Time to go on a run

We have a run of games coming up that should allow us to put a run together if we can build momentum:

3rd Feb, Leeds United (A) FA Cup
6th Feb, Aston Villa (H) Premier League
10th Feb, Wolves (A) Premier League
21st Feb, Wigan (A) Premier League
28th Feb, Everton (H) Premier League

Not easy fixtures by any means, but if we can get wins against Leeds and Villa, we’ll feel confident going into the Wolves and Wigan games, and then I’d fancy our chances against Everton.

In that time, we need key players to re-find their form, particularly in the absence of Lennon. We need Dawson to cut out the mistakes that have crept back into his game in the last few matches. We need Defoe to find his feet in front of goal again (yesterday was a great start). We need the midfield to chip in with a few more goals. We need one of our bench options (be it Kranjcar, Keane or even Pavlyuchenko if he stays) to be pushing the first eleven hard. And most of all, we need to stop playing long to Crouch.

I still fancy us to finish 6th or 7th, but if we want to be in with a chance of 4th or 5th, this is a critical run of matches, remembering that our run-in to the season is pretty horrific!

Analysis of the goal conceded against Birmingham

I’m not entirely sure that this is necessary, as it was such an obvious error from a normally very switched-on defender that cost us this week. However, there are no doubt other parts of the move that the goal came from where you can point the finger.

Goals (Birmingham goal at 31 seconds)

The 90 minutes are up, and as you’ll see from the clip (above), 5 minutes of stoppage time have just been indicated. The problem is that Spurs haven’t put together a meaningful attack for 10 minutes; instead, inviting Birmingham on to them, and defending deeper and deeper. Because Spurs do this all too often, Birmingham must know that they have a chance if they can keep the ball alive in the box. Equally, the Spurs defence must be nervous – but it’s important that they stay switched on.

The ball is on the Birmingham right, and Spurs are re-grouping after an “attack”. We seem to have plenty of bodies back, and there doesn’t seem to be too much danger.

The ball is played in from deep. Notice at this point number 6, Liam Ridgewell, at the bottom of the picture. He’s trotting upfield to get involved in the attack.

Michael Dawson stretches to win the ball, unchallenged from Benitez. Ridgewell’s made up some ground, Corluka’s been sucked in, and McFadden has pulled away to pick up the pieces if necessary.

Dawson’s header is a poor one – because he’s stretching, he doesn’t get much distance, and it goes straight out to McFadden.

Before Jenas can get tight enough, McFadden slings the ball in again. Positionally, we look fine. Dawson has one eye on Benitez, King has Jerome, and Corluka’s in an area to keep an eye on Ridgewell.

The delivery is reasonable but, for me, King is caught flat-footed, and barely gets off the ground. Jerome does a great job of helping it back across. Notice Gomes – he’s come too far across goal – in fact, beyond his near post. Unlikely that Jerome can score at the near post here, so why has he drifted that far across?

Ridgewell has done nothing more than continue his run – he must think it’s his lucky day. Corluka, normally very reliable in these situations, has switched off, not read the danger and, with Gomes in no-man’s land, has gifted Ridgewell a goal.

So in essence, you can mainly pin this one on Corluka, but questions can also be asked of Dawson, King, and Gomes in my opinion.

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Spurs U21s update

I was pleased that Redknapp gave Danny Rose a start yesterday. Although he’s technically “graduated” from the U18s now, it will be a huge boost to the current Academy players to see one of their team-mates getting a start.

When I interviewed John McDermott, our Academy Director, on behalf of the COYS forum, he spoke of the “extended apprenticeship” of young players at football clubs today. He said that “an apprenticeship is no longer 16-18, it’s more like 16-21.” With that in mind, here’s an update on our U21 players:

Dorian Dervite, Central defender, 25/07/1988 21
After some unconvincing pre-season performances, Dorian’s been on the first-team bench a couple of times, but hasn’t seen any action. Rumours about a fall out over extending his contract seem to have some truth, as he’s not been out on loan, whereas many of his team-mates have. Will surely leave once his contract expires.

