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Sunday, 26 August 2012


I arrived at the Bell and Hare just in time for the weather to make its mark over Tottenham. Standing in pissing down rain with a can of Red Stripe isn't what one would define as enjoyment but West Ham were three down and I was just over an hour from visiting, well, my third home.

It wasn't surprise that hit me when I saw Adebayor was starting alongside the likes of Kane and Townsend on the bench but I was surprised to see Livermore and Sandro partnering one another in midfield. Livermore's progressed at the speed of Usain Bolt over the last year; it almost reminds me of O'Hara under the Ramos 'era'. I have started to really rate Jake. As well as he did last year we all knew he was just a step-in. Pure cover. Slotting in when needed and did a job. But in Newcastle and, particularly, yesterday I feel he's starting to add more value to the side. He comes across as far more disciplined this year. He knows his role thoroughly - when to defend and when to attack - and his passing has upped a level.

My issue is that the partnership between Livermore and Sandro, as much as I've enjoyed it, can't be more than a summer fling. We're entering the back end of August and, as positive I feel we have looked in the two games we've played, we're crying our eyes out for some creativity sitting in centre midfield. Someone to unlock a killer ball, open doors, leave defences on their knees. I'm almost sure we have a player of this calibre in our ranks, somewhere. I've also heard the same player has finalised his move to Madrid for the 63rd time this summer. I was sure Gylfi would start alongside either Sandro or Livermore with Vdv behind Defoe.

Again yesterday, I found it difficult to fault the performance and especially AVB. We pressed the ball, kept it well and West Brom didn't have much of a look in for 70 minutes. We eased off when we scored and their introduction of Lukaku was a game changer. The few that seem intent on jumping on the back of AVB and weighing him down with more pressure than he can handle need to, again, see the bigger picture. Agreed, it was West Brom at home. Agreed, this is a game we'd 'expect' to take full points from. Although this is a side we never give a whipping to. They're organised, no mugs, and evidently play right up until the final whistle. Sloppiness in defence cost us. What I was happy to see was we had more or less every player back defending; I struggle to blame AVB for failing to clear the ball when there were more than enough white shirts there to get it done. We're not finding ourselves unlocked with balls over the top or between our defence as we initially feared. This is the issue that occurred at Chelsea and I see no sign of this being mirrored this season.

Had we taken our chances when they were presented in the first half we'd have been home (but not dry) by half time. Arguably, leaving our key business to the end of the window may have cost us 2 wins but, saying that, it's the players we have got we need to focus on. I don't want to continue echoing what I brought up last week but last year's spine has been non-existent this season. King/Kaboul, Modric/Parker and Adebayor. Without atleast 3 of these we'd have struggled to even get 4th. What we had yesterday was, of course, no King or Kaboul, Modric or Parker and an unfit Adebayor. I feel Parker's role is more than covered through Sandro and Livermore but it's the lack of spark in the centre which is costing us. Modric will not be easy to replace but be replaced he must.

Some may say I'm digging out excuses to protect AVB. But I'd beg to differ. You only have to look at the key players that are missing, our evident need of a fit target man - Adebayor didn't have a pre-season - and our positive performances despite these needs to see that we're not in danger of having a catastrophe of a season and by no means are we the finished article just yet.

180 minutes of a season gone and a minority boo. They're probably the same people that didn't lose a single loyalty point after the deduction came in. Funny that.


Sunday, 19 August 2012

Did we lose in Newcastle?

The sun was an early enemy as I made my trip up. It ensured that the coach up to 'DA NORF' would be a muggy one; I almost felt punished for going up and thinking we may actually steal 3 points from Newcastle. No, I lie. My head told me we'd probably fall short of a point but I was more excited to see our set up at one of the toughest grounds to go to.

After persisting for 7 hours with two kids behind me debating whether Newcastle was in fact "in Scotland" or not and informing every passenger on the coach that this was journey was "long blud," I was glad to step off and climb the seemingly endless flights of stairs to get up to our seats; glad probably being an understatement here after the journey.

I felt we'd line up with Sigurdsson and Sandro sitting in CM with Vdv positioned just behind Defoe. England international (yeah, that's right) Jake Livermore, who flourished in pre-season, sat alongside Sandro with Vdv making way - but I was happy knowing that we'd keep things tight with those two sitting. Gallas was a surprise inclusion, although maybe this idea of "easing" in Vertonghen is what AVB feels is the best way forward.

