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Sunday, 26 February 2012

Problems Emerging?

Astonished. It's hard to find a word to match how I feel post-Arsenal defeat. For a side that has looked incredibly resilient all season to come unstuck at such ease truly was astonishing. You can never predict what'll happen in these games, but that's why we love football isn't it? I used to relish heading into these games as underdogs. Nicking a result last season at the Emirates was a prime example; we didn't expect to win it, Arsenal didn't expect us to win it but we won it. It's part and parcel of supporting Spurs.

I felt a little nervous but more relaxed than usual heading into this game. After Saha had put us ahead and starting out on top, things only looked to get better. We enforced our game on Arsenal before allowing them to settle and play their own game. I was happy but a little disappointed to see we were sitting off and looking to counter. We can break incredibly quick, but I also felt we should've looked to put Arsenal on the back foot for longer than the first 10 minutes.

I was happy although a little surprised to see us start 4-4-2. Then again, each player deserved their spot after the drubbing of Newcastle. With this formation, I was hoping we'd stick to the shape. Provide good width with Niko and Bale whilst allowing Adebayor to play as the second forward behind Saha. We successfully exploited Arsenal's frailties in defence and went two ahead. I'll throw my neck out on the line and say Bale's standing foot was clipped by the centre back for the penalty although maybe I'm being a little bias. Watch it again, see what you think.

What I did find disappointing was Bale's contribution. The free role needs to go. One success against Norwich is not enough to maintain it. He often found himself looking a little lost at times and failed to help out in defence and cover up. On numerous occasions Ekotto and Walker were left exposed. Bale's defending at set pieces was also unusually poor. Having allowed Rosicky a free header moments before he let Sagna beat him to pull one back. Bale's greatest moments have come from wide positions. He needs to start playing for the team more than himself and back out on the left hand side.

I always felt Arsenal would have the upper hand mentally coming into the second half and understood the substitutions that Harry made, although, they may have come to soon. On paper it made sense for Sandro to play alongside Parker in a bid to crowd out Arsenal and stop them playing. The problem was no player in particular knew their role. The midfield, at times, looked more lost than a nun in a brothel as we were carved up like a Christmas Turkey (apologies). Arsenal exploited our frailties in midfield and made our defence look like something from an Under-10's Saturday league fixture.

A complete lack of respect towards Arsenal and the evident loss of focus at 2-0 cost the boys today. They were far to relaxed and allowed Arsenal too much space in which to play their game. It was embarrassing to watch us dismantled with such ease and against a side starved of confidence. We should've looked to continue going forward, keeping them on the back foot and getting in the space behind their back four. But fair play to Arsenal, they came out with real belief and fully deserved their win.

Bale and Lennon back out wide against United. Lennon brings another wide threat, he covers well and it would add more balance. His partnership with Walker has been fantastic this year, as has Bale's with BAE. It's a tough call whether to start Saha or Vdv but whatever the team we play needs to ensure they use the Arsenal game as a kick up the arse that they've probably needed. Lose the arrogance, the jobs not finished. With United at home and Chelsea, Everton and Sunderland all to go away to, any gap could easily be wiped. Keep a level-head. Stay focused. Play our game and get the job done.

In every defeat is a victory, somewhere.


Saturday, 25 February 2012

"He tells us to think, first and foremost, about finishing top"

Tomorrow. I'm still no closer to deciding whether I'm dreading or excited for tomorrow, I think anxious would be the correct term. In the past, the most I found myself hoping for was stealing a draw from the familiar jaws of defeat or atleast giving Arsenal a game. It wasn't just the players, it was also us as Spurs fans that succumbed to the psychological barrier of actually seeing us pick up three points against Arsenal. I could never realistically picture it.

William Gallas is one to have got around a bit. He loves his London clubs and evidently boasts a winners mentality having experienced success prior to his move to Spurs. I still feel he was one of the underlying reasons we came out on top at the Emirates last season. Gallas has had to spend the majority of this season in the treatment room but is ensuring his influence on the side is still as effective off the pitch just as it is on it.

"When Gallas was at Chelsea under Mourinho, they were unbelievable" Defoe told The Mirror. "They didn't lose a game at home because they had that rock-solid belief.

