Spurs Not On The Beach Just Yet

Doing enough to beat Newcastle is the very definition of damning with faint praise. Spurs did most of the right things in a performance that improved on our last three efforts, but saying that and we’re back to not saying very much at all. Hard work throughout the side, pressing in midfield, decent movement up front especially on the break. None of this was accomplished with any consistent conviction, apart from Kane’s fabulous final goal on the break but we were the better side and deserved this win.

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It goes without saying that Spurs set up with a 4–2–3–1 – has Pochettino ever started with something different? A few much needed tweaks though. Lamela on the right to have another go at discovering some form while Paulinho came into midfield to give Mason a rest. Fazio again started at the back. This latter was an interesting choice because the Newcastle centre forward Perez is small enough to nip between his legs. Their tiny striker of course scored a header earlier this season at White Hart Lane, which says more about the value of positioning for a centre half than height or muscle.

Their darting runs looked to unsettle the back four early on but apart from a few scares the early period was more about Spurs in possession and stifling Newcastle attacks at source by pressing intensely in midfield. Possession was the key to this one. The stats show 60–40 in our favour and while we could have done more in attack when we had the ball, it meant we gradually edged our way on top. Newcastle’s increasingly sporadic attacks became the exception to Spurs’ rule.

Bit of a nothing match until our pressing earned a goal assist. Gouffran delayed too long and Chadli picked up the loose ball, ambled forward unchallenged and shot past the keeper from 20 yards. It bounced and dipped, awkward for Krul but everyone, including Chadli, expected him to save it.

Credit to Chadli, repaying some of his manager’s faith where many supporters had lost ours completely. Was it my imagination or did he work harder on Sunday? Pochettino gave him a little peptalk as he was substituted later – maybe words had been said during the week and the Belgian had responded. Or perhaps Poch wanted some company.

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In the home game earlier this season, Spurs were at their infuriating worst, on top then failing to spot the arrival of a Very Big Player on the left at the start of the second half and conceding straight away. This time, a small man but the same outcome, an equaliser in 15 seconds of the restart. When I plead for consistency, this is not what I had in mind.

It looked like another wasted opportunity to grab 3 points against an average team. Lamela was atrocious for the first hour, playing with the vision of a man with a bag over his head. However, after a stuttering fightback of sorts, Eriksen’s curling free-kick tempted many but no one got a touch, not even the keeper, and it sailed into the net at the far post.

Newcastle didn’t have the spirit to motivate themselves to push hard for an equaliser and Spurs were increasingly strong on the break. Kane’s piledriver volleyed corner bounced on the line but did not cross it, then he sealed it near the end, running on to a Lamela pass, controlling it perfectly and shooting past Krul, a fine goal to wrap up an average day.

Kane was unobtrusively excellent up front, available and drifting wide to make space in the middle, although Paulinho won the TV man of the match for a workmanlike midfield effort. No coincidence that his best game of the season (not that he has given himself much competition) came when he was played in his natural position. He instinctively covered the gaps when Bentaleb moved forward.

My frustration with him has been plain in this column this year. I defended him for a long time after his early form subsided because he was played too far forward or not at all. I commented at the time that he looked as if he would rather be anywhere in the world than on the WHL pitch. Will he stay? Doubt it, but playing him does not put him in the mythical shopwindow because his value lies in is reputation pre-Spurs.

Of the others, Rose did well and Fazio came strong in the last 15 minutes. He is someone who we should play now with next season in mind. To bring out the leadership qualities he showed in Spain, I’d put him in charge of the back four for the rest of the season. Give him a chance to be a leader, maybe his form will come back.

So good to see that compared with the last three games, we’re not by the pool just yet although the bags are almost packed. Albeit against unmotivated and disjointed opposition, we put in more application and effort on Sunday. I’m not thinking about what Man City can do to our defence, enjoy this win and Kane’s 30th goal of a season than effectively began for him in November.

A group of Newcastle fans organised a boycott of this match in protest against owner Mike Ashley’s regime that has ripped the heart and soul from a club which depends on passion to see it through the bad times. Suddenly the much reviled Alan Pardew looks a better manager than we thought. The policy of bringing lesser known signings through and developing them appears threadbare if progress stalls and the system doing that development falls apart. By all accounts Ashley is content to secure his investment at the expense of securing the future well-being of the team.

