Hypocritical Wenger?

It was interesting to hear Wenger’s take on Eduardo’s dive last night, especially when he’d previously made rather different comments when Eboue dived to win them a free kick (from which they scored) in the Champions League final in 2006:

“It is clear there was no foul. I condemn and regret the attitude of Eboue.”

“I have always risen up against cheating.”

“Eboue cheated by simulating the foul. I detest simulation.”

Two improvements I want to see during this season.

Before I dive into this, I ought to comment on the start to our season: three wins out of three – our best start since 1960-61, the year in which we won the double. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s a fantastic start but probably just as well, as we have a tricky run of games coming up – in September we play Man Utd at White Hart Lane, Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and Burnley at White Hart Lane, and we have a tricky Christmas period, and a horrible run-in too. I’d still anticipate us battling for 6th/7th come the end of the year – Everton should not be written off, Man City look to have gelled more quickly than I (and others) anticipated, and the top 4 from last year will be strong again this year.

Despite the good start, there’s still plenty of work to do, and there are two key areas where I’d like to see improvement throughout the season:

1. Set pieces (attacking)

Ignoring Stephen Hunt’s rather fortunate goal against us last week, I think we’ve generally improved at defending set pieces under Redknapp (and especially since Gomes regained confidence and became more decisive). However, we have long been poor at attacking set pieces, and I’ve seen little or no improvement under HR.

I think we struggle with:

  • Delivery
  • Timing of runs
  • Attacking the ball

Bentley and Bale are probably our most natural set piece “specialists” but, with both out of the team for different reasons, Modric takes the majority, and his deliveries from corners are often floated, rather than fired in. I’d hope that two or three players are working on their set piece delivery for an extra half-hour in training, particularly Huddlestone, who strikes the ball so well when it’s moving, but seems less able when it’s not.

Delivery aside, we don’t have many players that attack the ball well. Crouch is an obvious target when he plays, and he attracts defenders, which should free up Bassong, who seems our best bet – he’s probably the best attacker of the ball that we’ve had since Kaboul. Bassong’s header against Liverpool was excellent, and he also went close against Hull.

I’d hope that Bassong’s aggressive attacking of the ball will rub off on other players, and we can aim to do what Villa did last season – a huge proportion of their goals coming from set pieces. It would be such a useful string to add to our bow, especially when we’re otherwise not creating chances.

2. Closing out games

We conceded too many late goals last season (I’m thinking Blackburn, West Brom, etc etc), and I had concerns against West Ham yesterday. We were let off the hook – partially thanks to the Faubert/Defoe incident – but here is an example to illustrate my point:

In the 87th minute, Defoe busts a gut to chase a lost cause and makes sure that West Ham have a throw-in near to the corner flag, rather than a goal kick. He then turns his back on the man taking the throw and allows them to come out easily. We press them back into the corner, and Defoe makes a needless challenge and gives away a free-kick. You just know that had that been Chelsea or United, their players would be intent on keeping the ball in that corner for as long as possible.

Harry does like to waste time/break things up with late substitutions, which I think work well, but this approach needs to be used in tandem with a general team effort to keep the ball in the opposite half, and to use the ball sensibly when we do have it. Ideally I’d like a Didi Hamann style experienced, passing midfield player to come on for the last 10 minutes of games when we’re leading to frustrate the opposition, but since we haven’t got that, the team as a whole need to focus on staying switched on.

I feel these are two areas where the top teams tend to outdo us and, if we do have real ambitions of cracking the top four over the next few years, we’ll need to improve.

Spurs loanee update

Currently we have the following players out on loan:

Andros Townsend – Leyton Orient (until 6th September 2009)
Adam Smith – Wycombe Wanderers (until 6th September 2009)
Jake Livermore – Derby County (until 10th September 2009)
Ben Alnwick – Norwich City (until 24th October 2009)
Jon Obika – Yeovil Town (until 11th November 2009)
Ryan Mason – Yeovil Town (until 14th November 2009)
Steven Caulker – Yeovil Town (until 14th August 2009)
Troy Archibald-Henville – Exeter City (until December 2009)
Tomas Pekhart – Slavia Prague (until 2nd Feb 2010)
Adel Taarabt – QPR (until May 2010)
Kyle Walker – Sheffield United (until May 2010)

Now returned from loan:
David Button – Crewe Alexandra (until January 2010) – RECALLED 20/08/09 due to injury to Gomes.

