February 28, 2010
Today’s result was brilliant, and almost makes up for Goodison Park – we rode our luck, though, and it could easily have been a draw or worse. Some of our defending was calamitous (I was one missed tap-in away from another Bassong-related rant), and the goal was no exception.
Thankfully, we’ve largely cut out the goals conceded from set pieces, but this is not good, and no doubt the players will be watching it back in training tomorrow. We set up to defend the corner with Modric on the near post, Bale the first screen, but nobody on the back post. Yakubu makes his intentions clear from the start, by positioning himself near to Gomes – who is marking him?
Arteta loops a corner in to the far post, where Rodwell has pulled away from Corluka.
It’s not great defending from Corluka, but in these situations it’s not always easy to get to the ball ahead of an attacker who perhaps knows what’s coming. Rodwell’s header is a decent one, but we are still relatively well set to defend it. Well, we would be were somebody marking Yakubu.
Pavlyuchenko, Dawson and Gomes – you’d be looking for one of them to deal with this ball before it can find a way to the unmarked player in the 6-yard box.
Alas, no. Pavluchenko reacts too late, and misses his kick. Dawson, presumably expects the goalkeeper to deal with it, and doesn’t react. Gomes… well, he just kind of falls over.
A better angle shows that Gomes has got himself into a poor position, and hasn’t got a great view. When he dives, therefore, he just misses the ball completely.
And Yakubu prods home, under limited pressure from Dawson and Modric.
A really, really disappointing goal to give away. But we were asking for it for much of the game – Gomes looked nervous on crosses, and had already fumbled a simple catch (fortunately Dawson rescued him with a superb block).
EDIT: After comments of a potential foul on Gomes, I’ve watched the highlights (5:30 in) many times, and still can’t see the supposed foul. Make your own mind up:
February 28, 2010
Massive result today, and a wonderful first half performance – possibly our best half of football in 2010.
At the heart of that was Modric – he has struggled to get back to his earlier form since returning from the broken leg inflicted by Lee Bowyer, but today he was magical at times. What I like about him most is that he seems to make the right decisions 90% of the time – whether it’s to pass early, to wriggle out of a tight situation, or to go on a mazy dribble.
And that goal. Wow. I think that was probably the only way that he could have scored from there, and he executed it perfectly.
One thing that will certainly help Modric get back to his best is Gareth Bale’s incredible form. I don’t think there’s another player in England that has his pace and power when pushing on from left-back, and his final ball is consistently dangerous. Modric and Bale are starting to form a great little partnership there – the one thing we need to watch, however, is who fills in at left-back when Modric is drifting, and Bale is caught upfield.
I was delighted to see Kaboul dropping in there on 91 minutes today, and making a vital challenge to win the ball. We need more of this type of responsibility from our regular midfield players.
All in all, we rode our luck today (the Donovan chance was a one in a hundred miss), but it makes up for the points that we were denied at Goodison Park.
Analysis of the goal conceded to follow later.
Edit: Luka’s goal, for anyone who hasn’t seen it.
February 14, 2010
I wrote yesterday regarding our mental strength, and I was pleased to see us fight back in the second half today – we could and should have actually won the game, but a draw wasn’t a bad result given the bullying Bolton gave us in the first half.
However, Bolton aren’t just a team of bullies – they have some gifted players too. We know that they are capable of good one and two touch football, as they scored two excellent goals against us back in October.
Kevin Davies’ goal starts with some neat midfield triangles – Defoe chases between Gardner and Muamba, but eventually Gardner feeds Elmander, who has dropped off, and dragged Dawson out of position. Elmander did this all game – his movement, close control and dribbling were consistently good (although his finishing was lacking).
NB: our two central midfield players are watching this passage of play unfold – Palacios is nearest the referee.
Elmander turns and looks to drive in between our players, knowing that he has Lee for back-up.
He is able to play the one-two with the technical winger, Lee, knowing that the ball will be returned quickly, and will be well-weighted.
