Spurs Bravery Not Enough

Spurs’ endearing mixture of bravery and naivety was enough to make our loyal supporters get behind the team and for some cushion the blow of defeat. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near sufficient to win the League Cup Final.

It was a fine effort from our young team, remember one of the youngest sides ever to play in the top division up against the might of an experienced, expensive Ch****a side. They simply refused to be overawed either by the occasion or their opponents. In the end, though, the Blues were seldom stretched and we did not make a decent chance until right at the end when the game was lost.

After an opening ten minutes of Ch****a dominance that was sobering even for those just in from the pub, Spurs admirably got a grip on the game. Driven on by the ferocious determination of the excellent Nabil Bentaleb, we fought for every ball and every inch of territory. With little assistance from Townsend in front of him, Walker used his pace to get on top of the dangerous Hazard. Fabregas was quiet.

Bentaleb was a man possessed. At 20 he was the dominant figure on the pitch for extended periods. He could not have done more for the cause. At the end he applauded the fans then dashed down the tunnel as he could not bear the pain of defeat in public.

He and others refused to give ground. Costa pushed him in the face. Mourinho had done his work well all week, bullying little Burnley and then referees and the FA over bias against his team that he has fabricated. It worked and the ref did nothing but that’s not the point. Bentaleb refused to be intimidated and made sure Costa knew that. Costa then moved towards Dier – I felt the Blues targeted our right side, Vertonghen had far less to do on his side – but Dier took a couple of paces towards him and fronted up. At the other end, Eriksen pinged the bar with a free-kick.

Harry Kane, frustrated no doubt with the lack of progress from his midfield, dropped deeper on several occasions to mount lone, heroic charges at the massed ranks of the Ch****a defence. He doesn’t seem to do very much on the ball but they couldn’t get it off him, not without crowding him out like birds mobbing a predator who strays too close to nesting grounds. In the end it amounted to little, a couple of long shots plus one or two chances at the death which were blocked, but by then the game had gone and everyone knew it.

There was pride and defiance from supporters on the way home as the songs rang out to accompany the soft-shoe shuffle towards Wembley Park. Even the Nicola Berti song made a welcome appearance. It matched the current mood, with fans looking forward to the day and keen to get behind the young team rather than become mired in win-at-all-costs anxiety. Support in the ground was loyal, loud and long, although I am told about a full-blown punch up between those for and against Pochettino.

So much to admire in such bravery but in the end experience rather than a gulf in class told. Tottenham are always prone to defensive errors. Yesterday for the most part we were better in possession than over the past 5 games, where mistakes have been consistently horrendous. However, all our good work was undone just before half-time in a couple of moments of unforgivable naivety.

As the ball dropped over his head, Chadli needlessly committed a foul instead of working harder to get back into the right position. The free-kick was a poor one but Rose at the near post flicked it into the middle when he had a decent chance to clear it. The ball was deflected twice more, first to Terry then his shot hit Kane and went in. What a waste.

The Chels second was another deflection, Walker turning a Costa shot past a wrong-footed Lloris. It was undoubtedly cruel but it enabled Chels to do what Spurs can’t, to shut the game down with a minimum of effort. Time passed slowly but we never pulled ourselves back into things. Rose and Walker were often our best attackers, using the space on the flanks well, but we failed all game to produce a decent cross into the box. Eriksen was busy, prompting and probing, but again was seldom dangerous. I recall only two proper saves from Lloris but at the business end the stats show we had only two shots on target all game despite having the lion’s share of possession.

So disappointment but no disgrace in defeat. I reject the temptation to see our exit from 2 cup competitions in 4 days as a turning point because the issues facing the club, both opportunities and threats, remain the same as they have been for several months now. The emergence of the young players has been an encouraging feature that has brought supporters and team closer and augers well for the future. However, the very fact that this has been forced on Pochettino shows the deficiencies in the current squad and the lack of long-term succession planning that brought us to this point.

We may be separated from Chelsea by only 6 or 7 league places but the gulf in experience and ability is vast, and I’ve not even mentioned money. The squad depth is shallow. Poor Soldado has gone beyond anger into the realms of deep pity and sympathy for his plight. Lamela has seemingly forgotten about his precocious talent and gets worse every game. Great credit to the highly promising Eric Dier but he has to play because 3 hugely experienced, pricy centre halves, Fazio, Chiriches and Kaboul, aren’t up to it. We have no wide players to play effectively in our forward 3. Chadli, rampant in the 5-3, was anonymous yesterday while Townsend perked up for a while before fading. Neither got into the box to support Kane, neither protected their full-backs.

