October 30, 2014

I’m your biggest fan

Last night it felt like we got back on track a little. The team, the fans, the fans on social media… it all felt a bit more ‘together’. The opposition wasn’t great, of course, but I’m sure there were many Spurs fans who, like me, half expected an upset.

Starting off with the performance: it was a largely positive display. Pochettino made ten changes – whether that was always the plan or whether the poor performance against Newcastle influenced that decision, we’ll never know. Brighton made six changes themselves, including giving England Under-20 goalkeeper, Christian Walton, a debut.

The first half wasn’t exhilarating, but we were solid, with flashes from Townsend and Lennon that kept the crowd encouraged. Although both were playing on their “wrong” sides, it was notable that Townsend in particular kept the full-back guessing by alternating between coming inside and hitting the touchline on the outside. This is something I feel Lamela needs to add to his repertoire – particularly to help stretch defences. I wonder whether this was Townsend carrying out a Pochettino instruction, or whether he just enjoys beating a full-back on the outside. Either way, he frequently moved us yards and yards up the pitch with his useful driving runs, albeit he didn’t always make the right decision at the end of them.

Lennon was withdrawn at half-time – he confirmed post-match that it was a minor hamstring “issue” – and was replaced by Lamela; it took him nine minutes to score. Davies fired in a pass to Soldado, who did well to cushion it back to Lamela. Soldado received a pass back, sent Lamela into space, and his right foot was – for once – trusted to slide the ball home. From then on Spurs looked confident and competent, and when Harry Kane got the second twenty minutes later, it was game over. Kane pulled out to the left – much like we’ve become used to seeing Adebayor do. However, unlike Adebayor, after releasing the ball to Townsend, he was intent on getting into the box and, when the ball came back off the goalkeeper, he was there to steer it into the tightest of gaps.

For me, the best players on the night were Kyle Naughton and Benjamin Stambouli. Naughton seems to have bulked up since his injury, and he had a very good game at both ends. Not only did he provide a defensive solidarity on the right that we’ve been lacking in recent matches (helped by a diligent Townsend), but he provided some excellent crosses; he is amongst the best crossers at the club. The only blot on Naughton’s copybook (as they say) was a potential handball in the first half, his arm flapping away from his body – in a similar way to that which caused him to come unstuck against West Ham.

Stambouli’s unfussy but assured display caught the eye, especially with Capoue’s form taking a dip. He made some timely challenges, intercepted well, and used the ball wisely, quickly, and simply.

Away from the pitch, the atmosphere in the Park Lane end was excellent, helped by a good turnout from Brighton. There were old songs and new, including a Stambouli effort to the tune of ‘Stand By Me’ (not a fan!) and a Chadli song I’d not heard before to Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi: “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you around the country, Nacer, Nacer Chadli” (big fan!).

The game was targeted by the 1882 movement due to the lower ticket prices – although, what a shame that the club has raised the £20 tickets to £25 for this season; a 25% rise seems unnecessary and is probably what has led to lower attendances in cup games.

For the uninitiated, the movement was started by a group of fans who became dissatisfied with the atmosphere at White Hart Lane. The idea is to encourage 90 minutes of singing, regardless of what’s happening on the pitch; sing for the shirt. The hope is that the name ‘1882’ will eventually become unnecessary as the movement becomes more prevalent but, as it stands, it is used to help advertise the section in which like-minded fans who want to sing should buy tickets, and to spread the word.

Due to block 34 selling out quickly, I’m not convinced that all of those in the block knew about the movement, but most seemed to join in and created an enjoyable atmosphere. Unfortunately there were a few morons who started the type of hackneyed, homophobic songs that Brighton fans must find tedious and cringeworthy – in a large group of people not all of them are going to be sensible.

I left the ground feeling generally positive, which is strange considering the disappointing defeat just days earlier. Pochettino has us going along pretty well in the cups, and there have been signs of a growing understanding of the system. One thing that worries me is that he doesn’t always seem to select his team on merit, and the omission of Kane from the team against Newcastle seems to back this up. My preferred line-up for Villa would be:

Lloris
Naughton Fazio Vertonghen Rose
Stambouli Mason
Lamela Kane Eriksen
Soldado

A number of these players pick themselves, but to justify those that perhaps don’t:

