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Entries in Chelsea at home (9)



Aftermath thoughts on Saturday's game.

The midfield

If we're missing Dembele we have no natural cover to play alongside Sandro. Huddlestone and Livermore are not replacements. Tommy has been out of action for a prolonged period of time and I'm not sure he's adaptable to specific roles that Villas-Boas might seek from him. Play him in a deep sitting role or one pushed further up-field, but he'll never be a box-to-box engine player and can't keep up with the pace that's required. He's got vision, he's a brilliant passer of the ball but the formation has to be one that benefits his talents, which might be to the detriment of the side. Under AVB, it's about the formation and tactics and the personnel has to fit into it perfectly. Tommy is not robust enough. I still think he has something offer. But if you dared to experiment with him in the position Sig or Dempsey sit in...that opens up further questions on what we're meant to do with three 'offensive' players?

Interestingly (my memory might be playing tricks) but I'm certain there was a league game against Chelsea a few seasons back where he completely dominated the midfield and was supremely influential. The problem here is that every player has his day (see Jenas for the occasional master-class of effort) but Huddlestone has been consistent for us in the past. Livermore is not quite to the standard of a Sandro. He offers hope but doesn't possess the quality. However he's enjoyed similar cameos (okay, perhaps one) and until Parker is available again we'll have to place faith in the training ground and AVB's selection.

Parker, a brilliant 'dirty work' player, chasing down balls - but his passing is not for the long term in a Villas-Boas inspired midfield.

Back to Sign and Demps - Both Sig and Dempsey still feel outside looking in. I've cited 'mojo' and 'groove' and both are lacking that spark. I really don't think we can be dismissive of this role in the team and how vital it is. If van der Vaart was still in the team (although he's erratic and enjoys to roam) he'd provide that missing spark - although he might not aid in other areas vital to the system. Both Sig and Dempsey are not quite offering a final product yet. Now for a second, imagine their influence if firing on all cylinders. Sig has to put the sexy into Siggy and Dempsey needs to discover the dynamism that he's known for.

Brad v Hugo

There is no contest here (for me). Hugo Lloris is simply a far better goal keeper and footballer. He attacks the ball, he reads the game with intelligence and runs out of his six yard box (to tackle/save) and his distribution is superb. Interestingly, you might compare the striking issue (Defoe or Adebayor?) and wonder how much on current form goes towards selecting the players. Villas-Boas does not favour certain players. That's what we've witnessed so far in his tenure. He plays the best players suited for the job. Regarding the strikers, Adebayor had no pre-season, was injured and Defoe is in form (be it not the perfect all round footballer to compliment our play when not in possession). With the keepers, Lloris fits the bill better allowing for cohesiveness and fluidity from keeper to defence to midfield to attack.

Big test on Villas-Boas this. Loyalty to the long term rather than to single individuals. Lloris needs to start as number one.

Defensive shake-up?

Kyle Walker hasn't shown any signs of improvement. Struggling with his positioning, decision making and lacking discipline. Does he need a rest? Does he need competition? Does he need instructions on perhaps holding back from the offensive mind-set all the time and try to focus on the basics to rebuild his faith in himself? All questions I don't have to answer. The coaching staff are responsible for the player and the effect it has on the team. Naughton could provide the competition and rest-bite.

Gallas, a player that I believed to be spent at the end of last season has shown how valuable his experience can be then let's himself (and us) down with a fairly shoddy performance (clearances and possession, lack of).  Long term, Jan Vertonghen has to partner Caulker in the centre with BAE back at left-back. I've mentioned this in the match report - when we have Kaboul available there is strength in abundance there. Gallas can still offer his experience on the training pitch but too often time appears to be catching up with him out on the pitch. If we're making sacrifices to aid our progression and style under AVB, then surely there is no reason to not line-up with the players that we hope to see cement their positions long term for us. However - all of this is once more dependent on player fitness.

Caulker and Vert = athleticism and pace. Good on the ball. Perfect for the fabled high line.

I guess here, it would be easy to cite 'we need more defenders' - when the reality is we'll have too many when everyone is available. So the nearest short term alternative is...Dawson for Gallas?

You're struggling with that one.

Defoe and Adebayor

European game up next. Will Adebayor get a start? Is he 100% fit? Feels like we need to see 90 minutes from him to actually gauge whether all the talk of him being the better player for the system is actually up to scratch. Adebayor, on song, will bring movement to our play - when in or without possession. We know he can work the channels, we know he can drop back and allow the midfield to push forward. The disadvantage is that (goals disallowed aside) he is not always as instinctive as Defoe is. I'm trying to remain balanced here. Both have their advantages and their negatives. Like for like, Adebayor should displace Defoe - but the player has to prove this to the coach and to us.

Do we need a third striker? Like a crack head needs a smoke.


White Hart blame

Tottenham 2 them lot 4

I’m over this result already. I'm philosophical about it. Ignoring the fact that losing to them is like stepping in dog sh*t, when you lose because of defensive lapses, it’s still self-inflicted which means you can tighten up and improve. It's a fine line. You might prefer to be out classed and thrashed and lose thanks to the brilliance of the opposition’s performance as it’s more clean cut but there is something ever so slightly comforting in today’s defeat. Let’s start at the beginning.

We start the day off with no Dembele and no Bale. The former injured on international duty (although seen walking around okay at the Lane – so perhaps precautionary that he wasn’t risked to avoid any long term issues) the latter in the starting eleven initially only to be replaced by Huddlestone. Gareth’s missus goes into labour and a 1000 twitter jokes are born asking why he didn’t shag her a day earlier nine or so months ago. Already there’s cause for concern. How are we going to shape up with two key players out? Dembele was possibly known in advance but with the amount of perpetration work AVB sticks in leading up to a game, Bale not being available will impact the structure of the side. We know our squad and we know there will be scenarios where it will be tested. If we do lack a certain degree of depth, we have to deal with it. There’s also a lot that can be said about application and urgency even if there’s missing quality. We have to be able to adapt.

