Praise Be to Hugo’s Knee. All Hail Wanyama’s Toe

For the second league game in succession, Spurs toiled against well-organised and determined opponents, failing to score or, worse, seldom seriously looking as if they would. The defence did their bit though, so another clean sheet, another point and still unbeaten but there’s an infuriating itch in a spot that you can’t quite reach.

Spurs didn’t get going until the second half. Before then, Bournemouth had at least as much of the game as we did and could have scored after only a couple of minutes when a neat corner move led to Lloris sticking out a leg to flip a close range shot onto the bar and behind. We have much to be thankful for when it comes to Hugo’s knees. He gets something in the way and lately he’s had a knack of watching the ball end up in a safe place. It’s percentage keeping – do everything you can to block it, and we’re grateful the odds are working in our favour recently.

Lamela hit the bar just past the quarter of an hour after Dele’s delicious double nutmeg, but otherwise we looked disjointed, unable to escape the Bournemouth press. Like WBA last week, they deserve great credit for their organisation and commitment, tearing into tackles from first to last and never allowing themselves to be bent out of shape. In the second half they barely got forward and when they did, the final ball let them down badly.

That said, Tottenham did nowhere near enough to make their afternoon uncomfortable. We were busy without much purpose, energetic but lacking in guile and strategy. Spurs never fully committed to getting that goal. We certainly didn’t get round the back or find our players in the box.

Son began up front but we seldom gave him a ball where he could use his pace and skill to drive at the back four and he often lacked support in the box, with Dele doing his best work in less dangerous areas. Our passing from the back was merely average.

We looked much better on the break. Bournemouth offered few opportunities but when they did get forward and lost the ball, we relished he rare space to counter. Twice in the first half we escaped the press to produce two delightful moves, end to end but finishing in might-have-beens.

Spurs were irritable, as if they had not slept well or badly needed a double espresso. Straight after he hit the bar, Lamela was booked after a needless foul, then was lucky not to be given a second yellow before half time when he jumped into a tackle. Seem them given, I believe that’s the phrase I’m groping for. To be sent off would have been harsh but that’s not the point. Why is he putting himself in this position? I know Spurs give away a fair number of free kicks, it’s part of the Pochettino pressing game but he could have been gone by half time. I’m starting to get closer to that itch, but he had our best chances, which is why his manager kept him on.

Vertonghen, Dele and Rose were booked too. Danny lost the ball on the halfway line, a reminder on the long banished bad old days when he regularly got the ball tangled up in his feet, infamously against Arsenal one time. We all get irritable when we’re tired and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the strain of two games a week, flat out and at the top level, is taking its toll.

Spurs were more assertive in the second half and had most of the play. The pressing went into overdrive, the full backs pushed up and Dembele had a few runs from deep to create some space. However, playing deep meant he did not impact on their back four, who stayed rock solid, and anyway he’s easing back from injury. We could have done more to try and move them around, but this is starting to read as if I’m cutting and pasting from last week’s report, so time to move on.

Janssen came on but an error I think to take off Dele and Son, both of whom could have offered him the support he craved. It was Rose who had the best chance from Janssen’s hold-up play, but the shot fell to his right foot so weak.

Wanyama had another good game, time and again he gets his foot in to break up attacks. Just a toe sometimes but his timing is spot on. He’s having a fine season so far.

I enjoyed the intensity of the battle but we could not make the breakthrough. Rest now for most if not all of this lot as Poch picks his team for Saturday first, then Tuesday’s. Sissoko might get ninety minutes, on Saturday he tried his utmost to get about three. Dead lucky the ref missed his elbow in the face, needless when under no pressure. He too was irritable. Double espressos all round.

17 thoughts on “Praise Be to Hugo’s Knee. All Hail Wanyama’s Toe

  1. At least half of Spurs Twitter seems to be in meltdown over this result. I wonder if we are not becoming victims of last season’s success or progress, whatever you want to call it.

    Some of our players are feeling the strain of lots of football and lack sharpness. We’ve also got key players out injured. And teams like WBA and Bournemouth know how to frustrate us.

    We weren’t ever going to spank The Cherries like we did last year. Eddie Howe is a very good prospect and Bournemouth have lost the naivety of last year.

    In the past couple of games we dominated but didn’t convert. Yesterday we did neither. A big plus is that we are hard to beat. I don’t go with what some people have said that it is better to win one and lose one than draw two. I’d prefer we remain defensively solid but work on our sharpness, guile and freshness up front.

    Personally I’d go all out for the win next Saturday. As for Tuesday’s game, play the second string with some heft in midfield and defence to avoid a confidence sapping thumping.

    Wanyama is proving to be the signing of the season. More of this sort of thing, please. We need a few more players who can have an immediate impact if we want to seriously challenge for the title.

