October 30, 2009

Two Halves newspaper – pick one up tomorrow!

Look out for the ‘Two Halves’ newspaper being distributed pre-match tomorrow, and in particular, for my piece on Spurs’ potential derby stars of the future!

It’s a great piece of work that has been put together in an incredibly short time frame – hopefully it will be an ongoing project for every NLD.

I should have a pdf version of the paper to put up soon.

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October 25, 2009

Spurs loanee update 25/10/09


Currently we have the following players out on loan:

Oscar JanssonExeter City (until 31st October 2009)
Sam Cox – Cheltenham Town (until 1st November 2009)
Jon ObikaYeovil Town (until 11th November 2009)
Ryan Mason – Yeovil Town (until 14th November 2009)
Steven Caulker – Yeovil Town (until 14th November 2009)
Lee Butcher – Leyton Orient (until 14th November 2009)
Troy Archibald-HenvilleExeter City (until December 2009)
Andros Townsend – Leyton Orient (until 31st December 2009)
Danny Rose – Peterborough (until January 2010)
David Button – Crewe Alexandra (until January 2010)
Jake Livermore – Derby County (until January 2010)
Jamie O’Hara – Portsmouth (until January 2010)
Tomas PekhartSlavia Prague (until 2nd Feb 2010)
Adel TaarabtQPR (until May 2010)
Kyle Walker – Sheffield United (until May 2010)

Now returned from loan:
Adam Smith – Wycombe Wanderers
Ben Alnwick – Norwich City
Lee Butcher – Grays Athletic
Dean ParrettAldershot Town

I’ll start with Dean Parrett and Sam Cox. Parrett has had his first taste of league football over the last month with League Two Aldershot Town. By all accounts they were quite taken with him down there, and he bagged himself a Man of the Match award and a couple of assists in his four games. Rumour has it that he will be moving to a League One side in the next week, now that his one-month loan has finished.

Sam Cox just got the one game for Cheltenham, and he was so unfortunate. Starting in his favoured position of central midfield, he was forced to drop back to centre-back to cover for injury. It’s worth remembering at this point that this was Sam’s league debut and that, at 5’5, he’s hardly prime size for a centre-half. I do feel for Sam, who had this to say after the game:

“I went home after the game and spent time with my family and friends, but I was thinking about the game a lot and it was not such a good birthday,” Cox said.

“I was over the moon to make my debut and I thank God and my parents for the opportunity, but things didn’t go well.

“I have never played centre-back in my life as you can tell by my height, but I gave it 100 per cent and put my body on the line.

“I might not have been up to it physically, but I gave it my best and that was all I could do.”

Sam played for Spurs U18s on Friday (against Watford), so it looks like his loan spell may have come to a premature end. I hope his next loan goes better as, whilst he’s not the most gifted player, he has a terrific attitude and work ethic.

Oscar Jansson and Troy Archibald-Henville have both found themselves on the Exeter City bench of late, having initially both been regulars. Jansson has made some impressive saves, but has also made a few errors which have resulted in goals – of course, not knowing the defenders could be a contributing factor. Exeter have actually dropped off since Troy was dropped, and several posters on the Exeter forums seem keen for him to come back into the side.

The three players at YeovilCaulker, Mason, and Obika have all contributed over the last month. Jon Obika has had mixed fortunes since returning from England U20 duty. Last weekend he was left out of Yeovil’s squad entirely, as they have too many loan players. However, this week he was on the bench, and came on with 30 minutes to go. Two minutes in, and he scored with a glancing header to pull Yeovil level, and they went on to win the game. Mason scored two last week, playing as the trequartista for the first time. I’ve long said that he needs to play there, but Terry Skiverton has been keen to play him in central midfield, or even out on the left. His two goals (which you can watch here) made sure that he was in the League One team of the week last week. 17-year old centre back, Steven, has made a big impression, and the Yeovil fans are so keen to hang on to him for the rest of the season. Some nice comments from Taff’s Gloversblog on last week’s game:

5. Steven Caulker: 8/10 – You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, as the song goes and Steven’s return from international duty showed how much we missed him last week. Never looks flustered or hurried, dominant in the air and as much passing ability as any midfielder. More than played his part in not giving either Scott Dobie or Vincent Pericard a sniff of a chance.

13. Ryan Mason: 9/10 – What can you say? Took his two most obvious chances clinically and could easily have scored a hat-trick with a tad more luck. Ran the game in the first half from his more advanced position in the hole and all I can say to that is: Told you so. So much more to come from him too, as long as he can stay fit. Can we keep him all season? That’s my only concern. In the meantime, enjoy him while he is here.

Andros Townsend‘s having a mixed time at Leyton Orient. He seems to play really well one week, and do nothing the next; I guess that’s the nature of the role he’s playing. This week he played 90 minutes as Orient lost 4-0, but last week it was his cross which ended in the winning goal (an own goal) – check out his wing play on the right towards the end of the highlights – not bad for a left-sided player. Townsend was interviewed in the Metro last week, and said that he’d like to follow O’Hara’s footsteps and push for appearances once he returns from his loan.

