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« Solidification please | Main | Remembering love lost »

Did Ryan Mason take a shower?

Tottenham 0 Lazio 0 (Europa League, Group stage)

That was a bit of alright. Not so much the result but the further progress displayed by our coach and reflected by the players out on the pitch. I can’t help but imagine that if this game was played out in front of a capacity crowd it would elevate the game and post-match mood rather than give the appearance it was all rather low key. In some ways it was, but then we were facing a resurgent Lazio side unbeaten this season that were both physical and stubborn in their style, biting at our legs, giving away countless free kicks. We also faced some questionable officiating which saw no benefit of the doubt siding our way in key moments (ball in the back of the net tends to be rather important in football).

This game, from our perspective, was one of structure, control and patience. Not perfect, as there are some missing ingredients but still there's an overriding feeling that this was another checkpoint in the path to enlightenment that Villas-Boas is guiding us towards.

We lined up in strength, as expected. Lloris, Caulker and Dempsey the changes made. Lennon handed the captains armband as longest serving player (aside from the almost transferred out Dawson). There might have been no thunderous smacks of swashbuckle or high intensity tempo but there was assured quick movement and discipline from our players. Okay, sure, Lazio had one or two moments where they created opportunities but they failed to get on the end of them. So there was plenty of evidence that we have to improve concentration at the back but this is no different to any area on the pitch. Players are on a learning curve because what they do has to fit into the way the unit works, it has to be methodical. This is about the collective. That's not to say there wasn't just a little bit of magic missing. That individualistic touch of creativity and expectancy. I see this as one of the more fascinating challenges the teams faces. Is the role of the playmaker now shared amongst many?

Currently, as a unit, we are playing with far more spacial awareness so players rely on their team mates to find space so that effective passes can be made. It's a little more complicated than running around a bit, in that the instructions given will involve how the team pressures, pushes up and defends - as a single unit made of three parts. It was far more compact than the Reading away game. Perhaps because this one was in Europe and against Lazio.

What we did see at Reading away was Lennon attacking space to beat a man rather than with ball to feet attempting to skip past them all the time. Without that single playmaker that demands and supplies, recycling possession and linking play as it shuffles forwards, everyone now has a responsibility to form a more collective approach to attack. This does mean that this more methodical approach does lack that magic. It will probably be more bullish and aggressive football in the long term. Much like the fast paced swashbuckle of the previous seasons but with far more control offensively and defensively. This means more balance and more astuteness rather than a complete reliance on individuals to perform by simply doing the same thing every week. You can stop one player but it's far more difficult to stop a team. Especially if that team, over time, fine tunes itself into a robust adaptable machine. We are but a handful of games into VB's tenure.

Dembele is a super player, but he’s very direct and not as thoughtful and subtle as Luka Modric. The fascination for me is if we wanted and still want Moutinho, then dare to imagine the added dimension to our play if such a player takes centre stage in midfield. For now however, it’s about working with what we’ve got, for the players to know their responsibilities as second nature instinctive actions. Dembele isn't Luka Modric but that doesn't mean he can't be as effective in a different way. No deep-lying role here for the Belgian.

First half was decent, Lazio had chances but we bossed possession. Some players are still not firing on all cylinders, Bale being one of them and he’s intrinsic to our attack. A storming season from both himself and Lennon is vital. At the moment both are involved without being overly influential. Aaron got himself into decent positions but couldn’t find that killer ball. He was, in his defence, kicked and fouled a couple of times. Dempsey in the startling line up, not quite match sharp but unlucky to have his goal struck off as offside. It was close. It was on. But this being Spurs lady luck once more looked the other way. Defoe leading the front-line again worked hard, was instructed to drop deeper which he did and generally looked busy. As for the Lazio chances, they struck wood work, so there was that ominous sign as a reminder that we could get mugged.