With some irony in the opening forty-five we lacked not just application and urgency but any form of stranglehold on the game. Our passing was untidy and there was no shape making it relatively easy for Chelsea to ping the ball around confidently. No such concerns for a side that boosts a £150M + midfield. I probably wasn’t alone looking up at the sky cursing those damned footballing Gods. Christ, some one up there hates us. Probably his dad.

Other contentious selection posers: No Lloris who could aid with possession. Defoe retained his spot up front. Regardless, we made it very comfortable for Chelsea. Tempo, intensity and passing – second best. No complaints.

The story of the first half:

One – nil down, Gallas clearance an assist, Cahill volley deflected in.
Late second half rally, growing in confidence, Chelsea for all their tidiness lacking cutting edge.
Mata, Hazard, Ramaires, Oscar on form.
Subs essential at HT.

Far too many lacklustre performances. There was nothing cohesive about our play. Sandro had to do the work of two. Huddlestone struggled with the pace of the game. Players pushed out far too wide. I’m not taking anything away from the visitors. They’re a side in form (have only dropped a couple of points this season), this was no easy task for us but you felt the game was not beyond a comeback. Personally, I wasn’t quite sure how it would transpire unless we made personnel changes.

Something thankfully happened at half-time in the dressing room placing the necessity for subs aside. There was a reinvention of attitude in the second half. Motivation from the coach? A kick up the backside. Plenty of animated motivation from Freund on the touchline too. No major shift in leadership but a genuine team effort tinged with ample mental strength. We got in amongst it more and stole an early goal. I kept thinking to myself, it’s about aggression. It’s all about aggression. Be forceful, relentless and ruthless on the ball and off it. Hassle and pressure and push up. Be decisive. Again I had to quickly stare up at the sky and release a middle finger because the two players missing are two players so key to us being bullish and dominant where it matters most.

Dembele, the manner in which he drives forward and Bale – who can be so influential as an outlet on either flank and through the middle – something sorely missed today. No immense dimensional play from the home side and after all our huffing and puffing, it was ominous that the aggression would run low and Chelsea would simply pick us off. And they did just that thanks to more individual mistakes. But all this followed us going up 2-1.

The story of the second half:

1-1, Gallas header. Perfect second half start.
Better tempo (be it no subs), great pressing
2-1 Spurs, Lennon, Defoe. Goal out of nothing. Game of two halves. Electric atmosphere.
Plenty of guts, determination, fight.
2-2. Another woeful clearance from Gallas. Mata. Vert not covering.
Livermore on for Huddlestone
Vert goal saving tackle on Torres.
3-2 Chelsea. Gallas aided by Walker and enough space for Hazard to thread the ball to Mata (again).
Chelsea with creative clinicality.
Adebayor on. Dempsey off.
Far too many shots straight at Cech.
Ade 88th minute 'chance' from Cech spill. Doesn't quite connect.
Walker long range effort, saved.
Walker ‘whatever that was meant to be’ to allow Chelsea to score a 4th.

It's worth pointing out we had 26 attempts (10) on target compared to Chelsea who had 10 with 7 on target. Ho hum. Cue the standard what ifs about being at full strength and not making schoolboy errors. Fine line, right?

There were other heart in mouth moments, Defoe dipping effort and Torres missing a certified sitter. It was naturally quite an open game of football. Exciting and end to end punctured with some brilliant sublime moments (Hazard’s pass to Mata for their third) and some stupidly casual errors (see Gallas). Did Chelsea score a clean goal? Do they care? They took their chances when presented with them. We didn’t. Seems Gallas picked the wrong game to have a brain collapse. Lucky for our opponents. Bitterly frustrating for Villas-Boas – because shared points looked the most likely outcome.

They just had more spark and consistency and most importantly composure when it mattered most. They kept the ball better than us. But there were positives. When we were on top we looked very good and tested them. If this side we faced are title contenders, I’m not exactly sold on the way they defend. RDM seems to be a very fortunate man at the moment and I still believe he will be tested more so when his side hit a dip of form. Will be interesting to see if they can shift gear and step it up a notch further.

What’s also frustrating is that we’ve yet to really see us boss a game at WHL with the same signature football we’ve seen away. It will come and we’ll have to continue with being patient as there are one or two issues that need resolving first.

Kyle Walker being one of them. Okay, so here’s my rant.

Just some food for thought. Stop slagging off and writing off Kyle Walker. Was it okay to write off the Spurs team at start of season? No. He's completely off the pace and out of form. Needs to be managed by the coaching staff and AVB. It's down to them to sort the player out and for the player to sort himself out.

All this 'he's f*cking sh*t' nonsense is hypocritical. He needs a rest, he needs competition. He also needs to develop his defensive game (and do the simple things right) but his form is rotten at the moment so his going to be prone to mistakes. It’s hardly a situation that is easily solved as we all know that if you persisted in selecting a player out of form, there is no guarantee of improvement and if he’s dropped his confidence could drop further too. I support the team and AVB and his staff are paid to manage and develop. And that is what I hope they do with this particular headache. The kid has raw talent. It has to be nurtured. Once again he lacked positional sense and discipline, when to overlap and when not to.

I’m having a dig at the selective criticism that tends to play out when players are not performing well. Some of the abuse dished out to footballers that wear the Tottenham shirt is on par with the abuse opposition players get. Some shameful behaviour from some of our lot. You’ll have your own opinion but to me it’s not as simplistic as ‘he’ll never make it, get rid of him’ which appears to be some people’s attitude toward resolving it. Another example: Siggy. Obviously over-rated because he's not sparking up the midfield yet so let's get rid. How about we stick 'em all in a Big Brother house and vote out the weakness link every week? Then we can start to pull supporters from the stands and off social media to play in their place.