Lee Butcher, Goalkeeper, 11/10/1988 (21)
Butcher has had two loan spells this season – he made 4 appearances on-loan at Grays, but was only an unused sub at Leyton Orient. I’d imagine that he’ll be moving on in the summer.

Troy Archibald-Henville (on loan at Exeter City), Central defender, 04/11/1988 (21)
Having been in and out of the team at Exeter City, Troy got himself sent off for a bad tackle, and was banned for three matches recently. He was back in the starting eleven yesterday. I would think that he may move to Exeter permanently in the summer.

Kyle Naughton, Full-back 11/11/1988 (21)
Having had very limited chances so far despite some impressive pre-season displays, there’s talk of Naughton joining Walker back at Sheffield United on-loan. He must be regretting his move so far.

David Button (on loan at Shrewsbury Town), Goalkeeper, 27/02/1989 (20)
Had a very difficult loan spell at Bournemouth earlier in the season, but has really turned it round at Shrewsbury, and has had some glowing reports.

Giovani dos Santos, Attacking midfielder, 11/05/1989 (20)
According to the Telegraph, he is close to a move to Galatasaray. A player who is a talented dribbler, but has not shown that he is able to fit into a 4-4-2 formation, and is therefore very difficult to pick. Off the field antics last season, and turning up late to training have not helped him, and it seems better for all concerned that he moves on.

Adel Taarabt (on loan at ), Attacking midfielder, 24/05/1989 (20)
Taarabt has burnt his bridges with Spurs, saying recently that he won’t go back once his loan at QPR is over. He also seemed to be in the middle of the Paul Hart sacking – some reports suggested that the owners tried to force Hart to play him. He’s had some good and bad games for QPR, but he has certainly showed some skillful moments, and has five goals to his name so far.

Gareth Bale, Full-back/midfielder, 16/07/1989 (20)
Having come back into the side in Assou-Ekotto’s absence, Bale has been our best player in the last two games (against Liverpool and Leeds), and also played well against Peterborough. He clearly has plenty of natural talent but, for me, there are still doubts over which is his best position.

Jake Livermore (on loan at Peterborough United), Central midfielder, 14/11/1989 (20)
Having scored against Barcelona in pre-season, Livermore spent the first half of the season on-loan at Derby County, where he found himself in and out of the side. They chose not to extend his contract, and he has since moved to Peterborough. Having been their best player on his debut, he scored what turned out to be a consolation yesterday.

Kyle Walker (on loan at Sheffield United), Full-back, 28/05/1990 (19)
Walker’s had an impressive season so far on-loan at Sheffield United, and it’ll be interesting to see what we decide to do with him next year. If we’re in Europe, he may find himself getting a few matches. If he does play, look out for his long throw!

Danny Rose, Central/left midfielder, 02/07/1990 (19)
Rose made his full debut yesterday and, despite not having a particularly good game, he won the penalty that Defoe missed. It was good to see him involved, and nice to hear that he’s been impressive in training, as he had a tough time on loan at Peterborough earlier in the season – of the four games he started for them, he was taken off at half-time in two.

Jonathan Obika (on loan at Yeovil Town), Forward, 12/09/1990 (19)
Jon has got 6 goals in 13 starts and 7 sub appearances so far for Yeovil, and many of their fans describe him as their best finisher. He didn’t look out of place on his only start for Spurs in the UEFA Cup but at this point it’s still hard to tell whether he’ll cut the mustard in the long-term.

Sam Cox (on loan at Torquay United), Central midfielder 10/10/1990 (19)
Sam had a tough time on-loan at Histon, and was unable to force his way into their side. He’s a big favourite amongst the coaches at Spurs due to his enthusiastic displays for the U18s. He often filled in at left-back for the Academy side despite being A) primarily a midfield player, and B) right-footed. I’d imagine that his current loan deal at Torquay may be a “try before you buy” type deal, as with David Hutton at Cheltenham last year.

Oscar Jansson, Goalkeeper, 23/12/1990 (19)
Jansson had a mixed time on-loan at Exeter, but got 7 games under his belt, and will be looking to build on that with another club. He has been on the bench for the first-team, but is yet to make his debut.

