August 31, 2011

31/08/11 Tottenham Hotspur U19s 7-1 Inter Milan U19s, Matchroom Stadium (NextGen Series)

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NextGen Series

Wed 31 Aug (Matchroom Stadium, Leyton Orient) Tottenham Hotspur U19s 7-1 Inter Milan U19s

Scorers: Gomelt 3, Coulibaly 2, Pritchard 2

Jonathan Miles (18)

Jack Barthram (17) Kevin Stewart (17) Milos Veljkovic (15) Daniel Day (17)

Jake Nicholson (19) (c) Massimo Luongo (18)

Alex Pritchard (18) Laste Dombaxe (17) Tomislav Gomelt (16)

Souleymane Coulibaly (16)

Subs:

Cristian Ceballos (18) for Jake Nicholson, 46.

Ronnie Hawkins (17) for Massimo Luongo, 73.

Horacio Cristian Olaya (17) for Kevin Stewart, 75.

Unused subs:

Billy Grainger (??)

Jack Munns (17)

Spurs made a few changes from their first NextGen Series match; with Hawkins on the bench, and Carroll and Kane not involved, Luongo (now fit again after injury), Barthram, and Gomelt (who it seems may now have signed permanently after being on trial from Croatian side NK Zagreb) came into the side.

The Spurs formation was as shown, but it’s worth noting that the three players in behind Coulibaly were given license to roam, and were very fluid in their movement. Dombaxe was, generally speaking, more central, but the other two switched regularly in the first half.

It took a while for both sides to settle and Spurs didn’t start the game especially well. After a few minutes, Milos Veljkovic gave away the first of many fouls just outside our box, and Inter worked a very clever free kick. A square ball, and then a slide-rule pass between two defenders fell just ahead of their striker, and Spurs had a bit of a let off.

Luongo started to get hold of the ball, and showed his attacking intent; he first dragged a shot well wide, and then was put through towards the left corner of the Inter box, but his attempted trick failed to take him beyond the last man. Minutes later, he was involved in the move from which we opened the scoring. We seemed to pass ourselves into a dead end in the middle of the pitch, but Luongo held on to the ball (as he does so well) and managed to find Stewart with a pass into the right back area. Stewart curled forward first time, and Alex Pritchard sprung the offside trap and finished firmly, giving the goalkeeper little chance (1-0 – video here courtesy of ’1961GloryGlory’).

Stewart gave away a free kick near the corner flag with a clumsy challenge, but Inter’s delivery was poor and Gomelt cleared at the near post. Spurs got their second goal from nothing. Luongo hit a sort of up and under, hopeful ball forward, and it bounced kindly for Coulibaly. He surged forward and finished emphatically (2-0).

Spurs scored a third a minute later – unfortunately I didn’t see the lead up to the goal, as some late arrivals showed up and I had to temporarily vacate my seat (!), but Gomelt suddenly found himself in acres of space in the right-hand corner of the box, and finished superbly into the far corner (3-0).

Luongo and Nicholson were totally dominating the central midfield region, and Inter tried to change a few things – for example, they temporarily moved their imposing left-winger, Joseph Duncan, into the central area to try to out-muscle our two, but the chances kept coming. Pritchard dragged a shot wide, and then Day got forward well to get on the end of a superb Luongo through-ball, but was muscled out of it by the Inter full-back. Gomelt then showed great vision to ping a ball wide from a central area, but the move broke down when Dombaxe was caught offside.

On 23 minutes, Jake Nicholson pushed forward and had a shot blocked – the ball ricocheted back into his path, and he cleverly played first-time into the feet of Gomelt. Despite Coulibaly confusing the Inter defenders by being offside, Gomelt did look to be onside and so when he calmly slotted home, it was 4-0.

After the restart, Daniel Day picked up a booking for a bad foul on Giannetti, who required treatment, and the resulting free kick was cleared after an attempted near post back-heel lacked power.