Steven Caulker has now made four appearances in the league and one in the cup for Yeovil, playing 90 minutes in all four matches. He took the MOTM award on his debut (although wasn’t able to collect the champagne, being only 17!), but has had a more mixed time since, playing in a slightly unstable Yeovil back-line. From reading the Yeovil forums, though, it seems that the majority are keen for him to be one of the starting centre backs while he is there.

Ryan Mason has had a slightly more stop-start beginning to his league career – he has missed two games with knocks – the League Cup thumping against Norwich, and this week’s match against Leyton Orient. He has, however, managed two excellent goals in his three appearances – especially impressive considering that he has played as a central midfield player. He has also won two consecutive Man of the Match votes on Yeovil fan-site Ciderspace.
Goal from free kick (1:26 in).
Brilliant goal from distance in the 1-1 draw with Exeter.

There’s an interesting article here where Skiverton comments on why he has so far resisted from playing Ryan up front:

“I think he’s doing a very good job in coming from central midfield and scoring two in three games, so why change it?

“We knew all his attributes, we knew his goalscoring record and we knew all of the positions that he can play. We did try him out in three or four so far this year.

“It’s just a case of trying to get him further up the pitch at the moment in a solid formation, without sacrificing our shape.”

Jon Obika has joined Steven and Ryan at Yeovil, and scored today on his second start of the season for them. He’s also made two substitute appearances but, with Dean Bowditch out injured for a while, it’s expected that he’ll be leading the line from now on, perhaps even with Mason playing off him (remember that they played this way very successfully for the Spurs U18s).

Andros Townsend today scored his first goal for Leyton Orient – against Yeovil! Apparently it was an excellent goal (the Orient official site call it “a stunning solo goal”), so hopefully I’ll be able to link to this tomorrow. This was Townsend’s first league start for Orient, although he’s made two sub appearances in the league, and started their cup win against Colchester.

Adam Smith was an unused sub for Wycombe today, but has played a part for them, making three league starts – he came off injured in his third start, so could just be getting back to full fitness. Hopefully he’ll get back into the team and get some much needed games under his belt.

Ben Alnwick has made two league and one cup appearance for Norwich City, today conceding two in a 5-2 win against Wycombe – it doesn’t sound as though there was a lot he could do with either goal, and I think he’s been relatively steady for them so far.

Jake Livermore made his debut for Derby County after completing a suspension from last season. He played 85 minutes, and caught the eye of the guy who runs the Derby Match centre – “I’ve been quite impressed with Livermore, who grew in confidence as the first half went on.” and “I thought he had a good debut. Started slowly but grew into the game as it went on. Good passer of the ball and looks like he can look after himself in midfield.”

Troy Archibald-Henville completed another 90 minutes for Exeter City – his third start of the season. It sounds as though he’s carried on where he left off last year. Today they kept a clean sheet, so he can be pleased with his day’s work.

Adel Taarabt has had a mixed bag at QPR – he’s been chopped and changed, played at left midfield, and up top, and has so far started each of their games. Today he played on the left, and it sounds as though he had a busy afternoon.

From the QPR Official Site’s report:

“At the other end, trickery from Taarabt after a clever pass from Gary Borrowdale saw the Spurs loanee beat two men before setting up Leigertwood on the edge of the area, but he could only shoot high and wide.”

“The Icelandic forward then played a first-time pass to Taarabt, who in all fairness, had more time than he realised when being put through on goal, and could only snatch his shot wide.”

“Rangers were now having the greater say in terms of possession, and after super work from Taarabt saw him find Routledge out wide on the right, he crossed dangerously into the box.”

“It was the ever-present Taarabt who, after driving down the middle, played the ball to Routledge, who was quick to react and play Pellicori in down the left. The Italian forward went close, but could only see his shot hit the side netting.”

Kyle Walker started again for Sheffield United today – his fifth game since re-joining them on loan. There are only a few mentions of him on Sheffield United’s Official Site report, but it seems he’s been playing at right-back.

David Button
has now been recalled from Crewe (as cover for Gomes) but he started three games for them in his short spell there, keeping two clean sheets.

Poor old Tomas Pekhart is not getting games for Slavia Prague – I do wonder whether he’ll be recalled early, as there’s no point in letting him rot in their reserves.

