Three-quarters of the way through Spurs’ undistinguished draw with Palace, the mood on the Shelf turned ugly. Having handed back the initiative to our visitors, Tottenham were dealing with a fusillade of attacks, badly. I can’t recall exactly which one provoked the outburst – one of many saves by Lloris, not the shot that hit the post and bar before rebounding out, probably yet another shot just over that should have been on target. Spontaneously hundreds rose as one in uncomprehending fury – how could we fall apart so easily?
Poch stifles a yawn
The Shelf loyalists are dedicated, committed Spurs supporters – if you drew a circle with a radius of ten seats around my spot, we’re the newcomers and we’ve been there for nearly ten years now. These people are it for the long haul. Never mind the bogus drowning-out of boos or social media whingeing, this is real anger and frustration from supporters who care. How could we make it so easy?
I’m sure it was repeated elsewhere in the ground – the players left the pitch to a chorus of boos. It’s not so much the result, certainly not inflated expectations. In fact, we were lucky to come away with a point. After all, these fans have seen enough disappointment and missed opportunities over the years. It’s that once again, we made few chances, failed to play together as a team and above all have apparently learned nothing since the start of the season. All the progress made in the Everton match long forgotten.
The crowd also called long and loud for Aaron Lennon, who was keeping his new haircut immaculate on the bench. Party this was affection for a player who has recently reminded us that he still has a role to play at Spurs. Mainly though it was tactics. As the game went on, Spurs has become bogged down in a central midfield morass. I suspect that beneath the turf at White Hart Lane there is some mysterious force-field generator impossible to resist that sucks our men into the middle, where if they don’t run into a defender they will surely bump into each other. Flicky this, clever touch there, may beat one or two but eventually Palace swallowed up each and every attack without being seriously stretched.
A rare shot
Against Everton, we shone with a right-footed player wide right. Yesterday, the inverted wingers achieved nothing. Azza is no world-beater but at the very least would have given us some width. One substitution put Chadli on the left where in Davies we have a good attacking full-back, Dier on the right not so much. Still no width therefore. Lennon came on finally with less than 10 minutes to go and did not have a run at his full-back. And they say the fans don’t understand the game like professionals. When this happens, frankly we don’t understand it at all.
The signs were ominous from the start as Fazio and Vertonghen occupied the first ten minutes by passing to each other. The whistle should have been our alarm call. Instead we reached over and hit the snooze button. The 3 o’clock start, unheard of these days,was confusing – what time train do I have to get? – but you would expect the players to be ready. Less high-tempo, more sleep-walking.
Credit at this point to Palace. With two forwards wide they forced us into the middle and were quick and dangerous on the break. More than capable of dealing with us, Warnock is a manager whose admirers say he has no tactical nouse. I’ll leave you to ponder the implications.
We did little constructive to find a way through and nothing to get going early on although we did buck up after the break, bearing in mind that yesterday everything was relative, and took the game to our opponents without ever looking especially dangerous.
At least the kids enjoyed it. And Chirpy.
Palace meanwhile always posed a threat on the break but missed several chances. They also came up against our only class player, Hugo Lloris, on impeccable form. As if trying to make up for his errors against Chelsea, he kept Palace at bay with a series of outstanding saves to add to flypaper handling.
Despite it all, we did make some chances. Three good ones fell to Soldado, none were on target. The worst was in the second half, slicing wide after he was bang on to score from a sly little through ball into his stride. Eriksen made a couple of openings, the best coming early when Spurs finally woke up a bit. He cheekily nutmegged the defender on the byline and shot when three white shirts awaited the pull-back.
As I say, Spurs were better (not good but better) after the break then after Palace realised they could contain us, we nearly succumbed to ten minutes of sustained attack to which we had no answer and the midfield were all over the place. The afternoon was summed up by a vignette in front of the Park Lane when Eriksen did well to prevent a corner, short pass to Dier who then passed it into touch – for a corner.
Some promising signs from Fazio and Davies, both of whom had their best games for the club. Fazio was especially strong in the box and at the near post, moving with confidence to the ball to deal with danger. Davies deserves an extended run. I like his appetite for the ball, berating team-mates for not passing to him and hitting early balls with confidence when he moves forward. One such cross after a fine ball from Lamela gave Soldado an opportunity.
Sadly the phrase ‘fine ball from Lamela’ applied only to that moment. When he’s tackled, as he so often is, he always looks surprised. What’s Spanish for ‘how did that happen?’ Soldado will know… Lamela should have got used to the PL by now. Twice yesterday he burst clear with the ball, looked up only to be tackled from behind. That’s the PL and he’s got to learn.
Otherwise, Kane and Mason were industrious but quiet. Bentaleb at least tried to move the ball forward late on when playing the deepest of the midfield. He attempted to get something moving even if he wasn’t always successful. The sage fellow supporter to my right pointed out his fair impression of the Parker pirouette, twirling in midfield without getting anywhere. A fair point, and like Parker he depends on having someone to pass to. Our collective failure meant so often he was disappointed, as were we in the stands. Progress, such as it was, stalled, or perhaps a figment of the imagination.
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