Spurs were starting to play some great stuff now, with Pritchard and Luongo in particular pulling the strings – Luongo drilled one delightful first time pass out to Pritchard, but it was just intercepted .

Barthram got forward down the right and whipped in a cross which skimmed off the head of one of the centre backs and fell to Pritchard. Stretching, he managed to prod the ball back into the danger area, and Coulibaly attempted an overhead kick, which he skied (video here). Next, Pritchard tricked his way forward beautifully, but Dombaxe dallied and then lost the ball. The next goal wasn’t long coming, though, and it was very well worked. Luongo played a brilliantly-weighted pass down the right hand side, Dombaxe crossed first time, and Coulibaly, stretching, met it on the half volley and looped it up over the goalkeeper (5-0 – another video, courtesy of ’1961GloryGlory’).

Luongo was running riot in midfield, often beating a man for fun before laying off to a team-made. He jinked past Simone Pecorini, and the Italian grabbed his shirt right in front of the referee, which earned him a booking. Kevin Stewart then committed another foul of the edge of our box, after Nicholson had given Luongo a bit of an iffy pass, but it again came to nothing.

Inter won a corner, and Coulibaly suddenly charged back just before it was taken to pick up a man on the edge of the box. As the ball was headed out, it went right to where he had positioned himself, but unfortunately he tripped the Inter player, and we had to deal with yet another free kick on the edge of the box. Fortunately, this time it was curled a foot wide of the far post.

We had another slight defensive scare on 36 minutes, when Veljkovic charged forward to meet a loose ball, but was beaten to the bounce by Daniel Bessa. Stewart tracked him and did really well to force him wide – he eventually got a shot away, but from that position it was going to have to be pretty good to beat Miles. From this, we went straight up the other and scored a sixth! Pritchard again played a fantastic through-ball, opening up the defence, and Gomelt showed his excellent finishing skills again to complete his hat-trick (6-0).

Spurs had barely finished celebrating their sixth when Inter made inroads into the box and had a man over on the far left of the box. As Gomelt tracked back to try to stop him getting a shot in, he tripped him; it was a definite penalty. The referee, Warren Atkin, called Gomelt over and seemed to take forever to decide what to do, before eventually showing a red-card for the player who had just completed his hat-trick; a very harsh decision. Gomelt trotted off to a round of applause, and seemed to be questioning the decision with Ferdinand and Sherwood. Not long after Inter had dispatched the penalty, Ferdinand was obviously still a bit upset, as the referee walked over, perhaps to explain the decision.

Inter had a couple of chances in the last few minutes of the half -first, Joseph Duncan went on a good run, but then inadvertently blocked Andrea Romano’s shot, and then Duncan himself shot wide. Miles then made a decent reflex save from a well-struck shot from the edge of the box.

Spurs changed things at half-time, taking off Jake Nicholson, and giving recent signing Cristian Ceballos a run-out. Pritchard moved into central midfield with Luongo, whilst Ceballos and Dombaxe supported Coulibaly.

The half started slowly with the teams a lot more even at 11 vs 10! Coulibaly smashed a shot wide and over, and Veljkovic showed his ability defending well one-on-one against substitute Jakub Vojtus. Massimo Luongo picked a fantastic ball for Coulibaly, which he couldn’t quite control.

Spurs should have had a penalty on 58 minutes when Alex Pritchard won the ball in midfield, showed a clever trick, and then fed Coulibaly, who was promptly bundled over – the referee waved play on. A couple of minutes later Coulibaly was appealing again – he ran in behind, and rounded a fallen defender, who he then tripped over – he called for a penalty, but only got a corner.

Ceballos was seeing a fair bit of the ball, and showed plenty of dribbling ability, but much less an eye for a pass. At one point Luongo had made a supporting run on the left, and the pass was not a difficult one, but Ceballos instead turned into traffic and lost possession.

Pritchard bagged his second of the game with a free kick after a foul on the edge of the Inter penalty area. Ceballos seemed to be lining the kick up, but Pritchard took it, and found the corner (7-1 – video here, with thanks to ’1961GloryGlory’ for the steady hand).