A couple of early bookings could not dishearten me at how disciplined our midfield was; I felt they were unlucky. Calculated pressing, great anticipation and reading of the play; I heard at the half Gallas and Kaboul were looking for spares to stand in the Spurs end as they had so little to do. Despite at times struggling to boss midfield, I felt Gylfi's movement was fantastic. His runs off the ball would always ensure he'd have space around him to bring others into play. I'm also hopeful he hasn't picked up the Spurs set piece curse, I'll put it down to early anxiety "and that." Sandro's performance also needs no justifying. He dominated Tiote and Cabaye, despite this being the first time he's played under AVB. I genuinely feel he will be more than key this season and fits our system down to the ground.

Lennon was fantastic down the wing. He looked eager to take on players more often than he did last season but gave consideration as to when to do it. At times he'd feed balls inside or put in an early cross. I appreciated him adding this variety to his game and I feel that when - yes, when - we bring in a target man up front these balls in will be better utilised. Defoe did all he can up front alone, feeding on scraps for parts, but I was impressed with his contribution. He worked incredibly hard up front and kept Newcastle's back four on their toes.

Two sloppy mistakes cost us here. Newcastle didn't appear to have a game plan but seemed set on trying to pounce on any of our mistakes. They found a rare gap in our midfield which they exploited before Walker mistimed a header away and we were 1 down. Funnily enough, their goal was almost coming. We looked so positive both on and off the ball that going one down is almost imprinted into our DNA.

I felt Vdv had a good game when he came on. He seemed to sit a little deeper than Sigurdsson did and was told to pick out balls to the wings which he did with success. His trip was naive. Vulnerability after scoring is the case more often than not in football and it's a shame to see so much hard-work undone because of sloppiness - but this is football.

I don't think I've ever been so positive about a defeat than I have this one. I struggle to fault the performance and feel that the foundations are there for a great season. It's still evident that a forward is needed and a creative midfielder wouldn't go amiss, despite how comfortable the midfield three of Sig, Sandro and Jake looked yesterday. The spine of our team last season was arguably King/Kaboul, Modric and Adebayor. However you look at it, we were missing atleast two of those players yet bossed large chunks of yesterday's game.

I'm still awaiting this player revolt ( Wasn't it just so evident that every single player wanted to leave after yesterday's performance? Naa, I don't think so either. Consider yourself lucky that on top of our loss you didn't have to sit in front of two kids for another 7 hour journey back. One actually said that Swansea fans going to QPR would've got a ferry to Southampton then driven. The other said that he'd have rather lose 3-0 than 2-1. In fairness the response from his friend was "you on crack blud?"

No word of a lie.


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Are we ready?

We face Newcastle in under a week. Just thought I'd point that out to those that have been OD'ing on the Olympics rendering you unable to remember that you support a football team besides the minimal interest that was taken in Team GB; I also envisage that a tear may roll down the cheek of one or two as the closing ceremony edges nearer. Come Saturday, only one thing matters - 3 points (although a point would be nice).

So we've had a rather twist of a summer. Harry was shown the exit door that both brilliant and abysmal players have seen the front of before telling us that Levy felt we needed "a change of direction" from, you guessed it, the window of his car. We've also brought in two players in the form of Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson whilst seeing the back of Niko, Corluka and Pienaar. I know, we've made signings before August 31st; AVB must've dropped something in Levy's tea during their first official meeting.

Although, the indifference comes in the shape of Luka still sweating blood and tears to escape Levy's wrath. It appears apparent that the exit door is in sight for Luka but no club has stumped up enough cash to pay for the key. I think the majority of us are resigned to the fact that this "will he won't he" prolonged saga will only come to its' conclusion on deadline day. Depressing, I know. Although how this unproven Lucas Moura can command £38m from PSG yet Modric reportedly barely getting £30m is beyond me. Talk about a distorted market. I trust Levy has Spurs' best interests at heart but it's time to let go. The relationship has hit a brick wall. We've had our fun, our good times, but we should invest our energy into the Portuguese guy from Porto that's fancies us. Times change, let's move on.

