Stephen Rice’s goal – Cudicini parries a firmly struck free kick from McCabe, a first time effort is slammed in low, and Rice deftly lifts it over the goalkeeper.
A McCabe free kick is curled to the far post – Cudicini gets two hands to it but, instead of putting it round the post, he parries it back out into the area. Twigg is running on to the ball at the edge of the box. Note Bassong’s position – he has neither pushed out to play off-side, nor tried to cover part of the goal line. Instead, he is playing the eventual goal-scorer onside and stood in Cudicini’s line of sight.
Twigg strikes the ball well, and the onside Rice gets a foot to his effort.
It’s quick thinking from Rice, who dinks the ball over Cudicini, who is left helpless.
Overall it was a good performance from a Spurs team which included ten changes from the line-up against Wigan (only Walker survived). We held the midfield well, with Livermore and Carroll constantly picking up loose balls and feeding our attacking players. Giovani was bright and creative, although did not always pick the right option, and Danny Rose was typically industrious from left back, making surge after surge forward.
The big disappointment in the first half was the performance of our strikers; Defoe, who barely got involved, and Pavlyuchenko, who wasted some good opportunities. In the second half, our forwards looked hungrier (although not always wiser), and we had a lot more cutting edge to our play, particularly after going one down. Townsend came on for Lennon and provided direct running and good deliveries, one of which created our opener.
I would expect nine or ten changes for Arsenal game, with Walker and possibly Defoe retaining places (although personally I’d stick with the team that beat Wigan last weekend).
Steven Caulker had made an excellent start to the season with Swansea City, playing against Man City, Wigan, Sunderland and Arsenal, Swansea’s defence keeping two clean sheets in those games.
Unfortunately, during the Arsenal game he made a goal line clearance and clashed with the woodwork, damaging his knee cartilage in the process. He is expected to miss 6-8 weeks in total, and 2 of those have already passed.
The Swansea fans seem very happy with him so far – some comments from the Swansea forums after the Wigan game:
“An absolute beast today.
Won everything in the air.”
“Can’t believe he’s only 19.
He’s fantastic in the air and very comfortable on the ball” “He really does impress me, for somebody so young he shows maturity beyond his years football wise”
And after the Sunderland game:
“Is it me or does Caulker look an absolute rolls royce of a centre half”
“Caulker is strong, quick and has good instincts. He’ll be hell of a player in a couple of years.”
Hopefully Steven’s injury will heal quickly and he will be able to get straight back into the swing of things.
Kyle Naughton has forced himself into the Norwich City starting eleven with some impressive showings. Paul Lambert initially seemed keen to stick with Russell Martin at right back, who did so well for them last year, but Naughton has now started four out of five Premier League matches, and has not really put a foot wrong.
“I haven’t really spoken to Spurs much. When I go out on loan I like to just try to get my head down and concentrate on the club that I’m playing for.”
Jermaine Jenas joined Aston Villa on a season-long loan at the end of the transfer window, but has yet to play a part for them due to niggling injuries. He will be looking to cement himself in the Villa midfield, although has competition from Bannan and Delph.
Bongani Khumalo is currently out of the reckoning at Reading having played the opening five games of the season for them.
There were some relatively good fan comments after his first few games – these after his debut:
“Khumalo – 6.5 not as good as I was expecting but didn’t do a lot wrong.”
“Khumalo – 6 composed and decent in the air but made mistakes”
“Federici then compounds their errors (as he did with the first) and then both Griffin and Khumalo fail to cut out Marquis’ header as you’d hope they might.”
And these after their 2-0 win against Leicester:
“Khumalo – Better than I predicted. Good block.”
“Kumalo – 8 – really good today, won a lot of good headers, took no chances”
“Khumalo also made a superb diving tackle block (think of Sonko’s Superman incident but with legs rather than face) with the Leicester forward having a free shot on goal begging from 10 yards.”
“Khumalo had a stormer today, I like the look of him already.”
“Looked very assured today in the little he had to do. Looked a good relationship between him and Pearce.”
However, things started to turn after the 2-1 home defeat to Barnsley:
“What the hell was Federici doing not coming for that first one!? There was no one in his way. His all the way. Fricking useless. Poor from Khumalo too.”