Gianmarco Falasca was booked for a cynical challenge on Pritchard, and Spurs made a couple of changes – Olaya (who I presume is a trialist/recent signing) coming on at the back for Stewart, and Hawkins on in midfield for Luongo, who was struggling to run off a knock.

Miles made a decent save to the bottom left of his goal, and a flowing move from the away side ended with Duncan blasting well over from distance. Veljkovic was easily beaten and a drive was well-saved by Miles at his near post before, at the other end, the Inter goalkeeper presented the ball straight to Cellabos, who wasted the chance.

Dombaxe had been moved a bit deeper for the closing stages, but Sherwood switched him and Ceballos shouting “get on the ball, Cris”. He duly did so, and did better in his few minutes in this deeper role, playing simple passes and playing himself out of tight corners.

Spurs nearly got an eighth when Pritchard won the ball well and found Coulibaly with an excellent pass. Soli had a quick glance up, and tried an ambitious chip from a long way out, but it drifted over the bar. In the final minute, Pritchard won the ball in midfield again, slipped in Coulibaly for his final hat-trick chance, but he couldn’t quite get on the end of it, with the keeper judging it well and rushing out at his feet.

The second half was, as you would expect, a lot quieter than the first, but Spurs edged it even with 10 men, and deserved to win it 1-0! The 7-1 scoreline was not especially flattering – Spurs really were that good in the first half, and Inter that poor.

Jonathan Miles 7 – He wasn’t really tested, but did what he needed to do, saving smartly at both posts and getting good distance on his punches.

Jack Barthram 8 – Reminds me of Adam Smith with his commitment to tackles and energy in getting forward. Always willing to support the attack.

Kevin Stewart 8 – Very calm on the ball, and quite intelligent defensively. Seems to be much more assured than when I first saw him, and looks very good in one-on-one situations.

Milos Veljkovic 7 – Made a couple of mistakes one-on-one, and gave away some free kicks in dangerous areas, but on the whole he did well and his use of the ball was decent.

Daniel Day 7 – Very enthusiastic, but occasionally reckless. He is one player who really helps to set the tempo, though, which is always needed.

Jake Nicholson 7 – A calm head who uses the ball well. Had a very assured first half, and then was withdrawn when the job was done.

Massimo Luongo 9 – A class act. Great user of the ball, good defensive qualities, very strong and robust. Looking forward to seeing him get some first team chances.

Alex Pritchard 9 – My Man of Match. Scored two (an excellent finish having broken the offside trap, and a free kick from the edge of the box) and was involved in most of our good play. Played off the flank in the first half, and found pockets of space which caused Inter all sorts of problems. Technically excellent with a great attitude too.

Laste Dombaxe 7 – He seems to be feeling his way in back in after a lengthy spell on the sidelines last year. Did well, and got a great assist for Soli, but seemed to tire by the end.

Tomislav Gomelt 8 – What a strange match for him! Scored three excellent goals (a nice variety of finishes too) and showed some good touches, movement and passing, but then unfortunately got a harsh red card for the trip which lead to the penalty. Presuming that he’s a permanent signing, I look forward to seeing more of him.

Souleymane Coulibaly 8 – My first glimpse, and he was pretty much what I expected. An enthusiastic, live-wire striker who never stops pressing/harrying. A good finisher with good technique, but a tendency to take on shots that perhaps he shouldn’t. At just 16 he’s an exciting prospect!

Cristian Ceballos – Clearly a good technician with excellent dribbling ability, but needs to work on when to release the ball.

Ronnie Hawkins – used the ball well and made some decent challeges. Didn’t have too many chances to show off his excellent left foot.

Horacio Cristian Olaya- a big lad with Puyol-esque hair who looked a strong presence at the back, and intelligent user of the ball.