We found a way through twice more in the second half, both disallowed making it a hattrick of shrugs. One was arguably offside, the other (a Caulker header) wasn’t a foul and should have been given. Lady luck not even in the building for that one. Game opened up slightly as well. Again, you could argue that for all that structure and organisation there was no bravado, no thumping personality to the play. Can it be too structured in approach? Can you be too clinical in how you group, pressure and hassle, hold onto possession and attack? Maybe. But then again probably not because had we scored (I know we did) but had we officially gone a goal up then that extra bit of character would have been more evident. Confidence goes up a notch, so does the tempo. But we didn't make that (official) breakthrough.

It finished 0-0 so the obvious citation would be one concerning three successive home matches drawn. That next step on the curve is just getting that home win out of the way. And perhaps against known opposition as opposed to the continental variant, the game will allow us to gamble a little more. QPR might sit back on Sunday but we might have a more expressive game plan to get at them.

Not many negatives for me. Yes, there are individuals that need to give more. But the side looked comfortably on the ball and far more receptive to what is happening on the training pitch and how it translates in games (as opposed to the lacklustre display at home to Norwich). We didn’t win, we should have won. We could do with perhaps more industry through the middle of the park and not always look towards the flanks – although we do create plenty from width. We just have to step up the standard of the final ball.

Lazio were ugly on and off the pitch. Platini in the stands seated next to Daniel Levy. No doubt the hefty 30k Euro fine will hurt the Ultras. They're paying it, right? Siggy came on for Dempsey. Lennon replaced by Townsend (good to see he will play a part this season, we won’t know if he can make the grade until he’s involved in these type of pressured games). Caulker was beastly. He just looks the part. We were blessed to have Ledley King, even if it was only ever a percentage of him. In Caulker we have a centre-back that might, just might make that position his own. Offers so much more than Gallas (aside from experience) and importantly fits into the Villas-Boas mantra (athletic, composed and intelligent on the ball).

Also enjoying Dembele. Eases past players. Attacks space in a different way (mentioned that already) than what Luka did but then the comparisons should really stop now as both offer different avenues of attack (I'll stop with the comparisons now). Once Dempsey is match sharp then their Fulham connection might go a long way in settling in both players. Dembele linking with Dempsey in and around the box? Sounds like a plan. What I want is for us not to be completely reliant on the lone forward and have a midfield that creates and scores goals from anywhere on the pitch. Everyone wants that, but if you look at our team it's particularly scary to think about the potential there. Siggy hasn't bedded in just yet either and we know what he's capable on based on his time with Swansea. Go on then, why not, let me say it out loud...patience.

Adored Lloris. You can see why he was signed and why he's so important for the future. Owns his penalty area, commanding and knows how to use his feet – which he did with confident distribution. Sweeper keeper indeed. He's got that thing about him. So assured. Seriously, if I came home and found him on top of my missus I'd be like 'sorry mate, sorry...I'll leave you to it' and walk out. Why? Because I know she'll be in safe hands. 

Naughton decent again but on crutches and wearing a protective boot post-game. We might see Vert slot into left-back for the weekend (unless boot was precautionary).

Frustrating night then but with plenty of positives. We’ve got such a strong spine, we’ve got technically gifted players and with more time there will be more invention and intent. The players have to be in complete comfort with the formation and movement and then their individualisms will shine through. Also, with a more complete forward (a fit and ready Adebayor) we might see more of a spark up front. It’s something we’ll have to wait for. Defoe is scoring, he's in form, so he should retain his place. Against stronger teams in tighter games, he should be benched.

The team is beginning to gel. Tidy stuff, but we need more titillation.

Special mention to Ryan Mason who came on for Dembele very late on for seven seconds. Did Mason take a shower after the match or just change back into a track suit? It's an important question that needs answering.

Reader Comments (32)

Have to say this guy AVB is starting to grow on me. (sounds disgusting). He seems to have blended this squad into a unit that is happy, working for each other and friendly with him and one another. I have to swallow my pride and give him the chance he deserves. Maybe Levy has git it right. I'm beginning to get that warm feeling.

