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Entries in Reading away (2)


Monkey claims to fall off back. Wasn't on it in the first place.

Thrown some thoughts on the game together. It's been a long tiring day, hassled through out it. So excuse the lack of craft. But who cares when Tottenham displayed so much of it on Sunday. Badum tish.

Reading 1 Tottenham 3

Well that was nice. Fluid, effective football with some ample finishing to see off opposition that we probably should have blown away in the first half. This game wasn't just about picking up the three points but doing so with a bit of style and structure. Which we did. Can’t really sit here and complain about not scoring enough goals or not making it look even easier than it was when the reality is, the side is still adjusting under Andre Villas-Boas. Monkey off back. Then again, there wasn't a monkey on it in the first place. Onwards we go with two successive games at the Lane. That momentum is fluttering her eyelids at us, it would be rude to ignore her advances.

There was no Livermore or Benny, both injured, the latter out for a month and replaced by Naughton. Dembele started alongside Sandro – the combo we all wanted to see and although it was up against a weak side, it was very reassuring to witness some life after Luka Modric. Dembele was progressive with movement, looking for the ball from Sandro. Both playing in tangent and protecting each other’s space and making sure availability to receive the ball was always evident as we looked to move higher up the pitch. Dembele, effortless when attacking space. Sandro dominant pressuring opposing players, intercepting and tackling with supreme belief that he owns that patch of grass in the middle.

Did Dembele start because Livermore was injured? He probably would have started regardless, especially as VB stated he wanted us to be more offensive against Reading. Sigurdsson, the third part of the midfield trio, and responsible for a killer ball splitting the defence for Lennon to cut back for Defoe to score for the 1-0. So much to like about this. The fact it almost seem to play out in slow motion even though it was over in seconds. The vision from Sig. Lennon’s awareness to receive the ball. Defoe’s scuffed effort perfectly beating the defenders and keeper. Striker’s scuff the ball on purpose, right?

Defoe starting ahead of Adebayor might have raised some eyebrows. I guess he's in form now, so you can’t drop him out of the side although as per usual we have to weigh the good with the bad and if JD can repeat this type of bullish performance against a better class of opposition then we still have good options up front (or at the minute, from the bench). Isolated, this was a cracking performance. His second goal (for the 3-1) was very well taken. Although given the freedom of the park he still had to retain composure which he did. He had other chances including a majestic take down and outside of the foot shot that deserved to go in.

Because of the comparative ease of playing against Reading, having the midfield trio behind him, the team was able to play to Defoe’s strengths. They supported him, he delivered (he had several shots at goal). Against sterner teams that make the midfield congested and turn it into a battlefield, he won’t be able to lead the line in the manner he did on Sunday. Which is why Adebayor will always be the better fit because he can drop back and work the channels effectively. However, this is a side coached by someone with Powerpoint slides. It’s quite possible that Defoe will improve his game, his awareness and positioning under Villas-Boas. You can’t change a player that is driven on by pure instinctive play but you can attempt to control the areas of the pitch he attacks though far more ticky to improve his link up play. Can’t fault his effort though. And he's scoring goals so I expect the same against QPR.

gifs by Eperones

An improved Defoe is better than one that just runs around a bit and waits for a chance to fall at his feet. However, not sure he can bring the midfielders into the game as effectively as Adebayor. This is going to be very interesting. How VB handles the two players in rotation and how effective each player is against lesser sides and the stronger ones.

Naughton did well. Gave away a couple of needless free kicks but seemed to be quite disciplined and solid in possession. Vertonghen was brilliant at the back, might well be one of our best signings in recent years and makes the retirement of Ledley King a little easier to deal with (best to avoid dreaming about the fantasy line-up of Vert and King at the back though if you want to sleep tonight). Sigurdsson wasn’t as influential as I’d have liked him to be, but can hardly complain what with the ball played for the first goal. Once Sig slots into his role he'll have more impact on the game.

Bale was quiet first half. Better in the second. Scored (another scuffed shot, there’s got to be skill in this) and looks to be slowly improving. Just a case of him finding his groove. Better he slow starts than fades away later on. He needs a pulsating home display. Can’t help feel that his responsibility and effectiveness will start to take shape in the next few games. Has to be used more as an outlet and he has to run that flank with authority. With so much more reliance on tactics these days, I’m still struggling to see a definitive change in what he’s meant to be doing. With Lennon it’s clearer that he’s beating opposing full-backs by finding space rather than ball at feet attempting to beat them time and time again. But sometimes people expect explosions from Bale when it’s the subtle stuff he does that needs a nod of approval, like the dummy run he made that allowed Defoe to do the damage for his second.

Huddlestone, Dempsey and Townsend all on as subs. Add Scott Parker, Michael Dawson and Hugo Lloris to the fold and our squad depth doesn’t look too shabby. All those players likely to be used in the coming weeks as opposed to simply warming the bench. Lazio on Thursday, QPR on Sunday – there has to be a little rotation.

