March 10, 2015

Finding Yedlin

I’m getting asked a few times a week (normally when the U21s are about to play!) where DeAdre Yedlin is, so I thought I’d post this so I’ve got something to refer to when I’m telling people I don’t know where he is!

DeAndre made his debut for Spurs U21s in the 3-1 win against West Ham on 9th January. He played an hour at right-back in that match.

After the match Ugo Ehiogu said: “I thought it was quite tough for him today… the wind… he won’t be used to that. The pitch, although it looks flat, is quite bobbly and it took him a little while to come to terms with that. No injuries; I always say that on my watch. We got him through 60 minutes. Definitely stuff to work on but pleased he’s had a little taste. We’re going to have to give him a reasonable period of time to settle in and get used to everything and then you’ll see the real reason why the club signed him.”

Here’s the interview. He didn’t exactly sound enthused with the performance, but he also acknowledged that it’ll take time for him to adjust.

On 25th January, DeAndre went back to the US for friendlies against Chile and Panama (match against Panama was in California on Sunday, February 8). Details.

He picked up an injury – do check out that Reddit thread as it includes an excellent report on him in the thread by agentdcf.

Spurs said: “DeAndre started the game at right-back, but was forced off through injury 18 minutes from time.” They didn’t give any further detail.

In terms of U21 football, he missed the 0-0 vs Leicester on 26th January as he was away on international duty. He was presumably back in time for the following two matches – the 0-0 draw with Southampton on the 23rd February and the 4-0 win against Everton on the 2nd March.

We play Manchester United U21s tonight and Yedlin is not in the squad for the match.

It is assumed that he is considered part of the first team squad, and so would not be included in Under-21 matches.

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March 3, 2015

That Was the Week That Was

Wembley Woes or an Arch of Ambition?

As Field Marshal Pochettino sent his troops off to the front line on Sunday (apologies, I couldn’t resist continuing my military analogy that I began on this week’s Fighting Cock podcast!) my optimism concealed a fear that we would be up against a wounded José Mourinho who would eke out a victory in whatever manner he could. My preferred team selection was identical to the team Mauricio Pochettino opted for, and a bursting hopefulness surged through me as the players took to the pitch.

But Mourinho’s vengeful cynicism was translated to his team and from early in the match they broke up play with tactical fouls – stopping moves before they had started – whilst drawing cheap free-kicks themselves from our players, waiting for the slightest contact before collapsing to the turf. Some of our players showed a fair amount of naivety and walked into this trap, giving Chelsea precisely what they wanted.

Of course, it wasn’t just a cynical Chelsea performance – it was a truly commendable defensive display in a season where Premier League defending has been oft-criticised. John Terry (*spits*) was dominant, ably assisted by Gary Cahill, and Kurt Zouma did a fine job as an auxiliary midfield player. Our wide players rarely got the better of César Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanović, and Chelsea kept us at arm’s length for most of the game.

But things could have been different. Spurs dominated the first half, playing some neat football and controlling the tempo of the match. Nabil Bentaleb was at his suave best, with Ryan Mason a bundle of industry and (attempted) invention beside him. With little help from the band of players behind him, Harry Kane was forced to drop deep to try to create for himself. On one such occasion, he drove through a clutch of defenders and won a free-kick. Christian Eriksen – so vital a player for much of the season, but recently suffering from #formloss – curled a beautiful free-kick over the wall, but it left the crossbar shaking with Petr Čech seemingly beaten by the pace of the attempt.

Chelsea scored at just the right time – a scruffy goal from a Spurs perspective – and went in at the break to receive instructions on how to shut up shop. Mourinho masterminded the second half to perfection, and it was Chelsea who looked most likely to score again, looking a genuine threat on the counter. It was somewhat inevitable that they got their second but, once again, it came via a deflection, which was unfortunate for Spurs and Kyle Walker in particular.

It wasn’t just Chelsea who showed defensive resilience, and I want to take a moment to praise Eric Dier who, for me, was our best player. At just 21, and in his first season in the Premier League, he put in an outstanding performance. Diego Costa is a pig of a player. All elbows and mouth, he tries to get under the skin of his opponent from early on, doing anything he can to gain an advantage. Dier was calm and dealt with him consistently well. Costa eventually got the better of us for the second goal, but he needed a big stroke of luck to do so – he’d been kept quiet for the rest of the game. This performance from Dier – with many eyes on him – should be enough to ensure that he starts at centre-back for England in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in the Czech Republic this summer, an experience that will undoubtedly aid his development.