"He passes that all on to us and tells us to stop settling for fourth place and qualifying for the Champions League, like we did two years ago.

"He tells us to think, first and foremost, about finishing top. Hopefully the top two will slip up. You never know what will happen between now and the end of the season.

"The other day, I was having a conversation with him and he was saying that he doesn't understand anyone within the squad who thinks we can finish fourth or even third

"If you look at the players we have got, the way we play and where we are in the league now, why can't we win it?

"William has been there and done it. He told me about his time at Chelsea where he and the other players had the arrogance in that, whoever they played against, they believed they could win.

"And he keeps saying that we need to believe we can actually win it. Forget about finishing fourth."

There's no argument with that attitude. It's hard, as just one fan in particular, to not let past disappointment's haunt away the optimism about the future. Finishing third this season and keeping hold of key players may tempt me to believe we could win it next year but I feel this season has come around to soon. The chase is the great bit about it. That underdog status continues to push us. Win tomorrow and it opens up a 13 point point gap. Nothing is guaranteed in football and as long as we keep a sustainably wide margin from 5th spot then I'm content.

Yesterday's Arsenal preview "Anxious?" can be read HERE including Cringe of the week.


Friday, 24 February 2012


I haven't yet decided if I'm looking forward to Sunday or dreading it. I enjoy the fact we defeated Arsenal in our last outing and sit a rather smug 10 points above them in the league; who'd have thought 5 years ago this would be the case eh? I don't think we'll win the league. As a Spurs fan it's hard to put Premier League title and Spurs in the same sentence. Maybe it's the years of misery, maybe it's the morning effect of the endless beers I couldn't stop knocking back last night, or maybe it's because we're simply accustomed to disappointment. Yes, I am in high spirits today!

But then I take a different view. If this was Chelsea sitting in our position, they'd consider themselves knee-deep in the title hunt; likewise with Arsenal and Liverpool. I think I'm still in awe at what a fantastic season we've rallied through so far after a demoralising and flatter than flat beginning. One of those seasons. That's all I could think over and over and over again on the noticeably muted train ride home after City gave us a footballing lesson, or 5. But Levy saved our season. Keeping hold of Modders was an instrumental decision and at the forefront of why we've been able to craft such a brilliant season; tie that in with signing Scott and Ade and it leaves no surprise we're sitting in third.

I've spoken to a fair few Arsenal fans regarding Sunday's encounter. They find themselves in a similar situation to myself in the fact that they're unsure what to make of it. To my surprise, most would take a point. I mirror JD's words to an extent in that the pressure is all on Arsenal. They need to win, and if we as so much take our eye off the ball for a second they'll punish us. Form tends to go out the window in these games. We have the stronger squad, the stronger starting 11, but the stronger team doesn't always win. I can only envisage Harry emphasising the need to maintain focus, just as he is with all this E*****d talk.

We should look to play our natural game. Our natural game is with Bale out wide. BALE. OUT. WIDE. With Rafa sitting just in front of Luka and Scott, we're deadly as it is through the middle, no debate. We should look to exploit Arsenal's injury 'woes' at full back. Keeping Bale out wide, whether it be on the left or the right, should prove more than a handful; on paper anyway. I'd keep him left, he seems better utilised when he's stuck there. I'd also relish seeing Lennon involved. Him and Bale have a fantastic understanding and it further gives us the option for them to switch flanks for a different approach although I expect 'Arry to leave Aaron on the bench.

It's clearer than water that the heart of the Arsenal team right now is RVP. It doesn't really matter too much where they'd be without him. The fact is they have him, and we must ensure we suffocate him of supply and leave him starved upfront. Chamberlain has exploded on to the scene this season. His flair and creativity will give Walker one of his hardest tests of the season should the 18 year-old start, although I feel this is unlikely; this would leave Arsene with no real 'Plan B' should another derby go, with lack of a better phrase, tits-up. Frustrate the life out of them and soon enough the fans will turn, Arsenal style.