Fazio – I don’t think there’s a great deal to choose between Kaboul, Fazio, and Dier at centre-back right now, but Kaboul needs to play like he did against Arsenal more often than not to keep his place, and he’s simply not doing that. Fazio looks very, very good in the air, but not so good on the ground. For the time being, though, he deserves to step in, and against Benteke his height and strength might be useful.
Stambouli – I was impressed, as mentioned above, by Stambouli’s performance, and at a time when Capoue is having a very obvious dip in form, it might be time to give Stambouli a chance in the league. One concern would be whether a Mason/Stambouli combination has enough strength, but the added tenacity and mobility should compensate.
Kane – Whilst Chadli has scored well, Kane’s productivity surely cannot be ignored in the league any longer. Kane has – on average – scored or created a goal every 69.7 minutes so far in all competitions. Chadli has mananaged a goal or assist every 138.4 minutes (Lamela – 101.3, Soldado – 127.8, Mason – 182.5). The key for me, though, is that Kane impacts a game more than Chadli even when he’s *not* scoring.
Soldado – Whilst he still looked uncertain in front of goal, Soldado had a promising game against Brighton and showed good appreciation of his teammates, particularly in linking up with Lamela for the opener. With Adebayor having had more bad games than good so far, it seems to make sense to give Soldado a run.

With a run of winnable games ahead – Villa (A), Asteras Tripolis (A), Stoke (H), Hull (A), Partizan Belgrade (H) – this will hopefully be an opportunity for the team to build confidence and cohesion. COYS!

Tagged ,

October 25, 2014

25/10/14 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 2-1 Reading U18s, Hotspur Way

Tom Glover (16)
Chris Paul (17) Anton Walkes (17) Christian Maghoma (16) Joe Muscatt (16)
Joe Pritchard (18) (c) Luke Amos (17)
Kyle Walker-Peters (17) Cy Goddard (17) Anthony Georgiou (17)
Shayon Harrison (17)

Subs:
Zenon Stylianides (16) for Chris Paul, 54.
Tashan Oakley-Boothe (15?) for Anthony Georgiou, 78.
Aramide Oteh (15?) for Joe Pritchard, 78.

Unused sub:
Alfie Whiteman (16)

Spurs were missing Ismail Azzaoui (Belgium international duty), Ryan Loft (who was playing in the ongoing U17 tournament which we won*), Cameron Carter-Vickers who I suspect will be playing for the U21s on Monday, as well as recent substitute, Marcus Edwards, as the 15-year old was away playing for the England U17s (they won 4-1 against Cyprus and he bagged a goal and an assist).

The starting eleven had a familiar feel, though, even if the substitutes bench housed some new names. Aramide (spelt “Aremide” on the team sheet so apologies if I’ve got this wrong!) Oteh and Tashan “Tash” Oakley-Boothe (who is supposedly one of the brightest prospects in our Academy) played in an U14 tournament last January so this was a big step up for both and an encouraging sign.

The formation was sometimes 4-1-4-1 (with Amos the deepest midfielder), sometimes 4-2-3-1 (with Goddard as the 10), and sometimes 4-3-3. It’s also worth nothing that in the dugout for Spurs – amongst others – was part-time coach, Ledley King.

There was a minute’s silence prior to kick off for Club Historian, Andy Porter, a regular attender of youth matches, who sadly passed away in the week aged just 54. For more information about Andy and his terrific work for the club, please see the obituary on the official site.

It was a fast, open start with Spurs exhibiting pace in key areas. Anthony Georgiou expressed his intentions early with a powerful run down the left. He did well to get a cross in but when it was headed out to Pritchard, he volleyed well over the bar.

A Reading free-kick to the left of the penalty box was taken short which gave Pritchard an opportunity to charge it down in typically fearless style, and the follow-up was blocked by Walkes.

Spurs took the lead on 10 minutes. Walker-Peters won a corner and Georgiou’s kick looked harmless until Cy Goddard got a foot to a misdirected Walkes volley and looped the ball over the goalkeeper, landing it perfectly in the far corner.

Soon after, Tom Glover was grateful to Luke Amos, who cleared off the line after the goalkeeper’s fumble in the box as the game became increasingly open.

Joe Muscatt beat his man with a clever piece of skill and found Pritchard with an intelligent cut-back. When Pritchard’s low shot was blocked, Muscatt did well to track back and immediately regain possession.

Georgiou teed up Goddard after another positive burst but his weak shot drifted wide.

Harrison had his first glimpse of goal when he was found by Georgiou and hit a firm shot on the turn – it was easily blocked on this occasion but he doubled the lead minutes later.

Chris Paul made a positive charge from right-back and fired in a low cross, Harrison darted across his man and finished deftly over the goalkeeper at the near post for 2-0.

Reading’s number 7, Conor Davis, was proving a tricky customer, and he beat two men on the left but, as he cut inside, he curled his shot straight at Glover.

Georgiou stood a ball up into the box but Goddard couldn’t quite meet the ball cleanly as he arrived on the penalty spot, and he sliced it wide.

Harrison made a clever dart in behind and was found by a fabulous Pritchard long ball, but his attempted lob was partially blocked and then collected by the goalkeeper.

Conor Davis beat Paul again and, when he was hauled down, the referee decided to call Paul over for a final warning.