Academy pre-season so far

With thanks to the brilliant Spurs Odyssey.

Our Academy side started their pre-season with a friendly against West Ham at Spurs Lodge:

Sat 25 Jul (Spurs Lodge) Tottenham U-18s 3-2 West Ham U-18s
Our scorers: Kane (2), M’Poku

Ranieri (17)
Waller-Lassen (16) Durojaiye (16) Francis-Angol (??) Nicholson (17)
Fredericks (16) Ekim (17) Carroll (17) McBride (16)
Oyenuga (16) Kane(16)

Subs:
Butler (17) for Ranieri, 46
M’Poku(17) for McBride, 46
Lancaster (16) for Francis-Angol, 46
O’Neill (17) for Fredericks, 46
Pritchard (??) for Ekim, 52
Byrne (17) for Carroll, 62
Fredericks (16) for Oyenuga, 83

NB: Rolling subs were allowed, hence Fredericks coming off and back on!

Match report from Spurs Od.
Match report from Young Guns.

The following players then jetted off to the Eurofoot tournament in Belgium:

1 BUTLER Jamie 18/05/1992
2 McBRIDE Paul 13/09/1992
3 BYRNE Nathan 5/06/1992
4 BLACKWOOD Anton 18/08/1991
5 DUROJAIYE Olumide 20/10/1992
6 NICHOLSON Jake 19/07/1992
7 SMITH Adam 29/04/1991
8 PARRETT Dean 16/11/1991
9 EKIM Coskum 17/11/1991
10 CARROLL Thomas 28/05/1992
11 FREDERICKS Ryan 30/10/1992
12 RANIERI Mirko 8/02/1992
13 LANCASTER Cameron 5/11/1992
14 KANE Harry 28/07/1993
15 OYENUGA Kudus 18/03/1993
16 WALLER LASSEN Jesse 26/12/1992
17 M’POKU Paul Jose 19/04/1992
18 O’NEIL Chace 1/11/1991

As you can see, a very young squad, and there aren’t too many names there that people will be familiar with. This was because players had either joined the first team squad in China (Obika, Bostock, Rose), or were out on loan (Mason, Caulker).

We drew our first game 1-1 with Club Brugge – Harry Kane getting our first goal of the tournament. Later in the day we beat Sao Paulo, with an own goal settling things – 1-0. The Official Site’s report is here.

In our third game, we won 2-0 against Willem II, with Kane and Oyenuga getting the goals. We then met Anderlecht in our last game, a win meant that we would win the group, but unfortunately we lost 1-0.

So in the battle for 5th place in the tournament, we played Standard – we thumped them 4-0, with Ekim, Lancaster, Oyenuga and O’Neil getting on the scoresheet. The Official Site’s final round-up can be found here.

This weekend, we sent a very young side to Arsenal in another friendly.

Sat 08 Aug (London Colney) Tottenham U-18s 0-2 Arsenal U-18s

Butler (17)
Byrne (17) Durojaiye (16) Blackwood (17) Carroll (17)
Waller-Lassen (16) Mokotjo (??) Parrett (17) Zongo (??)
Kane (16) M’Poku(17)

Subs:

Nicholson (17) for Byrne, 26
Byrne (17) for Blackwood, 46
Ekim (17) for Parrett, 46
Oyenuga (16) for Waller-Lassen, 56
Lancaster (16) for Zongo, 63
McBride (16) for M’Poku, 76
Ranieri (17) for Butler, 76

NB: Rolling subs were allowed again.

The on-trial South African pair of Masibusane Zongo and Kamohelo Mokotjo played for us.

Match report from Spurs Od.

“Next week they are off to Eindhoven to take part in the Otten(Moore) Cup playing the first of three group games on friday against FC Twente. Then the other group teams Heerenveen and Pao de Acucar on Saturday. There are then play off games on Sunday for the final placings. On the 22nd August they open their Academy League programme with a trip to Middlesbrough.”

English version of the Otten Cup web-site – we play our first game on Friday.
Matches
FC Twente/Heracles – Tottenham Hotspur 14-08-2009 16:20 – 17:30
Tottenham Hotspur – sc Heerenveen 15-08-2009 11:00 – 12:10
Pão de Açúcar – Tottenham Hotspur 15-08-2009 13:40 – 14:50

The squad list will be announced on the tournament web-site on Friday.