Calum Butcher, Central defender, 26/02/1991 (18)
Having recovered from an injury, Butcher went to Barnet, and made his league debut. He had mainly joined them as cover, though, and when their players returned from injury, he returned to Spurs. He will be looking for another loan spell, no doubt.

Adam Smith (on loan at Torquay United), Full-back 29/04/1991 (18)
Smith is currently winning rave reviews playing at left-back for Torquay United, having been a right-back for our U18s. He has represented England at every level up to U18.

Ryan Mason (on loan at Yeovil Town), Forward/attacking midfielder, 13/06/1991 (18)
I think many felt that Mason would struggle with the physical nature of League One, as he’s quite slightly built. However, he has proved many wrong, and has done very well so far. He has plenty of technical ability, and was described by Darren Bent as the best young prospect he’d seen.

Andros Townsend(on loan at MK Dons), Winger 16/07/1991 (18)
Having played well for Leyton Orient, Townsend is currently on-loan at MK Dons. He made is full debut for them yesterday, and Paul Ince made some really positive comments about his performance:

“He was the only one in the first half, along with (Mathias) Doumbe, who looked like they wanted to be out there.

It’s not right for me to go in at half-time and tell my players that the only one out there is an 18-year-old kid.

That’s a lesson to us, but he exceptional, not just going forward but defensively as well. He’s slotted in superbly.”

Anton Blackwood, Central defender, 18/08/1991 (18)
Presumably signed because we were short of cover for the U18s, Blackwood has looked uncomfortable in most of his appearances for us, and I personally can’t see us hanging on to him.

Anthony Jack, Attacking midfielder, 16/10/1991 (18)
Hasn’t had too many opportunities for the U18s, and he’s another that I think may well move on in the summer.

Chace O’Neill, Attacking midfielder, 01/11/1991 (18)
Another player whose chances have been limited for the U18s. He will be looking to try to force his way into the side over the rest of the season.

Dean Parrett, Central midfielder, 16/11/1991 (18)
After a successful spell at League Two Aldershot Town, I fancied that he would go out to a League One club. Whether there have been no takers, or whether we have not made him available is unknown.

Coskun Ekim, Central midfielder, 17/11/1991 (18)
Ekim is not even getting on to the bench at U18 level at the moment, so it seems that he will be another to leave in the summer.

Steven Caulker (on loan at Yeovil Town), Central defender, 29/12/1991 (18)
Some exceptional displays at the back for Yeovil have led to many of their fans describing him as their player of the season so far. He is very popular down there, and IMO has all the tools to play in the Premier League if he continues to work hard.

John Bostock (on loan at Brentford), Attacking midfielder, 15/01/1992 (18)
Having scored twice on his debut, I think Brentford fans may have expected a little more from Bostock, who has been on their bench for the last two games. By all accounts Andy Scott has been very impressed with him in training, but I get the impression that, like Taarabt, he tries to do too much, and doesn’t fit into a system very easily.

Mirko Ranieri (on loan at Ipswich Town U18s), Goalkeeper 08/02/1992 (17)
Having found himself below Jamie Butler in the pecking order, he was sent to Ipswich’s U18 side to get some game time. He has had a mixed time there – they lost 6-1 this week!

Jose-Paul M’Poku, Attacking midfielder/winger, 19/04/1992 (17)
I’ve only ever been impressed with M’Poku, but he doesn’t seem to get singled out too often by his coaches. Whether I am seeing something that they aren’t, or whether they are protecting him from hype, I’m unsure. I’d imagine that he will be a candidate to go out on loan next year.

Jamie Butler, Goalkeeper, 18/05/1992 (17)
A very vocal goalkeeper, who doesn’t really look like a goalkeeper! He is quite small and stocky, but seems to be a good shot-stopper.

Tom Carroll, Central midfielder, 28/05/1992 (17)
A cultured player with a good left foot, who suffers from being physically small and not the strongest. He has often had to play at left-back this season, but has now become a first team regular.

Nathan Byrne, Full-back/central defender, 05/06/1992 (17)
Due to a shortage of central defenders, Byrne was asked to fill in there, and he hasn’t let the side down. It was quite tough deciding what position to put down for him, as I’ve seen him play everywhere!