On the subject of Sigurdsson he's still not found his groove (along with Dempsey who both attempted to compensate for the lack of Bale on the left). We say that most weeks but it's still early days. The argument might be that a player of a certain quality shouldn't be taking this long to adjust. So does he have the quality to succeed in the long term? I don't agree he's over-rated. It's a cliché, but he just needs that one defining league performance to find that extra step up. The midfield, our midfield is still in a state of flux. The holding positions are sorted but the attacking midfielder/second forward still hasn't owned the mojo as well as van der Vaart had it. Worth mentioning that Rafa (brilliant footballer and one that could craft something out of nothing) also struggled at times. Just remember the age gap and experience factor between the two.

Also on the subject of Gareth Bale. Football banter aside, there is very little in life (if anything) that should stop you from being by the side of your missus if there's a chance you're going to witness the birth of your child. At the time of writing I don't know if she's given birth. Knowing our luck she'll be in labour for 20 hours. Actually, that's probably unlucky for her. What we went through today is hardly as painful as giving birth. Good luck to the both of them.

As for those aforementioned contentious pre-match questions. Adebayor did very little when he came on. Someone that’s not played this season (aside from subs bench cameos) should have no excuse to not chase down the ball. Defoe on the other hand performed admirably depending on your perception of what warrants a solid performance. He’s goal was sweet (be it out of nothing but that's what he does) and his work ethic again commendable – but I can’t quite work out what else he offers to the team. However, I'm still appreciative of the fact he was one of our better players on the day. He’s an ambiguous footballer. I guess the confusion arises from the fact that we are always comparing him to the type of player Adebayor is meant to be for us. This story arc will run and run (or stand still depending on what Adebayor plans to do).

Also, time to bench Brad and start Hugo as the definitive number one. Nothing against Brad aside from the fact that Lloris is a better footballer and goalkeeper. This will be one to watch in the next week or two because Villas-Boas has to be decisive here. We need to cement that spine.

More food for thought for our head coach in the coming weeks: Vertonghen to displace Gallas and regain his place alongside Caulker, all dependent on Benny's return to the side. Not forgetting Kaboul. We need to fine tune our defence but can't do so with players out of position.

Sandro missed Dembele, seemed to be ineffectual in presence to the standard we expect from him when lined up with our Belgian beast. Scott Parker's return still not booked into the calendar.

So in the end we got a game of two halves plus an encore. Not in it for the first, came back in the second, lost that impetus and pressing game and allowed them to claim it back before we almost stole an equaliser only to see another twist and concluding goal that sealed it for the visitors. The fact we conceded four mistakes the way we did will not be lost on AVB – who can do very little but bemoan the fact we let ourselves down. But then if you want to be truly reflective you'll admit that the point of a truly solid performance is mistakes are not made and if they are you either take advantage and punish them not find yourself on the back end of one (or two or three or four). Which they did to us, be it with some supremely talented players (Mata is terribly good). Heads up Tottenham. Here's to the next encounter with us being at full strength.

Villas-Boas a class apart in his post-match interview, composed and honest. Giving credit where it was deserved and indicating what proved to be so costly. Was a cracking game. Onwards to the next one.

So that’s that.

Hopefully someone in Lilywhite is having some fun this weekend. I reckon it’s in a private hospital ward with Gareth Bale blatantly smashing his way through the gas and air.


Apparently we're playing this weekend

Lessons learnt from past misadventures will benefit us.

Andre Villas-Boas has already changed his approach with the media (shame he wants to speak only about football whilst they continue to poke questions about non-event sensationalism). He's more giving and less defensive. He also spoke of there being more warmth at Spurs than there was at Chelsea. I guess there are no stipulations and guidelines that have been outlined as imperative objectives. The more welcoming environment has allowed him to settle in far easier than his first attempt in England and his hunger remains rampant. AVB wants to win, he wants to achieve success and he is meticulous in his approach and preparation. He has a plan and he's being allowed to implement it, at his own pace.

So with all the story arcs this game possesses (the ones to be teased and taunted in the stands and exist as the spine of most of the pre and post match coverage) it's going to be a match that demands a fitting chapter if not a finale. Tottenham up against the team that robbed us of CL football and stuffed us in the cup. AVB up against his former club where he failed to impose himself and his ideals and was left humiliated, replaced by his number two, Roberto de Matteo. The only true defining story arcs exist with each club without influence of external influence. Chelsea, fluid but perhaps not as robust as previous sides are winning their games and Tottenham are progressing at a slow brooding rate, simmering not quite to the boil just yet. Both teams 'a work in progress'. But both with enough to be fairly confident of a sustained challenge at the top end of the league. Both far from being finished articles.

Chelsea have a wealth of creative talent (Hazard, Oscar, Mata) and will line-up not too dissimilar to us with holding midfielders. They've been fluid but not dominant but have been spectacular in moments. They can definitely be got at, but this will depend on how we defend and contain them, especially down Kyle Walker's flank. This match is all about the midfield battle and the tempo we attempt to impose on the game.

We're going to need to be disciplined defensively. We're going to need to dominate the centre of midfield. Close down players, win possession back, neat and tidy passing. Tempo has to be high and has to be pressured. Sandro needs to dominate Oscar. Dembele has to drive forward. The holding players might be defensive in their responsibility and positioning but they hold the key to offensive intent. Push up, push wide and push through the middle. Individual battles will influence who wins the war.

What is most telling of all is Villas-Boas in pre-match mode. Aside from some colourful descriptive work and business speak he can be simplistic eloquent and philosophical.

"The team and players are more important than me"

"This game is not going to decide the future of both teams in the Premier League - after this game there will be 30 more games to play, and both teams will have to have decisive matches in front of them. It counts as three points. It doesn’t win us a trophy"

"To a certain extent I feel this is much more about Tottenham in the sense that this is the team who took this club out of the Champions League, and this is the team who prevented this team from playing in FA Cup Final last year - so in the end we certainly have the ingredients for it to be a spectacular match”

“Taking it to an individual situation is not fair on me - first because it means absolutely nothing on the end of season and in which position you might finish, and because it is not a quest of an individual, it is a quest of a team, and where we want to finish at end of the season"

From the heart. No hyperbole or sensationalism. Just the way it is. I'm not nervous, I'm confident and I'm looking forward to it. I don't care for the statistics of the past, I care only for the next game.