Paul nearly had more luck at the other end when he was picked out by Harrison, but he struck his first-time strike into the ground and off a defender and it ran to safety for Reading.

Walkes won the ball well and found Georgiou, who beat his man and saw his cross blocked, only for the referee to give a goal kick – Georgiou let the referee know that he was not best pleased with the decision.

Goddard nearly made it three just before half-time when the ball broke to him in the box and his left-footed attempt went just wide.

Early in the second half Reading’s left-back, Jake Sheppard, got the better of Chris Paul and put in a threatening cross which fortunately (for us) fell just ahead of the forward.

Spurs had a clear opening five minutes into the half when the ball broke kindly for Kyle Walker-Peters to run at two retreating defenders. He carried the ball most of the length of the pitch but, with Georgiou screaming for the ball at the far post, he couldn’t avoid the two men between him and his teammate, and his attempted pass was easily cut out.

Reading went straight down the other end and Maghoma was called upon to do some sterling defensive work – he went to ground in the box, winning the ball cleanly and able to bring it clear, winning a free kick in the process.

It should have been 3-0 and job done for Spurs When Walker-Peters delivered a fine cross from the right and Pritchard arrived right on cue, unmarked, but managed to plant his header well over the bar.

Chris Paul eventually went into the book for a late challenge and was withdrawn three minutes later, Zenon Stylianides coming on with Walker-Peters dropping to right-back and Pritchard moving to the right side of the attack.

Walkes lost his man in the box to offer a Reading sub, Harry Cardwell, a good chance, but he headed straight at a relieved Glover.

Pritchard nearly forced a mistake from the Reading keeper when he pressed deep into the penalty area, but Lewis Ward just enough to avoid embarrassment.

There was a bit of upset when the linesman flagged offside directly from a goal kick (Kieran McKenna told the referee he was “embarrassing himself”) – in fairness, the referee had a chat with his linesman and ordered a re-take of the kick with minimal fuss.

Spurs brought on their two young debutants, with Oteh going wide right and Oakley-Boothe left, Pritchard and Georgiou the two players withdrawn. Oteh’s first action was to drive forward and win a free-kick – an encouraging start.

Spurs’ centre-back pairing had been unflappable until Maghoma under-hit a square pass to Walkes, and Walkes pulled at the forward’s shoulder as he went to shoot. He got the shot away (which Glover saved) but it didn’t stop the referee awarding a penalty and showing Walkes a yellow card (which might have been red).

Glover got two firm hands to Novakovich’s penalty and kept it out impressively, but the striker did get a goal minutes later, when he was played in on a sharp counter and impressively found the far corner with a precise low finish.

Tom Glover 7 – cracking penalty save and, although he fumbled a few balls, I like his pro-active approach to goalkeeping.
Chris Paul 4 – not his day today, but I’m sure there are many better performances to come.
Anton Walkes 6 – the benefit of a midfielder playing at the back is the added ability to bring the ball out. Walkes did this well throughout and, aside from missing a few headers, and the penalty incident, he had a decent game.
Christian Maghoma 8 – that one poorly-weighted pass aside, he was excellent.
Joe Muscatt 7 – considering he’s a right-footed left-back who only started playing the role recently, he is coming along nicely. Showed a willingness to use his left foot and that keeps defenders guessing.
Joe Pritchard 6 – as ever, a whole-hearted display which lacked subtlety.
Luke Amos 7 – right place, right time. Enough said.
Kyle Walker-Peters 6 – not his best performance, but his obvious threat attracts defenders, leaving space for others.
Cy Goddard 7 – one of the best performances I’ve seen from him. Intelligent use of the ball, plenty of craft, and grabbed a goal too.
Anthony Georgiou 7 – direct, quick, and a constant thorn in the side for Reading.
Shayon Harrison 6 – took his goal beautifully but he left me wanting more.

Subs:
Zenon Stylianides – a very assured player in midfield who seems to be good at all the basics, which bodes well.
Tashan Oakley-Boothe – he barely saw the ball so it’s impossible to judge him on this, but he’s a player who is very highly rated and it was very interesting to see him make the bench today.
Aramide Oteh – as above; the few times he saw the ball he made it count with useful and confident runs forward.

*As mentioned above, in the Premier League’s U17 International Tournament played over the last two days, we drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace and beat Juventus 2-1 to finish top of our group. In the other group, Leicester beat Arsenal 3-0 and drew 1-1 with Real Madrid. Today we beat Leicester 3-0 in the final.

U17 International Tournament Winners

Edit: After some detective work, I think the players are: ???, Jaden Brown, Ryan Loft, David Ajiboye, Charlie Owens, Kaziah Sterling, Japhet Tanganga, Armani Daly, Keanen Bennetts, Tom McDermott, Charlie Hayford, ??, ??, Nick Tsaroulla.

