September 28, 2014
Tom Glover (16)
Anton Walkes (17) Christian Maghoma (16) Cameron Carter-Vickers (16) Kyle Walker-Peters (17)
Luke Amos (17)
Joe Pritchard (18) (c) Cy Goddard (17)
Lloyd Ross (17)
Shayon Harrison (17) Anthony Georgiou (17)
Zenon Stylianides (16) for Lloyd Ross, 52.
Ismail Azzaoui (16) for Cy Goddard, 70.
Joe Muscatt (16) for Anton Walkes, 81.
Harry Voss (17)
It was a warm, sunny morning for the visit of London rivals Chelsea. Amongst the spectators was Mauricio Pochettino, who took his place on the bench, whilst Academy Manager & Head of Coaching, John McDermott, stood away from the dugout, leaving Kieran McKenna in charge. With Ryan Loft injured, there was no natural line-leader in the Spurs XI, meaning that they lined up in a 4-1-2-1-2. Whilst Harrison and Georgiou started wide, they both looked to cut in. Lloyd Ross – the most central forward player – played almost as a false 9, mostly dropping into midfield.
Pritchard and Carter-Vickers both stepped up to the Under-21s for last Monday’s defeat at Sunderland, and I’m sure some of those involved today will feature against Manchester United at the Lamex in Stevenage on Monday evening.
Spurs started on the front foot, with Pritchard having an early opportunity. Found by an Anton Walkes pass, he shot across the goalkeeper drawing a save. Anthony Georgiou was first to the rebound but saw his effort blocked.
It was noticeable from the start just how high Chelsea were playing – they squeezed the pitch throughout, trying to cramp Spurs’ and disrupt their passing game with intense pressing.
With five minutes on the clock, Walker-Peters helped the ball on to Georgiou, but his first-time volley went into the side netting.
Walkes had an opportunity to get in down the right when he played a pass into Harrison and got it back in space, but his touch let him down as he looked to break through.
The referee signalled his intention to try to play the advantage as much as possible, and was very vocal in saying so – on this particular occasion he pulled it back when the advantage clearly wasn’t gained after all.
Amos made a big challenge ten minutes in as Chelsea looked to counter, taking plenty of ball and plenty of man as he stood firm in deep midfield.
Harrison played in Pritchard and he lifted it over the challenge of one man, but the ball was nicked off him as he tried to cut back onto his right foot.
A terrific Luke Amos cross-field found Walkes, who played in Harrison. He showed quick feet on the edge of the box to create space, but tried to take on one man too many and lost out.
Chelsea had a rare attack on 15 minutes, and Carter-Vickers hacked a clearance over the bar for a corner as 16-year old Swiss midfielder Miro Muheim crossed dangerously. From the corner, Fikayo Tomori’s effort was blocked.
Coach Keiran McKenna was encouraging Lloyd Ross to drop deep to collect the ball from Amos and the two centre backs, saying “Lloydy, go and play, go and play”. He did, and his involvement led to a nice spell of possession from Spurs where they kept the ball moving quickly around the edge of the box. The ball was moved out to Walker-Peters, who seemed to back himself into a corner, but did well to win a corner. The corner was cleared, but Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Brad Collins was not happy, telling his players to “liven up”.
Ross got on the ball again and found Pritchard. He played it out wide to the left-footed Harrison on the right. The forward moved in off the flank, and hit a curling effort with his stronger foot, but it easily cleared the crossbar.
Shayon Harrison was giving the number 4 – listed as Clarke-Saltern, but actually Suljic – a tough time, and he gave him the slip on the right. In trying to get the ball onto his favoured left foot, he left it behind and the chance was gone.
Spurs took the lead when Harrison beat his man and found Georgiou. The winger’s effort came back off the post but Amos had gone forward and was the first to react to turn the ball in.
Chelsea immediately created an opening from the kick-off, Muheim running through only to be stopped by Walkes. Then, with Walkes misjudging a cross and getting caught under it, Dasilva got a shot away which Glover had to be alert to save.