I left Wembley with a real sense of pride. Pride in our young team’s performance, and pride in our fans too. Post-match, Pochettino was keen to point out just how young the team was. He said: “The average age for my players was 23 and a half and for many players it was their first time at Wembley. It’s true that we will play a lot of finals in the next few years. I think we have a big future.”

Our fans were also fantastic, and out-sung our Chelsea counterparts for most of the match. It was a genuine delight when, after the opening Chelsea goal went in, a burst of ‘Everywhere we go…’ started up in my block.

Tuscan Travails

My trip to Florence was an experience. Florence is a beautiful city, with beautiful food and, fortunately for us, beautiful weather, particularly on the Friday. But, despite good backing for our team in a tough match, it didn’t click on the pitch, and not all of the players’ efforts matched up to those of our supporters.

Florence city centre

On arriving in Florence, it would have been rude not to order pizza for lunch. I went for the ‘Fiorentina’, which the waiter found amusing. After a couple of beers and a quick stop at our B&B, we headed off to the stadium.

Fiorentina pizza

Pre-match, my friend and I had agreed to record interviews for Spurs TV (23:10 here), meaning that we were at the Stadio Artemio Franchi for 16:45, over two hours prior to kick off.

Recording for Spurs TV

After the interview was finished, we began walking around to where we presumed we could enter the ground. We drew plenty of stares from Fiorentina fans, so we kept our mouths shut and hid our colours. As we approached the last block before a dividing fence, we realised that we were probably going to have to walk all the way back around the stadium – a steward confirmed as much. But after thirty minutes of walking back on ourselves, we met a bunch of Spurs fans walking towards us saying that there was no obvious way in around the other side either. We continued regardless and eventually came to a row of police officers, blocking off an entrance-way. We flashed our tickets, and walked through. Already the police vans were arriving behind them.

Stadio Artemio Franchi

We passed through two layers of security, and received two very thorough security checks (!) and entered the stadium. The first impression was that it was basic. The toilets were underground and pretty disgusting. There was no roof on our stand, and it felt “industrial”. Spurs had two sections, but there was a large sheet of Perspex between us, meaning that the atmosphere suffered throughout. We were so high in the stand that the strong wind became a factor, and we were freezing after a few minutes of being there. A small group of our fans stood on a concrete area to the front of the right-hand section and were noisy throughout, some not even stopping to look at the game! Unfortunately, because they were so far below us, the noise didn’t always carry and so the atmosphere felt sporadic and diluted.

Sunny day in Florence

The game itself was a crushing disappointment. I could understand the team selection, but would personally have played Harry Kane for the first sixty minutes. In spite of that, it felt like we were in control until Fazio’s sloppy pass led to the opener. Whilst this changed little in terms of what we needed to do in the match – we always needed to score at least once – it gave Fiorentina heart, and seemed to make us more desperate; we lost the sense of calm that we’d had prior to the goal.

Ice cream, Italian-style

Benji Stambouli and Ben Davies had good first halves, but rustiness and a lack of sharpness showed in the second, and Davies in particular had a tough time up against Mohamed Salah, who had switched sides. Eriksen had some flashes of good play, but was dispossessed five times – he was hindered by not having Kane to dovetail with. Roberto Soldado cut a troubled figure. The missed opportunity – where he tried to find Nacer Chadli – was obviously a huge error, but it was his lack of movement and effort that was particularly striking. Or not striking, that was the issue. He lacked desire and played like a man whose mind was elsewhere.

In the end we made it easy for Fiorentina to beat us – a real shame, especially since they’d changed shape at half-time in the first leg to make it difficult for us to beat them.

Beheadings are big here

Post-match, we expected a twenty minute wait, as had been advertised. After fifty minutes of being penned in behind large metal gates, with rain coming down heavier and heavier, the gates were opened. As we left this area, we were confronted with riot police – shields and batons at the ready – and numerous police cars and vans were parked along our route. As we got to the entrance-way where the line of police had been stood on the way in, we were told to board buses bound for the city centre. Our B&B was nearer the stadium than the centre, so we ignored the instruction and continued through the barricade, and saw no trouble (and barely another football fan!). We had a good dinner in a restaurant in which Fiorentina fans were also dining, and any interaction was friendly and calm.

