December 29, 2015

Jingle bells, jingle bells…

Well look at this! Here I am, blogging, so soon after my last post – the joy of the Christmas break! First, an apology for my previous slack levels of blog productivity; a new job and new house have changed things for me slightly over this last year. I intend to maintain a healthier work/life balance in 2016 and so will be back on my blogging game. Shout at me if that doesn’t happen.

Onto the good stuff. Isn’t Christmas going well? A thoroughly professional deconstruction of an adequate Norwich City team filled me with festive joy, but not half as much as Son Heung-min’s last minute winner against Watford. It was cheeky (insert emoji here), offside, and came moments after Lloris had *just* kept Ben Watson’s corner from going over the line. I made a noise in my front room that linguists are yet to classify!

It wasn’t a particularly good performance against Watford; we got dragged into a battle of attrition whereby their strikers attempted to bully our defence over the ninety. But we showed resilience and a bit of quality at the end (albeit via a poor decision from the Assistant Referee) won it for us.

Mauricio Pochettino’s switch to a back three was fascinating for two reasons; firstly because I can’t remember us seeing anything like that in his tenure so far and, secondly, because it showed absolute respect to Quique Sánchez Flores (and Troy Deeney/Odion Ighalo). On the whole it worked; the numerical advantage at the back helped us deal with the toughest physical threat our centre-backs will come up against all season.

Pre-match I was a little concerned about Jan Vertonghen’s one-on-one defending and so Eric Dier dropping in made sense. But it was Dier who struggled with Ighalo for Watford’s goal – although the striker got a somewhat lucky bounce, and Dier had a lack of assistance from Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, when there was ample time for one of them to cover round.

Where the formation worked from a defensive viewpoint, it gave us one less passing option in midfield, and this had an impact on our creativity. Our pass completion rate as a team was down on the season average (78% vs 80%) and it was notable that Danny Rose had his poorest match of the campaign so far, with nobody ahead of him to link up with.

Danny Rose vs Watford

Danny Rose vs Watford

Danny Rose vs West Ham

Danny Rose vs West Ham

Conversely, Keiran Trippier had arguably his best Spurs showing on the opposite flank, setting up the winner with a fantastic ‘straight back in’ cross despite being under pressure. He did finish the match with the lowest pass completion of all starting outfield players, though (65.8%), and only 2 of his 9 crosses (which are counted separately to passes) found a man.

Trippier's passing vs Watford

Trippier’s passing vs Watford

The difference between the two was that Trippier got free on his side more regularly and provided a better delivery. Essentially, though, I don’t think the back three experiment is something we will continue with, although it’s nice to have it in our locker.

The Norwich City match was just pure fun. It was a real ‘tails up’ attacking performance, with Dele Alli, Erik Lamela and Harry Kane clicking, and Alderweireld immaculate at the back too. Kane’s ‘shift and shoot’ finish was wonderfully precise, and the first-time passing move of Davies-Son-Davies followed by Carroll’s drive from range was a fitting end, as we played some beautifully fluid football throughout.

Next up we go to Everton, who have just one win in their last six Premier League matches, and only two wins in their last six at home. They are struggling defensively and have conceded more goals at home than any other team (19 – next highest 16, West Bromwich Albion). Having said that, only Manchester City have scored more home goals (Everton 22, City 29). On paper we should expect goals, and with the amount that Everton ‘faff about’ at the back, I would expect our high pressing to cause them huge problems – how many times have we seen us pounce on an error and punish it this season? Prime examples of this came in the recent wins against Southampton and Watford.

It will be interesting to see whether Pochettino dabbles in more rotation given the number of games over the Christmas period. Son could start and Eriksen may well come back in too. With Mousa Dembélé likely to be missing, Alli and Dier could fill the deep midfield roles, or indeed Tom Carroll could keep his place. With Nacer Chadli, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb also now fit there are options, and that’s really encouraging. Bentaleb didn’t even make the bench against Watford!

Before I sign-off, I started by talking my productivity so I thought I’d end with Spurs’ – so below are some productivity stats that I tweeted earlier.

See my Twitter timeline for some of my thoughts on these.

Happy New Year to all – thanks for the comments here on my blog, for engaging on Twitter, and for all the questions for and feedback on my weekly Fighting Cock podcast segment. Much love. COYS.

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  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    Great to see Spurs finish the last 3 games of 2015 with wins, PLUS:
    1. Poch has a plan B(as shown yesterday)
    2. We are getting goals through more channels
    a. Walker, Davies and Trippier delivered assists with their crosses.
    b. Solo goals from Kane, Carroll and Lamela
    c. Goal instincts of Toby, Dier, Alli and Son guided them to the right place at the right time.

    I see no reason why we shan’t be firmly in the top 3 come mid-Feb if there are no FA Cup replays to tire the lads,

    COYS

    HAPPY NEW YEARS to all THFC supporters

  • SpurredoninDublin says:

    I’ve been saying for several weeks that we can win this league, and now I am seeing the murmurings of others starting to get noisier in agreeing with me.

    When we drew Arse in the LC, I was castigated on quite a few sites for saying that we should not invest too much effort into winning what I called the “Mickey Mouse Cup”.

