Watching Spurs Was Fun. It Will Never Catch On.

Spurs are through to the semi-final of the League Cup courtesy of an emphatic 4-0 victory over Newcastle United. Tottenham spent the second half pinging the ball around with an exuberant freedom rarely seen during the past few years. Cracking football, plenty of goals, a vibrant atmosphere including a full contribution from thousands of loyal, loud Geordies and to make it just like the good old days there was even a miscreant visitor bodily carried out by a posse of stewards and police. Fabulous to kick back and enjoy it all. I could get used to this.

For Spurs was the perfect League Cup tie, competitive but without edge. The FA Cup is the one, real commitment and born of a long, proud heritage that links every club in the land. My advice for the League Cup is to enjoy it but forget a defeat in the time it takes to get from the ground to the station. Sure, during extra time at Wembley in 2008 I had dissolved into a gibbering froth of anxiety, so if only I could follow my own observations, but allow me the self-delusion that’s natural for every supporter.

The League Cup should be fun and this win most certainly was, but while there were promising signs of our progress, Newcastle gave us plenty of room to play. They fielded a strong side if a little lightweight up front and with two sides keen to attack, this created fast end to end football. However, their young keeper Jak Alnwick followed the inept example of brother and former Spur Ben in providing a couple of assists. Pardew also made a game-changing tactical error at the start of the second half. The vast Sissoko had trampled over our midfield during the third period but was then moved wide.

Presumably the plan was to repeat the tactics that won our visitors this season’s league match where he stampeded down our left. Instead, it gave Spurs the freedom of the park. An absolute pleasure to see Spurs moving forward at every opportunity, luscious pass and move revolving around a playmaker, Christian Eriksen, and anchored by a deep-lying midfielder, Nabil Bentaleb.

 

Both excelled, with Eriksen in particular catching the eye. Given a central role with a fair degree of freedom, he was on the move and involved for 90 minutes, welcome but rare for him lately. Not everything came off – I suspect the dreaded pass completion stats were not in the top bracket – but the best players take risks and that inspiration makes things happen.

Things happened around him all evening, the best being a delightful curling pass through the defence to Rose (I think) but Soldado couldn’t capitalise on his instant cross. He made our fourth, a 20 yard burst ending with a shot parried straight to Soldado who tucked it in from close range. Eriksen really needs a nickname. ‘Come on Christian’ sounds like something from the touchline of an under 11s rugby match in Tunbridge Wells or a call to evensong. He seemed revitalised. After Sunday’s win he credited improved fitness levels for our series of late comebacks and certainly he was a bundle of energy and joy last night.

Bentaleb lay deeper, marshalling the ball onto his left foot, head up and looking to move it on. No apologies for the over-use of ‘forward’ in this piece – it was so noticeable. Significant too – our best spells recently have all featured this approach, keeping possession but seeking to move it upfield at a decent tempo. This is key to Pochettino’s style – promising signs that the message is getting through, even to Dembele who again was influential as a sub playing in an advanced position.

Stambouli reminds me of those midfield warriors of the 70s and 80s. Every team had one, Horlock, Storey, Yorath, muscular, hard-bitten and unforgiving of any mistake by an opponent. Round-shouldered and sharp-eyed, Stambouli doesn’t run, he prowls. He tackles hard and takes the man if he can’t reach the ball. This is a different century so he’s an upgraded model, keen to get the ball forward with an eye for a quick pass.

I like him and Pochettino may be warming to him too – use of the word ‘forward’ again. Trouble is, Spurs have problems at the back because the back four need cover and that’s not the Frenchman’s instinct. Capoue is the only defensive DM we have and he deservedly lost his place as his early season promise disappeared.

These problems at the back were on show yesterday, especially in a first half that was pretty even. On several occasions Newcastle whizzed the ball across our box, including one early in the second half that the Geordies were prematurely celebrating, so sure were they that one of three forwards were bound to get a touch.

Spurs went in with a first half lead thanks to Bentaleb’s first goal for us. Under no real pressure, the keeper dropped a far-post corner and Nab moved with lightning reactions to touch the fumble home before it fell below shoulder height.

Chadli’s low shot from the edge of the box made it two before many had sat down after half-time. Our best was our third, Townsend stabbing a little first-time ball into the channel and Kane spun away from the defender to shot low across the keeper. It’s the sort of goal we seldom score and augers well for the future. Kane on fine form again up front, one of many pleasures on an enjoyable evening.

A final note: interesting to see Poch try Eriksen in the middle, trying out a few ideas maybe. Also significant is that Fazio and Vertonghen paired at centre back once more. No rotation there, rather, hard work to establish a partnership. And Vorm was very good.

23 thoughts on “Watching Spurs Was Fun. It Will Never Catch On.

  1. Hi Alan

    Yes, good to see the lads apparently enjoying themselves – and I’m happy Bentelab broke his duck, as t’were. Mind you, in watching on a dodgy feed with what may well have been Croatian or Bulgarian commentary, I was unnerved (especially in the first half) by the preponderance of passes, flicks, and through balls that went directly to a (disgustingly designed) green and blue shirt.

    But luckily for us the Toon were just as culpable, and were unfortunate that Ben Alnwick had a mare.

    Talking a geordie colleague today, I had to admit that we didn’t really deserve such a margin, but had to exit quickly when I saw tears appearing.

    Tee hee. And COYS

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    • Yes, plenty didn’t work in the first half but at least we were trying to make something happen. Dodgy feed or not, you were just about right until Spurs cantered away. Bentaleb’s goal gave us confidence and we need confidence to play at our best at the moment. Goal down and heads drop.