Chelsea had a string of corners – one of which Amos bravely headed away under pressure and one which Carter-Vickers cleared – the centre back then reacted well to block the follow-up shot.
Wakefield beat Walkes on Chelsea’s left, and stabbed a cross in with his right foot which Carter-Vickers headed away.
At the other end, Shayon Harrison got in and a last ditch block from Tomori saved a goal. The resulting corner saw the ball played out to Lloyd Ross, who managed to win a free kick with a trick on the edge of the box. Pritchard’s set piece found Harrison, but he hit the outside of the post in helping it towards goal.
Tammy Abraham – the tall Chelsea striker – came alive on 38 minutes, looping his header onto the bar after a corner was helped onto him.
At the other end, Walker-Peters made something of a poor Goddard pass and found Georgiou, who had a good low effort saved.
Muheim then hit the post from range after Pritchard’s pass was intercepted, and Sammut put the follow-up wide.
The second half started with Chelsea on the front foot, as they looked to impose their pressing game on Spurs. They won an early penalty when Amos had his pocket picked by Kyle Scott and then fouled the number 10 as he looked to get a shot away. Tom Glover was down quickly to make a solid save from Abraham’s spot kick, and received congratulations from his teammates.
It was 1-1 within just a few minutes, though – Dasilva made a strong burst down the left and delivered a superb cross, which Abraham rose to meet.
Spurs replaced Lloyd Ross with Stylianides on 52 minutes to try to contain Chelsea, who had the bit between their teeth. Stylianides played Pritchard’s midfield role, with Pritchard moving further forward to replace Ross. It worked for a few minutes as Spurs came back into the game.
First, Walkes got around the back of Chelsea’s defence but only managed to deliver a weak cross. Then Pritchard had a great opportunity to make it 2-1 when he exchanged passed with Georgiou, but put his effort wide.
Georgiou won a free kick, which Pritchard took. His ball to the back post was headed wide by Walkes.
Walker-Peters won the ball, burst down the left and found Georgiou. He got it back from Georgiou and then passed to Harrison. Harrison attempted a back-heeled return, but got it wrong and Chelsea cleared.
Spurs retook the lead when Carter-Vickers headed in a Harrison free-kick – the keeper could perhaps have been stronger in trying to keep out the lunging header.
Abraham got the better of Carter-Vickers and Walker-Peters on the left when they looked to have him boxed in and made a strong burst towards goal, forcing a corner which, fortunately, came to nothing.
There was a great chance for Spurs to make it 3-1 when a lovely pass from Harrison found Georgiou – he took on the shot on his weaker right side which the keeper saved, and Stylianides’ effort from the rebound was blocked by a retreating defender. Chelsea’s goalkeeper, Collins, was injured during the move and later had to be replaced.
Pritchard made a charge forward and even when he overran the ball, he managed to bundle it through to Georgiou, who had another shot saved.
Chelsea got level again when Muheim received the ball from Dasilva, created himself a yard of space, and found the far corner with a clever low effort.
Four minutes later Chelsea took the lead for the first time. Full back Grant picked out a cross for Abraham, who hung in the air to power his header beyond Glover, who had little chance of keeping it out.
Walker-Peters beat two men but his cross was just out of the reach of two teammates.
Ismail Azzaoui, who had replaced Goddard, beat Dasilva and did well to force a cross, but the new goalkeeper pounced on the low ball.
Joe Muscatt replaced Anton Walkes, with Kyle Walker-Peters heading back to the right as Muscatt is a natural left back.
Before Muscatt could have any impact on the game, though, Abraham completed his hat-trick to make it 4-2. Chelsea nicked the ball in midfield, Abraham easily held off the tiring Pritchard and, whilst Glover saved well at the first attempt, the rebound fell kindly for the striker to finish at the second.
There was a big appeal for handball when Pritchard’s shot on the turn hit an arm, but the referee was very definite in turning it down.
