If winning ugly is a sign of a successful team, this was the Elephant Man of victories. Spurs v Everton should never have come out in daylight. Rather, the game is destined to slip furtively through the back alleys of north London largely covered in a hessian sack for fear of scaring the onlookers.
Nature and adventure. That’s the way to go. Something different. Exciting, innovative, all round White Hart Lane. On the advertising boards, of course. None of that on the pitch. It was that sort of first half, plenty of time to read the ads. One from Spurs encouraged us to ‘Join the conversation’ – nothing much to talk about. ‘What would you like to remember?’ begins the prompt on my note-taking app. About the first half, frankly nothing.
I’m grateful for the three points, I really am, don’t get me wrong, but my giddy aunt large parts of that game were the worst we have played since I don’t know when. Disjointed and devoid of both ideas and energy, we created very little in the way of passing moves in the first half, let alone chances.
Everton had the better of the opening period, Osman missing with two or three decent efforts from the edge of the box and Lloris making one top class save, full-length to his left. We gradually came back into it without making much of an impression on the Toffee’s well-marshalled defence. Eriksen shot over from a long-range free-kick and Adebayor stretched in vain pursuit of Rose’s one decent cross of the game.
Rose was holding his back even in the warm-up and looked sluggish throughout. Eriksen was peripheral, Lennon anonymous, carrying on from where he left off last week. I hope Paulinho is feeling his way back to full-fitness after his injury because if not, he must be mightily hacked off about something. Only Dembele provided any drive or impetus. A rock on the ball, defenders bounced off him as he went he forward but he had precious little help from his team-mates. He should have tried a shot or two.
Bentaleb kept moving across in front of the back four, tidying up and making himself available, his distribution a mixture of the accurate and misplaced but he was not alone in giving the ball away. A plastic kebab box blew across the pitch as half-time approached. Guess the defenders had the time to tuck in. It was so quiet at times, I could hear Sherwood shouting on the other side of the pitch. My highlight thus far was queuing for the toilet at half-time.
After the break Spurs emerged with a bit more purpose and bounce, though everything in this game is relative. We weren’t really getting anywhere but there were a few oohs and ahhs from the crowd, although by then winning a thrown-in might have led to a lap of honour.
The match was won with a moment of high-class football utterly out of keeping with the rest of the performance because it involved a) quick thinking, b) a pinpoint pass and c) a shot on target. Dembele toppled over in centre midfield. While everyone waited for him to pick himself up, Walker hit an early diagonal ball 40 yards onto Abebayor’s chest. Everything about what followed was perfect – a finely timed run to avoid offside and get a precious yard on the defenders, his impeccable control, his strength to hold off two defenders and above all a blinding left-foot shot that flew low to the near post. My whingeing about this game should not detract from Manu’s cracking finish, thrilling with the co-ordination and flow of a striker at his peak.
And that was pretty much that. The goal was our first shot on target. Stats show we had another one but I can’t recall it. Sherwood used his subs well, Capoue coming on to shore up the defence as Everton pressed and the bold move of Defoe and Townsend to distract Everton at the other end. Andros ended up shooting against defenders’ legs from a foot and neglecting his defensive duties as Coleman overlapped but the danger passed. Capoue came across to help but nearly undid his work by making one rash tackle, on Coleman in the box, but the ref said ‘no penalty’. We played out time without too much bother.
A few things to take from this one. People are still talking about Sherwood’s 4-4-2 when he has often varied his formation. This was 4-5-1 to match up with Everton. In the end, both sides cancelled each other out, which made for a dull game. Everton had no recognised striker and it really showed. Even so, their attitude was too cautious and they did not pressure us when it was clear we were not playing at all well.
Our main problem was the absence of movement when we got the ball. Time and again we picked the ball up in midfield only to find everyone bar Adebayor standing still. We did not get enough players in front of the ball in those situations. One – Adebayor – is not enough. We have the players to do it, we have done it in away games to good effect, yet nothing yesterday and that could be down either to player lethargy or poor coaching.
Adebayor was our best player regardless of the goal. He kept working and was always available despite not getting any support from the midfield.
I’ve never done it myself but I could understand why many were tempted to drift away before the end. A shame though – they should have stayed to say farewell to Jermain Defoe, who wandered slowly around the pitch taking his applause from two-thirds empty stands. A mistake to let him go. He found himself a relic of a bygone age when the big man/little man combo reigned supreme. Sincere thanks for everything he’s done. I was sad to see him drift away like this and think he was sad too.