And after the League Cup defeat against League One Charlton, the comments were even worse:
“our 3 first teamers (Harte, Khumalo and Captain MArvel) were our worst players. Khumalo no control whatsoever (was this one of Redknapp’s dodgy buys???)”
“Too early to write him off, but it is a horrendous start. Positioning woeful, does not look confident, passing slapdash, looks out of his depth, will cost us goals galore.”
“In central defence, Khumalo looks too raw and unpredictable. I have just read a McDermott quote saying we need a central defender to calm us down and that has to refer in part to Khumalo. To be honest I don’t know who was supposed to be marking Euell for his goal but in general I thought Morrison looks slightly the better of the two central defenders”
“Khumalo – 4 Doesn’t seem to be able to judge a header at all, and balls went over him a number of times.”
“Khumalo – 2 no awareness, no positioning, can’t head, can’t mark, can’t pass, can’t control it. Got a bit of pace though.”
He missed last week’s match because he was having his wisdom teeth removed, but played for Reading’s reserves in midweek, so there was talk of him being involved this weekend. He was not named on the bench, however, and so I am starting to wonder why we have not recalled him and sent him elsewhere.
Ryan Mason had a decent start for Doncaster before injury yet again got the better of him. He started in their 2-1 defeat to Brighton, and had a decent game.
A comment on a Doncaster forum:
“Also thought Mason did very well – tried to get on the ball and make things happen. If he can play like that he’ll be an asset this season.”
He then scored in their 3-0 League Cup win against Tranmere, playing off the striker, with a free role in a 4-2-3-1. Unfortunately he was also stretchered off after a bad tackle, later tweeting “Not too happy about the tackle that’s put me on crutches! What can ya do it’s football.. Will let u know how bad it is as soon as I find out”.
A real shame, as the fans were impressed:
“Gutted, and it took the gloss of a good team performance. Mason was MOM for me, followed by Oster and Bennett.”
“Oster, Gilly and Mason where unplayable in the first half and Browny put himself about.”
“Mason my Motm by a country mile!”
Ryan is now nearing full fitness again, although a lot has changed at Doncaster since he last played, with Sean O’Driscoll sacked and Dean Saunders brought in as manager. Ryan gave this interview to the Doncaster website yesterday:
After six week out of action attacking midfielder Ryan Mason is now ready to get back to playing.
“It’s just good to be back out there on the training pitch”, said Mason.
After a promising start to the season for Ryan, frustration was the emotion going through his head after being stretchered off in only the second game.
“I was gutted.”
“I started the first two games of season, to get injured was probably the worst feeling I’ve had in football – hopefully I’m past that now and I can get some more games under my belt.”
“It frustrating not being able to get involved, I just wanted to get back playing as soon as possible – no footballer likes to be out injured.”
The hard work put in by the back room staff has payed off, with Mason training with the rest of the squad this week.
“If I’m honest its probably tougher being injured, you’re in the earliest and you leave the latest, you’re constantly doing stuff whether it be in the pool or the gym – It’s been a long process but I’m raring to go.”
“I trained Monday and Tuesday, it’s good to be back out there after sitting on the sidelines for six weeks.”
“I want to play; I feel if I’m fit enough to train then I’m fit enough to play.”
“Six weeks out is a long time out to be chucked straight back in – but I think I’m ready if I get called upon.”
Nathan Byrne has had a rocky start to his loan at Bournemouth, and now finds himself on the treatment table as well.
A few fan comments after his debut – very mixed reaction:
“Byrne – Poor debut, hesitant and awful distribution. Hope this was just a bad day for him.”
“Second came from a needlessly conceded corner by Byrne and third Wright-Phillips made a meal of a challenge and turned it into a penalty.”
“Byrne I thought he did ok but where was Feeney in front of him.”
“Lyle Taylor having quite an effect on the game by the sounds of it and was unlucky not to win us a pen. Nathan Byrne impressed as well.”
Fan comments after their 5-0 win against Dagenham & Redbridge:
“After a poorish first half, I thought Byrne had a great second half and linked up well with Feeney.