This move has carved us apart – Dawson and Bale may as well not have been there. Our defenders at this point, from left to right, are Corluka, King, Dawson, Bale, with Modric outside the box. King is well positioned to deal with the onrushing Taylor.
Once Elmander hits the by-line, Taylor has got ahead of King, and Davies has dropped off Corluka. Palacios and Huddlestone, remember, have watched this move unfold, and haven’t considered getting involved.
A very neat cut back from Elmander. It’s slightly behind Davies, but because Corluka is nowhere near tight enough, he has time to take a touch.
Note from this angle how far away Palacios is from the action. For me, it’s unacceptable for him not to have reacted. That Corluka has given so Davies so much space is suicidal.
A decent finish from Davies – it’s past Gomes before he can move.
Nice interplay from Bolton, but poor defending from Spurs. I am a big fan of Corluka, but this, coupled with the Birmingham goal, are certainly blots on his copybook. I am also really disappointed that Palacios didn’t anticipate the danger and try to effect play.
February 13, 2010
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Looking at league games only:
In the fourteen league games where we’ve scored the first goal, we have won eleven times, drawn twice (Everton A and Birmingham A), and lost once (Man Utd H).
In the nine league games where we haven’t scored the first goal, we have won only once (West Ham A), drawn twice (Bolton Wanderers A – where we were behind twice, and Aston Villa A), and lost six times.
This tells us quite a lot – in short, when we go ahead, we are likely to win. When we go behind, we struggle to get back into games. Not exactly rocket science.
Why is this the case?
When we go ahead, you can often see our players suddenly start to play flowing football with confidence, and we will often rattle up the goals – for example, against Hull, Burnley, Wigan, even Man City. We have a high number of “confidence” players, who shine when we’re doing well as a team.
A number of possible reasons why we don’t “come back” too often:
- We don’t have many “older heads” in our team – players who have been there and done it, and have the drive and determination that others can see and replicate.
- We don’t have many natural leaders – the few players that do the talking/organising on the pitch (Dawson, Keane, Jenas…) aren’t ideal captain material for various reasons (except arguably Dawson). Even the preferred captain, King, isn’t much of a talker or motivator – he tends to lead by example.
- Teams go ahead and put men behind the ball; we don’t seem to be able to cope against teams like this. If you watch Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal – they tend to camp in opponents’ halves against these type of tactics, and pile on the pressure until something gives. We seem unable to do this. Instead, we usually resort to balls of little quality being drifted into the box from deep areas, which are then very hard to direct goal-wards. The key is often to get the full-backs involved higher up the pitch, and to try to get in behind teams.
- Negative/limited tactics? Sometimes Redknapp has been known to bring on, for example, Hutton for Corluka when we’re searching for a goal. This is hardly a tactical masterstroke, is it? One positive from Ramos’ regime was that he would take off a centre back and put on a striker, and it would often work. Why not? Sometimes you have to force the issue and take a risk.
I would personally like to see us go for an experienced central midfielder in the summer – someone who knows what it’s like to win important games, and has the desire it takes. I realise there aren’t too many of these players around who would be available and would want to come to Spurs, but even if they aren’t a first team regular, they could be useful to have on the bench – even someone coming towards the end of their career (like Ballack or Scholes) could have the right mentality to pass on to other players.
I would also like us to sign a striker that can ruffle feathers; when you watch Rooney, Drogba, or even someone of lesser ability like Tevez, you can see why defenders hate playing against them. They will trouble defenders for 90 minutes – keep them on their toes, and keep pressing. We really lack this type of striker in my opinion. I remember seeing Ricardo Fuller, for example, cause our defence all sorts of problems at White Hart Lane earlier in the season – I’m not saying we should sign him, as we should clearly aim higher, but it’s important to have a player in the final third that can do this. I’ve always been impressed with Dieumerci Mbokani of Standard, and wonder whether he’s worth a gamble.