21-year old goalkeeper Lee Butcher has also headed down to Orient, but has so far been an unused sub.

Danny Rose was only a sub for Peterborough this weekend, but he did play in midweek. Darren Ferguson was full of praise after Danny’s debut 3 weeks ago:


Danny has been on the radar for quite a while, he has done extremely well in the Tottenham Hotspur reserve team and he performed admirably in a loan spell at Watford at this level earlier in the year.

‘He is a very good footballer, he will fit into the way we want to play, he can get around the pitch and we are pleased to have him on board.

‘We know a fair bit about him, he can play anywhere across the midfield, he can play in behind the front two and will suit the way we play, particularly the formation that we want to play,’ Ferguson said.

Jake Livermore has been deputising for Paul Green in the middle of Derby’s midfield, and no doubt picking up some tips from Robbie Savage…! Nigel Clough was critical of him after a poor game 3 weeks ago, saying “And I have to say the same about Jake Livermore in midfield. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone give the ball away as much as he did. He’s 19-years-old and still learning.” However, he has stuck by him since then, and he’s started two and come on as a sub in one.

Jamie O’Hara‘s getting a good run of games at Portsmouth, and has played a number of different roles. This week he started at the base of a diamond, before moving further forward in the second half. He’s also played from the left, and has also been responsible for taking all of their set pieces.
NB: he’s a cheap option in Fantasy Football, and took the 3 bonus points this week!

David Button has had a steady time at Crewe since returning from injury, and has now made 10 starts. Got to be good for his development, although I’ve no idea whether he’s still as highly rated at the club as he once was.

Adel Taarabt has had a sudden upturn in fortunes for QPR. A matter of weeks ago, he was getting some criticism from manager Jim Magilton:

“He’s a wonderful footballer and at times he will infuriate everyone like he infuriates me.

“But he’s very much a prized asset of ours. If he’s reacted, he’s been a little bit silly – but that’s what you get with talented footballers.

“They can be a bit headstrong at times.

“Will I put an arm around him? No, I’ll probably throttle him for not passing!”

In the following two games, he was on the bench. He then went away and scored for Morocco, and since he’s come back, he’s netted a wonder goal, and a cheeky free kick.
Taarabt’s goal, and his trick that wins a penalty from a fortnight ago.
This week’s goal.

Magilton’s changed his tune!

Magilton paid tribute to the performance of all his players, but when asked about Taarabt’s opening goal, added: “Adel is a genius.

“He’s a dying breed in today’s game. He can beat men with ease. He just darts past them.

“Very few players can go by players like he can, but he has outstanding ability.

“His finish was simply out of this world.”

Kyle Walker has been playing week in, week out for Sheffield United and, whilst he’s not attracted much attention, it can only be good for his development.

Tomas Pekhart isn’t getting any games at Slavia Prague, and I do wonder why he’s still there. I just hope they are paying his wages…

Click on the image below for a full-size version:

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October 25, 2009

Analysis of the goal conceded vs Stoke

Whelan’s goal.

Oh dear. When are we going to learn? More defensive mistakes, another goal conceded. We were very unlucky not to get at least a point from this game but, as the cliche goes, if you make mistakes like this at the top level, you are going to get punished.

Again, it starts from a fairly innocuous situation. With Lennon off the field, we are a little short, but when Fuller receives the ball, he is only just over the halfway line.

Palacios makes up ground absolutely superbly to get back and help Assou-Ekotto. Notice the eventual scorer, Glen Whelan at this point, to the top right of the shot.

Palacios works hard to help Assou-Ekotto out, and it still seems like the situation is under control. Whelan has begun his run off Fuller here, hoping that he can work some space for a pass.

A couple of weeks ago, after the Bolton game, I accused Palacios of Zokora-esque defending – he seemingly hasn’t learnt his lesson. Having tracked back over half of the length of the pitch, and being so close to seeing this situation out, he has two options:

1. Keep shadowing Fuller with Assou-Ekotto, and make sure that we clear the ball.
2. Track the run of Glen Whelan and ensure that if Fuller makes a yard, he has limited options.

He chooses option 3 – stand still, do nothing, let the play unfold.

Assou-Ekotto is beaten for strength, and it is undoubtedly poor one-on-one defending from him – a shame because he otherwise had a decent game.

But if you look at this shot from the other angle, Assou-Ekotto forces Fuller to over play, and if Palacios HAD continued his tracking, he could have cleared the ball at this point.

Alternatively, he could have followed Whelan, who now has so much time and space when Fuller picks him out. Bassong is caught in two minds – in fairness, once Benoit is beaten, he has to come across to ensure that Fuller doesn’t have a free run at goal.

Dawson throws himself at Whelan, who probably should be helping the ball on to Tuncay, now unmarked. Instead, he launches an unstoppable drive.

I have to take some responsibility for this goal – as Whelan was coming on, I said “I’ve never rated Whelan“. So for that, I apologise!