Florence is a beautiful city, and Spurs’ performance didn’t do it justice. But the competition has been good for us, and we might not have the Harry Kane that we do were it not for this season’s Europa League. I look forward to hopefully being in the competition again next season, but I would understand if Pochettino used it to give more young players a chance.

Friday's lunch

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January 31, 2015

Contracts up in 2015

I thought this was worth documenting as it’s something that comes up regularly.

We have several first-team players with contracts expiring this summer:

Brad Friedel
Jordan Archer
Benoît Assou-Ekotto
Bongani Khumalo

We then have youngsters with unknown contract lengths who I suspect might be released if their deals are expiring:

Cristian Ceballos
Tomislav Gomelt
Rúben Lameiras
Aaron McEneff
Ken McEvoy
Alex McQueen
Jon Miles

Grant Hall might be included too, although the club could get a fee for him – he’s a relatively proven Championship player.

Daniel Akindayini is on the 3rd year of a scholarship and will surely be released.

Lloyd Ross is the only one of the second year scholars that I am adamant will be released – the following are borderline between being given professional contracts or offered a third year of their scholarship:

Anthony Georgiou
Cy Goddard
Shayon Harrison
Joe Pritchard – has had a serious injury.
Anton Walkes – 3 months ago I’d have had him on the ‘release’ list.

They have until the rest of the season to impress basically.

I gather the following have already signed professional contracts or received assurances:

Luke Amos
Ismail Azzaoui
Cameron Carter-Vickers
Christian Maghoma
Kyle Walker-Peters

This site is an excellent resource for contract info.

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January 26, 2015

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Leicester City– some thoughts

We were seven minutes plus stoppage time from progression in the FA Cup on Saturday before Leicester City started a comeback that culminated in a complete turn-around.

Spurs dominated possession in the first half without creating too many openings, whilst Leicester were happy to soak up pressure and counter – doing so effectively and creating good chances.

Andrej Kramarić had an opportunity to put Leicester 1-0 up, with Danny Rose failing to cover round despite having a good view of the forward. Michel Vorm’s save was exceptional – the sort that we have become accustomed to with Hugo Lloris in goal.

Kramarić chance

Leicester’s second chance summed up – for me – why Mousa Dembélé and Étienne Capoue are an ineffective central midfield combination from a defensive viewpoint.

Schlupp chance

In the above image, Jeff Schlupp has received the ball, brought it down and Vlad Chiricheș/Andros Townsend are approaching him. Neither Dembélé or Capoue are attempting to get into a defensive position to influence the game – presumably assuming that their team mates will deal with the situation.  I have long been of the opinion that neither has particularly good natural defensive instincts, and this is a good example of that. Younes Kaboul has to keep one eye on Leonardo Ulloa, who has played the pass and is now getting forward to support Schlupp and Kramarić.

Schlupp chance 2

As Schlupp cuts in, there’s a huge gap in the centre of our defence. Either Capoue should have tracked Ulloa, allowing Kaboul to go across to the ball, or one of Capoue / Dembélé should anticipate the potential danger and get into a position to stop Schlupp having a free shot on goal. Presented with the same scenario, I would expect that Stambouli would have provided a more effective barrier.

At the other end we struggled to break down a stubborn Leicester defence, with all three of our central midfield players content to pass sideways to the wingers and give them all of the responsibility of getting in behind the defence. Lamela and Townsend actually achieved on occasions, but having provided openings, Paulinho was guilty of wasting them. His finishing was allegedly an in-joke at Hotspur Way last season, where it was said that he put lots of balls over fences. Based on this display it is easy to see why. He lacked composure and technique and wasted three presentable chances – one going wide, one over, and one straight at the goalkeeper.

Mauricio Pochettino has made some useful substitutions this season, but on this occasion his decisions did not help the situation. At 1-0 and with Leicester gaining a foothold in the game, it had become clear that we were going to need a second goal to kill off the tie. Bringing Christian Eriksen on, then, was a logical move. Taking Townsend off, however, was not. Townsend was having some joy on the right and was looking capable of creating something, especially on the counter. It would have made more sense to take off Paulinho or Dembélé to allow Eriksen to scheme in behind Roberto Soldado. Instead, Eriksen was played on the left, with Lamela switching to the right, and the ineffective Paulinho continuing in the centre (I won’t refer to him as a number 10 as he doesn’t possess any of the qualities of the traditional 10!).

