A throw in is taken on the right. The eventual scorer, Coloccini, has stayed forward from a previous set piece, and is on the far side of the pitch. Lennon has tucked round, and Hutton is staying wide to keep an eye on Coloccini.
The ball is worked back to Guthrie, and we have maintained our shape.
Guthrie looks to angle a diagonal ball – Coloccini is alive to this, but Hutton isn’t, and now has a problem, with Coloccini on his shoulder.
As the ball drops, Hutton is in no-man’s land unless he has read the flight.
But he hasn’t, and Coloccini’s first touch on his chest takes him inside Hutton, giving him a yard of space to get a shot away. Gallas has read the danger, but can’t get across quickly enough due to the expert chest trap.
It’s a decent enough strike, but there’s no way that this should be going in.
Cudicini makes a total hash of the save, and it flies off his hands into the far corner.
Not a pretty goal to concede; although Guthrie’s well-flighted pass and Collocini’s chest trap were excellent, we defended it poorly. In fact, having had such a good game against Manchester United, Hutton had a poor one against Newcastle.
We played well and dominated on Sunday, and crucially kept another clean sheet.
The return of Dawson has heralded a return to defensive form, whereby we have kept 4 clean sheets in 9 games albeit one against Charlton); 44.4%. We had previously kept 3 in 23; 13%. It is no coincidence, although I was a little disappointed that he once again started on the left of the centre back pairing to accommodate Gallas. I was liking the look of the Dawson/Kaboul partnership, which I see as a long-term pairing, and would like to see us go with these two (with Dawson able to revert to the right, as Kaboul is equally comfortable on either side).
The only disappointing element of the game was that, despite our dominance, we failed to score and to go on to win the game. We had a decent number of shots in the game (19), but only managed 2 on target. Crouch had 3 efforts, all off-target, van der Vaart had 6, with 1 on target, 3blocked and 2 off target. Crouch had arguably the best chance of the game when he beat Ferdinand to a fantastic Hutton cross (after a wonderful piece of play from Modric), but was unable to, as Andy Gray likes to say, “sort out his feet”, and directed the ball wide.
Crouch had a poor game, completing only 8 out of 23 passes. Indeed, Football 365 commented that “Peter Crouch’s pass completion rate of 32% [sic] v United was the worst of any Premier League starter this weekend”.
The Chalkboard below illustrates how lacking his hold up play was, with the red arrows showing incomplete passes. When he does successfully hold the ball up, he seems to do so by coming so deep (possibly to evade the centre back, knowing that he will be out-muscled?) that he eventually passes the ball back towards our own centre backs.
His aerial battles were also disappointing; again, the Chalkboard below illustrates this:
He won 2 out of 5 challenges in the box, with one of them shown below:
In this instance, he needs to nod the ball down to van der Vart to allow the shot, but he actually heads the ball directly up in the air under pressure from Vidic, a player over whom he has a 5 inch height advantage. The move ends when van der Vaart retrieves the ball and goes down in the corner of the box, appealing for a penalty.
“I said at half-time we had to try to keep playing as much as we can, play into Luka Modric and Rafa — that’s how we were looking to play — but when they close and press you sometimes, it’s not always easy.
You have got to be brave to play some balls — you will play a tight ball into Luka Modric with someone closing him but you might not play it to some other people for fear of losing the ball and then bang, it’s in the back of your net.
When you are a defender and you are looking to play a little ball into the middle of the park but your team-mates are getting closed down, your first instinct is to look long.
They are not an easy team to go long against because both centre-halves are fantastic in the air, especially with Vidic who heads it unbelievably well.
So it was a problem but you also have a problem though if you play two little strikers — if you play Van der Vaart with Defoe and they press you, how do you get out?
It is very difficult then to play through a top-class team.
You have got to play perfect football to get balls into Defoe or Van der Vaart when you have got two tiny guys up front for you. You need Crouch from set-plays, too.”
Whilst I don’t have a particular issue with Crouch, I have written on the subject of our strikers before – see my previous article ‘Why Pavlyuchenko should be first choice in the league (warning, stat alert!)‘. For many, Defoe was the logical choice yesterday – back in goal-scoring form after notching twice against Charlton, and able to stretch the United defenders with runs in behind. Vidic has been exploited in this manner before – notably against Torres. He is also prone to being beaten by good movement – indeed, van der Vaart showed this by beating him to a near post header after a clever run.