A final word about Inter; they looked a physically imposing side, but were ponderous on the ball and didn’t cope at all well with our quick one and two touch passing moves. A couple of their players seemed to do OK (Daniel Bessa in particular), but on the whole they will be very disappointed with this showing.

One late addition – it was nice to see Kyle Walker, Dean Parrett, Tom Carroll, John Bostock, David Button, Andros Townsend and a number of other players there watching their team-mates.

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August 29, 2011

Analysis of the goals conceded against Manchester City (28/8)

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READER ALERT: This may make for painful reading.

Dzeko’s first goalNasri’s one-two with Aguero creates a good angle for the cross, and he delivers a superb ball for Dzeko to prod home.



City regain possession and Toure has the ball, with Corluka pressing.



The ball is moved wide to Nasri – Lennon works hard to get close to him. Modric is too high up the pitch to affect City’s progress – the lack of holding player is vital here.





Nasri carries the ball forward as our players look to get back into a meaningful defensive position.



Nasri finds Kompany and then takes possession back from him. Modric has taken responsibility for Aguero. Dzeko is marked by Assou-Ekotto and Kaboul. Corluka and Dawson are positioned relatively well.



Aguero darts off Modric to play a quick one-two with Nasri. Lennon must surely know what Nasri is going to try to do.



But Nasri’s run in behind Lennon beats him far too easily, and Corluka has not got close enough to be able to show Nasri down the line. Kaboul is goal-side of Dzeko, and seemingly in control.



Nasri whips in a fantastic cross, but Dzeko’s movement is the key. He runs to the near post to meet the ball. It’s not really possible to see this from the picture, but if you watch the video, note Kaboul’s bizarre defending. He doesn’t read the one-two at all, and almost gives up on defending, thinking that the ball is going to go back out towards the edge of the box. This split-second lapse is what allows Dzeko to beat him to the flight of the ball.



Kaboul recovers ground on Dzeko, but not enough to get to the ball first.



Dzeko finishes well, but this is Kaboul of old – a lapse in concentration and essentially a tap-in for a top class striker.

Dzeko’s second goala classic counter-attack from City, who “gang up” down our right. Eventually Nasri finds Dzeko with another excellent cross, and the header is exquisite.



It’s Toure again who starts this move, carrying the ball forward and picking the right pass (as he nearly always does).



Toure slots the ball ahead of our retreating players to David Silva.



Silva drives forward and releases the ball to Nasri.



Nasri faces Corluka up, and has the time to see Dzeko calling for the ball in the box. One striker surrounded by four defenders.



The ball is such that Dawson, Bale and Assou-Ekotto are bypassed, and it is down to Kaboul again to compete with Dzeko one-on-one.



Kaboul doesn’t even get off the ground – it’s awful, flat-footed defending, as he leaves Dzeko to head the ball virtually unchallenged. That said, this is not an easy header – back to goal, and twisting mid-air – but he makes it look easy.

Dzeko’s third goalSpurs fail to re-organise having conceded a corner, and pay the price when Yaya Toure gets round the back to put the ball on a plate for Dzeko.



Defoe heads the ball away but only to Clichy, who immediately squares the ball to Barry.



There is no pressure on the ball, and Spurs are slow to re-organise defensively. Aguero pulls wide ready to receive the ball.



Barry feeds a simple ball to Aguero’s feet – he is one-on-one with Assou-Ekotto, and Yaya Toure has noticed an opportunity.



Yaya Toure cleverly makes an overlapping run, and Modric makes a token gesture to back up Assou-Ekotto. However, the lack of pressure on the ball means that Aguero can just wait for his moment and pop it down the line. Modric points for Assou-Ekotto to go with Yaya, but it is too late. Notice at this point that our defenders have a man each in the box – Corluka has David Silva, Dawson has Dzeko and Kaboul has Lescott (sort of!).



As Yaya charges towards goal, he has options – he can cut the ball back to Lescott, or he can play across the face of goal. David Silva’s movement in the six-yard box has bamboozled Corluka, who has no hope of marking him now. As a result, Dawson is left with two men to mark.