Regular readers will know I take no pleasure in saying this, but despite my philosophy of Realistic Optimism, it’s a fact, jack. Can’t hide it. We have major rebuilding ahead in a summer where Levy will be saving money for the new ground and fighting to hang on to Vertonghen, Lloris and Eriksen, never mind buying new players. But like I say, we already knew that, deep down.

In the meantime, let’s carry on with the defiant pride and get behind the team. They need our help to avoid the season fizzing out completely.

A couple of random thoughts to end. Our national stadium cost £798m to build, almost as much as a burger and chips inside the ground, but too much to ask that someone sitting 22 rows back is protected from the rain.

Also, judging from the number of lifelong Chelsea fans who have “always” been supporters, their crowds must have been around 150,000 per week, not the 12600 average in 1983 or even 21000 in 1995. Surely some mistake. And to the Blues who sat with us on the tube coming home, you didn’t even stay to see the cup awarded. Frankly, what’s the point?

42 thoughts on “Spurs Bravery Not Enough

  1. Thanks as ever Alan, for such a good account of a not unpredictable result.
    Chadli was indeed disappointing; I thought he’d taken a step up this season. Dembele and Townsend don’t, I’m afraid, disappoint: we have known for too long that they just won’t do. And you sum up the centre-back situation so well.
    But we can have faith in Bentaleb, Mason, Kane. And as everybody says, try to hang on to Lloris & Eriksen. AND Pochettino.

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    • You’re welcome. I am not a Chadli fan – not prepared to work hard enough but happy to perk up when we get the ball – but his movement and application helped us achieve the 5-3. Yesterday under pressure he disappeared. We still have not solved the problem that did for AVB – no one can play wide in the forward three, inverted winger or otherwise. And the centre half business shows how poor our buying has been.

      Regards, Alan

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Couldn’t see why we played Townsend or Mason from the off. It’s all nice having these players come through the ranks but Townsend in particular offers nothing but disappointed, whereas Mason does give energy, in terms of quality he’s sadly lacking.

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    • Problem is, Pete, who else would we play? Townsend was a brave choice given his lack of form and Poch’s preference for Lamela lately but Lamela has been awful lately. Mason is an asset although that Forest goal looks more like an aberration than potential with every shot he takes. What Mason is not is a world-beater – let’s enjoy him for what he brings but he needs class around him. Regards, Alan

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  3. Agree with the above….all those Chelsea fans on the train with us, not waiting to see the trophy, and saying why do we keep singing about our history….Sums up Chelsea. It didn’t mean anything to them, but it would have been the world to us

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  4. Hard to be too critical of Mason and Townsend when a ‘£16m’ Brazilian international isn’t even worth putting on the bench and a ‘£30m’ player can’t make any more of an impact. It’s been a defining week when the problems of the Bale transfer window caught up with us yet again. Our young players have done their best but against a well set out Ch****a side full of experience and talent, they looked wanting. The squad is just too weak. A good first 11 with some decent replacements on the bench but lacking options to change a game.
    We’ve made real progress but in terms of hard facts, this could be our worst season in terms of finishing position for a while. That will be fine by me if we can build on it over the summer but if we don’t invest, I can’t see a lot of money coming from sales in order to invest unless one of our key players is sold in which case we’re no better off.
    I’m trying to stay optimistic but this week was a massive wake up call to the reality of the modern game.

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    • The reason we gave Chelsea a hard time at the Lane, was 1-Townsend wasn’t playing 2-Mason came off injured which gave Dembele a chance to shine, and I’d sooner start with Dembele than watch Mason lose the ball in critical areas then back track to retrieve it leading him to get those bookings which are racking up-Secondly, JM out thought MP by playing Cahill, who would be targeted by MP and Kane, but also JM picked Zouma to blunt Kane before he could get into dangerous areas, a tactic we seemed to continue playing throughout the game, no plan B!

