March 31, 2013
Michu’s goal – After a period of pressure, Swansea win a corner. Ki Sung-Yueng delivers the set piece, Dawson gets caught under the ball, and Michu guides a header in off the post.
With the corner set to be taken, Dawson is marking Michu whilst Vertonghen has Williams.
Michu makes his move, and Dawson goes with him…
Whilst Michu gets up early to meet the delivery, Dawson takes a stride too many, and gets caught under the flight of the ball.
This leaves Michu in enough space to guide a header into the corner of the net – in off the post.
March 29, 2013
Despite the recent negativity displayed by many in the media, the Spurs blogging world, and the Twittersphere, I personally think this can be deemed a successful first season for André Villas-Boas even if we *don’t* finish in 4th place. Am I crazy? Maybe…
Of course a top four finish was always our aim after the dismissal of Redknapp, who achieved two fourth place finishes in three years. However, at the start of the season – having lost King to retirement, Modric to a bigger fish, and van der Vaart to… well, having lost van der Vaart – this seemed an entirely unachievable target.
I wrote back in August that we should aim to finish in the top six with the squad that we had (albeit that was before we signed Mousa Dembele). I saw this as a realistic aim given the rebuilding job required – rebuilding of the spine of the team, rebuilding of the squad and rebuilding of the remaining squad’s fragile confidence.
Rebuilding of the spine, because losing three players as vital as King, Modric, and van der Vaart was inevitably going to have an effect – little did we know that Kaboul would soon get injured too.
Rebuilding of the squad because a number of our squad players became disenfranchised under Redknapp; capable players, the likes of Corluka, Kranjcar, Pienaar and Pavlyuchenko, just didn’t get enough games to make it worthwhile sticking around. Finding similar quality to deputise was always going to be an issue.
And rebuilding of the remaining squad’s confidence because we ended last season on a low – not only because we had a run which saw us win just five of our last fifteen games, but because we lost out on a Champions League place due to Chelsea’s win over Bayern Munich.
Change of approach
Many fans felt that should we finish lower than 4th this season, we might as well have kept Redknapp. Of course, that is entirely missing the point that AVB was a long-term appointment, with new priorities very much on the agenda: the development of youth, full and proper use of the new training facilities, and a club pulling in the same direction from top to bottom.
The slimming down of an admittedly bloated squad – much of which was initially done by sending players on loan – seemed to signify a greater confidence in homegrown youth players – the likes of Caulker, Livermore, Townsend and Carroll. Whilst this hasn’t necessarily been the case so far, AVB has shown trust in Caulker certainly, and increasingly so in Carroll too – hopefully a sign of things to come.
When a new manager joins a club, there is generally an initial upturn in form – be it players wanting to impress, fresh ideas giving everyone a lift, or something else. There then tends to be a dip, as a manager begins to instil his methodologies and ideas. I would suggest that most managers don’t get their ideas across until a good halfway through a season – with that bedding in period in mind, managers should, under most circumstances, be given time and leeway by everyone concerned with the club – be it executives or supporters.
Villas-Boas had the advantage of a strong start to the season – to be in the top four in January was a terrific achievement – but we should not forget that this is his first season, that he is still getting to know his players’ strengths and weaknesses, and that key players have been missing for long periods of the season – not least Kaboul, who I voted as our Player of the Year last year, and now Sandro, arguably our most consistent performer of the first half of the season.
A distraction? A chance of glory? Both? AVB has a reputation for taking cups seriously. Whilst a League Cup run never materialised and an FA Cup run ended disappointingly, our Europa League run continues. The knock-on effect that this has on league form is obvious, but it is a difficult balancing act, and decisions will never please everyone. Some fans would rather sacrifice further progress in the European competition to prioritise a stronger league finish, whereas others want the glory and historical memento that a trophy brings.