George Marsh and Dylan Duncan are two of the players I’m unsure of.

Tagged ,

October 16, 2014

Loanee update – October 2014

Grant Ward has now been on loan at MLS side Chicago Fire since May, and the 19-year old has played 639 minutes – although recently most of his time on the pitch has been as a late substitute. He has mostly played on the right of midfield, despite being used mainly as a right-back for our Under-18 team. Comments on their fan forums range from “has shown some promise” to “good value, flashes in preseason but nothing special”.

Lewis Holtby’s move to Hamburger SV has seen him – so far – make five starts, play 445 minutes and get one assist. He is playing in a poor side who are second from bottom in the Bundesliga and has operated as an attacking midfielder. It looks likely that this move will be made permanent at the end of the season if not before.

Tom Carroll has not yet broken into Swansea City’s first team, playing just six minutes of Premier League football. However, he’s started both League Cup matches and impressed their fans.

Ryan Fredericks has started three Championship matches as well as playing 120 minutes against Liverpool in the League Cup since joining Middlesbrough. Teammate George Friend was very complimentary of Fredericks in an interview with the Northern Echo recently, saying:

“I wouldn’t swap our squad for anyone else’s in the league. Both in terms of quality and depth. We’ve had injuries and suspensions, but people have come in and been every bit as good.

A perfect example is Ryan Fredericks coming in – the lads and fans have loved him for obvious reasons. He’s stepped in for Damia [Abella], who is a massive loss, but Ryan has done brilliantly since he’s come in. We’ve got options everywhere.”

On searching some Middlesbrough forums I’ve found plenty of positives on Fredericks, such as “Fredericks has looked the real deal” and “Fredericks and Kike in particular [of the new signings] have been great.”

Fredericks has been joined this week by Milos Veljkovic, who has joined on a three-month loan deal. Veljkovic is equally comfortable at centre-back and defensive midfield. Boro fan @Drakey31 says that as Leadbitter is undroppable, Veljkovic will have to get past Clayton and Whitehead to get into the team in midfield. He suggests that the chances of Milos breaking through at centre-back are slim, with Omerou, Ayala, Woodgate, Gibson, Williams and Friend to get past.

Grant Hall started the first eight matches of the season for Birmingham City, but since getting injured (he went off at half-time against Leeds with a groin strain), he has not been able to get back into the side. The majority of Birmingham fans on their forums seem relatively impressed and want him brought back into their team at the expense of Paul Robinson.

Alex Pritchard has started ten out of Brentford’s eleven Championship matches since joining on the summer on a season-long loan – he was rested in the other, but came on as a substitute. Such is his importance to the team, he was also rested in their League Cup matches. He so far has two goals and an assist to his name in 845 minutes but has been accused by some of ‘going missing’ at times.

Kenny McEvoy has made three starts and three substitute appearances for Peterborough in all competitions, scoring once. The opinions on theposhforum.co.uk are not exactly glowing, with one poster writing that he ‘really needs to go back to Tottenham, he may look like Bale but is not fit to tie his boots’ – the same poster gave him 3/10 for his performance against Yeovil. The Peterborough Chairman, however, is expecting big things:

Shaq Coulthirst has started twelve times and come off the bench twice in all competitions for Southend United, who are in League Two. Playing mostly on the left, but sometimes up front, he has managed two goals in 961 minutes of football so far.

Jordan Archer initially struggled to break into League Two side Northampton Town’s first team, but has now made eight consecutive starts. Having read a Northampton Town forum, it seems that Archer is slowly winning fans over after a less than impressive start there. Although that could be Cobblers.

Tomislav Gomelt has made the bench five times for Serie B side Bari, but has yet to make an appearance. Incidentally, Soli Coulibaly who joined Bari permanently in the summer has been sent on loan to third tier side Pistoiese on loan.

Tagged ,

September 28, 2014

27/09/14 Tottenham Hotspur U18s 2-4 Chelsea U18s, Hotspur Way

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)

Subs:
Zenon Stylianides (16) for Lloyd Ross, 52.
Ismail Azzaoui (16) for Cy Goddard, 70.
Joe Muscatt (16) for Anton Walkes, 81.

Unused sub:
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.

Tagged ,

September 22, 2014

Getting WBA off my chest

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.

Europa League

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.

Dembélé

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).

Mousa Dembele

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.

Adebayor

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.

 

It’d be really cool if you could help me out by voting for our podcast, The Fighting Cock, in the ‘Podcast’ category of the Football Blogging Awards. To do so, either tweet using this link or submit this form.

Tagged ,

RSS Feed Google+s The Fighting Cock!
 
 

Twitter

RT @SpursOfficial: U21 squad v @LFC: McQueen, Miller, Ogilvie, Onomah, Pritchard, Sonupe, Winks. 2/2 #COYS
1 hours ago