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    • The Bale window – hate to bring it up but we have to. Want to avoid endless recriminations but what a disappointment that window has proved. That’s left us 2 years behind the cycle of development. In the summer we’ll begin again with less money because of the new ground. Regards, Alan

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    • LETS NOT BOTHER TO MENTION HOW WE DOMINATED THE FIRST HALF , AFTER 4 MASSIVE GAMES IN A ROW…AGAINST THE , OR ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE TEAMS IN THE WORLD WITH A TEAM WITH AN AVERAGE AGE OF 23…YOU NEGATIVE DICKHEADS.

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  5. Time we stopped using inverted wingers. We lack space, and our forward play is too slow when our wide men always stop to cut in to put the ball on there stronger foot . We’ve used inverted widemen for 2 seasons now and I don’t think it works. Put Chadli on the right, Townsend on the left and get the ball into the box quicker. As for new signings I think all the time we are not in the CL we will always struggle to get the quality player we desire.

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    • I agree, or get players who have all the right attributes. Lamela, Chadli and Townsend have not yet shown consistently sound decision-taking or willingness to defend. COYS Alan

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad you were able to make it to the game Alan and hope you infected many of those C***ski supporters on the train on your way home. I just think we were beaten on the day by a more experienced and well organised side that was set up to stop us having too many opportunities to score and from that we can only deduce that Mourinho now regards us as a major threat to them. I was also pleased that we didn’t give up (like some Spurs teams of the past) after giving away two daft goals either side of half time and thought that until Walker went down with cramp (or whatever) that we were the better team in the first half.
    However, its now back to the league and we have a large number of very winnable games coming up, so lets stop this stupid squad rotational system and just pick the best team available for every game and lets finish the season on a high
    Up the Spurs

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    • Hope your family had a decent day, Steve. We did so well to get back on top as you say and Walker did very well. Agree re rotation. Current problem is though, who would you rotate in? We have one functioning striker and 2 centrehalves, Davies for Rose maybe, Stambouli a chance but few other options.

      Regards, Alan

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  7. Thanks Alan, as ever your report is the next best thing to being there, along with streams. Hope you are feeling better.

    The margins are so slight, if we had defended that free kick on HT as we would have 99 times out of a 100 we’d have gone in having shaded the first half at 0-0. We would have been more compact and wouldn’t have been so open early in the second for 2-0.

    We may have lost anyway and you cannot divorce the lousy defending on the free kick from events as unfortunately that’s the game and anyhow we are often undone by scarcely believable defensive lapses, like the two so recent ones away to Fiorentina.

    Nonetheless, had we scored first and they chased the game I’d have fancied us to win 2-0 or 2-1.

    I thought everyone, including Townsend and Mason did well for 45 mins. The timing and awfulness of the first goal conditioned everything thereafter. That’s the game and we have much progress to make. But make no bones about it they were very worried about Spurs and rightly so.

    Our support came out loud and clear throughout on whatever US station I was streaming, with John Harkes co-commentating and it sounds like we were singing definately all the way home. Well done to everyone. Though I wish people would stay until the team goes up to the royal box rather than desert the stadium in droves. I understand no-one (and it’s nigh on all the so-called big clubs whose fans leave in this way) wants to see the others lift the cup, especially such an undeserving parody of a modern football club, but our lads deserved it yesterday.

    I wasn’t there yesterday but I’ve been ‘there’ many times in the past and it always disappoints me. Sorry.

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    • Very kind. Tonight’s London paper is hailing Mourinho as a tactical genius but you and I know how fine the margins were. 2 deflected goals. Good to hear about the atmosphere. Sitting towards the front at Wembley, it’s hard to tell if there was a lot of noise and you can’t hear the other lot unless they are at top volume.

      Re going early, I agree in principle but these days, the ceremonies are long-drawn out and fans are not even sure what’s happening. We stayed behind after the 2003 final – turned round and were virtually the only ones left. The players did not come on a lap of honour.

      COYS Alan

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      • Fair enough Alan. I think it looks worse when seen on TV.

        Yes, the falling over themselves to praise Mourinho is a little galling. Too much of the football media are spineless when faced with a Ferguson or Mourinho. In Italy, for all his trophies a lot of the media saw through his nonsense, while recognising his talents. I’m convinced he doesn’t even like football that much.

