but think that the rigidness of Pochs system is fighting the players own ideas and they get stuck in no mans land.It happened with AVB and I called for his head.Herefused to change and I though he couldnt see the huge problem of never getting the strikers the ball but its all happening agai,so now I say we have to give it more time. Ive seen Chiriches enough play well to think that this wasnt him. This was a mind that is not focussed on one thing.Its a mind confused by its own thoughts contrasting the Poch system.
        As in all disciplines you have to go through the discipline beofre you can add creativity and that is the secret.
        I am a creative thinker and to be honest Im in pain.

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