      Best, Alan

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  2. Thought it was a cracking game last night. Thoroughly enjoyed the match and we played very very well. Some gorgeous, quick passing.

    How on earth did we lose to Newcastle earlier in the season.

    Cockney Mafia 4 – Toon Army 0. Nice.

    Rose and Stambouli both
    Played well. As did many others to be fair. Good to see Soldado score, and the rest of the team envelop him afterwards. The guy is clearly popular in spite of the crushing disappointment. And I doubt anyone is more disappointed than he is.

    Vorm looks a good prospect if/when Hugo leaves.

    Was reading the comments below the line on The Guardian’s match report. Was genuinely shocked by the number of Spurs fans who were writing that we are going to lose to C…… in the final.

    Well we ain’t won the semi yet! And if it is Chelsea then who knows what might happen. Yes they could turn us over – or we could win as we did in 2008.

    Let’s hope we have started to turn the corner. A couple of decent results against Burnely and Leicester will set us up nicely for the home games against Man U and that lot from west London. 8 points from 4 games would do nicely thank you.

    For all our sakes let’s hope this is a sign of how good we could be under Poch. The last thing we need is another change in manager.

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  3. I agree. Further to my last pessimistic post re desperately squeezing out results in the PL, it was joy in abundance as we skipped and danced around the opposition as it they weren’t there.
    If only we could stage a performance like this in more than just one or two PL games throughout a season. Every game we play is tight for us in the PL (or we crash spectacularly to the top sides) and the tighter the games get, the tenser WE get (the players, the manager and the fans) until we end up just passing and passing for the sake of it. I know we are traditionally a great and exciting cup side, and some of the most memorable days (and nights) for me in the past 50 odd years of being a Spurs fan, have been cup ties (whether FA or League Cup, along with European nights), but there have been many great league games too where we’ve dominated the opposition …and we really need to start doing so again, or at least more often. We have the squad depth, we have the fitness levels, we have the talent …so PLEASE, let us have the belief and determination to take us onwards and upwards. We don’t often get the luxury of an opposing PL side dipping in intensity (in ANY game) and allowing us to play football freely into their final third, as Newcastle did last night, but it was still wonderful to see just how incisive we CAN be in that final third. But let’s rely on ourselves cranking it up from now on, not simply because we are given space and opportunity by the opposition. Still, a pre-Christmas heart-warmer nevertheless, Alan! . .

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    • It’s good to see many saw this one as I did. Thought lots would see it as the new dawn for Spurs. Really enjoyed it, hope the feeling lasts through to Boxing Day and beyond. back to squeezin gout sparks tomorrow…

      Best, Alan

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  4. Insightful, positive review, Alan. Must admit I’ve been skipping the Blogs that step over to the dark side a tad too much, here and elsewhere. Gary Lineker on our LC victory:“Tottenham look like they might finally be turning a corner, having driven us around the bend all season.” Been driving me around the bend most of my life, but something is afoot, just need some more patience, and continued “forward” (as Alan notes) movement. What I truly hope is that MoPo and his own team make a lot of us negative nellies/whining whingers eat some humble pie by the end of the season. Well, I can hope because I’d love for them to be proven wrong…Here’s to that corner being turned, Alan, COYS!

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  5. i am happy to see what the team are doing recently it show we should not write people off,this spur team have gone through a lot different manager with different style in today world where success is not something you work hard for with patience, but you want instant success no manager will survival it . mopo know what he is doing he know the time is coming when is message will get into the boys, whoever which the match in Turkey will agree with me that the team is final coming together as a team that will trouble any team in the world they made the turkey team look ordinary the way the team was running with the ball made the turkey team to sit deep in there 18 box refusing to come out if not for lack of concentration on the part of kaboul the captain the night would have been beautiful but the turkey needed to play a funny game by switching off the light they know they are not watching the spur team that lowly team including them played some month back it is funny how time fly, back to the recent happen what spur show against swan they did the same thing to Newcastle, this teams taught they will carry the day, they so look down on spur but spur what team they have become under poch they work swan make things difficult for them in there stadium the swan have to run for the ball and they have to think how to stop the ball from coming to them it was a difficult thing to do with a team that play you all round for 90min the swan were confuse and tired the same thing happen to Newcastle poch is getting is message to the player and they are receiving it the fan are coming back to the pic, i pray poch stay 4 a longtime to turn this team into a real force in world football adaptation of anything take time but at the end laughter and happiness will take over spur faithful no more mocking from the enemies God bless

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    • Moses, mate, I think that is really funny but I can’t be sure because I don’t know if I really understood it. And that has to be the longest run-on sentence I’ve seen in a long while. But god bless, mate!

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    • Moses spent days and 40 nights and 40 nights in that paragraph but its true all systems need to take time to implement,(even paragraphs)
      The problem is that this is a total system. It relies on everyone to do everything and while its imperfections (getting the ball down quickly on the counter and losing it) its essential the players fight get it back quickly. Its physically demanding and also begs concentration of the highest degree.
      Southampton and other teams that have played that way have learned from a younger time (at least their core have).I think at first its very difficult to play that system and allow one of the important elements in football and thats the players natural instincts to speak.
      To be great,discipline needs creativity and vice versa.
      For me ,seeing any improvement gives us faith because Tottenham fans do expect more than most teams that havent won anything in a long time.For this system we need to see some patterns emerging and then we can give Poch more time.
      Lets hope it continues.

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    • Thanks Moses. MP needs time to build on those positives. trouble is, we’ve not been able to be consistent and for me the defence is still a big worry as we don’t have a DM who is keen to help out in the box. But looking forward to the next two games.

      Regards, Alan

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