Post-CL / Pre-Chelsea Thoughts

  • So that was it.  Making our return six years since we exited the Champion’s League after being brushed aside by Real Madrid, we have been booted out before the kids have even settled on what they want for Christmas.  After such a build-up and the excitement over filling Wembley, it has been a damp squib with just one win in five games.
  • What this does show is what a one-off the 2010/11 campaign was; it can take years for a team to adapt to this level and perform the way that they’re capable of in other competitions. Look at Man City who eventually reached the final four last season after a number of years of falling early, and that’s with unlimited money.
  • The main problem I had with Spurs has been the lack of energy and drive that was so evident last season; tactics and formations are all fine to discuss but if a player doesn’t reach the ball first, or make the right pass, then you have problems.  The effort and work rate have to be the starting point for any successful team, and in each Champions League game, we have been found wanting in this department.

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Tottenham vs Manchester Utd Analysis

Pre-game:

Depending on Leicester’s result before we kick off at 4 (and it’s 0-0 at half time as I type this), we could be staring at a 10 point deficit before we meet a team that, while is nowhere near their pomp, is still a club that we have not beaten at WHL since 2001.  In a season where we’re shattering all negative records, why not this one too?  I would worry that Man Utd have shown a skill for shutting games down and finding a result against many of the top teams, so it is imperative that we force the issue and catch them on the hop by winning the ball in high areas of the field.

We can’t do anything about Leicester but just have to focus on ourselves, and that means the main aim today is to extend our lead over the chasing pack and move to further secure our Champion’s League place.  The line-up only contains one slight surprise, as Jan Vertonghen makes his return from injury; Kevin Wimmer can be considered unlucky to lose his place following his impressive run of form, but if Vertonghen is seen as ready to slot back in, then I’m happy to see the best centre-back partnership in the Premier League paired together again.

Post-game:

What a win, in a game where it looked like not even one goal would be scored, never mind three.  It was not the start we wanted as Man Utd controlled the ball and seemed more tuned in than us, as they won possession and zipped passes through our midfield. However, we got through that period and eased our way into it, while creating a few chances.  Even so, it was nothing like the usual performances we see at WHL and I had a bad feeling that, much like many other games since 2001, Utd would grind out some type of result against us.

Unfortunately for them, today was different, even with a referee that seemed determined to help them as much as possible.  It all changed with a three goal blitz within six minutes as space opened up on their right side time and time again when Darmian came on, and that first of all led to Eriksen getting free and crossing for Alli, then a foul on that side to give Lamela the chance to get the ball into the box, then a Rose cross to the winger rounding off the scoring.  We completely shocked them, and maybe could have added a few more too.  It goes down as one of the more memorable results of the season, and finally gets that 15 year monkey off our back.  It also lets Leicester know that we’re still around, even if it seems that nothing is affecting them right now, but importantly it also demoralises the teams behind us as we fight to hold onto second place.

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Tottenham @ Liverpool Analysis

Pre-game:

It’s been an interminable wait for two weeks due to the international break but from now on it’s clear sailing until the end of the season; the question is whether we will be in a title race until May or will we end up fighting to hold onto second place?  We simply have to win our games to keep the pressure on Leicester, and hope they slip up at some point, which they could do against a useful Southampton side tomorrow.

Going to Anfield with only winning in mind doesn’t seem like an ideal scenario, but it’s important that we forget about our struggles to win there over the years, and instead focus on the inconsistent and erratic team that we’re playing.  Why should the venue make a difference to our objective?  Yes, we’ve only won one out of 21 league games there, but we were the better side in quite a few of them and just didn’t have the nous to see it through. Judging from how our team has developed this season, I don’t see that being such a problem today if we find ourselves in a winning position.

In terms of team selection, there’s pretty much general agreement about the line-up now, and especially since there are no other competitions to think about.  It is vitally important that Alderweireld got over his stomach bug and is playing today, otherwise the whole balance of the team would have to be upset.  Lamela is a player whose workrate as well as his quality would have been useful in a game like this but he is not recovered from his knock and Son will take his place.