Whilst I can see the point that Redknapp is trying to make, based on yesterday’s game, I disagree. United stopped pressing our centre backs, instead intent on blocking space in midfield, almost encouraging the long ball to Crouch. They did this because they knew that Vidic had the beating of him in the air, and was dominating him when the ball came in to his feet. Thankfully, our centre backs chose to be patient, and were happy to keep possession by shuffling the ball across the back line before we were able to get it to Modric – as usual, he didn’t let us down – the Chalkboard below illustrates this well:
Modric dictated play far more than Carrick, who was often wasteful in possession, and ended up playing more as an auxiliary centre back.
Redknapp suggests that Crouch is a useful out ball but, in my opinion, we were dominating the game to an extent that an out ball wasn’t necessary – and in my opinion, a player to make a burst in behind and stretch the defence was.
Finally, the last disappointing element was Redknapp’s use of substitutes. Having seen how little impact the Crouch/van der Vaart partnership was making, it would have been wise to make a change at half-time, bringing on a forward to run into the channels, and in behind the centre backs. Instead, Redknapp waited until the 78th minute to bring on Defoe. After the game, Redknapp said:
“When a team goes down to 10 they’ve still got two banks of four, they’ve still got their shape about them. It’s not easy. We were open as a barn door with 15 minutes left, with Van der Vaart and Modric in the centre of midfield, two strikers and two wingers. A point is okay. Anyone taking points off Man United is doing well.”
I tend to disagree again – we were open, but not in a positive, attacking way. We had no holding midfield player, but neither did we have anyone willing to make a run from deep to get in behind the defenders. Van der Vaart looked lost when he dropped deeper, and Jenas may have been a better option – the injection of pace would have helped too.
Whilst it is notoriously difficult to play against 10 men (mainly due to psychology in my opinion), we barely tested Fletcher at right back, and we created very little. Defoe had so little time to get into the game, that he found it difficult, and Pavlyuchenko was left on the bench.
Saha receives the ball, with Gallas stood (too far) off him. He’s able to hold it up, and look to spread play.
Baines has got forward well (as he does) and has time, since Hutton has shown a lack of awareness of what’s going on around him.
By the time Hutton comes to close Baines, Gallas has dropped off Saha again, leaving him in yards of space. Notice Jenas screaming and pointing at Saha (you can see this better in the video), urging Gallas to get tighter.
Gallas and Jenas close in on Saha, but it’s far too late and, even on his weaker right foot, Saha is easily able to get a shot away. Gomes is positioned slightly closer to his left hand post than his right.
Saha strikes it well, but, having started too far over, Gomes has left himself a lot to do.
He can’t get down to it quickly enough and, even thoughh it’s not right in the corner, it finds the net.
A poor goal to concede, and so early in the game too. Gallas must know that Saha is capable of shooting from the edge of the box, even with his weaker foot. To stand off him twice was criminal – very poor defending.
As we play a ball into the Everton box, Distin rises to get above Kranjcar, and heads the ball clear. Jenas and Modric are both pushed forward, supporting the attack.
The ball breaks slightly fortuitously to Pienaar, who swivels and plays a fine ball to Beckford, who is being tracked by Assou-Ekotto. Notice Saha ready to support a counter attack, and Jenas starting to track back.
Beckford cleverly lays the ball off first time, knowing that if he takes a touch, Assou-Ekotto could get to the ball. At this point I think one of our players should be thinking of making a cynical foul if at all possible.
Great ball from Beckford, through the gap…
…but it does lack a little weight, so Saha has to check, giving Dawson the chance to get back behind the ball. He backs off, with one eye on Coleman (who you can see coming into the picture), but also knowing that Saha prefers to use his left foot. Notice Jenas charging back to help his defence.
Saha comes inside on to his left. Coleman continues his run, and Jenas intelligently goes that way in case the ball breaks for him.
Sightly selfishly, Saha goes for goal, getting plenty of force behind his shot. Jenas for some reason has slowed down – whether he is thinking that we may try to play Coleman offside or thinks that the move is over, it’s this hesitation that lets Coleman get beyond him.
The shot is pretty much straight at Gomes and, for me, Gomes should be getting this out into a much safer area.
When he parries it feebly out towards the edge of the 6-yard box, the onrushing Coleman is there to nod home.
As Saha has his shot, Coleman is played onside by Dawson.
A very disappointing goal – should we have brought Beckford or Saha down? Why did Jenas stop? Why didn’t Gomes get the ball over the bar or around the post and to safety?
I’ll preface this by saying that not much is supposed to happen in January; last year we didn’t do too much business, bringing in Eidur Gudjohnsen on loan, and re-signing Younes Kaboul. However, the year before was Redknapp’s first window in charge, and we were far busier, signing Wilson Palacios, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane, Pascal Chimbonda, and Carlo Cudicini, as well as selling Hossam Ghaly.
