Clean sheets!

Two fantastic results in a week, which go some way to making up for a dreadfully disappointing result against Wolves.

I’m particularly pleased to see us keep two clean sheets in a row (we’ve actually not conceded for 290 minutes). I commented on our lack of clean sheets back in October, and pin-pointed defensive changes as a possible reason. Now it comes as no surprise to me that these two clean sheets have occurred after a run of three games in a row with no changes. If you look at out back five line-ups so far this season, you can see that we’ve made changes in the majority of games. I’ve highlighted our clean sheets so far.

Vs Liverpool: Gomes Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto
Vs Hull: Gomes Hutton Corluka Bassong Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs West Ham: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Doncaster: Cudicini Naughton Corluka Bassong Hutton (2 changes)
Vs Birmingham: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Man United: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Chelsea: Cudicini Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Preston NE: Gomes Hutton Dawson Huddlestone Bale (5 changes)
Vs Burnley: Cudicini Corluka Huddlestone Bassong Assou-Ekotto (4 changes)
Vs Bolton: Cudicini Corluka Huddlestone Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Portsmouth: Gomes Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Stoke City: Gomes Corluka Woodgate Bassong Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs Arsenal: Gomes Corluka King Bassong Assou-Ekotto (2 changes)
Vs Sunderland: Gomes Corluka Woodgate King Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs Wigan: Gomes Corluka Woodgate Bassong Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs Aston Villa: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (1 change)
Vs Everton: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Wolves: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Man City: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)
Vs Blackburn: Gomes Corluka Dawson Bassong Assou-Ekotto (0 changes)

I had also previously mentioned that Palacios’ form had dropped significantly, and pointed towards the Palacios/Jenas partnership from January on last season, and what a huge impact they had had on our defensive shape.

Whilst I still think that Palacios is struggling for form, I think now that Huddlestone has had a good run of games, we are starting to see him improve his defensive game. I was impressed yesterday with his screening – the way he positioned himself near to Dawson and Bassong, and ensured that he won the second ball.

It is nice to see Gomes on the official site today (My ‘unbelievable’ defence – Gomes) talking about our defence:

“They are unbelievable. They give me so much confidence.

They work so hard. Michael Dawson is an unbelievable player, Benoit on the left, Charlie on the right, Sebastien Bassong, they are in such good form at the moment.

I made a couple of important saves, I helped my team and I’m happy with that. That’s all that matters. I want to help the team win points. Sometimes the team needs me and I have to be ready to make a save, like I did today.

This was a big win for us – it’s been a great reaction to Wolves.”

As for that key moment at 1-0, Gomes added:

“I touched the ball, it hit the post and Sebastien was there to clear. Perhaps some players wouldn’t be ready for that and the striker would score easily, but our defence has that full concentration all the time. It’s so important for us.

We’ve had two clean sheets in a week and that’s great for us. We will enjoy this win today and Sunday but then Monday we start all over again and prepare for Fulham.”

Gomes has to take his share of the credit too. I have been quick to criticise him previously – namely being beaten at his near post by Boateng, and for some of his work when coming off the line to player’s feet, but his save from McCarthy yesterday was brilliant. Match of the Day’s analysis of the situation was “the ball hit the goalkeeper”. Had that been Peter Schmeichel, or even Petr Čech, it would have no doubt been heralded as the goalkeeper making himself big, and saving a definite goal.

Finally, I come to Michael Dawson. Last season I felt that Dawson performed well (I would say better than Woodgate), and I thought that he was castigated at times based on his poor form from the previous season. This season he has really come into his own since he came back into the team. He was outstanding against Villa, excellent against Man City, and outstanding again against Blackburn. I would be very happy to see him be given the armband permanently, and become on of the first names on the team sheet – firstly, because he deserves it, and secondly, for continuity.

Next up is a tough away game at Fulham, who play a tight, compact game themselves – it’s the sort of game that could easily be settled by one goal – let’s hope that our defence can stand firm again.