Post-game:

After the type of game that pundits will describe as “a proper English Premier League game”, we’ve come out of it with a point.  On the way the game played out, it’s a perfectly acceptable result, but if the aim is to win the title, it’s a setback.  While playing against an inconsistent team is a good thing, unfortunately we found Liverpool on the upswing today.

It was breathless and frenetic in the first half as two pressing teams collided; there were few chances as possession was turned over time and time again, on both sides.  Our first touch in the attacking third was a big problem in the first half as moves broke down quickly, while you could see that we’re not used to being pressed since most teams pack their half against us, and we took too much time on the ball in our half that led to a number of Liverpool chances. However that pressing by Liverpool also gave us chances to get in behind and Kane had a few chances to make it count.

However we couldn’t get that first goal as Coutinho scored 5 minutes into the second half; a tough blow but with plenty of time to recover and with a team known for turning around deficits, not a terminal one.  That’s exactly how it turned out as we finally clicked into gear and made things happen, however the chances were not converted until Kane collected the cross and spun before shooting into the corner.  I would have bet anything on a winner soon following it but instead we had to settle for a point.  There is uncertainty of how good that is but not it seems in Pochettino’s mind as he pounded the turf in frustration.  Our margin of error has just gotten a lot tighter if we are going to be lifting that trophy in May.

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Tottenham vs Bournemouth Analysis

Pre-game:

“Must-wins”…”Cup Finals”….they’re always must-wins when it comes to Spurs, and I’m sure the players know that too.  Now of course things are out of our hands when it comes to the title race; Leicester just keep winning and you won’t get any begrudgery from me; if they finish top in May, then they’re the best team, end of.  Nothing to do with luck or the bounce of the ball when you have the most points after 38 matches.

However we ARE in control of second place, and to finish there would be an incredible achievement and a perfect springboard for the team to contend well into the future.  This is just the beginning, I’m sure of it.  Back to the present though and we face Bournemouth today. Normally people will look at such a game and think that playing a promoted team, and especially at home, and it should be an easy three points.  We even beat them 5-1 at the Goldsands or whatever it’s called now back in October; why should this be different?

Well, Bournemouth are now 13th in the table, and looking safe to enjoy a second season in the Premier League.  They’ve won three games in a row and their recent away form is particularly impressive; unbeaten in five in fact, and with the signing of Benik Afobe, they have the goals to add to their fine build-up play.  With Max Gradel back from long-term injury, they have a bit more pace too and it could be a test for Kyle Walker at times. Overall, it could be a difficult day, but hopefully we can get the win and consolidate second place, as well as put some pressure on Leicester.

Post-game:

Ok, so it turned out to be easy, mainly down to hard work by Spurs and too much respect paid to us by Bournemouth.  We had a perfect start with a goal inside the first minute, and when that happens almost anyone will struggle to deal with us at WHL.  We used that as a springboard and dominated the first half, adding another goal soon after along with a number of chances.  The second half saw a slight drop off, while Bournemouth found their own pressing game and gave us a bit more of a match, even if they still didn’t create much. The third goal really killed off the contest, and we stepped up our play again after that slight lull for the third quarter of the game.  It really was as comprehensive a win as you will see in the Premier League, and is a nice statement that, as Kevin Keegan would say, “We’re still fighting for this title”, as well as tightening our grip on second place.

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Tottenham @ Aston Villa Analysis

Pre-game:

With expectations at an all-time high, it’s been a chastening last few games for Spurs with two losses and a draw in the last three games.  The terminal blow has probably been delivered to our Europa League chances, however in terms of the Premier League things are looking a lot brighter.  While we’ll be hoping that a New Manager Bounce is in effect for Newcastle when they play Leicester, we have our own game to play at Aston Villa; a team who look to have already accepted that they are relegated and seem to be playing at walking pace for the last few weeks.  It seems to be a case of how many we will win by, rather than if we will win.

That’s why it was a surprise to see so many rested on Thursday rather than giving them a break for today; however Pochettino has his mind set on the Premier League and that’s his prerogative.  He is taking no chances with squad selection today and it may be a case of subbing off the players he wants rested when we have a comfortable lead.  I can’t see any other type of result today; anything less than a win by a few goals would be uncivilised.