It’s fashionable in some quarters to jeer at fans who style themselves as the best in the land. Not me – I feel for Newcastle supporters, long-suffering but still willing. Their attachment to figures from their past as saviours, like Shearer or Keegan, leaves them open and I still chuckle at the Geordie who without apparent irony celebrated Keegan’s return by parading a packet of Special K outside an empty St James’ Park.

Look closer and we have something in common. Spurs fans don’t have that attachment to the city that I envy where club and city are inseparable in identity. However, the last but one paragraph serves as a warning as to what could go wrong if Spurs’ declared return to a policy of developing upwardly mobile talent does not work because there is no consistent support for manager and development staff/scouts. It’s not all about the money.

9 thoughts on “Spurs Not On The Beach Just Yet

  1. Alan, I went to the beach on the weekend, beat them to it! Stats from Telegraph today: The top-4 are the highest in wages and turnover. Pool 5th in wages and turnover and in 5th. Spurs 6th in wages paid and turnover and in 6th. The numbers are hard to get around. You make more money, from a bigger stadium (or free spending owner), you pay higher wages and you finish higher. Only Southampton really buck the trend this season, and good on them! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-united/11552941/Man-Utd-news-United-overtake-Man-City-with-Premier-Leagues-highest-wage-bill.html


  2. Reasons to be cheerful:
    – Be thankful we are not Newcastle. We complain – justifiably – that we deserve better but what is happening up there is scandalous.
    – Paulinho is providing glimpses of form that deserve a run to the end of the season.
    – If Paulinho is settling into his more defensive position, why not push Mason forward to provide more energy, bite and support to Eriksen who must be fed up at having to do the work of two, sometimes three, people in midfield.

    Reasons to not be cheerful:
    – Lamela’s contribution was irrelevant bordering on worthless. It eclipsed that of Dean Austin’s in the 90’s and is now a benchmark for ineptitude. If Pochettino was giving him a chance to play for his future then Lamela almost secured the sack for both of them.
    – What Lamela did to deserve a run out must be killing the confidence of those who must watch and wonder what they have done to deserve their punishment as spectators. And what of poor Kaboul, Capoue, etc.?
    – Beating Newcastle is no great scalp. Southampton this weekend will test Pochettino’s tactical smarts.
    – The latest report of what ROI clubs are getting from their wage bills this week confirms what we suspect but dread. Levy has to sell big to ensure we remain solvent. We pay our players well but even compared to Liverpool our turnover doesn’t even begin to compete with those above us. Thus, expect one big name to depart to keep the books balanced – something we are better than everyone else at.


  3. I feel for Newcastle. My dad would be turning in his grave. As for Spurs, much better, but mixed signs.
    Eriksen’s post match interview showed obvious irritation at the fact we’re heading for yet another EL season, rather
    than CL, so Lord knows whether he’ll stay.
    He, Kane and Lloris have generally been the result makers for Spurs this season, yet only one is certain
    to stay this summer (unless sneaky Real Madrid dip into their old feeder club and make an offer we can’t refuse).
    Positive signs in other areas of the squad, but a lot of under-achievers (including, I feel, the coach).
    Lamela was indeed awful for most of this match, Alan. I thought it had turned for him at the beginning of this season ..
    as he looked stronger, fitter, and more adept at teamwork, after his invisible first season, as well as producing flashes
    of individual brilliance. The promise has dissipated.
    On a nice flat Geordie pitch (although the stadium shadows in the sun make it looks hilly) he worryingly looked out
    of his depth as a top flight footballer, let alone someone who cost us £30m! Paulinho did well (although the lingering
    thought is too little too late). How much more time are we going to give these two, and Soldado?
    Oh the agony of all that wasted money for those three alone after two seasons ..nearly £75m!!
    There is still little balance to Poch’s teams (it was the same with AVB) and until we address that we will continue to
    lag behind. We can’t, in future, just rely on the fitness and late one goal wins that have formed a huge part of our season.
    Eriksen needs to play behind Kane, and a decent playmaker needs to play behind Eriksen.
    We also need to stretch teams as we did when Bale, Lennon and Modric were playing. Chadli is just too inconsistent
    and drives me around the bend, despite his opener on Sunday. Townsend is frustrating, but I still feel he can do a
    better job than Lennon on the right, and if we can find someone to match or better him down the left, then, with a
    strong playmaker, another good striker and decent DMs and defenders battling for places, we’ll be stronger next season.
    Whether that strength will be good enough for top four remains the eternal question ..but it might prove good for FA, Europa
    and League Cups.