Just a few thoughts from the Spurs/Chelsea game (following up from the match review here).



Beast. The more game time he gets the better. Has adjusted to the Prem's tempo and will improve (for us, with us) over the next season or two as he continues to tally up on appearances. He sees the ball, does not care for much else when looking to reclaim it. He'll protect it and win it and brush off whatever player had it momentarily before him. But he's not just a brick wall. He can play too. An absolute superstar in the making. Okay, so he's naive and makes mistakes and lacks composure at times. His passing needs to improve, but then that's a given considering his age. Has everything and more to surpass Parker and claim the role of defensive king-pin. In time. Sandro is The Future.


Hungry. I rate him. Can't be alone in thinking that. Things would be different if Torres was worth his weight in gold. Would be more so different if City didn't feel the need to splash out several tens of millions of pounds on marquee names.

John Terry

His footballing credentials were never in doubt. So can idiots in the media please stop using sound bites alluding to 'hero' and 'proving a point'. There is something surreal seeing him being applauded by the away support almost in defiance of the accusations made against him. Surreal that is until you remember its Chelsea fans applauding him. Then it all makes perfect sense.




It's like Giacomo Casanova not bothering to go out on the pull and sitting indoors browsing porn because he knows he could pull he just can't be bothered with all the chit chat he has to do when seducing.

Gareth Bale

We don't tend to accept diving or play acting at the Lane. I've cringed at the antics of Zokora in seasons gone by. It's not becoming of us. Bale has a habit of staying down when fouled. I've at times allowed this to not irk me mainly as a means for the kid to protect himself. Why not make certain all is okay before jumping back up? Hardly the ethos of a Dave Mackay, but these modern footballers...they're a delicate bunch. However, adjusting body mid-air to allow for an extra bounce or twist when kicked - unacceptable. This is not La Liga. Equally so, we're not Chelsea. Let them retain the dramatics and time wasting. Keep the moves for the goal celebrations.


In the middle. Play three at the back with wing-backs if necessary in a five man midfield - just retain Luka in the middle. Once upon a time he dinked in from the left with much acclaim but he's masterful in a central role. The side has to be built around him (from one game to the next). Seems like we hand the opposition an advantage when he's pushed wide because we're unable to sustain a cohesive pattern to our play. Easier said than done I'm sure, what with our reliance on pace down the wings to compliment the Croatian's deep play making.




Spurs 1 Chelsea 1

I’m disappointed. Mainly because I know we are potentially better than Chelsea, at this moment in time. But potentially means very little in real terms especially if the application falls short when it matters.

Okay so we’ve got players missing and we have to adjust our shape and selection accordingly. We’ve been here before. If anything it simply illustrates the necessity to strengthen the side in January. Start of the month rather in the final hour before the window closes. Unless we reschedule all our home fixtures into that hour, we could well see an opportunity wasted to consolidate our position in the top four three. Business has to be concluded early so that we can work through early 2012 without too many dropped points. Otherwise its plan b - digging deep and attempting to wing it (literally).

But the window opening is altogether a different headache and I have to stop referencing it when its not yet relevant.

So when I say potentially I’m referring to how we’ve played this season with out and out wingers swapping sides. But we only had the one and can only speculate and theorise. We struggled, they held the initiaive for most of the game. But still, there is something endearing about an opposition that has so often taunted us on the pitch and in the stands, to come away from White Hart Lane feeling proud of their performance. They looked content, more than content because they thought they could have won the game. As the away side, they had us on the ropes once or twice in the second half. They contained us.

Disappointed I might be, but there was a moral victory in there once more for Spurs. Because we competed. Because we’re competing. Even if it looks like a Manchester title, we're contenders by virtue of being 3rd at Christmas.

It’s all very nice but we need to carve out that opportunity to still somehow win this type of game (even with the standard of performance) and remove ourselves ever so slightly from the subtle patronising of being this plucky new kid on the block trying to impress the older ones.

We should have really dicked Chelsea. We didn’t. We didn’t because, well, I’m uncertain why exactly. In terms of tempo and belief, we did little wrong in the opening twenty minutes. The first genuine rampage forward from Gareth Bale led to a cross and a goal, Adebayor beating Terry to the ball and then beating an uncertain Cech. The goal we conceded was a catalyst. Before that happened, we looked up for it. Focused and with fortitude. Handball aside (in the build up to the equaliser) both BAE and King need to be accountable for failing to pick up Sturridge. Is that a hole in your pocket Ledley? Benny was setting precedence for the rest of the game, out of position, slack and slow. He would add poor distribution to his forgettable evening.

Before it was 1-1, it did look very promising. The movement. The strength and industry of Sandro and Parker. Still, gradually, signs of an ominous type made fleeting appearances. A reminder that this was still Chelsea. A quality opposition with vastly experienced players. Before we gifted them the goal, they did their part to elevate tension just a notch. After the 1-1 we got a tactical schooling. Not quite a spanking, but you have to admit their presence in midfield nullified any creative spark from men in white.

van der Vaart was out there. Somewhere. I’m sure of it. Chelsea patiently retained possession and any attempt to reclaim some of that zesty Spurs football was, was out of our reach. Still, they weren’t dominant. Stats might paint a picture of assault, but most of their chances at goal were missed punches rather than body blows. We were still in it. Felt like the game was untidy. They were not imperious like the previous Chelsea sides we’ve faced. Effective, not so wasteful in possession and a threat from set-pieces. We looked loop-side and lacked cultured intent and at times far too eager.

The lack of confidence, not because of weak mental strength but more to do with the fact that we are so finely tuned to play a certain style that perhaps the reality is that against the very best teams in the Prem, we can't get always get away with some of our adaptive make-overs.