Post-game:

The blip is over and the resting of players during the week can be justified; we got the win and move within two points of Leicester.  It was a comfortable day with chances coming thick and fast in the first half; unfortunately we didn’t take them which was down to some good goalkeeping mainly.  We broke the deadlock just before half time with some quick thinking and then really put things to bed just afterwards as Kane made it two.  We definitely eased off a bit as the second half went on, and Villa had two big chances near the end that would have given us a jolt, but we did what we had to do without expending too much energy, and after Dortmund on Thursday, it’ll be a red-hot Bournemouth coming to White Hart Lane in what is likely to be a much closer contest than today was.

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Europa League: Tottenham @ Borussia Dortmund Analysis

Pre-game:

Now and again Tottenham are involved in a real prestigious tie; we saw quite a few of them in the Champion’s League of course, but tonight we meet Borussia Dortmund, a team who were CL runners-up in 2013 and now welcome us in the first leg of this Europa League tie.  There will be no talk of distractions by the supporters tonight; it is a match-up that is there to be savoured, and who knows, maybe we’ll see a repeat in the CL next season?

Despite Poch’s protestations, it does seem like a lot of change and a line-up far from the best that we could put out.  Obviously he sees them in training and knows who needs a rest, or who is on the verge of needing one.  There is also the Villa game next Sunday to consider, although you could say that we could make eleven changes for that one and put a cardboard cut-out of Harry Kane up front, and he’d find a way to score against that team. Is this not the game to focus on?

Post-game:

A chastening loss against a team we might have struggled against even with our best line-up; as things were we were just outclassed, with very little possession and just one tame shot on target.  There was so much space on the wings, with the full-backs left exposed which Dortmund took advantage of time and time again; it was just a matter of time until they scored, and the fact that it was “only” three was down to some fine goalkeeping by Lloris and some last-gasp tackles by the others.  Even if we had late goal to make it 3-1, we could have had some optimism for the return leg, but it never looked on the cards and I’ll be interested to see if Pochettino believes a comeback is possible.  Otherwise we may see a lot of players rested at White Hart Lane next week.

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Tottenham @ West Ham Analysis

Pre-game:

It’s the 2nd of March and Tottenham have a chance to take over top spot with a win; we’re in unprecedented territory and it’s a bit hard to get your head around the possibilities. We’re actually the bookmaker’s favourites now, which seems like an overreaction to Leicester’s dropping of two points last night, and we’ll probably see the same thing if we come away from Upton Park with anything but a win.  I’m pretty sure that no team involved in this title race are going to zip through the remaining games with a 100% winning record so I won’t lose my head completely if we do trip up tonight or anytime soon.

Overall we do have a pretty tough fixture list to come; however I like our chances of three points this evening.  West Ham have looked good when they could take their time and soak up pressure, as seen by their results at the Emirates Stadium and the Etihad.  These tactics didn’t work out quite so well at White Hart Lane of course, and now we stride into their patch with just the one loss away from home all season.

The line-up see a few changes from the weekend; of course the full-backs are rotated, while Ryan Mason comes in for Alli who must still be suffering some effects from that toe injury. Nacer Chadli gets a chance too after once again impressing from the bench on Sunday.

Post-game:

When you start to think about the glory that could happen and what the team could achieve, it’s quite a letdown when you hit a bump in the road.  We haven’t had many games this season where the team just hasn’t performed, but this was one of them.  We were really poor; slow to the ball, slack and thoughtless in our passing, with a non-existent amount of chances.  There was finally an improvement soon after the half-time break and we had two good chances, however they were not taken and we slipped back into our stupor as time ticked on.  There was no big finish and we got what we deserved; nothing. Other results have gone our way tonight and that will feel positive after a day or two, but right now it’s all about Spurs and we have let slip a chance to stamp ourselves as favourites for the title.  The team has responded well to setbacks all season; we will need to see it again in what is a titanic North London Derby on Saturday lunchtime.

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