Such is the quality of the pass that it almost doesn’t matter – the best Dawson could manage is to gamble on putting a foot on the ball, which would probably end with a goal anyway.



Dzeko is left with a tap-in, and Corluka’s weak marking is highlighted by where he ends up compared to David Silva!

Aguero’s goalNasri finds Aguero, who is one-on-one with Dawson. He drops his shoulder, beats Dawson, and then beats Friedel too.



Aguero drops deep to help keep possession, and lays the ball off to Nasri.



He spins Dawson, and Nasri sees that he has an opportunity to catch us on the break yet again.



The pass is superbly weighted, and means that Aguero is one-on-one with Dawson.



Aguero teases Dawson – he shows him the ball…



…and then drops his shoulder and beats him on the outside.



He gets his shot away before Dawson can make a challenge. It is difficult to attribute too much blame here – Dawson is simply beaten by a far better player.



But Friedel makes it easy for Aguero – he doesn’t stand up or make himself particularly big, and Aguero’s finish doesn’t need to be anything special. It’s just toe-poked over him.

Dzeko’s fourth goalAfter some patient approach play, City suddenly burst into life, and Dzeko plays a give-and-go with Barry before smashing an unbeatable shot into the top corner.



Dzeko receives the ball in midfield, and his first touch lets him down a little – the ball gets away from him.



This slip tempts Assou-Ekotto into the challenge, but Dzeko is stronger and beats him.



Dzeko progresses forward and looks to find Gareth Barry.



It’s an intelligent piece of play from Barry, who tees the ball up perfectly for Dzeko.



And he lets fly, smashing an unstoppable shot into the top corner of Friedel’s net – no chance for the goalkeeper this time.

A hugely disappointing result but, as many other bloggers have pointed out, the game was essentially lost before kick off. Redknapp’s team selection was bizarre, with no holding players selected in a game where City were deploying three of the finest attacking midfield players in the Premier League. Nasri, Silva and Aguero were afforded a ridiculous amount of space between our defence and midfield, and were able to supply Dzeko with ease.

In response, Spurs were toothless in front of goal, with Bale and Crouch missing good chances. Crouch put in a fairly typical shift – unable to lead the line effectively, and bullied by Man City’s strong centre-backs. Defoe came on and added a little bit more purpose, but the game was over at that point.

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August 25, 2011

New faces in brief – Kane, Carroll, Townsend

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Harry Kane

Harry is an England U19 international who, having only just turned 18, already has 5 league goals to his name after a successful loan spell at Leyton Orient last season. A clever striker, who can also play anywhere across midfield, Kane has good technique and a genuine eye for goal. He has the physical presence which should allow him to make a fairly instant impact for the first team.

Tom Carroll

Tom is a cultured ball-playing midfield player, who prefers to play in the centre, but can play on the left (and has played left back). He has excellent technique and looked particularly comfortable in a deep-lying playmaker role in his time at Leyton Orient last season. If we can play the one and two touch football this evening that we did in the first leg, Tom will be at home.

Andros Townsend

Andros is a tricky winger who loves to beat his man and get to the by-line. He had a fantastic end of season for Millwall last year, and they were keen to sign him up again for this season. He excelled on his Spurs debut against Charlton in January, scoring a goal and putting in a man of the match performance.

You will find more information/reports on these players in my previous articles (for example, this Academy report). I wish them all the best of luck for this evening’s game.

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August 22, 2011

Analysis of the goals conceded against Manchester United (22/8)

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Welbeck’s goalfantastic delivery from Tom Cleverley, and Danny Welbeck guides the header into the corner.





With Assou-Ekotto having failed to get any distance on a clearance from an attempted cross-field pass from Rooney, United build down the right again. Cleverley feeds Smalling, who was often very advanced in the second half.



