Monday, 15 April 2013

Tottenham Cutting it Close

In March following Tottenham Hotspur's recent defeats away at Liverpool and home to Fulham which threatened to undermine the hard work of January and February including the home victory over arch rivals Arsenal, Tottenham conspired to ruin their own chances of European glory when they lost in Switzerland to Basle succumbing to a very English disease of penaltitis.

However, this does not tell all of the story as on paper, Tottenham have not won a game since the Arsenal victory, losing two and drawing three games conceding 10 and whilst still scoring they are struggling to get over the finishing line and secure that Champions League place that their form that for 7 months of the season deserve.

Whilst at the start of the season this writer said given the circumstances of his appointment and the squad list in his control, a fifth place finish may be all we could have expected.  Yet the overall poorness of the Premier League, which has resulted in a Champion elect setting a possible record breaking winning margin and again a sixth place side closer to relegation than championship contending.

Tottenham went on a 13 game undefeated streak that looked to cement their place in the return to Champions League football, yet injuries and board decisions are threatening to ruin the hard work that Andre Villas-Boas has instilled into his threadbare squad.

In January, when the chance was their to cement the place and get a striker to help this was ignored, so what happens Jermain Defoe goes cold and has not scored since early January and then gets injured.  Emmanuel Adebayor who has had a poor season in general is playing with poor body language and has no form, despite scoring the vital away goal that defeated Inter Milan.

The Europa League campaign unfortunately has been lost by AVB's decision to maintain his promise to Brad Freidel to play in all European ties - Freidel showed his age of 42 because he has not been playing regularly, this continual changing of goalkeeper can be perplexing for the defence who themselves is constantly changing game to game due to tactical changes and injuries.  This may sound like we are doing a disservice to Michael Dawson, who was immense in Switzerland in a performance reminiscent of a younger John Terry in his willingness to block and marshal all those around him.

In the four goals Tottenham conceded to Basle, some were certainly avoidable, none more so than the first goal on Thursday which led to Tottenham having to score again having already taken the lead.  Spurs are a passing team and attempt to maintain possession and create openings in the defence by pulling defenders out of position by chasing the ball.  However, the hassling of Basle which Tottenham underestimated, Moussa Dembele had an errant pass and in two passes Basle scored.  If you break it down, Tottenham are susceptible as they play across the park and allow spaces between the defence and midfield which can be taken advantage of.  This was apparent in the defeat at Liverpool when Kyle Walker's crossfield ball was intercepted by Stewart Downing and converted.

There seems to be a reluctance or maybe ignorance by Tottenham's players to stick to the system and not let down the manager's beliefs.

This belief though is blinded and overshadowed by injuries to a thin squad.  Any side that misses Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon (whose influence is very much ignored), Sandro (out for the season) and Younes Kaboul will be effected.

Yet the tinkering continued, AVB clearly likes Kyle Naughton as a player although for me playing him at left back is counter productive due to him being predominantly right footed.  When Benoit Assou-Ekotto was injured you can understand a manager grabbing at straws, whereas with Ekotto back fully fit this breeds of necessity of keeping a squad fresh, the hope is that the traditional left-back returns to the starting XI for the next league fixture at home to Manchester City on April 20th.

Hopefully, the 10 day break from competitive fixture due to Chelsea's FA cup involvement, may lead to some reflection amongst the squad and allow Gareth Bale to continue his talismanic season.  Spurs have 7 games left and two big games against Man City and Chelsea, if they do not lose those games - best case scenario 6 points, acceptable would be 2 or 4 points, no points would be disastrous for the Champions League aspirations.

Many critics feel AVB should be given the benefit of the doubt, as does this writer but sometimes his decision making and not asking for a striker in January may be one he ultimately regrets.

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