Spurs loanee update 13/12/09

Currently we have the following players out on loan:

John Bostock (17) – Brentford (until 13th December 2009)
Sam Cox (19) – Histon (until 13th December 2009)
Calum Butcher (18) – Barnet (until 26th December 2009)
Andros Townsend (18) – Leyton Orient (until 31st December 2009)
Troy Archibald-Henville (21) – Exeter City (until ?? December 2009)
Adam Smith (18) – Torquay United (until January 2010)
David Button (20) – Shrewsbury Town (until January 2010)
Jake Livermore (20) – Derby County (until January 2010)
Jamie O’Hara (23) – Portsmouth (until January 2010)
Tomas Pekhart (20) – Slavia Prague (until 2nd Feb 2010)
Adel Taarabt – QPR (until the end of the season)
Kyle Walker (19) – Sheffield United (until the end of the season)
Jon Obika (19) – Yeovil Town (until the end of the season)
Ryan Mason (18) – Yeovil Town (until the end of the season)
Steven Caulker (17) – Yeovil Town (until the end of the season)
Mirko Ranieri (17) – Ipswich Town (until the end of the season)

Now returned from loan:

Adam Smith – Wycombe Wanderers
Ben Alnwick – Norwich City
Lee Butcher – Grays Athletic
Dean Parrett – Aldershot Town
David Button – Crewe Alexandra
Sam Cox – Cheltenham Town
Danny Rose – Peterborough
Lee Butcher – Leyton Orient
Oscar Jansson – Exeter City

Troy Archibald-Henville found himself back on the bench this weekend, and was an unused sub for Exeter City. He did start last week, and was actually named Man of the Match, so it was a little odd to see him benched. However, he has had a virus, so it could simply be that he couldn’t manage the game this week.

John Bostock played 80 minutes for Brentford in a 0-0 draw with League One leaders, Leeds. Brentford Official Site report:

The Bees nearly edged ahead early on when Casper Ankergren failed to gather a John Bostock corner and Leon Legge’s header had to be hacked to safety.

Ryan Dickson did so often to good effect and Kevin O’Connor headed a Bostock cross wide when he pushed forward.

MacDonald had a shot blocked, substitute Sam Saunders saw a free kick deflect wide and Bostock shot wide from the edge of the box.

Fan comments:

“Bostock drifted in and out”

“Would’ve liked to have seen Bostock pick the easier pass on a few occasions today. “

“obviously i’d like Bostock as well I think the other two are actually more important to us at the moment. Thought Sam Saunders did himself no harm in a useful little cameo if we can’t get Bostock then he needs to step up and show us what he can really do.”

“Bostock showed in youth and gave the ball away far to much – He was quickly sussed by Leeds who got him tom play on his wrong foot.”

“it was Bostock’s last game, unless another deal can be done.”

“Least impressive players were Bostock, who looked v tired and lost on the left wing”

Bostock also played two games in a week last week for Brentford, and gave an interview after one:

It took his tally to two goals and two assists in five Brentford appearances and he said he is “loving” his time at the club.

He also did not rule out extending his stay past the one-month initial loan.

“I’m delighted,” said Bostock. “I had a decent game and got the assist but the most important thing was the three points.

“We won the FA Cup game on Saturday and that gave us a bit of a lift coming into tonight.

“I scored two on my début and that’s tough to live up to.

“There are high expectations and because I come from a big club everyone expects me to show more.

“Hopefully I can show there is more to me that just goals.

“I’m loving it here, I’m enjoying it.

“It’s about playing competitive football – we are in a league, we are battling, we are fighting, it’s tough.

“At Tottenham I was playing youth or reserves, this is better for me I’m learning.

“My loan is up quite soon, I’m happy playing games here and I want to keep playing more football.

“I will let the gaffer [Andy Scott] speak to Tottenham and see what happens.”

His loan comes to an end this weekend, and it’ll be interesting to see whether a deal can be done.

Calum Butcher played 90 minutes for Barnet. Barnet Official Site match report will appear here. This was Calum’s third appearance (two league and one cup), and he seems to have done OK so far.

John McDermott’s comments on Butcher’s loan:

Tottenham academy chief John McDermott is happy to see defender Calum Butcher playing on-loan at Barnet.

On the weekend, Butcher for Barnet in a 1-1 draw against high-flying Bournemouth in League Two.