Sep 21, 2012 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered Commentercookiebun

Tempo too slow, lack of excitement boring football. Need lots of improvement

Sep 21, 2012 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRon Burgundy

i thought mason had a GREAT game, and made a massive impact.

Sep 21, 2012 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterMr Vexed

he made a good run and his barnet has improved

Sep 21, 2012 at 9:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterMr Vexed

Ryan tells me his Mum wont let him ride in the car with her UNLESS he showers after a match. So...there's your question answered.

I thought Lazio were a dirty bunch of cynical kickers who knew they were playing a better team and had a game plan to cripple as many Spurs as they could. What was the foul count? 20 to3 or something? Boring bunch of cnuts too. Played everyone back except for the last 10 minutes when they tried to steal it.

I thought we looked very good and were robbed blind by the ref. I love Caulker on the pitch. He and Jan looked liked they were made for each other. Put Gallas at fullback if Naughton's out. Or, better still, put Bale back there and leave Dempsey on the left wing. Caulker should start in the league.

Look out QPR!


Sep 21, 2012 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterCaterham7

Cant believe caulker was blown up for a foul when klose got away with a rugby tackle on him just minutes before. Growing every game now and was a very controlled and disciplined performance against a dirty shower of cynical tramps.

Sep 21, 2012 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterIrishspur83

Ron Burgundy got it right - boring, boring, boring. I've been trying to fathom why all the bloggers are so besotted with AVB, and I can only conclude that his anal style of management (pass, pass and pass again, regardless of whether you're damaging the opposition) reflects their own turgid punditry, taking ten words where one would do, and saying nothing new - In Levy you trust, and AVB is great - I think the message is pretty clear now.

Sep 21, 2012 at 10:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshuntboy

I dont like AVB, I dont think he will be with us this time next year ... but for now he is all we have ... as for Levy in him we trust, hea we trust him to stop us getting better as he don't understand what we need to do and that is sometimes SPEND, he will be the reason we dont make CL this year - Dempsey! oh please, he was played off the field, MD was no more than a bit part player, nowhere near the skill of Rat boy - both of them looked good at Fulham but in a top 4 side they look no more than bit part players ... and i know some will disagree - bu these are my views like it or not.

Sep 21, 2012 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter4Spurs

Hey, Cheshunt Boy and Peter4Spurs, are you two some sort of crap Seventies comedy act? Harry's Arsenals, perhaps?

Sep 21, 2012 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterSweetsman

I enjoyed the game and I thought we looked solid and organised with a little bit of football in there.

I am still very angry about the racist chanting, far right singing etc and the inactivty of our stewards and the MP.

More to be positive about and take away which I am sure the team will be.

Sep 21, 2012 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterDD

Ron Burgundy, Cheshunt Boy and Peter4Spurs If you find modern possession football boring go and watch west ham I'm sure Big Sam's long ball will provide you with the excitement you crave. The style is a revelation and if we hadn't lost Modric we would be even more impressive now.

Sep 21, 2012 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob

Harry selected his best 11 and gave them the full freedom(as well documented) while AVB selects the system and then the players fit into it.. I get what he is trying to do, he wants a complete squad which can play in different roles within that system.
I believe we would cope better without a couple of keys players with this approach than we would have under Harry.. Thats why we tailed off IMO. No system and you are left at the mercy of the players doing it all. No wonder Harry's team looked great on the days it clicked and awful when the 2 3 players weren't around. It will take time under AVB. I can't say if he has the right system but he definitely has the right approach.

Sep 21, 2012 at 11:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpurs4life

Harry selected his best 11 and gave them the full freedom(as well documented) while AVB selects the system and then the players fit into it.. I get what he is trying to do, he wants a complete squad which can play in different roles within that system.
I believe we would cope better without a couple of keys players with this approach than we would have under Harry.. Thats why we tailed off IMO. No system and you are left at the mercy of the players doing it all. No wonder Harry's team looked great on the days it clicked and awful when the 2 3 players weren't around. It will take time under AVB. I can't say if he has the right system but he definitely has the right approach.