With the Premier League as close as it is, the likes of Chelsea and Man City will surely spend, and that means that other clubs may be forced to buy in order to stay within reach.
Redknapp seems to have set his stall out, saying:
“If we could find the right player that would make the difference we would do it.
The chairman is up for is up for it and he’s pushing me more than I’m pushing him. But it’s hard to find that person who you think would take you to the next level.
They are talking about £35million for the boy Dzeko [at Wolfsburg], but is he worth it? It would scare me spending that sort of money unless I was 100 per cent sure.”
However, although he’s definitely “not a wheeler and dealer”, it wouldn’t be any surprise to see him… well, wheel and deal.
The priority – a top striker
The priority simply must be a striker. The majority of the media don’t seem to have picked up on the fact that our strikers are, by some distance, the weakest area of our squad; they see the names Defoe, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko and Keane, and they see four international calibre strikers, with plenty of experience and plenty of fire-power. The truth is a little different.
Whilst Crouch has scored one goal in 1110 minutes of Premier League football this season, Defoe hasn’t scored in the league since 17th April – 837 minutes without a league goal (his last one was a penalty vs Chelsea). He has played 1001 minutes since his last league goal from open play.
Whilst Pavlyuchenko’s goal record is much more impressive (see my article ‘Why Pavlyuchenko should be first choice in the league (warning, stat alert!)‘) – currently averaging 160 minutes per goal – his all-round game frustrates our fans and his fellow players. He is a predatory striker, but neither has a Berbatov-esque technique in controlling or holding up the ball, nor Rooney/Tevez (or even Kevin Doyle) type work-rate to make up for it.
And then there’s Keane. He is a shadow of the player that he was before the Liverpool fiasco and, whilst I personally still class him as a Tottenham legend, the sooner he looks elsewhere for first time football, the better for all parties.
Where Manchester United have Rooney and Berbatov, City have Tevez and Balotelli, Arsenal have van Persie, Chelsea have Drogba and Anelka, and Liverpool have Torres, we simply don’t have a striker that quite matches up.
The question is whether top strikers will be available in January – with Edin Dzeko due to be sold for £34m (and therefore pricing anyone except Man City out of the market), and Dortmund said to be only considering offers of £20m plus for Lucas Barrios, it’s hard to see where such a player may come from. Karim Benzema has been linked with a loan move, but Real Madrid don’t seem to be in a position to sell a forward, with Gonzalo Higuaín, their only other top-class striker, due to be out for 3-4 months.
Adebayor is another who has been linked, and City will surely have to sell him to be able to accommodate Dzeko, but with the news today that Real Madrid are sniffing around, hopefully the links with Spurs won’t re-surface.
Van der Vaart’s arrival has in some way eased the urgent need for a new striker, but has also meant that we can imagine how good we could be if he had someone of real quality to dovetail with.
Central midfield reinforcement
Redknapp is clearly a big fan of Scott Parker, saying recently “I like Scott Parker but for about £15million and at 30 years old he is not a Tottenham buy. Daniel wouldn’t buy a player of that age. It’s a lot of money and big wages.” I totally agree with Redknapp’s logic, but the fact that he pronounced his admiration suggests that he is looking at reinforcements in the middle of our midfield.
Personally I think we are OK in this area (particularly if Beckham signs), with Jenas in his best form for eighteen months, Modric continuing his wonderful run, and Huddlestone still to come back in. Of course we also have Palacios, Sandro and O’Hara as cover.
However, we know that Redknapp likes Diarra, and if he were to become available, I’m certain that he would be in for him. He has had a run of games for Real recently, though, and I’m not sure that they would be willing to let him go, particularly in the middle of the season.
With Rafael van der Vaart’s arrival, we were reminded of the opportunistic streak possessed by both Levy and Redknapp. Rafa seemed to come on to the market from out of nowhere in August, and we pounced to sign him for a cut-price fee. Redknapp clearly hadn’t identified him as the “missing part of the jigsaw”, but his influence has obviously been massive this season.
Similarly, David Beckham seems to have come on to the loan market at a good time for us. A player with the much sought after “winning mentality”, who could add some much needed experience to a young squad (even younger if Keane does leave). He is a role model both on the pitch and off, and renowned as a fantastic trainer. He would offer useful midfield cover even if he doesn’t start games, and the merchandise revenue would mean that any transfer would surely pay for itself.