Conceding late on was disappointing. It keeps happening. There was a batch of pressure in the second half where we struggled to clear the ball convincingly and it looked more like panic than tactical instructions. Leadership is something else that needs to stranglehold the latter stages of games. We have to retain the ball, take the sting out of it and boss it rather than sit back and invite. In addition, if you go back to the early stages – we can really put games to bed if we are clinical. That cut-throat side of our game has to be worked on. Not just up to the striker – the midfielder need to get in the mix more. I’m confident this will happen with Sig and can pretty much guarantee Dempsey will relish the opportunity. We could be one more goal to the good each game.

As for the host? Reading are not very good. At least on this display they allowed us far too much time on the ball and let us dictate practically from start to finish. But that is really not relevant. Cliché: beat the teams you face. We did that and there's still so much room for improvement. Improvement that will come by virtue of this side understanding the new system more with each passing week. Confidence will see to it. Application was spot on, as was pace and tempo. Players all looked like they had an understanding of what they were required to do and when in possession players seeking the ball made themselves available either in support or by attacking space with intent. Less pressure away from home? Do we feel the pressure back in N17? We'll find out soon enough.

Feet firmly on ground. We had a job to do, we did it.

Other footnotes.

The kit. It's not terrible but it's not really Spurs. Aside from the fact that it is Spurs because we were wearing it. Just not very traditional.

AVB on the touchline. Adore the way he celebrates goals. Looks no different to a supporter in the stands. Looks better in fact, what with that beard and that suit.


This should make good Reading

Reading (A)

I'm looking forward to the game. Hoping Dembele starts alongside Sandro and we get to see Clint Dempsey in midfield (if match fit) and Adebayor up front. Will also be keen to see us pass and move with urgency. We were lacklustre against Norwich and wasteful against WBA. Taking our chances early on is key. Reading haven't played a competitive match (Prem) since the 22nd August. Fresh but hardly match fit. That's not to say we've been setting the world on fire either, at times looking like we've not had much of a pre-season. This has got to be the game to ignite the spark that leads to the explosion. The spark being a convincing win against Reading today, the explosion a smashing of QPR at the Lane next week. We all know how it works. Momentum builds confidence in form and style. Perfectly illustrated by the past couple of seasons of rampant winning displays (when things were going well).

That urgency has to have traits of structure, players effective in their positions - yes Gareth, that means you. Having predicted that AVB will have a better handle on Bale we've yet to see him truly take a stranglehold on the left flank. Also, the controversial centre-pairing of Livermore and Sandro will have a few people biting their nails. Would prefer Sandro doing the Parker job of sweeping up trouble and laying the ball off to Dembele (our sort of Luka replacement in terms of creativity). Sandro can also pass the ball better than Parker so it can work. Dempsey or Sigurdsson can play further up-field behind the forward, in support and linking up play. Which will be two-fold with Adebayor being able to float into the channels.

We've yet to see the high-line implemented fully. Which tells us a lot about the patient 'rebuilding' of style rather than just asking players that haven't played it before to do so from the off (even though our fullbacks do enjoy a high line when wondering into forward positions). Talking of which Kyle Walker seems to be very positive about training and the coach. But don't shout about that, just whisper it. To yourself. As for the goal-keeper situation, only a matter of time when Lloris will settle in between the sticks. Brad knows, VB knows. We know. Lloris is a vital part of that fabled high line so it's essential. In time.

So there's a few things to look out for today. But not just formation and how it's implemented but also the attitude of the players. We would have been our way to sustaining some momentum had we buried those chances against WBA at the Lane. Such is football it can be cruel first to then be kind later. Which tells you that if you place the brain surgery of tactics aside a moment, we (the players on the pitch with ball to feet) have to be bang on their game and do the basics right in front of goal. Running around a lot still won't be enough, as witnessed the last two seasons when we run out of ideas. Villas-Boas has to pull us back towards that swagger and find a middle-ground where we strengthen mentally without letting go of the characteristics that made us such a joy to watch. It's in those games where we were not a joy to watch; it's in those games where we need to find a way through, have answers to all the questions being asked.

We seem to be stuck in that place at the moment. The inherited problems are not quite improving towards resolution and mixing in well with the new instructions meaning no immediate impact (although we've seen glimpses of it away to Newcastle and early on in our first home match). Would be easy for a new coach not to change a thing but then at what point would he be able to implement his own style? Better to struggle at first building the new and waving goodbye to the old than hang onto someone else's vision for the sake of short term pretence over longevity.

There's no need to panic, no need to struggle finding a way out. Find the door, walk through it.

Composure please Spurs. The self belief will blossom.

Whether today's convincing win does end up being a lucky one instead, the three points will be gladly celebrated regardless. The other two potential outcomes cannot be entertained. If anything because attempting to be explosive next weekend against QPR will be akin to setting off fireworks during a thunder storm.


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