Sep 21, 2012 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterSpurs4life

Lots of posters on various sites over quite a long period have quoted Danny Blanchflower on what Tottenham Hotspur is (or was) all about; playing for glory and not waiting for the opposition to die of boredom in the meantime. Well, I for one find AVB's Spurs about as exciting as watching the WHL groundsman marking out the pitch, and it shows how little respect our current manager's apologists have for the traditions of the club that they applaud the diet of tedium (and unsuccessful tedium at that) currently being dished-out.

Sep 21, 2012 at 11:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshuntboy

Cheshunt boy blatantly sits in the west upper. Stop moaning please! AVB is hardly playing negative football. The problem is its not quite clicked in the final third yet - although we are seeing glimpses. Take you hate tinted glasses off and try watching a game properly.

Sep 22, 2012 at 12:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmyriggle

Cheshuntboy et al,

Were you even watching? They played 10 men back most of the time in 2 banks of 5. Let's see anyone try to play exciting football against that formation. Playing with dwarves(dwarfs?) up front means that the long ball over the top is useless. The only way to break that shower down was a patient working around of the ball and the quick strike to Lennon, Walker, Dempsey as was seen time after time. Let's face it, Nazio are a typical Serie A Side built from the back to defend with fast strikers for the counter. They could care less about exciting football! They had 1 shot on goal and never looked likely to score but for that episode.

Sorry it wasn't exciting enough for you...personally I was riveted to my seat...but that's part of the restraining order my wife has on me...

They wont dare play that way at home and I think you'll see them get stuffed on the return leg.


Sep 22, 2012 at 12:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterCaterham7

I'm fucking pissed and loving the AVB Spurs. Last 2 games I'm seeing something very fucking strong and gorgeous coming together. Sorry about all the fucking swearing.

Sep 22, 2012 at 1:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterjohnnycheshunt

Great analysis Spurs4Life.
Spot on.

Sep 22, 2012 at 1:39 AM | Unregistered Commenternycyid

Lazio won the tactical battle. They came for a draw and they got it. AVB appears to have the same problem with the team that HR had. Why, when you are dominating the play, and can't score, do you not put on a second out and out striker? HR had his "chosen ones", and AVB has his "tactics". If you have to "play ugly" to win, then "play ugly". We still haven't won a home game this season. What are our chances going to be against QPR?

Sep 22, 2012 at 2:18 AM | Unregistered Commenterkingdom of sod

Really well articulated piece, there WERE a lot of positives from the game, we look way more organized already after only 5 competitive games. I hope we get the win against QPR. I fully expect them to setup defensively to frustrate us and get the crowd restless and then try and nick a goal. I don't think Hughes will have QPR as well organized as Lazio were so hopefully it won't be to frustrating, I do want Ade to play at least 30 if sig starts he can be that creative spark.



Sep 22, 2012 at 2:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterDust

What do you clowns want Spurs to do?! They scored at least 2 legit goals and you mugs are still moaning. I enjoyed the game yesterday because I saw improvement. I don't really know what else you want from Spurs at this point. The team looks good. How was it boring when Spurs were trying to find a way to penetrate through 10 players behind the ball? Lazio had no intention of creating chances for an exciting game (outside of a counter-attck), so Spurs dominated possession (which I love).

Sep 22, 2012 at 2:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterDesinho

Couldnt agree more, great article, Its almost as if the writer was reading my thoughts.

Sep 22, 2012 at 4:04 AM | Unregistered Commentersidyid

@Kingdom of Sod. Harry sold both Crouch and the serially underplayed Pavlyuchenko, with the short-lived replacement of Luis Saha. Is it AVB's fault that Levy didn't tie up a new center forward this summer? With Adebayor injured, just who was the other out and out center forward supposed to be?

@Ron Burgundy, Chestnut Boy and Peter4Spurs ... You guys must shop at the same rose tinted glasses outlet. Sure, we played some great stuff last year, but in fairness, at least half our games in the PL we played poorly. If you'll take of those glasses, look at the results, do some research, and start thinking for yourselves rather than regurgitate red top media crap, you may realise that truth.

