Lamela’s Prayers Answered As Spurs Fight Back Twice

Your correspondent missed the first half of this one. Saturday, a nice day at that, so all thoughts turn to clearing up the compost heap. What else could you possibly do? So as we kicked off I was METAPHOR KLAXON on the way to the dump with a stinking heap of decomposing vegetables. Nothing like the first team, what are you thinking….

And before Monty Don dives into the Comments Section, I know compost is supposed to decompose but this was too wet because it hadn’t properly drained. OK? We had kept some of the material too long and it had gone bad, no use to anyone…oh never mind…

There’s nothing new to be said as the season tails away. On the plus side, Spurs showed enough desire and spirit versus Southampton to twice pull back a goal deficit. While this sounds like scant praise, it’s more than can be said for the lamentable efforts against Villa and Burnley.

Southampton are a well-organised team, easy on the eye. There was never much in it but they looked the better side for extended periods. We gifted them an opening goal but in return they missed a couple of good chances, better than anything we created, so I guess that evened it up.

We also saw the value of possession. A few years ago possession stats were all the hipsters needed to write an article. Now, they are regarded with more suspicion because, and this is revelatory stuff, turns out you can score goals without having the majority of the ball! Incredible. It does however have a defensive value. Spurs are frustrating in the way we fail to look consistently dangerous despite having the ball for a while but when we are not playing that well, it prevents the opposition from doing their worst. Yesterday Saints for the most part looked sharper when they attacked so keeping the ball was an effective weapon against them.

Comparisons between the two sides are inevitable and not just because we nestle snugly next to each other in the table. Pochettino made his reputation in England on the south coast and in both teams he’s played a similar style and formation as well as bringing on younger players. This was Koeman Day at St Mary’s, a reflection of their fans’ gratitude for the work their manager has done in establishing a decent side when by the end of the window last summer it looked as if the club was throwing itself off a cliff. Seems a bit much though for a guy who has been there for so short a time.

Southampton looked better in defence than Spurs. Also, while Saints lost close to half a team, Koeman was allowed to spend some money and his purchases have contributed more than anyone who came to White Hart Lane in the summer, demonstrating the value of a manager being allowed to bring in players of his choice. I hope we receive similar impetus in the summer, because it’s sorely needed.

One signing, Pelle, nearly did for us. After a mediocre start, we contrived a major cock-up that would be worthy of more note except that it’s not exactly unusual this season. Mason probably didn’t know he was not under immediate pressure as he tidied up at the edge of our box, but unsure of what was around him, he dithered, slipped then could only poke the ball in the vague direction of his keeper. Davies in for the injured Rose was on hand but he was easily muscled off the ball and seemed astonished that the Italian should have the nerve to poke the ball past him and Lloris. When these things happen, Hugo as always looks hurt rather than angry.

Lamela’s equalizer should cheer him up – he celebrated like he’d won the Double. Kane flicked on Dier’s right wing cross. Lamela had space behind him – credit for taking up a good position. He reacted to the chance by crossing his arms in front of him, which I interpreted as a quasi-religious gesture to assist him in his task of shooting, because frankly these days he needs all the help he can get. Less charitable souls wondered what on earth he was doing but whichever god he was praying to came up trumps. The ball hit his arm and went in, nothing given. The confidence might give him a boost although that wasn’t especially apparent in his second half performance.

Back to better defending and signings again – Fazio came from Spain as the defensive lynchpin. I’ve developed a strange fascination for him. I’ve always been fond of a big centrehalf and a little suspicious of the mobile play-anywhere centrebacks I know we need. Their ungainliness in the physicality of modern football is endearing.

Fazio should be our rock, except most of the time he moves like one. He’s a seventies throwback, determined to stop forwards getting past him oblivious of how much the interpretations of fouls and repeat offences have changed. He would be comfortable kicking all and sundry in some European battles of that bygone era, shrugging as the whistle blew against him and caring not a jot.