    Man U have just lost to Chelsea. Any delight in Maureen’s misery is tempered by my fear that Utd will make a massive effort to get Pochettino and Kane when it all turns to mush at Old Trafford.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have never understood that it’s better to win one and lose one than draw two argument either. It’s better to draw one and win one or even win two than win one and lose one, too, if we’re choosing … A few definitely need a week without a competitive match, but I don’t want us to get flattened at Anfield. Difficult decisions for Poch to make.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Part one of your cunning plan has been put into operation with the reserves going down last night. Leicester will pose similar problems to WBA and Bournemouth – it’s how they won the league – so we have to come up with something. Janssen’s movement is easier for defenders to manage than Kane’s and I think we need more punch in the box.

      Cheers, Al

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  2. Thanks Alan,

    I must admit to being someone who thought Wanyama a decent player but not a first team regular for a side with our ambitions. I am eating some humble pie as he’s been immense so far. I remember Dembele running rings round him at St Mary;s last season, which may have unduly influenced me. Dembele of course is a super class act so no shame in that.

    I didn’t think we were terrible Saturday, but definitely below par. We’ve come a long way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed re Wanyama, excelling and rising to the challenges at Spurs.

      We have indeed come a long way, but new obstacles in the way as teams have worked us out. Worrying that goals have dried up. Ironic – most of my time as a Spurs fan, it’s been the defence that’s been the problem. Bit of a test for Poch – we talk about needing a Plan B, well, this could mean revising Plan A, which is a big job.

      Regards, Al

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  3. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. It’s hard to criticize overly but these are precious points slipping away that we’ll regret in six month’s time, maybe the difference between the Big Cup and the Europa Cup. The lack of goals highlights our singular failing last season and this; that we don’t have any true quality cover for Harry. Liverpool seem to be squeaking in a goal or two from one of three or four sneaky good forwards to turn that domination into points and they don’t seem to be shot shy, whereas we fiddle about too much. I feel for Vinny who is not even getting scraps to fight for as we try and walk it into the box. Our subs bench looks very thin when we look to try someone, or something, new. In truth we are still a work in progress with a crying need for another truly high quality goalscorer. Surely N’Koudou is worth a run in the light of Lamela’s failings?
    It was also interesting to note how many teams in midweek European action all failed to raise their games. Apart from ourselves, United, Arsenal, Southampton, Man City all showed a hint of medal fatigue. The Prem is now a weekly ‘no prisoners’ battle that takes more than two days to get the old snap back into the legs. But more than this, making and taking chances is our biggest issue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed David. The pattern of play looks familiar but it’s not producing the chances any more. Something’s not quite there. Too tight for throughballs, no real power or height for crosses. Too many bodies hanging around the edge of the box, not enough committing in the area. Lamela vital for assists and taking chances – not delivering often enough. Janssen committed to the physical battle whereas he might be better served seeking space.

      Regards, Alan

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  4. Spot on, Alan. “We all get irritable when we’re tired and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the strain of two games a week, flat out and at the top level, is taking its toll.” And several of our fellow posters also had great insights. But it’s a marathon not a sprint, to go unbeaten after 10 games, a quarter of a season, with the best D in the league is a great start…it will be a continuing theme, being slightly better at the sharp end, both with the final pass (a few too many dinks, back heels, through balls, we’re not yet Barca) and final shot. Our D and Hugo will keep us in most games, so there it is…there’s a lot of potential goals in our attacking players (Eriksen, Lamela, Alli, Janssen, Kane, Son, and even Sissoko), so we got to hope they find their finishing mojo sometime during the marathon! PS I was wondering what would’ve happened if we’d gone first this weekend, would the pressure have gotten to us, to keep it going for another three quarters of the season. Or, is it good, we’re just off the pace, not the pace-setters, like a fast finishing thoroughbred? Cheers, Alan, my fellow Spurs fans! COYMFS! 😉

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    • Hi Ashley,

      I’m due to holiday in Florida over the Christmas period.

      Do you know any Spurs fans on that side of the States I can contact in order to join for the games in the late night bars?

      Cheers,

      NJC

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    • You are so creative Ash, you’ve created a new hashtag. First or last, we have to take the pressure, and frankly more pressure from the way sides are setting up against us than anything else. Patience is a virtue, Poch needs to tweak a few bits and pieces to get some chances, then we’ll see about the goals. Long way to go and the sublime City performance was only a few matches ago.

