Last time out at Goodison Spurs completely suffocated us, taking a 0-0 draw and but for their profligacy in front of goal would have taken all three. Particularly in the first half, Spurs squeezed us when we had the ball in our own half with the now departed Holtby pressing well and then repeatedly finding spaces between lines of our defence and midfield, notably from passes made down our left flank. In the second period we had more ball but it was mostly sterile dominance i.e not in danger zones with a crud yield of just 1 shot on target and the fewest clear cut chances created figure we have posted in any game this season.
Since then plenty has happened at White Hart Lane. After some televised sherlackings, faux clever businessman Levy duly dispensed with ‘the avb project’ as it hit exception status. Levy replaced him with Tim ‘200%’ Sherwood – a man whose closest previous experience to any managerial hot seat was changing Arry’s colostomy bag at half time. The Gilet-snood wearing snide can come across as something of a bloated shitehawk badger and he could count himself somewhat fortuitous to inherit an already huge squad who in the summer thunderspunked a figure double what it cost us to assemble our entire squad.
Since his arrival Spurs have tinkered between a 4 and 5 man midfield. £20m man Soldado has usually been rolled out against bottom feeders like stoke and palace at home whilst Sigurdsson has come in as an extra midfield body against ball hogging outfits like Swansea and City. In the 8 league games he has overseen prior to this one Spurs have scored in each and accrued 2.1 points per game – a tally which would have them above us and the RS in the table should he have been there since day one of the campaign.
Unsurprisingly given the above, Sherwood went for a midfield 5 for this one with Erikson, Dembele, and supposedly Lennon, providing forward support to Adebayor. For us, McGeady and Barkley were both benched in favour of last week’s match winning duo Naismith and Pienaar with Coleman also coming back in for Stones.
The opening exchanges seen the aforementioned Naismith playing as a kind of left sided forward with Mirallas keeping his width on the right which enabled Osman and Pienaar to exploit space created by the wide forwards pulling their markers out wide. It’s a strategy that seemed to surprise Sherwood and resulted in Osman having 4 very decent openings within the first eight minutes of the contest with the first coming after just 2 minutes following a nice bit of play from the returning Coleman.
Osman was finding plenty of space between Spurs lines of midfield and defence and his service from Coleman down the right flank was our top passing combination in the opening half, with Osman receiving 8 times from Coleman.
Going forward, Spurs were anaemic with most of their attacks nipped in the bud by the superb James McCarthy. The Irish presser made 7 tackles in the opening half – more than Spurs defensive mids Bentaleb and Paulinho put together and the half ended with Spurs failing to have any strike on target and only one chance created from open play to our five.
There was a nagging feeling however that we had missed a trick in terms of making our superior final third play pay.
After the break its fair to say we didn’t show up in an attacking sense.
Naismith’s endeavour to put in a shift had been commendable in the first half; he made good runs into the channels, won more free kicks than anyone from either side and generally gave opposition defenders a problem with his pressure play.
This time however, Naismith got a bit too tight on Bentaleb leading to a Spurs free kick just inside our half. Clattenturd sportily allowed Spurs to take it 10 yards from where the incident took place and Barry – whose skills off the ball as an arl arse snide are never usually found wanting – doesn’t stand on Walker which enables the gaming enthusiast to take a quick free kick. From the resulting dinked pass, Adebayor nips in between Coleman and Jagielka to ruthlessly fire past Howard for the games opening goal. Like Villa last week, Spurs had scored with their first shot on target.
Post-match Sherwood explained the half time dynamic which supposedly changed the game;
‘We managed to sit them down, have a little chat and decided that we needed to put some more pressure on them higher up the field which was the gameplan originally.We were nice and compact in the middle of the park but we were far too deep and if you give them space, they have good players who will open you up and that is what they did in the first half. So in the second half we stepped into them a little bit, made them play quicker and they gave us the ball back. They never had a shot at goal in the second half and we looked like we were going to score.’
Whilst Sherwood was incorrect with his assertion that ‘we gave them the ball back’ – our passing accuracy actually went up in the second half – Spurs aggression further up field did inhibit us and trigger more backward and sideways passes. By way of an example, Coleman – who had found Osman the most in the first half – combined just twice with the schemer after the break. It’s such occasions when having a big hard galoot who can shield the ball upfront gives you the ability to make longer passes count but with Lukaku injured and Traore seemingly not ready our options here are a tad limited.
Saying that, our bench looked a lot healthier than it has done in recent weeks and Martinez looked to kick start a blue revival with three of the attacking four replaced in the hope fresh eyes would be able to pick a pass through a tiring Spurs rearguard. Barkley failed to instigate any mischief, McGeady huffed and puffed and Deulofeu generally got outmuscled whenever he cut inside with none of the trio carving out an opening between them. Rather than resuscitate the Blues the changes seemed to create less rhythm and the expected onslaught was confined to an iffy looking penalty shout which was never going to be given with the hair plugged meff officiating.
A lack of a cutting edge was put forward by most as the main reason for us not taking anything from the game and it’s hard to argue with this. Our shooting accuracy was 33% – the third worst total we’ve posted this season – and whilst our forward play was very good in the opening half we created virtually nothing in the second period. Still, we were well worthy of at least a point and Spurs will rightfully wonder how the fuck they won this game. Our away form is costing us at the moment with a run of just two points from twelve on the road making it increasingly unlikely we will be able to kick on any further in terms of a league position. Things can change very quickly, however, and a win against Tony Putrid’s Palace on Wednesday would be a very good start.