Another player that could be available cheaply is Steven Pienaar, who is out of contract in the summer, and has long been linked with us. At a reported £2m, it is a relatively risk-free move. Whilst he is a good player, I don’t see him as better than what we have and would, therefore, consider him a signing ‘for the squad’. However, there tends to need to be a “cycle” with squad players and, with Kranjcar likely to leave (either on loan or permanently), Pienaar would offer very useful cover on the left.
We have a number of players who are seemingly unhappy at not getting first team football; indeed, Redknapp has confirmed that this is the case with Bentley (“…he obviously wants to go. He’s not happy because he’s not playing and I understand that.”) and Keane (“Robbie is the same. He’s too good not to play”), and I’d imagine that Giovani, Kranjcar, and maybe even Bassong are in a similar situation. Kranjcar has been linked with various clubs, including Celtic, whereas there has been talk that Bassong may favour a move back to France. We are seemingly also keen to get 37 year old Cudicini off the wage bill, with Matt Law from The Express tweeting this morning that “Redknapp would like to shift carlo cudicini out this month which would also free up the 23 shirt for a certain someone…”
We have a number of young players who may also move on – for example, Ben Alnwick, who was on loan at Leeds briefly (but didn’t get any games), and Calum Butcher, who has had a trial at Ipswich Town.
There has been talk that Kyle Naughton, currently on loan at Leicester City, may join the Foxes permanently for £1.5m, whilst Danny Rose had been linked with a permanent move to his loan club, Bristol City, until he got injured.
John Bostock has been recalled from his loan spell at Hull, which was supposed to be a season-long loan, and there are whispers that he may be available for transfer on a permanent basis.
With Woodgate and O’Hara back in training but lacking match fitness, I think it likely that both will go out on loan for the remainder of the season. Woodgate has been linked with moves to Leeds and Cardiff, whilst O’Hara continues to be mentioned in connection with West Ham (although I personally think Fulham is a better fit).
We have recently recalled Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend, John Bostock and Dean Parrett from loan spells for various reasons (see my recent article ‘Spurs loanee update‘ for more information), and I think it’s highly likely that at least a couple of them will find new loan clubs for the back end of the season (perhaps League One and Two rather than Championship). It may also be wise for Redknapp to send Sandro out to get some much needed experience.
There are a number of existing loan deals that are due to end in January:
Kyle Naughton – Leicester City (date unknown) Kyle Walker – QPR (January 3rd) Adam Smith – Bournemouth (January 3rd) Paul-Jose M’Poku – Leyton Orient (January 8th) Jake Livermore – Ipswich Town (January 29th)
Eddie Howe is ‘hopeful’ that a decision can be reached to extend the loan spell of Adam Smith, whilst Neil Warnock put forward a case for QPR to keep Kyle Walker on ‘Goals On Sunday’ this week, hinting that we may want to send him to a Premier League club (although I think we will wait on Hutton’s injury before making a decision either way).
M’Poku will almost certainly stay at Orient for the remainder of the season, having impressed in his spell so far, and, as mentioned, Naughton will probably stay at Leicester, either on loan or on a permanent basis. Livermore is expected to return from Ipswich once his loan ends. If this is the case, I would imagine that he would find another club, with a view to a permanent summer transfer.
The 25-man squad rule
We will have to submit a new 25-man squad list at the end of January transfer window, but at least for this season, any players who were 21 as of 1st January 2010, but are 22 as of 1st January 2011 will not need to be registered.
We shouldn’t have too many problems making up the 8 home-grown players, but we will have to trim our squad if we want to include Woodgate and O’Hara (plus any new signings older than 21) in our squad list:
15 Luka Modric 09/09/1985 25 16 Tom Huddlestone 28/12/1986 24 * 17 Aaron Lennon 16/04/1987 23 * 18 Jermaine Jenas 18/02/1983 27 * 19 Wilson Palacios 29/07/1984 26 20 Niko Kranjcar 13/08/1984 26 21 David Bentley 27/08/1984 26 * 22 Jamie O’Hara 25/09/1986 24 *
23 Rafael van der Vaart 11/02/1983 27 24 Jermain Defoe 07/10/1982 28 * 25 Peter Crouch 30/01/1981 29 * 26 Roman Pavlyuchenko 15/12/1981 29 27 Robbie Keane 08/07/1980 30 *
In case you’re wondering why the likes of Bale and Sandro are missing, the following are all counted as under 21, and don’t need to be included on our 25-man list:
David Button Sandro Ranieri Guimarães Cordeiro Giovani Dos Santos Gareth Bale Jake Livermore Danny Rose Jonathan Obika Oscar Jansson Calum Butcher Adam Smith Ryan Mason Andros Townsend Anton Blackwood Dean Parrett Steven Caulker John Bostock