McDermott told the Spurs website: “I’m delighted for Calum because it’s been a bit of a mill stone around his neck,” added John. “All his team-mates have made their debuts but he’s suffered with illness and he’s probably been green with envy as his peers play league football all over the country.

“Barnet needed a centre-half and their manager Ian Hendon spoke to us today (Wednesday) and was very complimentary about him.”

Andros Townsend played 90 minutes for Leyton Orient as they lost 1-2 at home. Leyton Orient Official Site report:

Two minutes later Andros Townsend created space in the visitors’ box to fire in a right footed shot that took a huge deflection off Luke Howell and rolled inches wide with goalkeeper Willy Gueret beaten.

Townsend was being subjected to some rough treatment from the Dons defenders in the opening stages, with both Darren Powell and Howell picking up bookings for fouls on the O’s winger.

Couple of comments from the forum:

“Townsend 7” (x 2!)

“Townsend was good in 1st half and disappeared as usual in the second.”

“Townsend – 6 – after being on the receiving end of those early challenges, you could tell he was being bullied out of the game as he looked afraid to go past his fullback.”

He has got himself back in the side on a regular basis, and seems to be in a decent run of form.

Adam Smith played 90 minutes for Torquay United, as they won 5-0 at home against Darlington. Torquay United Official Site report.

Fan comments:

“Smith – 8/10 Showed some electrifying skills on his usual left flank but less convincing when switched to the right” [odd, because he’s primarily a right-back!]

“Smith 7/10 – Good ability, and some good defensive work.”

The Torquay manager seems pleased with Smith, and I was encouraged by some sensible comments from him:

MANAGER Paul Buckle took on-loan defender Adam Smith off during the second half of last Saturday’s 4-2 defeat at Accrington Stanley, but the Gulls’ boss still hopes that the 18-year-old Spurs starlet will be at Plainmoor for some time to come.

Smith, who can play either right-back or left-back, has been an instant hit with Gulls fans for his spirited and skilful displays in attack and defence.

He has to be decent, stepping into the place made his own by Kevin Nicholson for more than two distinguished years.

But Buckle’s decision to withdraw Smith at the Crown Ground was prompted by more than simple events on the day.

“With young lads like Adam, their bodies aren’t used to playing week-in and week-out, and two games a week at that, in League Two,” said Buckle.

“He hasn’t had to carry that sort of workload before.

“And I would like to see the stats on the ground Adam has covered in the games he’s played for us, because it’s probably among the best in the team.

“Sometimes you have to act in those situations, before a young player has to go too far.

“That’s when you run the risk of them getting hurt or not doing them any favours.”

Smith’s initial 28-day loan runs out after next Saturday’s League Two trip to Crewe Alexandra.

But don’t be surprised if United go back to Spurs to extend that agreement by some time.

I understand that Torquay have an understanding with Tottenham — Buckle is a friend of Spurs youth coach Alex Inglethorpe — that Smith will be able to stay at Plainmoor as long as all parties are happy.

“We would like Adam to be with us for a while, but we’ll have to tackle that when his first month finishes,” said Buckle.

David Button kept a clean sheet for Shrewsbury Town. Shrewsbury Town Official Site report:

But the man who had scored the goal at Blundell Park 12 months ago to win the corresponding fixture for the Humberside club, could only direct his powder-puff attempt at a grateful – and previously redundant – David Button.

It was his third match, and his second clean sheet, so things are certainly going better than his Bournemouth loan!

Jake Livermore was an unused sub for Derby County, as they won 0-1 away at Watford. He has been back on the bench lately – unused in the last three games.

Jamie O’Hara played 90 minutes, as Portsmouth got a 1-1 draw at Sunderland. Yet another 7/10 performance according to Pompey Mad. Last week he played 90 minutes and got an assist with a fantastic cross which Dindane headed home. Also worth noting that he picked up some Fantasy Football bonus points again! He has undoubtedly been one of the stand-out performers for Portsmouth since he joined.