Muscatt’s cross after a short corner was met by Carter-Vickers but was easily saved, and then Luke Amos picked out Walker-Peters, who crossed to Georgiou but he couldn’t conjure anything this time.
Chelsea were deserving winners, but it was a game of ‘what ifs’ from a Spurs perspective. What if Georgiou or Pritchard had taken a chance at 3-1? What if we’d started with Muscatt (and Walker-Peters on the right)? And what if Stylianides had come on for Goddard rather than Ross?
Tammy Abraham, 17 next week, was clearly the game’s star man and, according to Chelsea youth blogger @chelseayouth, he now has 8 goals in 5 games this season, second only to Arsenal’s Stephy Mavididi (who has 10) in the Barclays U18 Premier League. It’s easy to see why.
At half-time I had a word with Chelsea’s camera man who told me that Jay Dasilva had recently trained with their first team, where they joked that he was half John Terry’s age as well as being half his size!
Over on the other pitch, the Under-16s lost 2-0 to their Chelsea counterparts, but apparently dominated the match.
Tom Glover 8 – my first look at the young Aussie – he’s a big guy! Despite conceding 4, he had a good game in which he saved a penalty, made a couple of others good stops, and was very vocal throughout (“Cy, wake up”, “Anton, higher” being just two examples!).
Anton Walkes 5 – not a great fit at right back and, actually, we probably could have done with his height and strength in midfield, particularly in the second half when Chelsea took hold.
Christian Maghoma 6 – looked good in the first half, but struggled to contain Abraham in the second.
Cameron Carter-Vickers 6 – much like his defensive partner, he coped well in the first 45, but struggled a little in the second. He scored with a stooping header and had another headed effort saved.
Kyle Walker-Peters 6 – not his usual bubbly self, and I think had he been switched to the right sooner, we might have won the match.
Luke Amos 7 – I’d be rating him higher were it not for the penalty incident – he used the ball intelligently and positioned himself well to stop attacks.
Joe Pritchard 5 – his energy in midfield is refreshing, but he needs to show more of an awareness of his teammates and know when to release the ball.
Cy Goddard 5 – he drifted in and out of the game and struggled to impose himself.
Shayon Harrison 6 – looked dangerous, but missed the presence of Loft to create space.
Lloyd Ross 6 – much like Goddard, he drifted in and out. When he was in, though, he was relatively effective, and Spurs looked less fluid without him on the pitch.
Anthony Georgiou 6 – had several useful efforts on goal, but he does tend to run down a few blind alleys. A good player who is sometimes let down by his decision-making.
Zenon Stylianides – had some good moments, but didn’t really suit the role he came on to play, – perhaps would have benefited from being the deepest lying player.
Ismail Azzaoui – came on at a time when we were struggling to control Chelse and therefore struggled to have an impact. He played on the right, with Harrison moving infield to make it a three.
Joe Muscatt – added some balance on the left and had an impact in the short time he was on the pitch.
September 22, 2014
Our expectations are – or should be – lower this season. But not significantly low as to shrug off a 1-0 home defeat to one of the league’s poorer sides, a side that had not beaten us at White Hart Lane since 1984, the year of my birth. And especially when the performance was also so disappointing.
It is, of course, far too early to pass judgement on Mauricio Pochettino. He is eight matches (and just five in the league) into what will hopefully be a long reign. The style of play that he’s attempting to implement is sufficiently complex to require significant work on the training ground, and he simply has not had enough time yet for it to be fair to expect a lot more than what we have: a set of players not yet fulfilling his instructions. I can absolutely forgive that at this stage.
But what I cannot forgive is a lack of effort. The players should always be sufficiently motivated to go out and try as hard as they can and, certainly for some on the pitch yesterday, it did not feel that they were. And that does concern me – and it will, no doubt, concern Pochettino. His response to this will be fascinating, and his team selections against Nottingham Forest and Arsenal will be telling.
