Monday, 11 November 2013

Krul result is no need for Spurs to hit the alarm button, yet

MAN the lifeboats, pull the emergency cord and take up your allotted panic stations immediately.

Spurs have lost at home again and no matter the performance, the number of chances or the opposition keeper, we must be at crisis point.

Why? Because this is what football fans do.

In the grand scheme of things, Spurs lost 1-0 to Newcastle and are three points off second place but you would be forgiven for thinking the banks had crashed.

The frustrated and popular outcry is that this profligacy in front of goal can not go on and something has to change.

And those clean-and-efficient 1-0 victories that started our season are now being painted as a barren wasteland of goal-starved good-fortune.

Those who praised the arrival of Roberto Soldado are screaming for Jermain Defoe, and even Emmanuel Adebayor, to get a chance.

This is despite the fact that everyone spent last season panning Manu's attitude, and despite the fact that Defoe scores for fun until he reaches the Premier League squad and, as against West Ham, he curls up in a ball like a hedgehog.

The nail-biters do have one thing right, this can't go on. But change is not the way forward, change is the cause - patience is the way forward.

Spurs' display in the first half against the Toon was nervy, reserved and verging on impotent - certainly lacking verve and urgency.

But the second half was driven and creative with an abundance of well-worked chances that either weren't finished well enough or somehow clipped Tim Krul's outstretched appendages and bounced clear.

We had 31 shots. 

Some of those we're a waste of time, possession and ticket/Sky TV money.

But some - like Soldado's first-half header from a Christian Eriksen free-kick, Jan Vertonghen's header that rattled the woodwork, and the clever Townsend-Soldado-Defoe move that led to Paulinho's must-score chance late on - were inspired.

In flashes- albeit all too rare - Spurs' football is a joy to watch. It just needs an end product. The longer these players play together, the better it will get and the goals are bound to come. 

If they don't, and come christmas we're languishing around 14th, then panic permits will be issued.

But this is an unpredictable season where anyone can beat anyone at anytime. Newcastle, more than anyone, have proved that.

We just hope the performances in front of goal turn before the fans do.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Spurs v Sheriff is more important than some think

TONIGHT is the very reason many folk question the size and worth of the Europa League. 

Spurs host not-quite-Moldovan FC Sheriff in their fourth consecutive game against European minnows having already clocked up three straightforward victories and heaven knows how many air miles.

The crowds will start dwindling as fans realise they only need to work out the channel number for ITV4 in order to watch it at home with a beer (UEFA rules prevent sale of alcohol in the ground for Euro games).

But, regardless of your take on Europe's second tier, it's nights like this that can ultimately help us towards sustaining a Premier League challenge.

That sounds bonkers, but bare with us... after the 3-0 defeat at home to West Ham, Mousa Dembele highlighted the importance of raising our performances for the "small games".

Bad choice of words, but he's right.

It's all very well if we can go out and hold Chelsea to a draw or beat Manchester United but if the first team is not motivated for every single game, no matter how easy it is on paper, then there is no point in fighting on four fronts for trophies.

Even the Champions League can be a squad-juggling exercise as clubs play a similar number of games to us.

So if that is our aspiration, we need to be well used to the workload. 

But most importantly, our football is nothing like the finished article just yet. Any chance to refine it in a real-match scenario should be welcomed.

While AVB tries to get the new players used to his ideas, it is vital that games like tonight are treated the same as any others, so that his controlling style becomes second nature.

There is also a fair bit at stake tonight. Jermain Defoe can break Martin Chicers' Euro goals record and we can make the knockout stage with a win - and that should all be ample motivation to see off Sheriff.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Will AVB's comments come home to roost?

ANDRE VILLAS-BOAS last week pointed a finger at Spurs fans claiming the tense atmosphere made it easier to play away from home.

The fans upped the ante for the repeat fixture against Hull in the League Cup on Wednesday but it made very little difference. 

While we took an early lead, the team again sat back and found themselves having to come from behind to draw before winning 8-7 on penalties.

We face Everton this afternoon and Spurs fans are all hoping that AVB's chickens aren't about to come home for a good roosting session.