Smalling lays the ball back to Cleverley, and we have three players who aren’t really preventing anything from happening – at least one should be closer to Cleverley. Note Kaboul’s position – he is marking Welbeck but has one eye on Nani, who has drifted into a good area untracked.



Kaboul is caught in two minds – he is unsure whether Cleverley is going to feint to cross and play it into Nani, and so is caught flat-footed.

As a result, Welbeck – who has only one thought in his mind – steals a march on him and, such is the quality of the cross, is able to guide the header into the far corner.

Anderson’s goala wonderful United move ends with Welbeck finding Anderson with a cheeky back hell, and the Brazilian side-foots home.



At this point Spurs have made two changes in midfield, and are getting a little bit desperate, throwing bodies forward – it is 5 against 5 in this picture. Rooney lays off to Anderson, who has surged forward.



Kaboul comes out to press the ball, but is not helped by any of his team mates (notably van der Vaart), who fail to follow Anderson’s run.



Welbeck cleverly back-heels first time, taking Dawson out of the game.



…and leaving Anderson with a simple finish beyond the helpless Friedel.

Rooney’s goalsimilar to the first goal, Rooney finds the corner with a header from an excellent Giggs cross



United have a period of possession from a throw-in. Giggs makes a move off van der Vaart’s shoulder, and Nani looks to find him.



Van der Vaart suddenly realises that he has let Giggs go, but too late to have an impact. Kaboul attempts to come out to put some pressure on the ball, but Giggs’ close control is excellent in a relatively tight area.



Another top class cross from United, who put a number of excellent deliveries into the box throughout the 90 minutes.



Dawson is caught on his heels, and Rooney easily gets up above him to send his header into the far corner.

Spurs matched United for 60 minutes, and had a few chances of their own, including a reasonable shout for a penalty after a foul by Jones on Bale right on the edge of the box (which the referee failed to spot). When Kranjcar started to tire, Redknapp took him off but rather stragely took Livermore off at the same time, bringing on Huddlestone and Pavlyuchenko, and dropping van der Vaart into central midfield. Two of the subsequent goals then came about by poor positioning and tracking in our deep midfield area where van der Vaart did not cope well.

I have never been a great fan of Redknapp’s use of substitutions, but yesterday’s were more mystifying than usual. Still, credit must go to Redknapp for his selection of Friedel, who had a fantastic debut, and looked very agile for a 40-year old.

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August 14, 2011

Two weeks to go – how the 25-man squad is shaping up

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I wrote about our 25-man squad in May, and how we actually had over 30 players vying to be included in the 25-man squad for Premier League matches.

Since then, we have only managed to shift Jonathan Woodgate (free transfer), Jamie O’Hara (£5m, Wolves), Bongani Khumalo (loan, Reading) and Kyle Naughton (loan, Norwich) of the players that are over the “21 years old” threshold, meaning that we still have five players too many.

NB: homegrown players shaded.

On the plus side, Rose, Walker, Townsend and our other young professionals are still “freebies”, as they were born after January 1990. Livermore, born in November 1989, does not quite make the cut and could be a victim of the rule.

Essentially, if the squad were named today, we would be forced to leave out five players – they would not be eligible to play in Premier League matches. The decisions would be simple enough – Alnwick, Button, Livermore, dos Santos and probably Bentley would be left out, presumably with all five being loaned to other clubs or used in the Europa League.

The issue is a bigger one, though – if we want to bring players in, it means we have to leave others out. If we were to sign, for example, a central midfield player and a striker (as has been speculated, with Diarra and Abdeayor strongly linked), it means that we would need to leave out, say, Keane and Palacios. If we were unable to find buyers or loan clubs in time, they would effectively see out a year of their contracts and lose a considerable amount of value.

Most Spurs fans would say that at least three new players are required, and we are leaving it very late to do the necessary outgoing deals, let alone the incoming ones.

NB: As an aside, Newsnow seems to be going absolutely nuts with my old articles – I have no idea what is going on, but I apologise for ruining the Newsnow stream for you all!

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