      Best wishes,
      Alan

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  5. Poor decision by Poch to make Son the front man. He’s shoved him there before, without success, and we can all see that Son’s best position is coming in from the flanks, ably assisted by players who can hold the ball up for him and/or distract the defense, thus allowing Son the room and opportunity to do his thing. Son has come a long way since last term, when I believed he had no football brain (energy, pace and enthusiasm but little else) and therefore no future at Spurs. However, he’s gladly proved me wrong ..so let’s not bloody ruin him now by making him something he isn’t. Jansen may not be scoring ..but, like Kane, he provides a focal point up front, works hard for the team, and brings others into the game. He should have started against Bournemouth.
    I feel we also have to deal with that old Plan B strategy ..something we don’t ever seem to possess. Our impressive high pressing intensity game is slowly getting found out, while other clubs are beginning to copy our coach’s tactics, and we seem unsure of how to counter this. We’re not Barca (yet) who can press high all day long to get the ball back, and then tear teams apart when in possession, due to brilliant individuals like Messi (who can score hat tricks at will, never mind the odd goal) and Iniesta. They expend less energy than we do because of that brilliance in possession! Spurs may be unbeaten in the PL this year, but, the odd fine game apart, we’re struggling to break even ‘middle of the road’ teams down. Certainly much of it is through our own poor finishing …but, with respect to the stubbornness of the opposition, it’s also down to a lack of vision and real inventiveness in that final third, compared with our performances last year. Making 3 or 4 passes for the hell of it, or for killing time while working out what to do next as the opponents’ defense shores up, when one good pass would have perhaps peeled open a chance! So maybe, then, last term was our best chance to replicate the ‘push and run’ team of 1951, if not our glorious ’61 boys, and win the eternally elusive title. Maybe we were actually ‘ready’ in 2015/16, instead of just being a team with ‘potential’, something we cling to today like an eternal security blanket. OK, Kane will be back soon and Toby too, and we’ll continue to do well …I’m certain of that. Add to that the squad strength, the splendid young players waiting in the wings, the new stadium, a canny board, a youthful and brilliant manager (most of the time) and the future’s indeed very bright. The only trouble is, is that Spurs’ future has always been ‘bright’ …and we’ve always been ‘building”. So the time to actually deliver, surely, is now! Apart from a couple of League Cups we’ve won nothing of note since 1990/91 but we have the squad now, and everything else, in place (no more about ‘potential’ please) to put right that huge vacuum. I know our team is ABOUT the team and not the individual ..but there is ONE addition that we crave (and this brings us back to the old Plan B alternative when out fitness, energy and pressing is simply not enough) ..and that is a midfield maestro, a playmaker supreme, a puller of strings, who can slow the game down, and link our play up (between defense and attack) from central midfield, who can pick out key short and long range passes, who can see the bigger picture in the central area of the park ..and so on and so on!!!! Yes …a creative midfielder in the mould of a Hoddle or a Modric.
    We must start thinking that this is our time now, and, in January, add that final piece to the perpetual jigsaw that is our Tottenham Hotspur. We want trophies again, and things are surely in place to secure them sooner than later.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Whoever plays up front, we need to move the defence around, cause more problems. We try one twos or slide a little ball through but there are no gaps with everyone back and the back four deep. Have to interchange more up front – push up drop back while others fill the space, launch runs from deeper. Son’s movement could give us that. Agree we don’t have a dominant midfield figure, someone to take charge when things are not going well. Instead of responding to the patterns we weave, teams press then drop back to cover, letting us play across the pitch not cut through them. Leicester will do the same on Saturday.

      Cheers, Alan

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  6. Spot on as ever Allan. I think we’ll continue to have a tough time breaking down well drilled teams. Most teams will; remember the smaller clubs have higher quality players now due to TV cash. Things have changed. WBA can afford a chadli or two! We were without two of our spine but remain unbeaten so things are not so bad. That said I’m also surprised we are not seeing more of NKoudou; pace, width and unpredictability must have a place when we’re struggling to score. Especially as he’s appeared to be willing to track back and didn’t appear to waste possession in his cameos. Maybe I just like an orthodox winger every now and then….

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  7. I agree with C B Waters (above). Our lack of tempo, guile and cutting edge in the final third was extremely frustrating. Son was beginning to influence the game when Poch pulled him off. I also agree with Matt. We played so narrow and are simply not giving ourselves a chance of penetrating a team that puts ten men on the edge of their box.
    I don’t think Poch is rotating enough. I was expecting to see more of N’Koudou, Winks and Onomah.
    It’s an age since we saw a vibrant Eriksen scoring direct from free kicks and as for Sissoko – he is as poor as Wanyama is good. Not to mention his disgusting elbow in Arter’s face – I really don’t want to see Spurs players doing that kind of thing (I witnessed Graham Roberts do it on occasion but that was then…..)
    I know we got great money for Chadli but who have we got in midfield that offers the same goal threat?
    The Man City game seems a world away already……………..

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    • City not so long ago – we have to remember that! City are a better team than WBA or Bournemouth but they come to attack therefore are more open. I understand why WBA and the cherries do what they do, and not complaining, but in some ways City easier for this Spurs team to make chances against.

      Sissoko making a slow start for Spurs, let’s leave it there…;)

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