        He’s obviously very good, but we were the better side first half after the first few mins and the rolling through their midfield continued despite the detailing of a centre half at defensive midfield, even after the shellacking we gave them in Jan. It is easy to say they did a job on us, but to me it seemed like we shot ourselves in the foot at the worse time.

        We didn’t make enough clear chances but that was as much to do with poor decision making around the box and wild shooting as a defensive masterclass. Lots of last ditch stuff in the final 15 mins too, which looks spectacular but suggests desperation.
        They deserved to win over the piece but it hung on plater error rather than tactical genius in my book, as it usually does when push comes to shove.

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  8. A telling game. An inexperienced young team coming up against a very experienced, wiley and ruthless team. Mourinho wins finals and yesterday was just another one as the juggernaut – or bandwagon – roles on.

    Thought we did well all things considering. Am gutted that we lost but the game was over once the second one went in. Thought both goals were the results of silly and naive play on our part. But of luck for C…….

    The most important players for our team are the Academy guys coming thru. On the one hand that is admirable as it is a pointer to what football is about. Building a club from the bottom up. On the other hand it is a damning indictment of the spending of the Bale money.

    One bizarre decision I spotted. Around the 70th minute we won a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. Inexplicably Danny Rose took a quick one which, as they invariably do, led to nothing. Eriksen was yelling at him in disbelief. With CE in the team that is as good as a penalty surely!

    More disappointing than the defeat was seeing some of fans fighting each other and hearing quite a few hurl abuse at our own players. Not good.

    And maybe more pain to come for the reasons you outline Alan.

    As for the Blues fans not staying to celebrate what do you expect? Awful club, awful fans. Always has and have been.

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    • Remember that Rose free-kick perfectly, it was right in front of us on that corner. Example of our bravery and naivety rolled into one – Rose keen to maintain momentum and keep the pressure on, only in this case it was the wrong decision and wiser heads should have prevailed. A learning experience, and that seems to be the message coming from the dressing room. Let’s hope they take it into the rest of the season and beyond.

      No moaning near us, a lot of antagonism towards Chelsea and their fans though. So many have said the same thing. Thought it was my bitterness – I got delayed on the way home and ended up in a carriage full of them going back to Kent, just the scenario I planned carefully to avoid, even to getting tickets on the Wembley Park side of our allocation!

      Regards, Alan

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  9. With Spurs now having some ground to make up in the race for fourth place the thing that concerns me is what happens with Lloris and Eriksen if we don’t get there this season. Young players coming through is brilliant but we must keep our best players and build on them. I have my fingers crossed that we can do just that!

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    • Fingers and toes this end, Bob. Lots to be positive about but right now I can’t see a good reason for Hugo to stay beyond the end of the season and Eriksen will be n demand too. Not that it means much these days but both he and Vertonghen declined new contracts earlier this season, makes it easier for them to leave if they demand a move. Hope we are unduly pessimistic.

      Regards, Alan

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  10. Alan, excellent write up. We had 220 plus Spurs fans (ex-pats, Yanks, gals, guys, some kids, some lovable geezers) come out to the game, the bar’s owner Mat said my story in Huff Po about LA Spurs and our home Greyhound Bar caused the mass turnout (we were expecting maybe 100, and the bar’s capacity is just that), with him having to stop fans from getting in. It was unbelievable and even as minutes waned away, we were singing, We’re going to win 3-2! Outstanding support from LA Spurs, we may have the most supporters of any PL team in America. 220 plus fans, singing and chanting. As for the game, no surprise, I thought we’d ship two goals (we did) and knew we’d have to score maybe 2 or 3 to win (not likely twice, and we didn’t)…As for rest of season, there may be a temptation to tank it by using more Academy players (I bet up to 10 senior players are leaving this summer) and seeing what they’ve got (just like putting in Kane and Bentaleb at end of last season). We miss finish 7th and out of Europa, and then have only CL qualification and domestic cups next season. But Levy probably wants Euro action again. COYS! What strange long, trip it’s been, eh?!

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    • Thanks Ashley, great story from LA – pleased your article had such an impact. Spurs everywhere got behind the team. The singing in the long wait for the tube after the game did my heart proud.