Whatever happens at Goodison Park, it shouldn't be seen as make or break - we don't have a particularly good record up there lately anyway.

But after two unconvincing displays at White Hart Lane and AVB's verbal rocket still ringing, a lot of supporters will be thinking, "Come on then, show us what you can do away from home."

And it hardly helps that Arsenal are sitting pretty five-points clear at the top when many of us were swept away in the "shift-of-power" talk at the start of the season.

New Toffees boss Roberto Martinez likes his teams to attack, so at least we should not come up against a 6-4-0 wall of defenders.

Even penalties have a habit of deserting us at Everton, although at least now we seem to have a team that's more than capable of taking them!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Lay off Lamela - his time will come

WILD west imagery littered Friday's Press after "deputy" Jermain Defoe shot the Sheriff and rode out of town having drawn level with Martin Chivers' Euro goals record. 

But while the media were polishing their puns and lauding the achievement of our  "top gun", fans and forums were already training their crosshairs on a new target - Erik Lamela.

And we'd like to state our message loud and clear... Lay off him.

The impatience of some supporters goes too far at times as football gets caught up in the immediacy of modern-day life and a sensationalist media.

The Argentine is so far a victim of the high expectations that come with being our club-record signing.

And of our recent penchant for old-fashioned forwards flying at breakneck pace at opposing defenders.

And of the excitement and success that his countrymen Ossie Arsiles and Ricky Villa brought to North London in the 1980s.

So it is no surprise that 35,000 Spurs fans hang on the new man's every flick and stepover. 

But don't forget that Lamela, still only 21, has come in under a massive price tag without a word of English in his vocabulary.

He is having to adapt to new surroundings, a new culture and, crucially, a new style of football.

While Roma may have employed him in a similar 4-2-3-1 formation, the Italian Serie A is nothing like as physical as the English football and they do not use the wings to quite the same effect as Spurs.

That is clear in the way Lamela has been dropping deep and drifting inside to collect possession.

The demands of the Premier League are a learning curve with which even Gareth Bale and Luka Modric took time to get to grips.

And it is not easy to master a new way of playing when the good form of so many others is keeping Lamela out the side.

But anyone who saw the forward's input for Roma in the last few season will know what Lamela is capable of.

Lamela scored 15 in 33 games last season, so he certainly knows where the goal is.

And, watched closely when he does play, it is clear we are dealing with a truly special talent. 

Andros Townsend may be hogging the headlines - and the right midfield spot - but Lamela's posture, awareness and close control make it clear he has it within him to be a cut above.

He just needs time to settle and find his place - it will be worth the wait.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Adebayor's miracle mystery tour

Emmanuel Adebayor was once the miracle worker of football but ahead of his expected comeback tonight he has become Tottenham's man of mystery.

The striker once told the Daily Telegraph that he was unable to walk as a child - until the sight of a football rolling past a church door got him to his feet and he never looked back.

Whether or not you believe the story, it's impossible to deny that football seems to be watching over him.

Adebayor has survived crossing the North London divide and numerous fan revolts as his popularity dived at both Arsenal and Manchester City.

He also endured the altogether more sobering gun attack on the Togo tour bus at the 2010 African Nations Cup, an ordeal in which a good friend was killed and the Spurs man was forced into temporary international retirement.

The enigmatic forward has not yet been seen by fans this season after AVB made him train with the development squad on his September return from compassionate leave following the devastating news of his brother's death.

Many fans feel Adebayor is a one-season wonder wherever he goes - arriving in a blaze of goals and glory only to get bored quickly and angle for another move.

The past summer brought intense rumours he was on his way out but the man himself says he had no intention of leaving Spurs and is determined to get his career back on track this season.

He said: “I decided with my manager, even before the start of the transfer window, that I would not leave Tottenham and that’s what I did. I have never thought of leaving Spurs."

At the back end of last season, Manu was starting to hit form and, on his day, opposing defenders find him unplayable. 

In May's 2-2 draw at Chelsea he was back to his best - holding up play, protecting the ball, tracking back and scoring a terrific long range effort.