Emmanuel Adebayor then replaced Soldado, which felt a little odd, as Soldado had passed the ball quite well and had won the penalty with an excellent piece of control. Adebayor added more of an aerial threat – challenging for and winning headers, as opposed to jumping into the man and giving away free-kicks as Soldado tends to do – but he undoubtedly slowed down our attacking play. Harry Kane’s introduction for Dembélé after the equaliser was too little, too late – ideally he should have come on for Soldado or Paulinho at the same that Eriksen was introduced.

Vorm’s dreadful error at the end was not his first mistake of the game and, in truth, he was quite lucky to still be on the pitch. Replays showed that he took Kramarić’s back leg rather than the ball in the first half, which should have led to a penalty being awarded and probably to a red card being shown.

Overall it was a disappointing result made more disappointing by the other upsets – this presented a fantastic opportunity to progress in a third cup, and the boos at full-time illustrated the frustration having been in a controlling position.

Pochettino has had to manage his squad carefully to mitigate against fatigue creeping in, which can cause long-term injuries as well as limiting players’ effectiveness (as was so clearly visible against Crystal Palace). But, personally, I don’t feel that we can afford to leave out Eriksen, Harry Kane and Ryan Mason. With none of them in the team we lack a player who can consistently pass forward or open up a defence. My preference would have been to play one of Kane or Eriksen against Sheffield United and the other against Leicester. It will now be interesting to see the team selection on Wednesday – both should start and both should feel relatively fresh.

COYS

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January 15, 2015

Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 Burnley – some thoughts

On Wednesday night Spurs scored four goals without response for the second time in the space of a fortnight. On New Year’s Day, we went from 0-1 down to 4-1 up against Chelsea (finishing 5-3); this time we recovered from a more perilous 0-2 to win 4-2.

Burnley rested three key players – Danny Ings, George Boyd and Ashley Barnes, whilst we rested six in Hugo Lloris, Kyle Walker, Federico Fazio, Harry Kane, Nacer Chadli and Christian Eriksen. Burnley’s fast start was somewhat exaggerated by two early goals, but they punished some poor defending well. The defending for Marvin Sordell’s opener was particularly shambolic.

Marvin Sordell breaks through

Having not having seen a replay from a different angle, it’s difficult to try to explain what was happening here. Younes Kaboul was up-field – I can only think that he was trying to play offside – but with Jan Vertonghen already too deep to allow this, one has to question the lack of organisation and communication, and that surely comes down to captain Kaboul. This could be explained (if not excused), perhaps, by the fact that Kaboul and Vertonghen haven’t played together since the 2nd November.

The second goal came after seven minutes. Benji Stambouli committed a needless foul, allowing free-kick specialist Ross Wallace to step up. His kick deflected off Roberto Soldado leaving Michel Vorm helpless.

The home crowd – assisted by this match being attended by the 1882 movement – roared Tottenham on, and they stepped up immediately. Andros Townsend made inroads on the right, and inverted-wingered the ball in for Soldado to flick on. Paulinho did superbly to get the ball down quickly and turned neatly to volley home.

From there it almost felt inevitable that Spurs would win – an unusual feeling for Spurs fans – and I think that the optimistic atmosphere in the stadium had a lot to do with it.

The positivity in the stands, though, was not always matched by positivity on the pitch.

Kaboul vs Vertonghen

After another miscommunication, Vertonghen turned to shout at Kaboul – who had, again, attempted to play offside – and got a whole load of verbal right back. The crowd responded by chanting Vertonghen’s name, a show of support triggered by a combination of factors: rumours about Kaboul’s falling-out with other members of the squad, his lack of emotion on the bench when we’ve scored goals in recent weeks, and the fact that he had been totally inept in this match until that point.

The slanging match continued for a good few seconds and was followed up later by a similar falling out between Kaboul and Vorm. It is clear that all is not well, and Kaboul leaving during the transfer window seems inevitable (so long as there’s a taker).