Kyle Walker played 90 minutes this week as Sheffield United won 2-0 at home against Crystal Palace. Sheffield United Official Site report:

On the hour Danns became the third Palace player to be shown the yellow card following a crude challenge on Walker and Sears was Warnock’s final throw of the dice when he replaced Ertl.

United’s appeals for a penalty were turned down although it was clear that Hill deflected Ward’s cross with his arm, although the Palace left-back did go into the book less than 30 seconds later for his late foul on Walker.

Walker, after attacking at pace down the right, shot over the angle of crossbar and post on 74 minutes, whilst a rare Palace chance saw Danns fire wide with a first-time half-volley.

And another glowing report from “Deadbeat” on the Sheffield United Official Site:

Walker 7.5/10
Just looked head and shoulders above most on the park for much of the game. At times he maybe tries to do too much in the defensive areas but going forward he is so dynamic and two Palace defenders got booked due to not realising how quick and powerful he is. The greatest compliment I can pay him is that whenever the ball goes near him I either think we will snuff out danger if he is defending or if he is attacking then we may create a chance.

Not the first time that he’s said that Walker has looked head and shoulders above the other players.

Jon Obika came off the bench on 81 minutes to score for Yeovil Town. Ryan Mason and Steven Caulker both played 90 minutes. Yeovil Town Official Site report:

Shaun MacDonald equalised immediately before a 90th minute header from substitute Jonathan Obika gave Yeovil a 3-2 lead. Doherty then flicked in the late leveller with seconds left on the clock.

The striker put Yeovil into the lead on twenty minutes. Ryan Mason’s floated corner found Steven Caulker and the big defender’s header was flicked in by Bowditch to his own personal delight.

half time interval over, the game really livened up. Mason’s shot was blocked enough to take the sting out of it for Forster to collect.

Caulker went on a rampaging run soon afterwards before he was dispossessed in the middle but the next chance wasn’t far away.

Jon Obika came on with seven minutes to go and within four minutes, found himself in the referee’s notebook, somewhat harshly, for a late challenge on Drury.

He was closely followed by his Spurs colleague Mason who also seemed unlucky to get a yellow card.

The Glovers took the lead forty seconds into stoppage time when Alcock’s cross was glanced home by Obika to send the home fans into a frenzy.

Fan comment:

I also agree about the defence, Caulker was superb, along with Alcock, thought Smith was poor, and Forbes all round game for me is not upto the standard of those around him.

The trio actually had their worst games for Yeovil two Tuesday’s ago, so it’s good to see them bounce back a bit this week. Well worth a read of Taff’s Gloversblog for some reports.

Sam Cox‘s Histon play on Tuesday – although I’m unsure on whether he’s even still there and being considered for selection.

Mirko Ranieri played for Ipswich Town U18s yesterday, and kept a clean sheet. Ipswich Town Official Site report:

Palace started the stronger of the two sides and had a great chance of scoring the opener in the fourth minute when Jake Caprice found himself with the ball in front of goal but a great one handed save from Mirko Ranieri saw the shot deflected over the bar.

Minutes later Town ‘keeper Ranieri made a vital save low to his right after a James Comley strike.

Palace almost found a way back into the game near the end but Ranieri dived out from his goal to prevent the cross from reaching any Palace players.

Tomas Pekhart wasn’t involved for Slavia Prague last Wednesday, and they next play on Thursday. I still have no idea why he’s not playing – he could easily be injured.

Adel Taarabt‘s QPR are away at West Brom on Monday. Adel was on the bench for the Watford game last week, and came on with half an hour to go.

Analysis of the goals conceded vs Everton

We played some great football at Goodison, and at 0-2 with 12 minutes to play, we should have been home and dry.
I’m afraid that in this analysis, I’ll be picking out some of the same old names again – I apologise in advance if anyone thinks that I’m “out to get” certain players – I’m not! And nor am I going to hold grudges against players that make mistakes because, frankly, even the best players make errors. The worry is that we often make the same mistakes over, and over…sometimes two or three times in the same match!

Full highlights.

First goal.

The move for the first goal develops down our left, Everton’s right. Assou-Ekotto was taken off at half-time, as he was having a poor game and had been booked. Gareth Bale had come on and, despite some useful attacking forays, had looked a little shaky defensively. As the ball is played out to Coleman, Bale’s starting position could be better, but he is certainly still in a position to deal with the danger.