I don't think we'll ever be truly ready until the Modric debacle has been killed. We're also a good striker or two short of ideal. Our only senior forward in Defoe leaves us with a real lack of a Plan B should things not be going right. Defoe himself is actaully more of a Plan B than anything. I see Harry Kane as a "oh we're losing, let's chuck on another forward for a holding player and hope he turns this around," type plan. This isn't really an effective Plan B for me. In fact, I wouldn't class it as a plan at all, It reeks of desperation.

Even if we signed a forward or a creative midfielder prior to our trip up North (I know, I can't believe I even suggested that either) I still don't feel we'll be any more ready for Newcastle as we are now. Anyone brought in will need time to adapt to our system and the player's around them. Of course, in the long term it would be ideal and getting our deals done before deadline day would prove beneficial. But, for Newcastle, we will travel up atleast a midfielder and striker short. So, I picture us lining up in one of two ways as shown below.
Possible line-up 1 v Newcastle
The first image shows both Livermore and Sandro starting. I feel it depends whether AVB chooses to be more cautious considering it's his first PL game and a tricky one away at Newcastle. The line-up would ensure that the space between midfield and defence is cut out and would aid our pressing game despite a lack of creativity sitting in front of the back 4.

Possible line-up 2 v Newcastle
The second image shows Sigurdsson sitting alongside Livermore. I felt that when played here in pre-season Sig did well at controlling play, acting as a deeper playmaker. He also has the ability to drive into the box from midfield. My choice of Livermore over Sandro in this picture is because Jake has had a full pre-season with Spurs and would be better prepared than Sandro. Despite Sandro evidently being match fit after featuring for Brazil in the Olympics, he's yet to play our system under AVB.

It's evident that we're still a few players short from having a complete squad. Defoe doesn't seem capable of playing this formation and this is why our need for a target man will become more and more urgent as these games start coming thick and fast. These formations are obviously missing Modric and whether he will make the trip to Newcastle is anyone's guess. In a sense I'm almost "preparing for the worst" and don't expect our Croat to feature at all. I do feel we have enough to get a result at Newcastle but can only see our line-up being almost a stop-gap before we have the targets in that we need.

It's clear that we're not yet ready, but which side completely is for their first game?


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Stekelenburg isn't a striker.

It's a first ever here on the blog. The title cannot be argued with. Sky have reported that we are tracking   Maarten Stekelenburg of Roma, despite the 'keeper moving to Italy just a year ago.  A little surprise was my initial reaction when it first emerged we were chasing a new man between the posts but, on reflection, at most we'd get just another year from Friedel. Hugo Lloris now appears too deep for Levy's pockets and we've seemingly identified the Dutch as an alternative. That, or Levy's pulling another stunt in an attempt to drive down Lloris' asking price - cue expressions of an expectant nature. 

My concern is how keen we seem to be the bring in a new Goalkeeper and the length of time the pursuit seems to be taking. Of course, speculation is speculation, papers make their money by spreading it; we, of course, do little to dampen it. It passes the time between the end of one season and the start of another. It's more than evident that a striker should be a priority; we find ourselves currently with just one senior forward. AVB has reportedly said that we're only looking to bring in one forward, dropping the biggest hint yet that he's keen to offer Harry Kane the chance to prove himself in the Premier League. I've mixed reactions with this. I'm happy that we're willing to give our young players a chance to prove themselves but, at the same time, the lack of depth upfront could cost us. 

Many will argue against this, but I don't yet feel Kane is on our Premier League level. A loan at a club of smaller stature may have been a good option giving him the experience he requires without us personally having to take the risk. With the Adebayor deal stalling more than a learner in his first driving lesson and with Spurs having only two more friendlies before a tough trip away to Newcastle, I can't help but start to worry slightly at the lack of movement up front. 

Regarding the missing maestro in midfield, as Modric's absence from the side is becoming more and more a reality (although, unsurprisingly dragging on), I feel we have adequate, but temporary, cover to fill the void. Playing a three of Vdv, Gylfi and Sandro wouldn't be the most daunting midfield we've ever played. Although, Modric will need to be replaced upon his, seemingly, eventual sale. 

Check out my extensive look at what we've learnt from AVB so far here.


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Extensive look at what we've learnt from AVB so far.