The modern-day football fan demands success and demands it now – I can understand the frustration; we are “closer to success” than we have been in many fans’ lifetimes – certainly mine, in terms of being one of the four or five best clubs in the country. This is why so many fans went ballistic when Levy and co failed to land a big-name striker in January, in the summer, in the January before that, etc etc. But, without a sugar daddy investor, the key is sustainability - and that means building towards “success” over a period of time. This is why Villas-Boas is a perfect fit for our club – a club with resources, but limited resources compared to some. His focus on getting the best out of what he has, on integrating youth, on utilising psychology, on using modern methods generally, will take time to embed, but, in my opinion, have a greater chance of delivering regular Champions League football, as well as delivering trophies. Maybe not this season, but we have to look beyond the now and realise that he has laid foundations this year that will stand us in good stead.
March 17, 2013
Berbatov’s goal – Fulham counter, with Dejagah beating Vertonghen and Dembele, before sliding the ball through to Riether, who crosses for Berbatov to score.
Dejagah, impressive in the second half, turns away from Dembele and Vertonghen, who both commit themselves.
Riether makes a superb supporting run, and Berbatov is on his bike. With Vertonghen having pushed forward, Naughton has left too big a gap between himself and Caulker, and now has a vast amount of ground to make up.
Riether doesn’t even need to take a touch, such is the weight on the pass from Dejagah. He plays the ball across Caulker first time, and Naughton has not managed to make up the ground.
Contrast Berbatov’s finish – a guided, looping effort into the far post – to Defoe’s at the end of the game from a similar position, where he just drilled the ball straight into Schwarzer. So calm, so clinical.
March 11, 2013
Suarez’s goal – Liverpool counter, and the untracked Suarez gets on to a Jose Enrique through-ball, and slots into the near post.
He plays a long ball out to Coutinho, with Walker chasing after him.
He holds the ball up well, and is supported by Jose Enrique, who he finds with a back-heel down the line.
Jose Enrique plays back to Coutinho again, as Suarez lingers around Livermore.
Coutinho’s through-ball is excellent – right between Dembele and Livermore and into Jose Enrique.
He mis-controls initially, but regains his balance to slip a pass in to Suarez, who has run in behind Livermore, with Jake caught ball-watching. Vertonghen also has time to see the run, but makes no move towards Suarez.
In true Suarez style, he takes the shot very early and catches Lloris out at the near post with a toe-poked finish.
Downing’s goal – Walker launches a ball back towards Lloris without looking; Lloris rushes out to meet it, tries to take it past Downing, but the ball hits Downing and falls kindly for the winger to move forward and finish through Vertonghen’s legs.
Spurs are 2-1 up, with 66 minutes played – at this point in the game we were coasting. Michael Dawson has possession, and plays a simple pass to Walker, who has limited options – his best bet being a cross-field to Vertonghen. In truth, he is not helped by Parker, who is stood centrally, not making himself available to receive the ball.
Walker instead tries to play a first-time pass back to Lloris – clearly he has not seen Downing in an advanced position.
As Lloris comes out to meet the ball, he is in a no-win position – if he tries to make a firm contact, the ball could ricochet off Downing and fly into the net. Instead, he tries to take it past him.
Downing gets a slightly lucky bounce, and is able to take the ball on.
Although Vertonghen has backed onto the line, Downing squeezes it through his legs to draw Liverpool level. A suicidal piece of play from Walker.
Gerrard’s goal – Lloris punches Gerrard’s free kick to Defoe, who mis-kicks towards his own goal, putting Suarez in. His touch is heavy, but Assou-Ekotto collides with him to concede a penalty, which Gerrard scores.
Gerrard whips in a free-kick, and Lloris does well to clear with a firm punch.
The ball drops to Defoe, who takes a sloppy first touch, and then inexplicably sends a half-volley back towards his own goal – has he toe-ended the ball in trying an overhead kick? Why has he not just laid it back to one of the supporting players?
As it is in the sky, Suarez recognises an opportunity.
He gets to the dropping ball first, and is confronted by Assou-Ekotto, on his wrong side.
The contact is little more than a shoulder-barge, but Suarez’s dramatic fall makes it look a nailed-on penalty.
Gerrard sends Lloris the wrong way.