At half-time I knew this game would finish 2-1. To someone. I was wrong, but the way the second half played was most definitely a game where they could have won it and we could have nicked it.

Rafa didn’t appear for the second half. Injury. Which might explain (excuse) his ghost appearance in the first forty five. Harry changed things. He’s got it right recently when he’s had to make tactical swaps. This time, it didn’t quite work. 442 works although I prefer 4411. You just can’t play the latter if Rafa is off the pitch and if you’re replacing him with a certain Russian forward you’ve got more chance of finding a unicorns ball sack in heap of rocking horse ****. Roman does not do much on the field of play so there is zero chance of him working with effect in the space between midfield and attack. Neither forward dropped deep. There was no significant link up play to aid that much needed fluidity.

Still, we battled on. It remained dis-jointed. Luka drifting in from the right. Parker was less influential as per usual. Has his performance level dropped recently? Probably. Expected considering the run in the team he’s had and the results we’ve produced in that time. Sandro at least has given us hefty reassurance that if needed, we can rest Scott. The Brazilian was on fine form. Rough round the edges, but the type of rough you find acceptable. Like beard growth that itches every now and again in discomfort but you keep it because it makes you look good. You know soon enough it will grow nice and thick giving you full facial protection. Whatever we do, let’s please not shave it off.

Chelsea continued with their attempted body blows which at this point would have been knock-out punches. They had the opportunities, Tottenham’s chin presenting itself on more than one occasion. King at the back didn’t (on this evening) equate to the best defending as a unit. Although Ledley did make up for his earlier lapse with smart interceptions and tackles.

With the Christmas fixtures ahead of us and Rafa now joining Lennon on the sidelines, we could make matters worse if Luka retains his drifting in from the flank position. Having been second best for periods of the second half (well, most of it) we could have won the game with some golden moments as we edged towards the final whistle. Three great chances. Wasn’t to be. Chelsea I’m sure will think the same with their efforts. Gallas should have. Sandro was deserving. Adebayor might have lifted the ball higher at pace towards goal (easy for me to say it sitting here typing it).

We didn’t play too well. Shadow of the side we have been this season. But let’s not get too carried away with the negatives. Our opponents were hardly going to roll over for us. So the disappointment of failing to perform to the standard we could have might get bogged down with ‘tiredness’ and ‘injuries’ and ‘lack of genuine key play positional depth’. But as I've citied, its a good (strange) feeling to feel p*ssed off about drawing at home to Chelsea. But that doesn't excuse it, at least that's how the players mindset should be.

As long as the players believe this was a missed opportunity then that’s a good thing. I don’t buy into any of the rhetoric that the likes of Chelsea and others have come through their difficult period. They might have, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve on ours. We’ve failed to win two on the trot. Crisis time. The making of any team is one that grafts their way through a period where obstacles are aplenty. Our ones are self-contained and require us to find that next level. We've not been in such a position before, so there's that to consider too.

How much as the Tottenham supporting psyche changed to feel disappointed? Still, it's just one game. It’s done, we need to move on. Let them celebrate the point whilst we look to make amends for dropping two.


Want it

Writing a match preview can be a tricky most of the time because you simply look to share an opinion on team selection and tactics and then dress it all up with statistics about recent form in the league and history against the opposition then wrap it up with a concluding expectancy of how the game will (hopefully) pan out. I prefer to delve into the analysis mostly in the match review post-result and stick to a battle cry in the lead up to it. Today is no different.

We are currently uncertain of the staring first eleven that will take to the pitch against Chelsea.

No Lennon, Defoe, King, Bale, Adebayor = bare bones, backs to wall, mission improbable. Any team would struggle if you remove that many key players.

Lennon is a non-starter for certain. Defoe, rumoured to be missing too. Then we have the usual kidology and ambiguity concerning King, Bale and Adebayor. We all know it takes several days for Ledley’s knee to return to normal (as normal gets) but can’t imagine us playing him against Sunderland and thus risking him for tonight’s game. Adebayor will also play. Mainly because I refuse to believe the footballing Gods would be so cruel as to unbalance what should be a good solid tight game by depleting us and handing over advantage before the whistle is blown. As for Bale. It’s just a hunch, but I think he’ll start too.

If I’m wrong on Gareth, then the second half against Sunderland is the reminder we need to look back on as to avoid playing so narrow and allow both Luka and Rafa to drift into central positions to be effective. We need to be astute tactically with covering space left open by such marauding and push from full backs to wings. Goes without say that the industry we have to display in the middle of the park, in the war zone, has to be relentless. Parker hasn’t been completely on top form recently but then his level of performance was bound to dip ever so slightly. Sandro might have a role to play.

I wouldn’t scoff at a more traditional 442, knowing full well that this will mean van der Vaart playing alongside Adebayor which means he’ll play behind him, which then means he’ll drop deep and wander meaning it will turn back to a 4411. Discipline is what will take precedence, or at least it’s what should take precedence. Discipline and focus. We need to get at them and retain concentration at the back (Sturridge for me is key to them having any success in advanced positions).

Fact is simply this. We can’t play our trademark game if we don’t have the pace down the flanks. So we have to adapt and do so with minimal sacrifice in terms of style and more importantly ambition. We have to look to win this game. Go for their jugular.

It’s vital we get it right through the middle and overlap to mix it up a little. Width is how we damage, how we counter. If Bale plays, we retain some of that style. If he doesn’t, we have to up the work ethic and aim for fluidity as a unit (players playing for each other).

Chelsea, unbelievably, are probably the ones tagged with the underdog label. Plucky and resourceful, they’ve pulled a few results out of the bag when one or two were expecting more implosions. They still slip up (as seen at Wigan). But they have more than enough quality to hurt anyone. This being the game that it is – a derby and one that comes with a possible festive divide within the top four, there is no way of ignoring that it’s going to be defined with more than just team selection and formations.

This game is worth several points in the mental strength stakes. The three points are what matter but equally so does the statement made when acquiring them.