Our defence looks excellent, ditto with the midfield. Only area of concern is up front (not faulting Defoe's start to the season, and I hope he keeps it up, but I think the historic tendency the guy has of going missing in big games, or when the chips are down will surface soon enough) where I think we are lacking in depth. We are just two injuries away from doing a Spain and playing without a recognised striker. If that happens, I'm sure we'll all wish that Super Pav was still hanging about(He'd have definitely been a handy option on Thursday night) ... but I'm sure you guys, along with the Media you digest so wantonly, will find a way to blame AVB for selling him too.

Sep 22, 2012 at 4:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterJSpur

Very positive performance, great energy and flow to our game.
I think we have seen good improvement last to games.
The Boys are starting to gel within the new system, now lets bag the points against QPR!

Sep 22, 2012 at 4:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllan

Never seen a Spurs midfield pass to each other so much in such tightly-marked situations. That is, with an expectation that the player can hold the ball and look for the options - rather than boot it long or aimlessly into the 'wide areas' (c) Andy Townsend. And it's then about releasing Bale and Lennon, or looking for the give-and-go in 'the channels'.

We got to be patient. AVB is demanding intelligent football from a squad whose collective footballing IQ appears to have risen above the average. Not just throwing them on and telling 'em to ****ing run about a bit.

Sep 22, 2012 at 7:16 AM | Unregistered Commenterwakeywakey

I'm happy with our increasingly composed play and our speed up the pitch. I do feel we tend to come to a stuttering halt in the final fifth. Would prefer sopmeone takes a shot than always coming back out with the ball. This I think is where Townsend comes into play; he's more direct and therefore upsetting to the opposition. Overall we're getting it, futures bright, futures lilywhite.

Sep 22, 2012 at 8:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterSPURT

Really good write-up spooky.

Only thing no one has mentioned: Jan looked like he was getting frustrated near the end when running into space (love the way he does it) and had no one available to pass to.

Also, bloody hate it when they give away fans half the bottom of the Park Lane: fucks up the atmosphere!

We look like a team!

Sep 22, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterflatearther

I missed the first 5 minutes of the game on TV so I did not see who was on the subs bench. I noticed Ade in the dug out so assumed, erroneously, that he was a sub. Your comment has raised an interesting point, with Harry Kane away at Norwich, what happens if Ade and JD are injured at the same time? Who is going to play up front? Dempsey? Sigurdson? Only 2 strikers leaves us a bit light. We certainly needed another one against Lazio. I don't see teams giving us too much room like Reading did. I think the real barometer of our season will be shown by how we do at Man U next weekend. Whatever else happens, someone will have to tell DL that only 2 strikers is never going to be enough for a full season.

Sep 22, 2012 at 9:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterkingdom of sod

Vert is such a good player, and yes, it's going to be important for our players to support those runs he makes from defence.

Sandro also outstanding. But then that's usually a given (even if he is a little raw, he looks like really owning that DM position this season).

Sep 22, 2012 at 9:30 AM | Registered Commenterspooky

I guess that AVB will be judged purely on results, not how pretty (or not) his team's play is. For me Brazil 1970 were the kings, and Spain 2010 were a guaranteed cure for insomnia, but it seems some people on here actually like dull, slow, unexciting football, and don't mind that it doesn't even produce results. It takes all sorts (though a top four place and a trophy or two might bring me round on AVB, but now I'm just being daft).

Sep 22, 2012 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshuntboy

Ryan coming on gets an appearance fee which is AVBs way of rewarding him for scoring 7 goals in 5 games this year. Nice touch from AVB for a really talented player.

Sep 22, 2012 at 9:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBig Mal

Agree Mason is very talented if he can stay injury free this season hope to see more of him (class player) who deserves a chance

Sep 23, 2012 at 8:33 PM | Unregistered Commenteryid4life

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