  4. The opposition was poor but you can only play what’s in front of you (you can turn off the cliche klaxon now.) we turned up – worked hard, put a few past them and had some nice moves going.

    Not nothing – if we had won more games like this in 2014/15, i.e. Beat teams we should beat especially at home, then we would be 4th or thereabouts.

    The Ashley story has another lesson for us besides the dangers you mention, Alan. To those who want Levy/Enic out be careful what you wish for. Allegedly Ashley is a Spurs fan. So yes, things could be a whole lot worse.


  5. I think Alan that this game gave us a little enjoyment.
    It seemed that from the off that we looked bigger,fitter and more alive than I have seen us in a while while Newcastle looked pale,diminutive and shell shocked. Thats definately a positive thing compared to a lot of dispassionate performance against mediocre opposition this season. But still Like Sir Alex said ‘Its Tottenham!’,we can say ‘This is Newcastle’
    They are a funny lot every year or two they look promising at times and a few weeks later look hopeless. In this one they obviously hadnt watched any of our games this season and it seems like they were merely a rabbit stuck in the lights of a Maserati.
    The empty spaces in the seats were pale compared to the amount of space they gave us on the field.
    Here Tottenham its your birthday enjoy have a piece of cake!!!!
    And we enjoyed.
    Its been a while.
    But lets not get too excited.
    Chadli did a few good things.I want to see more.
    Eriksen did a few good things.I want to see more.
    This was Vert??????? Where has the bastard been all season?????
    And if Lloris wasnt going to be the Captain surely Vert showed us how a Captain should be.He did and I want to see more.
    Rose again played well.
    But really now is the time not to get too excited.Its one not bad performance.
    But lets build on the confidence.


  6. Greetings Alan
    In Lamela’s defense, I think he’s been hard done by. He’d built up a head of steam and, whilst still prone to error, had begun to play with no little passion and a bit of his old Roma swagger. I recall the Liverpool game in particular where he superbly set Harry up for the first equalizer. And then Poch dumped him. How much game-time has he had in the last two months? Very minimal. It’s hard to turn it on again when you’re so rusty, although I accept that he was woeful on Sunday.
    Paulinho over Dembele and Stambouli? Can’t see it myself. As I have said here previously, I am baffled by Poch’s decision to put an end to his prettty canny rotation policy, which served us well up until the Cup Final. I agree with CB Waters, Poch himself has underperformed in the last third of the season.
    I had watched the first half of the Pool v Villa semi-final and was really enjoying it. For the first time in my life, I actually toyed with the idea that i would see it through rather than watch us at Newcastle. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. What the hell was I thinking?


    • About Lamela is it me or do we always see the wingers cut inside only to be hammered by the defence? We are always running inside into trouble. It seems to me part of the plan.They invert the wingers and have our backs go down to the flag.

      Lennon was good when he shifted his weight to the inside and flicked the ball to the outside often gaining a yard on the defender and then getting round the back. In one game this year Townsend was actually our best player (1 game) it was he went wide and found that space that bale uswed to find. But more often than not our wingers ran inside and got stuffed.Especially Lamela. To beat a defender you have to make them think.If you run inside th whole time its easy pickings for the defence.
      When Lennon only inverted it was the end of him. With Lamekla he gets nowhere that way.Runs into trouble.


  7. I also feel time has run out for Lamela.Regardless of how much game time he gets he does not overcome his basic failings of running into defenders and/or giving possession away.
    I have mentioned before about this close season being crucial if we are going to kick on.This means doing a lot of business with numerous players passing in and out.The usual suspects to go can be named by most people,but those coming in have to be Poch and Mitchell’s men.This will of course depend on what we are prepared to pay both in terms of fees and wages.I suppose if the transfer fees weren’t too high then neither would the expectations be.In which they will have to be canny buys.
    The big question remains,can we hang on to Hugo.I can’t help but feel Vorm was promised the no.1 slot with Levy knowing Lloris would be moving on.He’s competent enough, but not really top draw I would suggest and that could be rectified with a choice of several keepers from the Premiership clubs.
    However an exciting summer of business is surely in store.


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