    My reasons were that in Mopo’s first season with us, I questioned a lot of his decisions, and my biggest query was why we fielded a weakened team against Fiorentina in the EL. The ultimate prize for the MM cup, was a place in the EL. I don’t think this cup has anywhere near the prestige it once held with most of the big teams fielding weaken teams as a matter of course. However, if Cheatski had won it, we would have still qualified for the EL by finishing sixth, which was looking very likely. But winning the EL would have given us entry into the qualifying round of the CL.

    I am not saying we would have won it, but we were the better team against Fiorentina and we lost after fielding weakened sides. Normally, that would be an end to it, but you’ve got to be in it to win it.

    Unfortunately one of the side effects of losing that tie, is that it might still come back to haunt us. This allowed Italian sides to narrow the gap in the UEFA rankings and England’s fourth spot in the CL is currently under threat. As things stand at the moment, in order to guarantee CL group stage games next season, we need to finish second or better.

    As is often the way in this game, fate has intervened and we have again drawn Fiorentina. If we win the tie, we should be able to keep the fourth spot.

    Coming back to my comments about the Mickey Mouse Cup, I am now looking at our options for the FA Cup. This is a trophy that I hold in much higher regard, so I do not want to be disrespectful in this case, but as I said, this is often a game where fate intervenes, and we have Leicester in the cup on the Sunday, followed by a PL game with them three days later at WHL.

    Clearly it depends on how results go for both teams, but if Mancs wins the tale of two cities tonight, we have a chance to over take Leicester in the PL on Jan 13th. I see you have mentioned avoiding cup-replays and I am starting to think that it might not be a bad thing to give some of “the kids” a run out on the Sunday and save the best team for the PL game three days later. That would be some achievement bearing in mind that 10 days ago, we were nine points behind them.

    Then onto February and revenge over Fiorentina at which stage I will tell MoPo: “All is forgiven”

    Incidentally, I don’t know if you are aware, but the rules for this years CL seedings are that the Champs from the top 8 leagues are allocated “pot 1”, so coming back to my opening comment, this would mean that if we do win this league, we will avoid Bayern, PSG, and the champs from Spain, Italy and Portugal.

    With everything to play for, it’s Everton up next. It is not likely to be an easy game, but one stat that I am sure you will like, is that since the start of the PL, is that Everton have been our second best “whipping boys”. Only Mancs have conceded more points to us in that era.

    • SpurredoninDublin says:

      Correction to my last para. Everton have conceded more points to us in the PL than any other team.

    • WindyCOYS says:

      Very informative stuff. I’ve mentioned a few times that we should have gone near enough full strength vs Fiorentina. I was expecting us to, that was one of the reasons I travelled out there. Still bugs me!

      • SpurredoninDublin says:

        As is my habit, my predictions don’t always work out, and now that Mancs failed to beat, it looks doubtful that we will leap-frog by Jan 13th.

        The silver lining though is we are a point behind Mancs at the halfway stage, and I’ll take that.

      • SpurredoninDublin says:

        Somehow or other in my post at 21.48, I managed to miss out the words Leicester twice.

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    I was one of those who distrusted Dembele 2014-15 season.
    This season I thank him of make-shifting in DM while Mason and Bentaleb were not available but this is a position he seems unnatural and prone to injuries.
    His best place in the team is as an AM on the left where he scores goals.
    And goals are what wins us games ,not draws.

    More players are sharing the responsibility of scoring goals when deployed in positions they could play productively.
    If Dier, Mason and Bentaleb stay healthy, we have enough DMs.
    Unless there is/are players in the Jan window whom the spurs management is certain of capable to blend into the present team, I am also of the opinion that we don’t spend big.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am wondering if Dembele’s injuries are more to do with the commitment that MoPo demands (and has got) from his players.

      Nevertheless, I think you are right about not spending big. There are very rarely any crown jewels available in this particular sale, and I won’t state the blindingly obvious in saying that there is only one real position that needs to be filled.

      But being cash rich at the moment, I would really be delighted to see some of that money being spent on contract extensions for Dier, Alli and Kane. It’s not that I think they are going to be poached so much as I really think they have earned it.

      Of course, you do realise that if Levy listen’s to fools like you and I, come Feb 1st, the DL haters will be awoken from their very deep recent slumbers, no doubt telling us that if only DL were not so tight fisted, we still had a chance to win this year’s CL.

      That’s been one of the best things about this season so far. The Levy haters have effectively painted themselves into a corner by blaming Levy for everything, so it follows that if things are going well, Levy deserves the credit. He won’t get it from them, but they are in the realms where it is better to keep silent and let people think you are a fool, rather than speak and remove all doubt.

  • SpurredoninDublin says:

    I am sure that with your interest in the developing players, you are probably aware of it, but Hahasport.com is showing the Manure-v-Spurs under 21’s at 19.00

  • GERRYinHONGKONG says:

    I think Leic will rest their regulars for the FA Cup tie this Sunday but field the strongest possible lineup next Wed. They don’t have enough players to fight on 2 fronts and they know it.
    It would be foolish for Poch to play his best men , win this Sunday, only to be shamed next Wed.

    My core starting eleven this Sunday:(Change a few positions, maybe, but not more than 3)
    Vorm
    Trippier Fazio Wimmer Rose
    Mason Bentaleb
    Son Onomah Townsend
    Chadli

    If we progress to the 4th round/need a replay, keep this core lineup.

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No no no, Jan, you have to get something on that.
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