Good start for Spurs loanees

Steven Caulker and Ryan Mason both made their league debuts for Yeovil yesterday – both played 90 minutes in a 2-0 win, in which Caulker helped them to keep a clean sheet, and Mason won them a penalty. I believe Caulker took the MOTM award – superb achievement for both of them, congratulations to both!

Some nice commentson Mason and Caulker on the Yeovil forum:

“Taff – Agree with everything you say, except Caulker was my MOTM by a country mile, some of his reading of the game yesterday was of the highest class, he also has an excellent turn of pace, which helped out our full backs on numerous occasions, something that we could see more from the terrace (certainly when defending) than maybe the stands.”

“Though must say I have been more impressed with Mason since he has moved into the Centre of the midfield, another who looks real class, and worked well yesterday IMO.”

And a whole thread on Caulker!

If you can sign in, there’s a Caulker interview here.

Andros Townsend was an unused sub for Leyton Orient.

Adam Smith played 90 minutes on his league debut too, as Wycombe lost 3-2 away at Charlton.

Just a couple of mentions on their official site:

“65 mins:
Intelligent play by young full back Adam Smith. The Tottenham youngster, who signed on loan for the Chairboys this week, cannons the ball back off Kelly Youga to relieve the pressure and grant the away side a goal kick.”

“84 mins
Great save by Shearer. McLeod beats Smith for pace on the left hand side, cuts in but sees his rasping effort tipped over brilliantly by the Glaswegian.”

And some comments from the forum:

“Smith 6 Looked a bit lightweight but apart from that good”
“Smith 6 Perhaps thrown in at the deep end…did well to clear off the line.”

Ben Alnwick was an unused sub for Norwich City.

Troy Archibald-Henville was an unused sub for Exeter City.

David Button played 90 minutes as Crewe Alexandra lost 1-2 to Dagenham and Redbridge.

A few comments from their official site:

“There was a defensive mix-up after 41 minutes with O’Donnell heading back past the onrushing Button. Benson got in behind but from an acute angle couldn’t turn the shot home. It was certainly a let-off.”

“The hard working Zola shot wide from 25 yards after pulling possession from the sky but it was Dagenham who would be going into the half-time interval in the lead following a wonderful strike from Nurse. The striker caught his 30-yard shot perfectly to give Button no chance.”

“Grant did have the ball in the net early on in the first half but Elding had only slightly strayed into an offside position in the build-up. Benson, so prolific for Dagenham last season had a sight of Button’s goal on 53 minutes but the on-loan keeper from Spurs got his angles spot on.”

“Crewe should have kicked on from there but almost instantly fell behind again when Benson was granted far too much room and he made Crewe pay. He glided past Jones and O’Donnell before rounding Button and slotting home from within the six-yard box.”

“Benson nearly killed the game off just minutes later though only for Button to tip his effort around the post.”

Tomas Pekhart didn’t even make the bench for Slavia Prague on the 5th.

Adel Taarabt played 90 minutes up front for QPR in a 1-1 draw against Blackpool.

A few comments on Adel here:
“QPR’s on-loan Tottenham forward Adel Taarabt twice combined well with Wayne Routledge early on, only to be denied by keeper Paul Rachubka.”
“And Taarabt missed an opportunity to win the match for Rangers when he headed Routledge’s late cross wide of the target.”

And from the official site:

“Angelo Balanta found Taarabt relatively near the area, and when the Moroccan tricked his way past two men, he played a neat one-two with Helguson.

Seemingly through on goal, Taarabt looked in the clear, only for Rachubka to come racing out of his goal to slide the ball out to safety.”

“In all honesty, Rangers were now firmly in control, not least when Taarabt had the R’s best chance to date. When Routledge beat his man down the left, he played Taarabt through on goal.

And though, in fairness, the angle was acute, nonetheless he forced a fine save from Rachubka, who was anything but untested in the Blackpool goal.”

Kyle Walker played 90 minutes for Sheffield United at right back against Boro on Friday.

A couple of comments from their official site:

“Bunn’s first test was to gather in a cross-cum-shot from Emnes and then he had to rush out to clear a short Walker backpass”

“For the home side, Johnson’s cross was punched away by Bunn and Walker beat Emnes in an aerial battle at the back post.”

“The first serious action of the second period, five minutes in, was an appeal for penalty when Johnson went down under Walker’s challenge following a Huth through ball but referee Mason was not convinced.”