Palacios has to take much of the blame for this, though. Yes, Assou-Ekotto is beaten one-on-one, but Fuller is a lot bigger and stronger than him and let’s not forget that he already had his work cut out once Lennon (who had switched to the left) had to go off. He needed help from Wilson, and he didn’t get it.

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October 21, 2009

Our lack of clean sheets

Just the one clean sheet for Spurs this season which is quite different to the second half of last year; we kept 7 in the league from February on.

A number of possible reasons for this, I feel, but I’d like to highlight three.

1. Defensive changes.

So far this season we have fielded the following back fives:

Vs Liverpool: Gomes Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto
Vs Hull: Gomes Hutton Corluka Bassong Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs West Ham: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Doncaster: Cudicini Naughton Corluka Bassong Hutton (2 changes)
Vs Birmingham: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Man United: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Chelsea: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Preston NE: Gomes Hutton Dawson Huddlestone Bale (5 changes)
Vs Burnley: Cudicini Corluka Huddlestone Bassong Assou-Ekotto (4 changes)
Vs Bolton: Cudicini Corluka Huddlestone Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Portsmouth: Gomes Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes).

One clean sheet so far vs Burnley, as highlighted.

Whilst King clearly has to be carefully managed and, as a result, he can’t play every game, there have been changes for cup games (understandably). This has meant that there have been only three games in which there were no changes to the defensive line-up. This can’t be good for confidence and consistency, and may well have something to do with our poor defensive record. A settled (as much as possible) defence will help us no end – hopefully now that Gomes is fit, he can stay fit. Once we get Woodgate and Dawson back to full fitness, Redknapp will need to make a decision on who is first choice. I presume it will be Woodgate, but I personally felt that Dawson out-performed him last year. But that’s by the by.

2. Jermaine Jenas

The Jenas and Palacios midfield partnership was an integral part of our clean sheet record last year. They formed a strong base which allowed our attacking players to go and express themselves. Indeed, at times we played a 4-2-3-1, similar to Liverpool:

Gomes
Corluka Woodgate King Assou-Ekotto
Jenas Palacios
Lennon Keane Modric
Bent

This seemed to work well for us, with three attacking players who were creative, but also knew their defensive responsibilities.

This season, whether it’s because we’ve been without Jenas or not, we’ve tended towards a flat 4-4-2, with Huddlestone and Palacios playing in central midfield in the majority of games. Whilst Huddlestone is a lovely passer of the ball, his defensive awareness is still quite poor at this stage of his career, and even when he is switched on, he doesn’t have the mobility to get up and down the pitch quickly enough.

Jenas, whilst not exactly the most popular player amongst the fans, is one of our more “responsible” players; by this I mean that he doesn’t shirk his defensive duties. He will track runners, and he will drop deeper where necessary. It could be coincidence, but our one clean sheet came on his second start of the season.

3. Wilson Palacios

Palacios is on easily his worst run of form in a Spurs shirt, and needs to lift his game. Whilst even an off-form Palacios is more effective than Zokora, he is also capable of making some of the same mistakes that Didier was often criticsed for: namely unnecessary fouls (giving free-kicks in dangerous areas), and sloppy/over-ambitious passing.

Palacios was a vital, vital cog for us last year, and we badly need him back to his best if we’re going to continue our good run, and particularly if we want to keep more clean sheets.

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October 20, 2009

Analysis of the goal conceded vs Portsmouth

Highlights.

Another poor goal to concede this weekend – we’re still stuck on one clean sheet, and this kind of defending shows why.

A ball is played down the channel which Kaboul chases. I think Assou-Ekotto is trying to shield Bassong from Kaboul so that he can get distance on his clearance. Either way, between them, they get in a real mess

Kaboul shows good desire, and gets a toe on the ball.

This has taken two defenders out of the game – pretty pathetic! The first rule of defending is “don’t talk about defending”. Or perhaps that’s only at Spurs? Of course, it should be “if in doubt, put it out”.

Kaboul sensibly passes the ball back to Finnan, who seemingly overhits his cross.

But at this point, Corluka has been forced to come across to cover Bassong, who had gone over to help Assou-Ekotto.

This leaves Boateng in plenty of space, and he has time to watch the ball on to his foot. Note Gomes‘ position at this point. He has already come across to this side of the goal, and his near post is seemingly well protected.

Also well worth noting Lennon’s position (at least I think it’s Lennon – apologies Aaron if it’s not you!). Perhaps harsh to blame a right midfielder for a goal like this, but he has not come round to cover for Corluka.

Boateng’s technique is decent enough – he strikes the ball well here but, again, worth noting Gomes‘ position. He simply shouldn’t be beaten from here.

But he lets it creep in – although he made some good saves this week, he has to take his share of the blame for this goal.

Personally I’d like to see Dawson or Woodgate back in the team next week. I think Bassong has had a promising start to his Spurs career, but he is still raw and his mistakes have already cost us goals this year.

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