It’s hard sometimes to see exactly what we bought. It must be there somewhere. At Seville he was a leader and later in the game when as last week he cleaned up a few crosses he suddenly burst into life, shouting the odds as a rallying cry to his team-mates. He’s crafty one on one, mostly doing just enough to get the ball, often without actually touching it. But he has the mobility of a tower block. In the team to deal with big centre forwards, last week and this he was flat-footed as the man he was marking slipped inside him to head home. Last week Benteke, this week Pelle.

Spurs came back again with a fine finish by Chadli. Dier again with the pass, this time down the right. The Belgian’s touch took him past one defender and he slotted expertly across the keeper into the far corner. More please.

In terms of motivation, it doesn’t look as if the Europa League is setting us on fire. Everyone did OK, nobody stood out, but, and you’ve heard it before, in the past we would not have come back twice as we did yesterday.

My view of the EL is unchanged. It should become an old-style home and away knockout to generate excitement and the possibilities of upsets. UEFA have plenty of cash to subsidise clubs for whom the group games are a financial bonus. It won’t happen, so Spurs should play a strong team at home and train a second string for the away ties, and I mean play together in advance so they are a proper team rather than defend as if they have never met as we have seen in some sorry ties over the past few years. Then go all-out after Christmas in the knock-out.

The real issue is not the EL but whether we are planning and playing for next season, and there is an inescapable sense of us marking time, waiting for a clear-out and an influx of newcomers, rather than doing much that’s constructive.

22 thoughts on “Lamela’s Prayers Answered As Spurs Fight Back Twice

  1. Did not see the game or highlights Alan.
    So thanks for the write up .
    To be honest I’ve given up the ghosts for this season. Let’s hope next season is a better one.

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  2. Lamela looked like he was scared of the ball and trying to get out of the way. I just feel sorry for him. He’s so poor it’s embarrassing and we need to put him out of his misery and send him back to Italy, before the add ons for appearances etc. start raising the fee. Thankfully we have not paid much so far.

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    • sad but true, with his skill set you would think he could do better. just watched the toffies game and Lennon looked like his old self again. It’s amazing what a loan spell can do. maybe send lamella out on loan and see if it’s the player or system that’s not working.

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      • I’m always reluctant to let go any player with natural talent like Lamela’s, but in his case…Can’t decide if he is thinking too much to compensate for the PL requirements, so curbing his natural instincts, or not thinking enough and running into blind alleys and brick walls. Loan might be a idea. I watched a game earlier this season with an Italian who saw Lamela regularly when he played over there. Raved about him said he was certain to be a huge success here….

        COYS Alan

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  3. Even if the season is petering out, and it certainly feels that way, it is impressive that we didn’t capitulate. Southampton are decent side, especially at home, so to come back from being behind – twice – is fairly decent. I’d have taken a point before the game.

    So frustrating that we cocked it up against Burnley and Villa. The Man City game could have been a six pointer.

    For a few years we were finishing 5th or 4th. Now we seem to be battling it out for 6th. The spending of the Bale £, AVB and Sherwood do represent a couple of lost years.

    I can’t decide if we have made progress or not since we sacked Sherwood. Probably not. But hopefully Levy & Enic will give Poch 100% backing in the summer. If we trust him and back him then maybe, just maybe, things will get better.

    In the meantime (since gardening tips are all the rage) I’ve just reclaimed a pallet and a set of drawers which I’m going to turn into herb gardens.

    And give the cost another turn – which is a good metaphor for what football has become in the Sky era.

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    • I can’t stand diy or gardening but I’ll pass that one on to Monty, Russ. Re progress, Poch has given us a shape and motivation but as you say, Levy is the key to any progress. No investment and it doesn’t matter who the manager is.

      Regards, Alan

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  4. Fair comments on Fazio, Alan, who I have taken a big shine to. His positioning on the 6-yard box for crosses is exceptional, and he is commanding in the air, a lot of the time, but his lack of mobility is an issue and he does seem to lose his positioning/let his man run off him at times. I think the Benteke goal last week was down to rustiness as much as anything, though the cross was good and Benteke a handful for most on his day.. The pulling Spurs about leading to the ball being played wide and quality of the cross and sheer excellence of Pelle in the air did for him yesterday, as it might well have for 99.9% of all defenders on that occasion.