On a yellow card himself, he certainly can’t lunge in, so I would just expect him to stay on his feet, jockey Coleman, and see the situation out for a goal kick or even a corner. Notice at this point that Bassong is touch-tight to Saha in the 6-yard box.

Bale is beaten by the same dummy that Coleman used every time he went forward. Bale is left for dead (literally, if your name is Jamie Redknapp), and Coleman now has time to pick out a cross. Saha’s movement is good – he comes towards the ball, and then drops off. With Bale beaten, though, Bassong has little choice but to come across towards Coleman. Kranjcar seems to see the danger, and makes a move towards Saha.

But Kranjcar stops short, and Saha is left in acres of space. It’s not an easy finish, but Saha is a quality player.

Second goal (1:39 in).

The second goal is generally a bit more of a muddle. The move begins with, I think Cahill, with his back to Dawson and Bassong, well marshaled.

Palacios sees a chance to get rid of the ball. The contact he makes is awful – if you’re going to clear the ball square in a situation like this, you have to make sure it goes into the stands.

Instead the ball comes back out to our friend Seamus Coleman. Notice Bale – in fairness, he spots the danger relatively quickly, and makes his move out towards Coleman. Also worth noting the positions of the centre backs – whilst Dawson has dropped back, Bassong is lingering on the edge of the area, with Huddlestone next to him, and Palacios just on the edge of the D.

Bale seems to slow down, and not attack the ball, leaving Coleman in plenty of time and space.

This time the cross is pretty poor, and it eludes both forwards. It comes out to Everton’s left where Baines, in a very advanced position, picks up the pieces. In this situation, Dawson does what every defender should do, and drops back to protect the goal line – good, instinctive defending from the captain. Bassong, on the other hand, is still lingering halfway between the penalty spot and the edge of the box – he can have no effect on play from there and, indeed, Cahill is now unmarked, because Palacios hasn’t picked him up either.

A relatively simple task for Cahill – Bale has no chance of getting back in, Palacios is watching Cahill, Dawson’s moved toward the line, and Bassong is nowhere near the action.

A worrying lack of defensive instinct from Bassong.

Should we be unhappy with a draw at Everton?

I preface this by saying that prior to the season starting, the majority of us would have happily accepted a draw at Goodison Park. Whilst we have a good record there, it is undoubtedly a tricky place to go, and David Moyes has assembled a very tough unit. However, when looking at the starting line-up yesterday, and certainly the line-up once Yobo had been replaced by 21-year old Coleman, you have to feel a little disappointed that we couldn‘t take advantage.

For the majority of the game, Spurs were dominant – we had 19 shots, 11 on target, whereas Everton had 15, 6 on target. Our patterns of play tended to be one and two touch, relatively fluid football, with the occasional long ball to Crouch. We broke forward at pace, and with creativity, and looked like a real threat. Everton’s main route was a high ball into the channel, attempting to turn our defenders or, once Saha and Yakubu came on, a high ball directed towards them (they were, admittedly, playing without two of their best creative players, Arteta and Osman).

We carved out some really excellent chances, and we should have been clear. I am disappointed that Defoe hasn’t shown more consistency since the Wigan game; for the third game running, he missed some good opportunities. He was up against a makeshift centre back in Hibbert and, on the whole, he didn’t test him enough in my opinion. Crouch also looked very short of confidence in front of goal, and the one-on-one to make it 3-0 was the one that should have really put us out of sight.

In essence, we only have ourselves to blame for 1. not finishing Everton off, and 2. allowing them back into the game; yes, there were individual errors from the likes of Bale (1st goal in particular) and Palacios and Bassong (2nd goal) – more on these later – but Defoe and Crouch’s misses were as bad as those errors, and so we shouldn’t just be pointing the finger at our defenders.