I wasn't too sure what to expect when this tour of the US kicked off. I blame the appointment of AVB and a couple of early signings for giving me bursts of excitement and a reason to watch all three games. What I have noticed is a vast improvement on how we've adapted to a new style of football; a high line, defence starting from the furthest player forward and working together as a unit. The progression is more than evident, as with each passing game we've looked more and more settled.

We finished off in New York. Many gasps of surprise were heard at around 11.15pm when team news was released and we were lacking a forward. I didn't see this as any wrong doing on behalf of Harry Kane but merely trying something different, while we can. In typical Spurs style, we went in 1-0 down at Half time. Walker, looking as tired as we were watching, found himself sitting a good few yards behind the rest of the defence playing Cahill onside whom went down under a Vertonghen challenge for a penalty.

I noticed that we didn't seem able to keep the ball as well as we're used to. Under Harry we controlled many games in midfield but this wasn't the case, not just in New York, but also in spells vs LA and Liverpool. I put this down to three reasons:

1. We seemed to eager to attack. Instead of being more calculated with our passing, we seemed too keen to feed that 'killer' ball through and subsequently saw it cut out or smothered up by the opposing goalkeeper.

2. The long balls from the back have started to creep back in. I nearly found myself on my knees, hands flat together in hope that this isn't something AVB has insisted on; Dawson annoyingly knocking it long more often than I cared to count. When you have 6 players in midfield and no forward, logic would dictate that you'd try to play through them and work the ball into the box. This brings me on to my final point.

3. We seemed very keen to cross the ball whenever we got the opportunity to. In truth, Bale is the only predominant player with an effective aerial threat. But, again, I feel that playing through the midfield and working the ball into the box or into good shooting opportunities would've been a more effective means of attack.

It brought little surprise to see Bale starting furthest forward. Although his attributes may fit a centre-forward role, the player himself didn't look comfortable in it. He struggled to impose himself on the game and found himself coming deep as the first half wore on to see more of the ball. A fantastic player, but a fantastic player out left. Please stay there.

Pressure from the front.
Although these shots were taken in the first half, the style maintained consistent throughout the game's entirety. The high pressure from the front is evidently something that will be common under AVB. I do believe that we have a squad with the energy to keep this up for large parts of a game; possibly sitting off more if we find ourselves winning with only a small proportion of the game to play. Although, and this will come with time and experience I'm sure, I felt that we needed to be more intelligent with our movement in midfield. We should be looking to move up with play, and as a unit. I often found that when New York's back four had the ball, and there were no Spurs players close to them, we'd get a few players that would sprint 30 yards to catch them; this would also leave a gap between the three front players and the three that were sitting off. Had we moved with play then we wouldn't have found ourselves chasing down a player that's already pick their pass.
One player sitting in front of the defence.

I also noticed that we often had one player sitting in front of the back 4 more often than not. This was almost a saving grace for me. Against Liverpool and LA there was always far to much space between the deepest midfielders and our back 4. With a player, in this shot it's Huddlestone, sitting in front of the defence this ensures that the space is compressed and we are less vulnerable to counter attacks or a ball cutting up our midfield.

Numbers behind the ball.
I was also very happy to see 10 players behind the ball when defending or when the opposition have enjoyed some possession. The success of this new style AVB is trying to implement largely depends on the side playing together as a unit. We have the pace in the side to get numbers behind the ball and counter; we often caught New York in possession which inevitably lead to a shot on goal.  NY set up to restrict us and, bar picking the ball out the net, Gomes was found - to many fans' relief - to be just as much a spectator as the rest of us. I feel that New York's lack of sight of our goal is partly because of the system which does appear to be getting better as each game comes and goes - and this is without many of the first team.

We're learning that the high line isn't just down to the back 4 but the midfield compressing the space together and forcing the opposition into conceding possession. The second half saw us keep the ball far better and we looked much more effective going forward.  Of course it's only friendlies, the real test is in the Premier League. With New York straying offside more as the game wore on my confidence in the players to adapt to a system, which can be difficult to play, grew.

So had we leave the US win-less would it bother me? Not in the slightest. The job was to come out and get the players adapting to a new system, get them fit for the start of the season against sides that are already well under-way in their respective seasons. The tour was a successful one and I feel we got a good clue as to how we can expect to start in Newcastle in just over two weeks. Longer highlights are below.

What did you make of the tour?