I could spend hours reeling off reasons for yesterday’s poor showing, but I do not have the time or inclination and I’m sure, dear reader, you don’t either. So I’ll stick to three that I consider key.
We made ten changes for the midweek game, and so the players should have been suitably fit for Sunday’s match, right? That argument totally misses the point of the Europa League ‘distraction’ argument. The key for me is not the number of games – we have a deep enough squad to cope with them – but the consequence of preparing for two matches in a week rather than one.
From Monday, West Bromwich Albion will have been working hard on their approach for this game. How to stop us, how to hurt us; analysing our strengths and weaknesses. From Monday, we had to prepare for Partizan Belgrade on Thursday. A number of players then had to spend half a day travelling to Serbia, and another half travelling home. Do we assume, then, that we spent Friday and Saturday preparing for West Brom? That’s two days. And how much can a coach achieve in two days?
I love Spurs participating in European competitions, and I would love us to win the Europa League. Even those coming from the ‘sack it off and focus on top four’ angle now have a slightly different outlook since winning the Europa League is rewarded with a Champions League place. It is no coincidence, though, that eight of Spurs’ last thirteen league defeats have come after a Thursday night Europa League match. It is clearly an issue that we need to learn to overcome if we are to be successful in both domestic and European competitions.
I was full of praise for Mousa Dembélé on last week’s Fighting Cock podcast. He was excellent against Sunderland – he won the ball regularly and used it well, the opening goal being a prime example of his quick and simple distribution having won possession. He found our more creative players with regularity between Sunderland’s defence and midfield, and we created numerous chances as a result.
But he was as bad against West Brom as he was good against Sunderland. He was ponderous on the ball – constantly wanting too many touches – and this led to him losing possession three times in dangerous areas. The below illustrates his passes in the 61 minutes he played yesterday, compared to his passes during the 68 minutes he played in a deep midfield position against Sunderland (before he was pushed further forward to accommodate Stambouli).
In neither game did he make a single pass into the box, but against Sunderland he made plenty of short, incisive passes in dangerous areas. The difference is stark – you would be forgiven for confusing his pass map from yesterday with one of Tom Cleverley’s for Manchester United; plenty of sideways passes and no penetration.
In Pochettino’s teams the role Dembélé is playing is a vital one, which was one reason why Pochettino was so keen to sign Schneiderlin, despite the vast price attributed to him. The player in this role is vital for slick transition from defence to attack – he is required to be involved in ball-winning, but also to move the ball quickly to the creative elements of the team to catch the opposition off-guard having won possession.
In May I wrote a piece for FourFourTwo just after Pochettino’s appointment; I speculated that Dembélé might be a player that would struggle. It’s far too early to say that this is the case, but he will need to adapt his game in order to hold down a regular position, particularly with Bentaleb and Stambouli – two players keen to pass the ball quickly – breathing down his neck.
I have been an advocate for Adebayor in a community where many want him cast aside in order to give Soldado a prolonged run. Yesterday’s performance, though, was unacceptable. Ignoring the missed header – because, on seeing a few replays, the ball *was* just ahead of him – he simply didn’t trouble the West Brom defence. He failed to involve himself in the game, having just 25 touches of the ball. His pass completion was 46% – he completed just six passes.
Some of Adebayor’s below-par performance can be put down to a lack of service – Eriksen and especially Lamela were very wasteful, whilst Chadli was a peripheral figure – but he seemed to submit too easily to Lescott’s dominance.
Equally worrying was that Soldado’s cameo was one where nothing really went right for him and, whilst he managed to involve himself quite well, his final pass and shot were lacking. Harry Kane played poorly in Serbia, but would have been a useful option from the bench yesterday with his ability to link play on the edge of the box.
I could write further about Vlad Chiricheș’ nervous display, and Erik Lamela’s appalling marking for James Morrison’s winner, but I will end on a positive – we have two big matches this week, and two big opportunities. Nottingham Forest top the Championship with young striker, Britt Assombalonga, tormenting defences. Arsenal seem to have regained form just at the right time, with Welbeck opening his account at the weekend. Positive performances in these two games would transform the feeling surrounding the team and give us a huge boost. COYS.