All eyes on Terry (if he starts). He doesn't mind this ilk of game, he tends to thrive on it such is his self-importance and arrogance. All eyes on Luka too. A chance to dictate tempo and control the game, a gentle nod towards the opposition. You can look but you can't touch. I'll only consider the irony of a Spurs win post-game and what opinion his agent might have of it.

Our record against them lot at the Lane remains impressive in recent years. Our home support is more than capable of being the 12th man (as long as Howard Webb doesn’t take that mantle at any given moment in the game).

That buzz you’re feeling, tingling in your bones. It’s the type of buzz I want to be feeling week in week out from now until the end of the season. Points ratio suggests we’ll be in amongst it and if we keep up our strong home record then we’re going to be anchored to the very top tier. This game gives us another opportunity to show that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Upright blue ones included.

Guile, tenacity and decisive quality please Tottenham. This won’t be easy. Sing your hearts out. As ever, aim high.

Love the shirt.


Spurs drop two points and then gain one

Spurs 1 Chelsea 1

Should have won the game. Arguably could have lost it. The emotion that sits alongside me post-game is one of regret and frustration. Go on, hands up if you're gutted we didn’t collect the three points? Gutted, but hardly surprised at the final result. Yet another perfect illustration of just how small the margin is from pretenders to something a bit more than just pretenders.

Let's review.

Our opponents

For all their possession (especially in the second half) they still lacked any sustained cutting edge up front (sound familiar?). Passion wise, they rediscovered some much needed form, but then it was a derby so you expected them to play a lot better than they have in recent weeks. But even now looking back, if this is Chelsea trying to rediscover full pelt it was hardly punches to the back of our neck. When their missing and returning players return to full fitness they'll probably shift gear. Thought we contained them first half and they had pockets of pressure in the second half. Wasn't easy but I was hardly biting my nails either.

Their stand out player, was (pains me) John Terry. Made some point-saving interceptions.

I'm struggling to remember the last time they beat us at the Lane. Just in case you wanted another example of evidence of how we've dragged ourselves out of that horrific hoodoo that haunted us for so long.

Chelsea are as fragmented as we are.


It's simple really and it’s the same conclusion discussed at the end of most games these days. Forwards. It's not quite right up top, is it? But then it's not just about our lack of clinical pomp in the final third from our front two. It's the movement and decision making that is a few per cent off from resulting in two or three goals rather than the one - which on Sunday would have had the game wrapped up at half-time (although I prefer to theorise on prior games that we would have wrapped up - let's not forget that we were playing the Champions, poor form or not).

That final ball, that early ball, the required movement into space. It's not quite silky and instinctive.

There were a number of occasions when I felt Bale and Lennon could have played in a pass releasing Defoe/Pav. A top class forward would make an obvious and effective difference. Equally so if Modric did not have to spend too much time on chasing/defending he'd possess far more freedom to carve and craft. Then again - two DM's with Modric behind the front two and Bale on the left is hardly balanced on paper and with Hudd and vdV out it's about making the most of what we have. Which isn't half bad considering our recent unbeaten run of games.

Even with the slightly (ever so slight) off-key decision making, we'd probably have survived had we not made one or two errors at the back to allow Chelsea a share of the points.

1st half - could have punished them further. 2nd half - could still have punished them on the break and when we reclaimed some possession in offensive positions, but lucky not to lose in the end, amazingly, with our finger on the self-destruct button.

It was in our hands and we dropped it. Rather than being battered into submission.

The Goals

Brilliant touch and movement from Pav.

Ball in from JD in front of the practically static Chelsea back-line, Pav then touches the ball taking him away from Terry and co, creating time and space to thrash the ball in for the 1-0. Considering some of the Russians 'first touches' littering the game you might wonder if he actually meant the touch that set himself up for the goal. But that's harsh. Probably. It was a class finish. From the very top drawer.

Drogba's goal was altogether a different ilk of beast. Okay, so we all know Gomes is a loopy loon of a tune. Expert shot-stopper, instinctive reflexes when there is hardly time to think. So why exactly did that shot go through him with such ease? Much like I'd even expect Superman to be downed by a bullet made of Kryptonite, with Gomes it felt more like a pie to the face of a clown. And yet perhaps his only mistake was to think he could have saved it by allowing gravity to pull him downwards, rather than standing tall and taking the ball in his face.

Alas, this pie had a brick in it, and the power of the shot was just too damn powerful for his girlie wrists. Did he have time to work his positioning before the shot flew towards him? No matter, he should have done far better than he did.

Sure, Drogba hand-balled it, quite blatantly, and Dawson was a second or two slow to react (because of that second spent looking across for the flag). Defensive errors cost us dearly here. It was a soft goal to concede. But for all their possession, they scored a goal from almost nothing. Not quite gift wrapped. Drogba still had to take his voucher to the shop and select his prize.

The Penalty

Madness. Why goalkeepers go charging out then hold their hands up proclaiming innocence…dear oh dear. But like some demented twist and turn of a screenplay, fate would have him give the penalty away so that he could save it and reclaim some lost dignity, even though this was a mess he created. Because of how it played out, during the time it took for the ball to be placed on the spot and be taken - it felt like we had lost the game. So the save made it feel like we had won a point. Crazy. Poor penalty helped matters. Lovely irony what with Fwank on the pitch.

In Defence of Gomes

Yes. He's fruit-loop. He's also an outstanding keeper and let's not forget the amount of times he has saved us playing with a forever changing back four in front of him. Does need a good slap in the face every now and again (gentle slap, don't want him crying) but he showed character. He guessed which way to go with the dive for the pen, going opposite to where Drogba tends to place them. Homework or luck, what does it matter. He redeemed himself for this particular last gasp dramatics.

Who is this Wilson?

Not that Chelsea were formidable in the centre of the park, but let's still stand and applaud Wilson Palacios for a performance which had bite and some much missed intensity returning from a long sabbatical. And in addition, a refreshing lack of misplaced passes. He did his job perfectly, got himself involved, closing down players and laying it off with a simple ball to feet. Not quite the destroyer of his early Spurs form, but one game at a time, right?

