Nine lessons learned from Spurs’ defeat at the weekend;
1. Carlo Cudicini was given one final chance to prove his series of nervous performances last year were, in fact, a thing of the past, but the motorcycling Italian has shown that he is now well below premiership standard. His tepid attempt to get something in the way of Hugo Rodellega’s bobbling strike is further evidence that he is simply not good enough to act as substitute for a Champions League team.
He cost his team a point today and the gap in talent between him and Gomes is uncomfortable for Spurs management and fans.
2. Where was Eric Edman today? Spurs have a serious problem in overtaking parked buses and taking on teams who play on the counter. Wigan, after what was a roasting last year, made sure they weren’t going to be exposed down the wings. Lennon and Bale were shackled, double-manned and the main threat for Spurs was nullified. Stam doing a superbly effective job at right-back.
In last year’s fixture, the pace down the flanks led to numerous cut backs for Defoe to finish. This year, when the wingers had limited success getting past the first man, the second tackler, for the most part, forced the corner. Well done Martinez.
Moving Bale to left-back in an attempt to free him up and allow some Roberto Carlos type runs after half-time was one of the few sensible options left open for Harry. It didn’t work. Wenger talked about the glut of high scoring games as being a result of all teams playing without the handbrake on. This weekend was Wigan’s first away from the DW stadium and with an emphasis to plug the huge leaks, they stymied Spurs main threat.
3. Without the wings to generate chances, Spurs were forced down the middle. The only player on Spurs’s books that could pick the lock of a parked bus is Luka Modric. It has been a recurring theme under Harry. Huddlestone and Palacios (both below form) both have their limitations and with Wigan putting an extra man in the area, Spurs never threatened to 1-2 their way into the penalty area.
Krancjar’s creativity improved things slightly in the second-half and maybe Keane should have been brought on instead of Gio but it never looked like happening. Harry has recognised this weakness over the summer but it hasn’t been solved. Spurs needed a Scholes or a Fabregas today, and it’s the main reason Spurs aren’t realistic title contenders yet.
With Scholes, Fabregas, Gascoigne or Giles are currently unavailable or too old, Spurs may have to make do with the energy of Scott Parker or Steven Pienaar as options are thin on the ground with two days left before the transfer window SKYFEST 2010 ends.
4. Plenty want to chalk this surprise loss down to Spurs’s traditional mental frailties. I disagree. It wasn’t the lack of application; it was, first and foremost, a lack of ability and the lack of a properly creative player in midfield. The flaky reputation of Spurs should really have been put to bed after the run-in last year, but plenty are waiting for these opportunities to criticise the new Champions League team, especially given the fun of Young Boys only lasted for 90 minutes.
If there was a problem with their approach to the game, it was that they didn’t ever really look like overwhelming Wigan early on. They started slowly. It was a tactic that was more in vogue under Jol, where games started at White Hart Lane at a hugely frantic pace. If the opposition could live with Spurs for the first twenty minutes, they then had every chance of catching them late.
It wasn’t the creativity that made the chances, it was sheer force of energy and numbers with players running from deep and different angles. Spurs didn’t have this energy on Saturday, and it may be down to the busy start to the season, and the effect of Wednesday night. The challenge of keeping focused for the weekend after the six (at least) Champions League will trouble Harry and Spurs fans but to put it down to Spurs underestimating their opponents and lacking professionalism this weekend, misses the bigger point.
5. When the opposition just wants to defend and make sure they don’t give up the by-line to Spurs wingers, the team have a problem. Some opposition come to White Hart Lane only want to nick one late on (Wigan, Stoke last year), sometimes Spurs concede early and teams sit back defending the lead (Wolves last year) and even an injury-hit Liverpool at Anfield last year concentrated on not conceding. Without Modric, Spurs simply lack the guile to break down packed defences. Even with Luka in the team, it can be a problem.
6. Harry gets lots of justified praise for Spurs’s attractive approach to the game. Once the wings have been shackled, the team are very quick to bypass midfield and go long-ball, looking for knock-downs and goal mouth scrambles. It could be argued that having Crouch coming on encourages this, but it wasn’t the case this weekend. Its evidence of a lack of ideas on how to break a defence down. It was clear that the battering ram was the only way Spurs were going to score for the last 30 minutes of the game this weekend.
7. Dawson got a yellow card in his eagerness to slide in on his arse. He loves it and it will cost Spurs goals before the end of the season. This willingness to get on the ground almost knocked them out of the Champions League. With a cannier Young Boys forward, the game could have been out of reach before coming back to White Hart Lane. In fairness to the man, he has knocked out a decent career but there is more than a touch of the Babb/McGrath relationship between Dawson and Ledley. I’m not convinced he should be so readily favoured ahead of Bassong.
8. Wilson Palacios hasn’t recovered the form of his first six months at the club. Towards the run in last year, keeping the Honduran on the pitch as he neared 10 yellow cards was seen as crucial. While Spurs prospered in his absence, he came back against United and an unbalanced Spurs side put in an unsteady performance. Spurs fans, more than most, understand the need for a midfield enforcer, but Palacios form is presenting Harry with a problem in the current 4-4-2 set up. The easiest solution would be for Wilson to prove the old adage that class is permanent.
9. Harry has said that they needs three players in the transfer window. Sandro and Gallas promise to back up positions and are welcome but there are still a few areas where Spurs are short. Cover for Gomes and a central midfielder are needed but one area where Spurs are supposedly strong might need to be examined.
Robbie Keane was almost pointedly left on the bench and a forward is needed. Spurs are becoming a little predictable, and maybe one of the reasons why Gudjonsen was preferred to Keane at the end of last season and is now missed. Pavlyuchenko will continue to frustrate, Defoe has postponed a required operation, and with the Champions League efforts added into this years mix, something other than the big man/little man combo would be appreciated.
Fabiano would be the dream signing, even if unavailable for champions league until January, but looks outside of Spurs’s budget. Fabiano was left out of Sevilla’s game at the weekend, so maybe all hope isn’t dead.