Am I concerned about Sunday? It's Arsenal away. 10 points looks pretty. Arsenal away; United at home; Chelsea away; Everton away doesn't. I'm anxious. I know that our squad is more than capable of knocking in a few on Sunday but I've supported Spurs for far to long to take any game for granted. Especially one at the Emirates. I feel that the best form of defence is attack and, as Arsenal will also try, we should look to get a stranglehold on the game early on and approach it in similar mould to Chelsea in December.

4-2-3-1 for me. Modric and Parker sitting in CM. Bale, VDV and Lennon in a three behind Adebayor. 4-4-1-1 when we don't have the ball. I'd keep things tight, stop them trying to play and enforce our game upon them. Make use of the wings. Everybody watching everyone else's back. I fully believe the tide has turned. The shoe is on the other foot. The years of watching us being an almost team are behind us. On paper, I feel we are the better of the two sides. But games aren't played on paper.

Whatever happens, win, lose or draw, we'll be right behind the boys for what is proving to be a very promising season.


Oh, one last thing. Here's the cringe of the week. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

In Harry We Trust.

The last day of January. It's like being a child again on Christmas day and opening up a pair of socks. In this case, it felt like the socks were second hand.

It seemed all to easy to slip a few minds that we did in fact have a football match to play on Tuesday evening. For 70 minutes we played some wonderful stuff that has proved all to familiar this season. Forgotten was Friday in which 'lucky' was the biggest understatement of the season as Watford played with far more fight and quality than ourselves and deserved to be thrown into the 4th round away to Stevenage. But that's football.

Yes, it was only Wigan. But we've seen far more often than our own liking in the past how we can underestimate these games and, before long, find ourselves with 90 minutes on the clock and only managing to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. Thankfully, the ghosts of last year haven't daunted the side and, minus a rather complacent and poor finish, we brushed aside Wigan with Bale and Modric at the heart of it all. The only downer arriving come full time was the injuries to Walker and Rafa. With a trip to Anfield on Monday seemingly arriving quicker than we'd prefer, the thought of travelling without Lennon, Defoe, Walker and Vdv was rather daunting.

Since then Walker has shed some light tweeting: "Afternoon tweeps just to let u know the injury is nothing to keep me out just felt it getting tight so didn't want to risk anything." After sending 4 right backs out on loan, it would prove more than irritating should Walker have to sit out any length of time. Young Spurs forward Cameron Lancaster also made his first PL appearance and did well in his 15 minute stint.

So, before long, attention turned to Jim White and the Sky Sports News team. While we braced ourselves for immense disappointment and entering February more or less as we were when we entered January, Levy was working on a few deals that required more than a second glance. Whilst we predicted that Pav was nearing the exit door at spurs (again), few would have predicted that Saha was in fact the forward that 'Arry wanted to bring in. I initially read this story with immediate scepticism.

Saha? Eh? He's the old fella that can barely string consecutive games isn't he? The Ledley King of forwards.

My initial reaction has softened. I do believe that Pav is a better forward than Saha. Although, with Pav finding himself warming the same bench every week and the desire and fight just not with the Russian anymore it was the right decision to let him leave; especially if reports were to be believed and we'd received a bid of between £8m-£11m. In Saha we have a forward that knows his time is limited. He's been given the chance at a top club and this may just ignite the spark that was so evident at Fulham. 'Arry is renowned for getting the best out of players and maybe this move will prove to be more astute than at first glance. Maybe this is being said out of more hope than expectation but I suppose time will tell. A deal for Krasic was also agreed with Juventus, although the player himself was adamant he wanted a permanent deal whereas we were only willing to loan the player so this move fell through.

Ryan Nelson is another reportedly close to joining us. After barely playing for Blackburn at all this season, Nelson was released before soon being contacted by Spurs. I can only see this one as cover but also another leader in the dressing room. It's getting towards the business end of the season and keeping a level head and a motivated team of players is essential.

The January window is never the best time to go for a World Class player. The price is far to extortionate and there's a lot of hope hindering on whether they hit the ground running and slot into the team's system after barely a training session. Our first team is no weaker but arguably our squad maybe a little in terms of ability. Harry has done wonders for the side and I do believe that by not disrupting the first team but bringing in experience heads to keep the lads going maybe prove to be invaluable come the end of the season.