The Redknapp Substitution

Defoe is taken off. On comes Peter Crouch. Why?

Well that all depends on a couple of things. If it was about JD, he might have been subbed to preserve some juice as he's only recently returned from his injury. Don't think he picked up a knock. If it wasn't that then it has to be tactical. Knowing Redknapp, I'd hazard a guess he wanted Crouchie to lend a hand (head) at the back to defend set-pieces. But it didn't quite work, at least that's the ranting going on in Harry's direction over this tactical reshuffle.

Defoe and Pav worked well. JD's work-rate was very decent. There was a partner-ship there, be it one that still requires a few more games to click. But if we suddenly need to change it because of the opposition asking questions deep in our half, do we do so to the detriment of our forward play?

Would it have been more apt to sub Pav (no pace, not great in the air) and bring on Crouch to knock the ball down to JD? Crouch did very little, did get his head on the ball a few times but nothing more. Was okay but with Defoe off the pitch, we lacked an outlet of pace. Crouch and Pav is hardly the most dynamic combo. Then again, for all of Defoe's work-rate, he didn't have enough about him to get in behind the Chelsea defence. So perhaps this was a fitness issue after all.

Not sure what the point of bringing Keane was other than hope he could produce something from that long lost forgotten locker. Needs to find the keys first.

Dawson's Return

Great to have him back. Superb, got caught out for the goal, but for him to play in this game as a return to the side game do so with some comfort wearing the captains armband - that makes me smile.

Player Ratings Score-Card

Gomes - 6 - The good, the bad and the ugly.
Hutton - 7 - Far more disciplined than usual defensively and didn’t nullify Lennon. Still think he's positional sense and intelligence is not great.
Dawson - 8 - Early Christmas present. We might finally see our back four settle down now.
Bassong - 7 - Reliable and focused. Made some telling contributions.
BAE - 8- Cracking performance.
Lennon - 8 - Continues his rehabilitation, proving what a little confidence can do. 2/3 games from his best if he continues this form.
Palacios - 8 - Still on the subject of confidence, perhaps it was the responsibility bestowed due to the occasion. Can hardly fault him.
Modric - 8.4 - Really beginning to tick. Shame he can't shoot for toffee.
Bale - 7.2 - Quiet but still had opportunity to create with a few marauding runs down the flank, probably should have released the ball early once or twice, got cluttered and marked out by Chelsea. It's a transitional stage for him this, learning to adapt to the adaption our opponents are having to adopt.
Defoe - 7 - Worked hard, assisted for the goal. Still not 100% but he'll get there.
Pav - 7 - Brilliant finish. When he starts he scores. Was detached from play second half.

Crouch - Header here, knock down there. Not much of an impact but then the subs came late in the day to truly influence proceedings.
Keane - Spent a lot of time in the middle. Not sure I can remember much else.
Sandro - Hardly enough time to make an impact.

The ref - 5 - Made plenty of mistakes, let one or two obvious fouls go without yellows. Neither side will be best pleased. But at least he didn't ruin the game like some.

Forward Conundrum

World class forward up front and we'd be laughing right about now, yeah? The lack of guile at times and the obvious lack of testing their goalkeeper is what births the pressure on our back four the longer the game goes on. Ground-drog day. Perhaps with a vdV in the side and a Huddlestone we'd have created one or two more chances that could have left us in a far more comfortable position. When either or both return, we're back to Harry and his tweaks. It's going to define our season this. A new forward won't work out if our midfield isn't set up to maximise opportunities. I'm talking about decision making with the final ball and movement from all concerned.

Very obvious stuff this.

Our Form

Think it's just four wins out of nine so far this season at the Lane. Which on the face of it is not great. But then when you delve deeper it's one Premier League loss at home during the last year (1-0 to Wigan).

It's also six defeats in all competitions in twenty-six games played. Shame we were so abjectly bad away to West Ham and allowed Wigan to win at the Lane.

Race for 4th, 3rd, go on then why not…race for top spot

Another stat-attack for you - we are three points behind our total from the 2010 season, if you wish to compare.

09/10 - 17 games, 30 points
10/11 - 17 games, 27 points

Not the perfect benchmark I know (different season altogether, can't really compare game to game) but the more telling total is how far off the top we are. Because that's more relevant. Five, at the time of writing.

That's not shabby.

Harry, Levy - take note of the niggling repetitive quirks to our play that need fixing. January - it's imperative. But more so are the games from now until then.

Onwards. As ever, onwards.



This is what it's going to be like now...all the time 

We have ambitions and we’re in a position to push on so there are no longer any insignificant games. Which means no matter the points or the position, every game is vital/imperative/high pressured. At least it should be and our gaffer should instil that type of attitude, because intensity is the winning ingredient. That and lack of fear. Something we have in abundance in Europe.

So are you nervous? Are you of a certain weak disposition, struggling to get a stranglehold of how games involving Tottenham are now existing on a different playing field, one where expectations and pressure embrace you but can so easily crush you too. That’s the risk you take with the hug. But you’re rather be hugged then left standing alone, right?

Okay, so City were very much displaying efficiency and authority, granted against a fairly poor side (who beat us 1-0). They did the same to Fulham, punishing them effortlessly. But we’ve been here before right? Comparing ourselves with the competition. And it’s hardly a worthy exercise. This week City win, next week they might lose. Every time a side competing up top with us win a game our next one is suddenly the be all and end all and if we happen to lose it there’d be another knee-jerking session until the following week when the results are reversed and we’re suddenly back in it or out of it or whatever.

We might have obvious problems, but so do they. They being a number of clubs up top.

It’s been the pattern of the season, with our fans see-sawing between disaster and delight. Remember last season? If you do then you should have more faith. Everything is reviewed with microscopic analysis, exaggeration the result. So emotions tend to be pulled apart leaving one or two of us completely spent one day and ecstatic the next.