    Fazio needs a very fast partner at the back. A bit like Mountfield had in Ratcliffe at Everton back in the day. However, it is no longer the mid to late 80s, for any of us. I’d like to see us keep him for another season, as he will be wiser for the experience of the past few months.

    I have long been concerned at how easily we morph into the worst of AVB’s time, slow to build and too much lateral movement with no penetration. There was a purple patch of urgent, incisive football from us from Xmas to the League Cup Final, otherwise we can be quite dull boys.

    Much to do over the summer, and, no doubt, a baby or two will be thrown out with the bathwater.

    I very much want to be on the UEFA Cup/EL next season. If we use it wisely, in much the way you suggest, it can greatly assist the development of the tea. There is no need to go all out in the early stages. We need to be cleverer. If we need to jettison a competition, the League Cup can be sidelined. There is no reason we cannot win the UEFA Cup/EL (I still think we are better than Fiorentina and they are in the SF) and given the strong competition for top 4 places in England, we’d be silly to baulk at a UEFA Cup/EL place. Aside from what Europe (and this competition) means to Spurs’ identity and heritage and hopefully future.

    I’m a little tired at all this top 4 or bust stuff from many of our supporters. We can play in the UEFA Cup and qualify for the CL via the league if we are clever and good enough.

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    • Nicely put, mate, about the EL. Would love us to bring that handsome trophy home again, with a solid plan for the competition. As for that urgent football run we went on, it was mostly when we weren’t playing EL games, so a better approach is needed. And I especially like how “it can greatly assist the development of the tea (sic)” as one can never discount the importance of a good cuppa to assuage the often dull pain of being a Spurs fan. 😉

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    • The EL format is designed to suck the life from even the most committed of football fans but it helps in the business of attracting players in the summer and needs the strategy I wrote about for the squad to survive.

      Re Fazio, he needs quick players all round him. You sense Vertonghen always has half an eye on him instead of focussing on his own game. I hope he comes on but he’s a long way from being what we need right now, if I am honest.

      Regards, Alan

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  5. Lovely metaphors/analogies, Alan, to wit: “as a quasi-religious gesture to assist him in his task of shooting.” Good thoughts on how to handle EL, because unless we finish 7 and Villa win the Cup, we’re in, and we must have have a better plan to deal with it. I like yours. Lloris (if he chooses to stay) and Vorm, Dier, Rose, Bentaleb, Mason, Eriksen, Chadli, Kane, (first PL team to have three 10 goal scorers) plus new kids Yedlin, Alli and Pritchard…the rest can be shipped out if there are buyers. And, then MoPo hopefully gets to bring in players he wants, then let’s see how we shape up. COYS! 😉

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  6. I’m waiting for this exciting football that Poch plays or is he just a poor man’s AVB? Slow build-up, inverted wingers, no width, alienation of players and where’s all this supposed pressing too?
    Do we have any faith in who we will recruit either – well, Baldini is still there, but that is where we need to pull up our socks methinks. Eriksen once again was the invisible Man – if it wasn’t for his free kicks is he worth playing on a regular basis?

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    • Not the best time to judge them, sam, as the season fades away. Some attacking football at the top of the tree versus Chelsea and Arsenal, but in truth the team are not good enough across the board to play consistently well. Poch likes them to move the ball forward whereas AVB’s team got a bit lost near the opponent’s box. But no mistake – hard work over the summer and pre-season. Unlike others I’ve never subscribed to the idea that the young men, brave and bold as they are, are anywhere near enough on their own.