Jake Nicholson, Central midfielder, 19/07/1992 (17)
Nicholson has been converted to a holding midfield player this year, and has been very impressive. He will be another that will be looking to get a loan spell in the not-too-distant future.

Paul McBride, Winger, 13/09/1992 (17)
McBride’s had quite a patchy season, playing around 50% of games. He is a left winger who is more in the Downing mould than the Lennon mould.

Olumide Durojaiye, Central defender, 20/10/1992 (17)
Another player that has been in and out of the side. Has probably learnt a lot from this season, and will look to kick on next year.

Ryan Fredericks, Winger 30/10/1992 (17)
Exciting right-winger, who seems to go from strength to strength. Has become a key man for the U18s, and is always an outlet.

Cameron Lancaster, Forward, 05/11/1992 (17)
Having two good forwards ahead of him, he has mainly played in other positions – wide midfield and even central defence! He will hope to get more opportunities during the rest of the season.

Jesse Waller Lassen, Winger/full-back, 26/12/1992 (17)
A versatile player who can play on the wing or at full-back. He will be looking to make more starts during the rest of the season.

Kudus Oyenuga, Forward, 18/03/1993 (16)
Very good scoring record for the U18s – a good finisher with decent pace. It’s still early days, but the signs are good.

Alex Pritchard, Attacking midfielder, 03/05/1993 (16)
Has had limited chances next year, but it’s early days.

Callum Tapping, Central midfield,er 05/06/1993 (16)
As above.

Zaine Francis-Angol, Full-back, 30/06/1993 (16)
Had a few rocky performances early on, but has grown as the season has gone on.

Harry Kane, Forward/attacking midfielder, 28/07/1993 (16)
Captain of the U18s as the youngest player, he has a decent scoring record, and even made the first-team bench for the Everton game.

Jermaine Jenas – why is he judged using a different scale?

There are a few things that constantly come up in Jenas threads on Spurs message boards (and indeed in mumblings around WHL) that I have never really been able to understand.

  1. Some of our fans “hate” him.
  2. He is seen as not caring/a bottle job/weak.
  3. He is seen as inconsistent.

1. Why would you hate a Spurs player? He seems like a nice enough lad off the pitch – he came from a tough background with a single mum, and he worked hard to get to where he is today. He talks well on the game, he’s not as stupid as a lot of players, and he comes across as passionate about the club. He is also doing some good off the pitch – see this interview. I just don’t really “get” why some people have such an irrational dislike of him.

2. IMO he shows no more or less commitment than 99% of our players. He could be physically stronger, but so could many of our players.

3. He doesn’t play well every game. But how many footballers for sides of a similar standard to us do? Equally, Kranjcar has had some brilliant games for us this season, but he’s also had some very poor games. Modric has been awful in his last two appearances, but is generally seen as our best player. Palacios has made a string of defensive errors that have directly and indirectly cost us goals. In effect, Jenas is far from the most inconsistent player we have.

I don’t particularly like Jenas as a player – I prefer players who play football the way I personally like to see it played, and I do feel that he quite often doesn’t see a pass, or dallies too long and misses opportunities. However, he certainly has some good qualities – he has excellent energy, he takes responsibility defensively, and he probably (without checking) has a better PL scoring record than any of our other midfield players.

I think the crux of the issue is that I feel that some people judge him on a scale totally different to other players. They expect him to be single-handedly dragging us through games a la Gerrard for Liverpool (who, incidentally, has had a poor season). Why? Just because he plays in the middle of midfield? Why is Jenas expected to do the near-impossible, when others aren’t? It’s almost like having a go at Gomes for being too tall – it’s just the way he is. He hasn’t got that steely determination of Rooney or Gerrard, and he never will have. You can’t teach that.

All I ask is that players are judged fairly, and I certainly don’t think that Jenas is.

Analysis of the goals conceded against Liverpool

Although we deserved nothing from the game at Anfield last night, we gave away two very poor goals.

First goal.