Andros Townsend and certain other star performers were left in London for tonight's visit to FC Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova, so Adebayor will be in no doubt that the fact he was on the plane reflects badly on his position in the squad.

Should he feature, it will be the first step of a journey back to the first team that seems longer than ever. 

And with Roberto Soldado, Jermain Defoe, Eric Lamela and Christian Eriksen giving Spurs a wealth of attacking riches, it looks like Adebayor needs another miracle if he is to again come out on top.

Still, given what he has come through so far, you would be brave to bet against him.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Townsend success has Spurs in credit

ANDROS TOWNSEND, Tottenham and England. Sounds good doesn't it - but how much credit do Spurs deserve for his recent rise to prominence?

Many will argue that it is in spite of Spurs that the flying winger has finally hammered down the first-team door and swiftly gained an England call-up.

Townsend was sent out on loan nine times on his search for a starting place at White Hart Lane.

And, to some, that indicates a lack of faith in his ability and an unwillingness to give him a chance - until Townsend's form gave manager AVB no choice.

But look more closely, and it begins to look like sensible man-management - verging even on genius.

Spurs have long seen the value of the loan market. So much so that, in 2009, they announced their withdrawal from the reserves league.

This meant that promising young players would get first-team football in competitive environments. 

The club could also tailor the loan to suit the player, ensuring the style of the club they arrived at would benefit their development.

It also meant we no longer had to maintain - and pay for - a full second-string squad of players, many of whom have no chance of succeeding at Spurs. 

Townsend started with League One spells at Yeovil, Leyton Orient and MK Dons in 2009-10.

Progressing to Championship level, he went to Ipswich, Watford, Millwall , Leeds and Birmingham before Harry Redknapp have him his first Premier League stint at QPR last season.

It's a gradual progression over which the club has control and the result is that Townsend finally arrived back here ready for the first team and with a wealth of experience under his belt.

And Townsend is not the only beneficiary of this coaching technique, Harry Kane and Tom Carroll share seven loan spells between them and both are already well-established at Under-21 level. 

As far as credit goes, you only have to see Andros' attitude towards Spurs to see that he does not feel hard done-by at the club.

He previously said: "I have been at this club since I was eight and I am a Tottenham fan, so my main objective is to try and force my way into the team."

Add to that the fact the 22-year-old has just penned a new four-year deal and it is easy to see that Spurs are very much doing something right.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Are Spurs developing an international hoodoo?

What is it with international breaks? They seem to bring out the worst in us.

Before Spurs' shocking 3-0 home defeat to West Ham, our last lacklustre performance and disappointing result was against Arsenal (before they got good).

That too was on the brink of an international gap, which meant stewing on an adverse result for a fortnight.

But why the dips in form before national games?

We've been racking our brains for three days now - that's how long it takes to gather reasonable thoughts after a result like Sunday's.

Had we clicked "publish" any earlier, this article would have been top heavy with four-letter cuss words and dogs abuse levelled at everyone from complacent midfielders to the head of police at White Hart Lane.

Three days' wait may have resulted in a more acceptable thought process but it hasn't landed on an answer.

Maybe the impending break with their international buddies drives players to distraction - like at school, when the excitement over holidays rendered the last few days of term a write-off.

Or, in the case of our England contingent, does the mere thought of the national team turn any previous good form to dust? 

The message from the club seems to be complacency. 

After the match, manager Andre Villas-Boas diplomatically referred to the result as a "wake-up call".

We'll know who he thinks needs waking up as they won't start against Aston Villa next Sunday.

We've got sympathy for Jermain Defoe, as he played his way into the starting line-up and failed to fire.

His critics will use that as ammunition to say he can't cut it in the Premier League side.

But in reality, a passive midfield - and the lack of his puppet master Lewis Holtby pulling the strings - probably didn't help.

The line-up was not the problem, so much as the attitude.

Mousa Dembele insisted that to be champions, you have to motivate yourself for the "small games". 

Frankly, that perspective stinks. For champions, there are NO small games.

With two weeks to think about it, maybe that will have sunk in by the time we're back in action.