Kaboul struggled to cope with Sam Vokes’ strength and movement, but Spurs looked good going forward in much of the rest of the half. As halftime approached, Paulinho nicked the ball in midfield and launched a counter. He was cynically fouled, but Soldado picked up the pieces and fed Townsend. He carried the ball before feeding in a perfect cross for Soldado, who somehow hit the bar. The miss was so bad that the BBC even made a separate video dedicated to it. His reaction was to drop to his knees in despair – Stambouli ran over to quite literally comfort him, so broken that he is. But it’s well worth noting that he also continued to get unwavering support from the stands (“Viva Soldado, viva Soldado, he came from sunny Spain to play with Harry Kane, viva Soldado”) – I don’t think there are many players in the squad for whom there is so much genuine goodwill.

Fortunately for Soldado, his blushes were spared by a Capoue thunderbolt just two minutes later. Ben Davies crossed, Paulinho missed his kick, and the ball sat up nicely for a volley that nearly broke the net.

Just three minutes into the second half, stand-in right back Vlad Chiricheș won a corner, and then got on the end of it at the back post to bundle it home – it actually seemed to hit his arm, but I don’t think he knew a great deal about it.

When Danny Rose scored a fourth three minutes later (to make it three goals in a five minute spell) it felt like we might go on to get a few more, but 4-2 was how it stayed. Rose’s goal deserves praise – for the beautiful pass by Stambouli, perfectly flighted into the path of Soldado; for Rose’s fantastically aggressive run into the six-yard box; and for Soldado’s inch-perfect cross.

Nacer Chadli replaced Rose on the left, and made an excellent cameo – at one point putting Reid (I think) on his backside with his dribbling and close control.

The game did somewhat peter out, but was memorable for Josh Onomah, coming on to make his Tottenham Hotspur debut. I’ll be publishing a short profile of Onomah later, so keep an eye out. Onomah already has a song, which has followed him through the age groups. At a previous 1882 event – an Under-18 match – James Welham came up with the ultra-inventive ‘Do do do do do ONOMAH do do do do ONOMAH do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do do!’ to the tune of ‘Mahna Mahna’ from The Muppet Show. It’s since followed him from Under-18 level to Under-21 level and now the first team… a proud moment for James as well as Josh! Onomah made some good touches and passes in tight areas, but didn’t really get to show off his terrific dribbling ability.

Vorm – had no chance with either goal, and looked relatively quick off his line, which was something I’d been concerned about after recent appearances.
Chiricheș – aside from one suicidal pass in the first half, he defended well, was a decent attacking outlet and, of course, scored the goal to put us 3-2 up. I enjoyed a short burst of my song for him – “strolling up the pitch is super Vlad Chiricheș, do do do, do do do do do”…
Kaboul – this was not a good return for Kaboul. He struggled with Vokes (Chiricheș had to repeatedly come across to cover) and was arguing with his own teammates.
Vertonghen – after a shaky start alongside Kaboul, he put in a very assured performance.
Davies – clearly a better defender than Rose, but doesn’t quite offer the same forward thrust. That said, his pass selection in the final third is consistently good, and it was his cross that led to Capoue’s leveller.
Stambouli – had a very busy game and worked hard throughout. There are some signs of him starting to settle.
Capoue – like others, he had a shaky start where Burnley were winning a lot of second balls in his zone, but he improved and was very controlled in the second half. His goal was a beauty!
Townsend – a constant threat and a constant outlet. Ben Mee gave him too much space, and he took advantage over and over again.
Paulinho – better, as Andy Townsend would say! I tweeted at half-time that he was ‘busy but imperfect’ and I think that sums him up. He frequently runs with the ball into areas of the pitch which he then struggles to get out of, but I think we have to just accept his limitations and appreciate his few strengths: first-time flicks and knowing when to arrive in the box. He took his goal superbly.
Rose – he actually started his career as an attacking central midfielder and then became a left winger, but his timing was slightly off in an attacking sense. His arrivals at the back post were generally a little *too* late, but he did marvellously for his goal, making a fantastic, aggressive surge into the six-yard box and pointing to where he wanted the ball played.
Soldado – some relatively good link up play, a nice flicked header for Paulinho’s goal, a wonderful cross for Rose’s goal, but his match will be remembered for *that* miss. Viva Soldado.

Chadli – a genuinely exciting cameo in which he looked a real threat. “Nacer is a dolphin, Nacer is a dolphin, la la la la, la la la la…”.
Onomah – I was so excited to see him get on to make his debut – I hope it’s the first of many appearances. Look out for a short profile which I’ll be publishing later.
Dier – it was good to see him back for the first time since the 6th December, nine games ago.

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