      regards, Alan

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  7. True about Fazio. He’d have been a great centre half for us years ago in a 2-3-5 set-up, followed by the early days of 4-4-2
    in the mid to late 1960s ..immobile, but like the Rock of Gibraltar. Imagine him alongside Dave Mackay.
    Think Mike England and Maurice Norman types (what I remember of the latter) for comparison.
    Mike looked like he could hardly walk, let alone run, but what a great winner of the ball in the air ..as well as a great tackler of
    his time! England would have certainly played for England, if he wasn’t Welsh.
    Think too of those ‘oh so solid’ (er not in that way ..well, maybe some of them, to a degree) ‘immovable object’
    centre halves who played for England, like Terry Butcher, Tony Adams and, of course, Jackie Charlton.
    Just shows how dramatically football has changed, as now the irresistible forces simply step around the immovable objects
    (where they exist) instead of running headlong into them.
    I remember in 1990, in order to get away from the Easter Island statue persistence of central defending, we played someone
    as ‘sweeper’ (Pearce?) in the late Group Stages of the World Cup, and went on to reach the semi-finals (should have won the damn thing).
    Where have all the sweepers gone today?? Perhaps Spurs should employ one, looking at Fazio (bless him) and the cover, or lack of it.
    If anyone agrees, who, among our squad, should it be? Or do you feel that there is no place in the modern game for such a player anymore?

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    • Sweepers flourished in an era when players were not as fit as they are today, I reckon a pressing team takes them out of the game. Pace and anticipation would be good though…plus Walker’s lack of positioning. Tough for any centre half at Spurs!

      Regards, Alan

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      • I do question 2 CB’s though Alan.I mean 2 of them sometimes leave one striker on his own between them.Dont you love the zone defence where players mark blades of grass and attackers just flood one of the zones?

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  8. Alan,I thought although it was still a mediocre performance relative our status in the league it was still better than we have dished up lately. The energy levels were up at least.
    I couldnt understand why we were slipping and sliding all over the place.Dont we become prepared for any surface,I mean its only boots and studs,you dont have to haul a trailer.
    Our midfield creates very little and even though apart from his falling over a few times Bentaleb looked strong (He is more physical than talented though) while Mason never seemed to get his footing right for the game. There are just too many gaps between the back line and midfield to say that these are doing a really good job. We lose possession and our players are out of position.The front players run like crazy to press but cannot hold a quick counter.
    Eriksen I thought was marginally better than usual.He was a bit more involved and focused but Im still surprised that the one player who could possibly supply Kane,doesnt.
    Lamela has the odd game where something happens but he has never looked like a great player. This week was the Elbona (I plagiarized that from a blog post that someone wrote on another blog) and we had seen the famous rabona but unfortunately not a lot in between those two event. He still runs gangly.
    We gave Southampton a good game relatively but the quality leaves a lot to be desired. Poch may like to think he is 9 players away from success but what if it isnt that.What if he is a terrible man manager. He has isolated players and not brought the team to any kind of flow. Are we sure he can? Im not sure either way to be honest [.I havent seen enough to say he does or doesnt know what he is doing. Ill let the players talk with their boots and so far they havent said much. A lot of slipping around both physically and mentally.

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    • Elbona! Very good. Poch needs 9 players regardless, we’ve lost the impetus of early this year but it could be rekindled next season, when it’s make or break for Poch.

      Cheers, Alan

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  9. The “Best of the Rest” cup final failed to give us a winner which just about sums up this bloodless affair. With Eriksen having gone ice-cold in recent games Harry has been feeding off of scraps while Nacer “The Phoneytail” Chadli has somehow mustered a decent number of goals. I can only speculate that Lamela must be hugely impressive in training in order to get another game after his stinker at Newcastle. This week he gave us “The Crash Position” to add to his repertoire of goofy antics. Lamela is this team’s Mido, or Taarabt, poncing about on the edges of the action while better, more substantial, players seethe on the subs bench. Pochettino is adding to the end of season malaise with his worn-out tactics and lack of adventure. Thank goodness for another impressive partnership by Mason and Bentaleb. And this weeks man-love is well deserved by “El Rock” Fazio who is one of the very few players in the team aware of his role, his strengths (and weaknesses) and plays to them most of the time.

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    • Touched by the bromance with fazio all over the blog. Wish he would play a bit better though…
      yep, Poch looking a bit jaded too. Unlike your comment david, thank you.

      regards, Alan

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