Many people on forums this morning are criticising a lack of fight/spirit – personally I thought we gave as good as we got. Dawson could easily have been shown a second yellow for the elbow on Fellaini, and AssouEkotto was cutting it fine when shoving away Cahill/Fellaini after the incident where he arguably dragged his studs across Cahill’s head. Frankly, I’d rather see us being more clinical – staying calm and emotionless is just as important as showing fight in my opinion. For example, all three of our Croatians have that quiet calmness, which I think has helped us as a team generally, although clearly you need a good mix of qualities in the squad.

We must also remember the ages of some of the players that have been regulars this year – we have a lot of players that are still young and still learning the game, and we don’t have too many older, experienced heads in the squad. Our players aren’t as experienced as the likes of Chelsea (who incidentally let a lead slip this weekend and missed a penalty too, but actually lost) or United, or even Villa.

Yesterday we ended with the following back-line:

Corluka 23
Dawson 25
Bassong 23
Bale 20

And our starting midfield:

Lennon 22
Huddlestone 22
Palacios 25
Kranjcar 25

These players are as young as the “kids” that certain other teams have, yet don’t seem to get the same breathing space.

I think the point that I’d like to end with is that I see in this team, for the first time in a fair while as a Spurs fan, signs of improving individuals (Lennon, Huddlestone, AssouEkotto), and signs of a team growing together as a unit. We need to be patient with them, allow them time to develop, and accept that 6th or 7th is not a bad finish – I would have taken that before the season started. If we don’t finish in the top 4 or 5 this year, it won’t be the end of the world. We don’t need to go and replace half the team again in the hope that it will push us two places higher up the league next year because, mark my words, we will end up setting ourselves back yet again.

Analysis of the goals conceded vs Man Utd

Full highlights.

United play some cracking football, no doubt about that. Even their “second string” are capable of some slick play – one and two touch, sharp, plenty of movement – it’s hard to defend against, but you’ve got to at least have a go.

First goal.

The move for the first goal develops down United’s left – Hutton goes with Park, who nudges the ball to Anderson. Hutton does the sensible thing, and goes with Park. Notice Palacios with Wellbeck (covering for Dawson, who’s gone out to meet Anderson), Bassong furthest right, and Jenas taking up a decent position too.

Anderson has dragged Dawson away from the box, and gets past him very easily. Bentley is our player furthest left in the shot below, and he comes to make a challenge. At this point, Gibson comes into shot in acres of space.

Technically, Gibson is Palacios’ man, but Palacios has tracked Wellbeck. Jenas and Palacios would be reasonably positioned if Lennon or Bale had seen the danger and come to cover.

When the ball finds it’s way to Gibson, Jenas and Bassong are left with a lot to do. Gibson lets the ball run across his body, virtually taking Jenas out of the game.

You can see just how much room he has from the shot below.

Also notice Lennon and Bale – caught out with the quick switch from right to centre. Our players have been dragged around, and there’s a lack of cover – I guess it doesn’t help that this eleven are not used to playing together.

Bale’s position is too wide to allow him to defend the situation, Bassong has made up ground, but not enough, and Gomes is giving Gibson quite a lot of the goal to aim at, encouraging him to shoot across goal.

Make your own mind up as to whether Gomes should have done better.

Second goal.

Another poor team goal to give away.

The move starts with Park (what a cracking little player he is) again. He plays the ball forward, between Palacios and Hutton, to Wellbeck.

Palacios at this point is caught ball-watching (see previous blog posts for more examples of this!). Gibson in this shot is alongside him.

By the time Wellbeck has slipped the ball back to Park, Gibson has gained a ridiculous amount of ground, and is now well ahead of Palacios. It’s 4 against 4.

Berbatov has drawn Bassong out and, in true Berbatov style, he turns out, and picks out a colleague who can now really “get at” the defence, with one of the centre backs out of the equation.

Also notice Palacios again – he’s got back goal-side of Gibson, but, strangely, is standing off him.

You can’t see it so well in the pictures, but in the highlights video, you can see Palacios ball-watching yet again, and Gibson losing him with a change of direction.

Gibson receives the ball, and plays around Palacios through a neat one-two with Wellbeck.

It’s a really lovely finish from Gibson, but is another avoidable goal – you simply have to keep switched on against teams that pass the ball as quickly and accurately as United do.