      COYS! Al

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  11. It’s gutting to lose a cup final but it’s no disgrace to lose to two deflected goals against a team that will in all likelihood win the league and one that is quite probably going to be England’s last remaining representatives in the Champions League (and who may even have a tilt at winning that, unfortunately). Our habit of giving away cheap free kicks in dangerous positions, that regularly over the past few seasons have led to goals – that is a reoccurring theme and very frustrating. But this was a quadruple whammy – cheap free kick, terrible defending (surely one of the four players who would’ve had a simple clearance gave Rose a call?), a deflected shot that took the ball away from our goalie, and all this on the cusp of half time.
    A second deflection for a second goal seems cruel but I am very encouraged by the young players in the team and I hope the group continue to grow together as there could be an excellent team in the making.
    Our opponents had that extra experience and winning mentality and I think that was the big difference. There wasn’t a great deal between the two teams in my opinion, but crucially, while they had Hazard & Willian as their out ball, both of whom, even on quiet days, ensure defenders need to concentrate 100%, Chadli and Townsend, and then Lamela, were too easily marked and were very much on the periphery of the action. Our 3 behind Kane, irrespective of the combination of personnel, do go missing sometimes and their inconsistencies would suggest to me that this area of the team is the one that most needs attention. In my opinion only, of course.
    Anyway, not all doom and gloom by any means, so let’s hope for a good run in the remainder of the season.
    Just out of interest, those anti- Poch fans, who would they prefer? He’s not perfect, (who is? the best Spurs manager in my Spurs lifetime was Burkinshaw, and look at his start!). I think he’s done ok and at least there are signs of progress. Of course every one has different opinions, fair enough, I’d just like to know a realistic alternative.
    Love Hurts! Especially with Spurs…….

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    • Suspect alcohol and/or other substances may have been more of a factor than the debate over Poch and inverted wingers…I didn’t see it but several people have told me that it was a full-scale scrap.

      Agree re the forward 3 – apart from Eriksen, the other candidates have no form and don’t suit all aspects of an admittedly difficult role. Chelsea’s experience told in the way they can shut a game down, not pretty but highly effective.

      Regards,

      Alan

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  12. I just read about the passing of Dave Mackay and honestly I have a cold shiver down my spine. Its saddening to me. Dave was my favourite all time player.
    Most of my favourite players were always talented and creative and yet I wouldnt call Dave a creative player so why would I consider my all time favourite?
    I was also a fan of Muhhamad Ali. What did they both have in common?
    It was what they did but it was also the confidence that both of these giants imparted that was powerful.
    If Danny was the brains of Tottenham,Dave was the soul.Between them they made it happen.I cant believe they could have done what they did with just one. They made everything tick.
    I cant remember Dave beating up people,but I do remember his sliding tackles that were right on.I do remember his 30 yads powerhouse shots I do remember the way he strode around the field.he didnt have the full of himself personality of Eric Cantona but he gave us the same kind of feeling that we were invincible.
    I Loved Dave and still Love Dave.One of the Greats of all time

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    • Thanks for sharing, Ron. Mackay a truly great, inspirational footballer, the like of which we will never see again. And from those who have met him, a warm and generous person. RIP

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  13. Spot on in paragraph 12. Nearly 50 mill of our “talent” is on the bench because they can’t hack it and the gulf in smarts and experience between the two managers is reflected on the pitch. Not much has been said about the three games in a week compared with the leisurely break for Chelsea. It must have made a difference and may have been the critical difference. Poch was between a rock and a hard place in picking his team for the Italian game, but he choked on the tough decision and still took many of them along for a game that was always just beyond them. So the youngsters, infected with the stain of defeat, are tooling about in airports when they should be back home, focused on a bigger prize.
    So now we have our annual ritual dash for the finishing line and the prize of more sexy Europa Cup action against Latvia’s finest next season. Our boys deserve better, none more so than Kane who has carried the team despite the shameful lack of support from Soldado and Co. Maybe Poch will discover his ruthless side in the summer and chop away the undergrowth of average talent choking the squad. Hopefully Baldini will be among them.

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    • It is impossible to confront the abject failure that underlies the current buying and selling policy. As you know david, I am protective and kind towards our players because they wear navy blue and white. Fact is, we have a bunch of crocks beyond redemption. I feel only sadness and pity for Soldado who tries his best and is shot to pieces. Others not good enough or don’t want to play. Having missed a couple of games and watched them on TV, it’s obvious how Vertonghen has carried Fazio since the latter returned from injury. he at least might develop…

      Regards, Alan

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