These two could cause a lot of problems to the opposition as the season progresses and they get to understand each other’s play.”
“byrne had a great second half”
He scored an own goal in a 2-1 defeat to Carlisle:
“Byrne – Doesn’t have the same physical presence as Smith and although he linked up well with Feeney, particularly in the first half, he had a torrid time in the second half when he was often left to defend against two attackers, with very little support from Feeney, or any of the others. I felt a little sorry for him actually. The own goal was not his fault at all (5)”
Having started the season at right back, Nathan found himself pushed into midfield in his last few appearances. He has stated twelve games for Bournemouth, which will stand him in good stead for the rest of the season, but he unfortunately sustained an ankle ligament injury in the win against Exeter.
Jon Obika is another who has had an injury lay-off, which has stopped him playing regularly for Yeovil Town, where he is on loan until January. He played their first three league games, and was a substitute in their League Cup defeat to Exeter, but picked up a knee injury, and may require surgery. He was told to rest for four weeks, at which point he will be sent back to the surgeon, and I read this week that he has returned to Spurs for treatment.
Adam Smith has had a very good start to his season-long loan at MK Dons, playing eight times before picking up a knock.
After his debut, their manager Karl Robinson was full of praise:
Adam Smith was handed his debut for the Dons less than 12 hours after completing his loan move from Tottenham Hotspur, but the right-back looked natural on the ball and more than comfortable in the Dons’ team.
“Adam is a great footballer, he’s classy, elegant, not the biggest but he can play. He can pass, take people on, I really him, he looked like he had been here all pre-season, you wouldn’t think he had trained in a five-a-side yesterday and just turned up to play today.”
Smith’s strong displays have earned him an England U21 call-up, but he recently picked up an ankle injury in a tackle in the game against Huddersfield and has missed a couple of games so far.
David Button is yet another injured loanee. He joined Leyton Orient until January towards the end of August, and played just two games before sustaining a shoulder injury which could keep him out for two months.
There was a nice interview with David on the Leyton Orient website after his debut, where he talks about his friendship with ex-Spur Lee Butcher.
With Button injured, Orient signed Ben Alnwick for a month to cover for him, but now he has got injured too! He played three league games in a week, only to suffer a groin injury and miss the next couple.
The comments about his performances were generally quite positive:
“Had me worried a few times in the first half and his kicking don’t seem all that.
However made a couple of cracking saves in the second.”
“Exactly, one or two stray kicks, his throwing is excellent and his eye for a quick release is great.
Very good keeper who played at championship clubs and done well.”
“Did well but I thought he could have done better for the Col U goal….”
David Bentley has made three substitute appearances for West Ham so far, implying perhaps that he is not up to speed fitness-wise. Allardyce’s comments after his first appearance were quite telling:
“David Bentley came on and his quality of passing opened the opposition up more. The additions before the window shut look exciting, I’ve got to say.”
“Whereas David Bentley, Joey O’Brien and George McCartney had basically been discarded by the clubs they were at and had not got the right amount of training, so it’ll take some time for them to catch up.”
This week he was relatively complimentary again:
“The substitutes made us even better and John Carew looked more like his old self; David Bentley came on as well and gave us a bit more down the right, not that I was disappointed in Carlton Cole or Julien Faubert. But it’s nice to know your subs can come up and take things a little higher again.”
Simon Dawkins is a regular starter for San Jose Earthquakes, where he is on loan until December. He has now made 15 starts and 7 substitute appearances for them since March, including five starts in a row since the end of August.
Dawkins was recently included in an article called “24 under 24” on the MLS website:
One of the most exciting new arrivals of 2011 in MLS. The Englishman — on loan from the EPL’s Tottenham Hotspur — has shown he is capable of providing a jolt to the Earthquakes attack with his ability to keep opposing defenses on their heels. His speed, quickness and aggressive dribbling have made him an ideal support forward or playmaker, helping to fill the void left by the departure of Geovanni. However, injury setbacks have limited Dawkins’ contributions after he got off to an explosive start to the campaign.