Utd are meant to be playing below par, yet they’re unbeaten. Arsenal have no defence, but are top. City are not a unit yet can perform like one.  And Chelsea have gone from title winners to crisis club in the space of weeks. As for us, we have no decent strikers and no consistency with our back four and yet we’re still in there. Mercy on all if we signed a player or two.

Bossing games, clinically finishing crosses and maintaining momentum. All key discussion points, all arguably related to the apparent solution involving new blood. But this new blood, this new’s not due to start until the back end of January 2011.

So what of the present? Do we need to win on Sunday? Of course we do. It might not be us placing a marker down thanks to the rather confusing state the Prem finds itself in but we’re playing the blue scum. And a win is a win is a win. And it takes us closer to where we want to be and turns attention to others in terms of stress.

I have no time for the ominous omens relating to their (Chelsea) form and that they are apparently due a performance because pundits can’t see how Chelsea could positively degrade any further. Our fixtures are rolling in thick and fast and that fabled January consolidation window should be forgotten about for now.

It's time to get a grip of things in this bewildering perplexing present and forget about a future which is not guaranteed to play out as we wish it too.

London derby. No love lost. This is what it’s all about. Remember the days when you couldn’t possibly look forward to this fixture because you knew, unequivocally, what the result would be? Now those nerves you feel, it’s not because of the knowing acceptance of how hurtful defeat is but it’s the unacceptable prospect of tasting said defeat.

That expectancy, that pressure – it’s just a teaser of what the future might hold for us if we went that extra mile or two and truly challenged. It’s a consequence of wanting to be better and to continue progressing. It’s the pressure felt by the sides we aspire to stand next to.

No vdV. Modric is on form. Defoe has his goal-scoring boots back on. Azza is hungry once more. Bale v Ferreira. Both defences are capable of lapses. Both can produce moments of quality going forward. Drogba thinks they can win. We’re still reading recycled quotes about a  title push and Harry to England. Tight affair? Or free scoring? We’ll see. Will be despondent if we failed to go for their jugular. If we failed to turn up.

I still don’t think this season is going to start until AFTER January. It’s gentle with its transition. And as much as I keep saying to ignore everyone else and concentrate on winning and improving and getting ahead, it’s not a trend we appear to be owning – much like the rest. But we have to endeavour to dare.

Sunday is about beating Chelsea. One game at a time. I’ll gleefully accept a goal off the left bum cheek of Jermain Defoe in the 94th minute if it gets us the three points.

Beating Arsenal hasn’t laid ruin to their season. Neither will beating Chelsea result in their death. But it will add another badge of honour onto our chest for another battle won, onwards, in the war.

Still nervous? This is what it's going to be like now, all the time. Deal with it. It's for the best. It's what we aspire to be, as fans and a club. At some point someone is going to step up, someone has to.

To dare is to do.


Another Twente quid on Spurs to win

So do we accept qualification and all it will bring regardless of finishing top of the group or second by fielding a side that's not the strongest available or do we seize the day and focus on getting into the knock-out stage as winners, thus avoiding football rape at the Camp Nou? Decisions, decisions. Why would we even contemplate not fielding our strongest side?

Oh yeah. Chelsea this weekend.

Okay, so it's not (blue scum) exactly the fixture of old which we'd brush aside and concede goals and points even before the kick-off. We've enjoyed success at the Lane against them recently and they're a pale shadow of the side that began the season with such relentless decimation of their opponents. Not that I'm naïve enough to think we'll walk all over them. Although I'd very much like us to do just that. It's a massive game that. Might put their gaffer under extraordinary early season pressure if we beat them. And the obvious upwards elevation/momentum/confidence booster - priceless.

But there's the small matter of Twente to deal with first. Irony not lost that I'm even entertaining league as a priority over Champions League. Hasn’t it mostly worked the other way?

The Dutch champions are seeking revenge. I can imagine they're come out at a pulsating tempo. No slow-build up play here. Home crowd behind them, up and at 'em attitude. If we've switched off already and the concentration isn't there then hello to complacency and second in the group.

I don't have a clue how we plan to line-up. I've seen plenty of discussion that has the side patched up (Bale rested, Keane starting etc) but will be content as long as the spine of the side isn't tampered with too much.

It's simple really. After this game is done and dusted, we're into the realm of two-legged cup football. I know this is an adventure for us and for the travelling away fans and our players it's what it's all about in terms of enjoying and building on the learning curve this top tier football is giving us. And savouring every second of it. But who wants to face the might of Madrid or Barca from the off when perhaps we could get through to the following round and then face them (or perhaps muddle through to the round after that and then face them).

We are hardly going to win this competition based on paper and on experience. But it would be foolish to suggest that we (traditionally a cup side that can turn it on and beat anyone on our day) don't stand a chance of progressing balls deep into the latter stages. Which is why finishing top (matching Inters result thank you please) will be delightful.

Finish top and we'll face Schalke/Lyon, Valencia, Copenhagen, Roma, Marseille or AC Milan. Not that any of these clubs don't have the capabilities to knock us out - but I'd fancy our chances to do just that to them.

Schalke/Lyon, Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid. If we're second.

All this is based on how it stands currently. I think. Correct me if I've got anything wrong.

If the likes of Porto and Liverpool (when they won it, care to remember how 'great' they actually were?) are proof you don't have to be the best side to go all the way. You do need to believe and you do need to remain committed and focus. Both clubs had tacticians at their helm masterminding their run and granted, getting lucky once or twice along the way.

I'd be over the moon with each additional game we get and would love to get far enough to play another English club. Run around Tottenham, a lot, and kick it in the net. That should do the trick.

We've made a name for ourselves this season. Would be wasteful if we didn't strive to guarantee our survival for a little bit longer. If it doesn't work out and we end up away at the Santiago Bernabeu or worse…oh well, so be it. It beats getting giddy about the Carling Cup.

To dare is to swagger and hit the barn door.