In the sixth minute, we’re regrouping after a chance of our own. A high ball is played forward – usually Dawson’s forte.
Two things to notice – firstly, Palacios (third from the left, with a good view of play). I find it hard to be critical of Palacios‘ passing, because he wasn’t brought to us to add passing ability. However, I will continue to criticise his lack of defensive nous. Surely a defensive-minded midfielder should see that Aquilani (who he is directly up against for much of the game) is in a position to influence the game should Kuyt win this ball. He can’t just rely on Dawson winning the header.

EDIT: it has been pointed out (correctly) that Dawson slips – you can see from the still above, but more clearly from the video). This allows Kuyt to win the ball unchallenged. However, I still feel that we shouldn’t have conceded that goal, with or without the slip.

Dawson gets tight to Kuyt, and looks favourite to win the ball.

Kuyt is the master of backing into players subtly, and he uses his back-side to manoeuvre himself into a position to lay the ball off to Aquilani, who has carried on his movement (whilst Palacios has virtually stood still).

Aquilani shows good ability to feed the ball back to Kuyt (before getting clattered by Dawson). Personally at this point, I think the King of old would be a yard further forward.

Or at least would now be trying to make up a bit of ground, to give Kuyt less room to get a shot off. Admittedly he takes it early, but frankly, that’s pretty much the only way he can score from this situation, and he does.

Second goal.

Some may argue that it’s difficult to criticise when you’re chasing the game, but this penalty situation is a shambles. Bassong has been on for nine minutes (an utterly bizarre substitution, covered below), and has so far looked very uncomfortable (maybe his shorts are on the wrong way round?).

Darby picks the ball up in the middle of the pitch, and has plenty of room. Bale comes to close him (no wide left player at this point), which gives us a problem, as Bassong and Palacios are left with decisions to make – something they both seem to struggle with.

Darby finds Maxi with a decent ball to feet. Notice now that Bale is out of the game, that N’Gog has shown great anticipation and is pulling into a useful position. Palacios has been attracted towards the ball, and Bassong (edge of out box) is in two minds.

Looking at it from another view, you can analyse better the positioning of our players. Dawson is the deepest, getting back into position having made a clearance. The other defenders are in truly awful positions. Bassong is unable to influence the game, and Hutton is ball-watching.

Maxi slips N’Gog in with a perfectly weighted first time pass.

From above, you can see the danger. Bassong needed to go with N’Gog but hasn’t and, as a result, he’s in acres of space. Hutton is still ball-watching happily.

N’Gog’s first touch is a little heavy, which tempts Bassong into making a challenge. However, because he’s not close enough, he has no chance of getting there.

N’Gog is blessed with excellent pace and athleticism – he touches it beyond Bassong and gets cleaned out, just inside the area.

Kuyt steps up at the second time of asking and sends Gomes the wrong way.

Some general points about the game:

  • Redknapp’s team selection was predictable, but that doesn’t make it right. With Kranjcar and Modric on the flanks, we lack width, and it asks a lot of our full-backs. Kranjcar has been in terrific form, and Modric is probably our best player, so it’s hard not to include both. However, if they are to play in the same side, we must ensure that it’s in a 4-2-3-1, with one striker, and at least one naturally wide player – yesterday we could have played Bale/Bentley/Giovani/Naughton/Rose in an advanced role. Yes, lesser players, but it’s about picking the right team rather than the right individuals.
  • When we had possession, we were often trying to play through a crowded central area (our narrow midfield, plus Lucas, Mascherano and Aquilani), rather than exploiting their weaker flanks (although Bale had some joy).
  • Liverpool have been struggling this season against teams that play at a high tempo, press high, and force them to play the long ball – we didn’t do enough of this as a team, and when we did force Liverpool to play long, we didn’t win first or second balls convincingly (see the first goal).
  • I’ve not been a fan of Redknapp’s substitutions in general, but to bring Bassong on for King with 10 minutes to go at 1-0 was totally bizarre. Firstly, I don’t think King should have started – he looked half-fit, and off the pace. But if he had to come off, why not put on an attacker and ask Palacios to sit in front of Dawson? We needed to go for broke.