What the TDs and coaches say: “Excellent dribbler who can break guys down on the dribble … He’s not a guy you want running at you … Scores and he’s hungry for it … When he’s on, he’s a difference-maker on the field and it’s all based on the dribble. He’s a decent passer, but it’s all about the ball being at his feet … He looks to pull the trigger and if you give him time and space he can hurt you … If he’s not facing the goal, he’s less of a threat. His weakness is playing with his back to goal.”
Oscar Jansson has returned to us from Bradford City having made just three appearances. In his debut he was thrown into a local derby with Leeds in the League Cup, where he had a decent game and wasn’t at fault for any of the three goals conceded. He was released by Bradford after they signed the experienced Matt Duke at the end of the transfer window, with manager Phil Parkinson making positive noises:
“I’d like to thank Oscar for all his efforts during his time here.
In the short period that I’ve been at the club, he has been no problems at all and always trained in a professional manner.
I am sure that fans will remember Oscar fondly, especially thanks to his penalty saves in the Sheffield Wednesday match
Unfortunately for Oscar though, we cannot sustain three goalkeepers on books at the moment with Dukey and Jon [McLaughlin] here as well.”
Kudus Oyenuga returned to us at the end of his one month loan with Bury having made three appearances – substitute appearances in League One and the League Cup, and a start in the Johnstones Paint Trophy. He will be looking for another loan move as soon as possible, and has been linked with Exeter.
Young goalkeeper Mirko Ranieri is on loan at FC Esperia Viareggio in the third tier of Italian football. Funnily enough I have not been able to find any information on his progress there!
Diame’s goal – Assou-Ekotto gifts possession to Wigan, and the ball reaches Diame, who holds off Kaboul and finds the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Assou-Ekotto has possession in his own box, after a Wigan attack breaks down. Parker (to his right) is the easy pass, or he can pass the the ball down the line for Bale.
Instead, his attempted pass is too close to Stam, and the ball loops back into the Spurs box.
King competes, and the ball ends up back with Stam.
He plays an intelligent first-time pass into Diame, who has Kaboul closing in on him.
Diame is very strong, and holds off Kaboul, but Parker comes along to mop up…
For some reason (presumably he doesn’t want to give away a free kick), Parker pulls out of a challenge, and instead runs straight past Diame.
Which allows Diame to turn and find the bottom right corner of Friedel’s goal – it’s a great finish, and the keeper has little chance.
All in all it was a very nervy second half performance from Spurs which was in total contrast to the dominant, exciting first half, where we scored two good goals, but also missed a number of chances; a free header for Kaboul, a free header for Walker, Adebayor’s first time effort when he could have taken a touch, Bale’s shot when he should have squared to Modric, etc etc. As a result of not extending our lead, Wigan’s goal created a real sense of tension, and the team seem suddenly sapped of confidence.
The result, however, is a good one and, whilst I criticise Parker for his lack of challenge in the move that lead to the goal, he generally had a decent enough game -he made five tackles, eight interceptions (which was more than double that of anyone else on pitch), 85 passes (again, the most on pitch) at 91% completion. Assou-Ekotto, on the other hand, did not have such a good match. Having been at fault for the goal, he dawdled on the ball later in the half and almost cost us again. He also had the lowest pass completion of our outfield players, primarily because he often elected to play a hopeful, lofted pass forward rather than to turn inside. However, he has had a throat infection over the last few days and almost missed the match, which may go some way to explaining his poor decision-making.
Rumours suggest that the Spurs line-up for tomorrow’s game will be:
Gomes Walker Corluka Bassong Townsend Falque Livermore Carroll dos Santos Kane Pavlyuchenko
Using the squad towards the bottom of our home page on the UEFA site, we can have a guess at the subs too – Cudicini, Nicholson, Fredericks, Pritchard, Stewart, Barthram, Parrett.
To give a brief run-down of the players that you may not have heard about:
Kevin Stewart – a calm defender who can play anywhere across the back-line but is better at centre back. A good reader of the game, with decent ability on the ball.
Jack Barthram – an energetic full-back, who mainly plays on the right (and is right-footed) but has played on the left. He is a very committed, hard-working player who likes to bomb forward in support.