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September 2, 2014
Yedlin (to join next year)
Released professionals: Gomes, Gallifuoco, Lancaster, Michael-Percil, Miles, Stewart, McQueen, Dombaxe and Vigouroux.
Firstly, I’m glad that’s over – I don’t enjoy the way the transfer window works, and how loopy it can send people.
But in terms of assessing our window, I’m satisfied with the work we’ve done. At the start of the summer I identified left-back, centre-back, back-up goalkeeper, and wing-forward as areas to improve. We’ve ticked most of these off. We’ve also shifted plenty of deadwood and not made the mistake of last season, where we spent a lot of money on players on lots of overseas players who took a long time to settle.
We got an excellent price for Livermore, and the dealings with Swansea – giving them Sigurdsson and taking Davies and Vorm for little or no extra cash – seemed very sensible. Whilst he was a good, honest pro who had terrific technique when striking a ball, Sigurdsson failed to hold down a regular place and was not deemed good enough by the majority of fans. His sale allowed us to fill two problem areas – Vorm is closer in style to Lloris than Friedel, and Davies is the ‘steady Eddy’ left-back that Rose simply isn’t.
Dier was signed for a similar fee that we received for Falque – again, great business – and Fazio replaces Dawson (‘Michael Dawson – a tribute‘).
Stambouli has come in for roughly half of what we received for Sandro – if he’s more suited to the system than the loveable but unreliable Brazilian – and that’s a big if – then it would represent another sensible bit of business.
The key is that Pochettino is allowed a degree of control over shaping his squad. Whilst there are some players that he will be able to mould and develop, there are others that he will feel are unwilling or unable to be what he wants them to be. Of course, when transfer fees are spiralling out of control, it’s also increasingly difficult to bring better, more suitable players in.
It’s been pretty well documented that Pochettino wanted to bring in Schneiderlin and Rodriguez from Southampton. He trusts them, rates them, and sees them as able to improve us. Southampton have played hardball with both (credit to them for that) and so Pochettino either needs to be patient, or to seek alternatives – as he seems to have done with Stambouli.
I have a suspicion that his first choice ball-playing centre-back target was the Mexican, Hector Moreno, who suffered a broken leg during the World Cup; Pochettino was his manager at Espanyol. Subsequently we bid for Musacchio, but he proved to be difficult to land owing to complications with his third party ownership. Fazio, I’d guess, was always going to be signed alongside one of these; their playing styles are significantly different to suggest that.
I’m happy to trust Pochettino. If he felt that the squad was too big, I trust his trimming of it. If he felt that a player in central midfield that wins the ball and passes it quickly was his top priority, that’s fine with me. If he didn’t feel that he can rely on the likes of Dawson and Sandro – previous fan favourites – then so be it.
The only area where I feel like we’ve left ourselves weak is wing-forward. Whilst Chadli played well against QPR, I don’t think we can rely on him for the season. Lennon is not productive enough to play high on the left, and Townsend seems more comfortable on the right these days. Welbeck would have been a useful option as he’s able to play wide, or through the centre – my suspicion was that we wanted him on loan, or not at all, given that we seem willing to wait for Rodriguez’s return to fitness.
Personally I’d have also tried to replace Soldado and ship out Paulinho, but – ignoring the fact that they might have been difficult to sell after poor seasons – Pochettino keeping hold of all seven of last summer’s signings does represent confidence to get the best out of players who mostly struggled last year (for various reasons, and with mitigating circumstances).
I take more pleasure from seeing a coach improve players rather than just buying a new team, and it’s important that we give Pochettino and his coaching team a chance to do this. Expectations for the coming season are relatively low, and there will be matches – like the defeat to Liverpool – where the team under-performs as the players learn the system. But I will be staggered if, by the end of the season, we haven’t enjoyed the football more, and don’t see plenty of positive signs.