Alex Pritchard – an inventive link-player who schemes in midfield, and likes to break forward. He has a good scoring record at youth level, and was fantastic in the recent NextGen Series game against Inter Milan. His superb free-kick is at the end of this video.
There has been much comment this week about the Europa League – whether we should take it seriously, whether we will take it seriously, and whether Harry Redknapp’s comments about it being “a nuisance” were ill-advised.
Should we take the Europa League seriously?
Is wining a trophy or finishing 4th more important? Can we compete in Premier League and the Europa League without making mass changes for each game? If not, should we prioritise one over the other?
I don’t think there’s a simple answer to any of those questions. Fans are divided on whether they would trade finishing 4th for winning the Europa League – the “cup glory” vs “Champions League” debate, which has been had many times in pubs and on message boards over the last few years. On that issue, Redknapp therefore cannot really win.
I would personally argue, however, that we do not need a full-strength team to progress beyond the group stage of the Europa League. Our squad is currently light due to injury, but when players are back (and most are progressing well on that front), we can almost field two full teams of experienced, quality players – the second best of these should be good enough to get us out of the group in my opinion.
Ignoring that, it is interesting to look at our results in league matches after the Champions League games last year.
Young Boys A 17th August Stoke Award A 21st August – WON
Young Boys H 25th August Wigan Athletic H 28th August – LOST
Werder Bremen A 14th September Wolves H 18th September – WON
FC Twente H 29th September Aston Villa H 2nd October – WON
Inter Milan A 20th October Everton 23rd October – DREW
Inter Milan H 2nd November Bolton A 6th November – LOST
Werder Bremen H 24th November Liverpool H 28th November – WON
FC Twente A 7th December Chelsea H 12th December – DREW
AC Milan A 15th February Blackpool A 22nd February – LOST * 7 day gap.
AC Milan H 9th March West Ham H 19th March – DREW * 10 day gap.
Real Madrid A 5th April Stoke H 9th April – WON
Real Madrid H 13th April Arsenal H 20th April – DREW * 7 day gap.
If I had the time, I would look at points achieved in the games after Champions League matches, compared to points achieved in other games, and also the number of changes made to the starting eleven for each game. As it is, I think it’s fair to say that we didn’t do that badly in matches when we had played a European game a few days before, so Redknapp’s insistence on making wholesale changes is perhaps not as essential as he thinks.
Development squad involvement
That said, I personally think that the Europa League is a perfect opportunity to give young players a chance to progress, away from the rigours of the Premier League. Liverpool saw last season how it is possible to use a blend of youth and experience in their Europa League teams, and reaped the benefits of giving youth a chance when the likes of Spearing, Kelly, Wilson, Shelvey, etc gave them genuine options at the end of the season (and are still in and around their first team squad).
Our development squad is full of young players who are now at the point where they need to be given the occasional game to see where they are in terms of their progress – players like Townsend, Carroll, Kane, who have been out on loan and done well, and now need to be integrated into their first team squad and given a taste of first team football at Spurs.
Redknapp’s declaration that the Europa League is “a nuisance” is frustrating on a number of levels. Firstly, it shows that he doesn’t see the competition as a priority or one that he’s bothered about winning, which irritates the fans (particularly those that want to win a trophy at any cost).
Secondly, if he does give young players a chance to impress (and it seems that this is the route that he’s taking), it doesn’t send a good message; how do they feel knowing that they are being used as fodder in a competition he doesn’t care about? Does this motivate them to perform?
The final issue is a relatively simple one, but one that many would see as the most important – ticket prices. If Redknapp is going to play a second (or even third) string side (which, at the moment seems to be his intention), the club should consider lowering ticket prices for the Europa League matches accordingly. Our fans, I’m sure, are not travelling to Greece expecting to see a full strength team, but I think a number of people will be disappointed if we do not put out some senior professionals.
The talk after the Hearts home game was that many were disappointed with the showing. Whilst I am genuinely excited about watching our Academy products, I can understand that many fans are not, and paying a substantial entrance fee to see 18 year olds that they have not heard of is not everyone’s cup of tea. If the club wants to sell out the home legs and create a good atmosphere, they need to meet fans halfway.