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)

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)


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.
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.”

Squad comparison with the sides around us

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

Looking at the teams likely to finish around us (notice I’m leaving out West Ham), our squad looks pretty strong.
Left back, left midfield and central midfield are the weakest areas, but we’re not the only ones with weakneses – Villa badly need centre backs, Fulham lack quality back-up options right across their midfield, Sunderland look short defensively, and Arsenal have the same old problem – a lack of muscle and grit throughout their squad.

For what it’s worth, my prediction would be:

4. Arsenal
5. Everton
6. Man City
7. Spurs
8. Sunderland
9. Aston Villa
10. Fulham

That would be some achievement for Sunderland, but I rate Bruce highly as a manager, and I think he may have a couple of transfer aces up his sleeve.

Assessing our squad

Personally I’m quite pleased with the relatively modest amount of transfer activity so far at White Hart Lane.

So far, our dealings stand as follows:

In: Peter Crouch, Kyle Naughton, Kyle Walker.

Out: Darren Bent, Didier Zokora, Chris Gunter, Ricardo Rocha, Gilberto, Simon Dawkins, Kyle Fraser-Allen, Cian Hughton, Danny Hutchins, David Hutton, Jacques Maghoma and Takura Mtandari, plus Academy players Yaser Kasim, Saulo Asajile, Mark Clare, James Dalton and Ajet Shehu.

Out on loan: Ryan Mason, Steven Caulker (both Yeovil Town), David Button (Crewe Alexandra), Adel Taarabt (QPR), Troy Archibald-Henville (Exeter City), Ben Alnwick (Norwich City), Kyle Walker (Sheffield United).

With Pascal Chimbonda also expected to leave before the deadline, we’re left with a fairly healthy squad:

Goalkeeper: Heurelho Gomes, Carlo Cudicini, Oscar Jansson

Right back: Vedran Corluka, Alan Hutton, Kyle Naughton

Left back: Benoit AssouEkotto, Gareth Bale

Centre back: Ledley King, Jonathan Woodgate, Michael Dawson, Dorian Dervite

Right midfield: Aaron Lennon, David Bentley, Giovani Dos Santos

Left midfield: Luka Modric

Central midfield: Wilson Palacios, Jermaine Jenas, Tom Huddlestone, Jamie O’Hara, Kevin-Prince Boateng

Forwards: Peter Crouch, Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe, Roman Pavlyuchenko

That’s a 25-man squad, ignoring Danny Rose, Jake Livermore, John Bostock, and Jon Obika, all of whom have played a part in pre-season, and Andros Townsend, Calum Butcher and Dean Parrett, who have previously been involved in first team squads.

The weakest area of the squad in my opinion is the left – we’re short of options at left midfield and, were Modric to get injured, Bale is the only other natural left-sided cover. Despite Gareth looking quite useful as a wing-back away at Everton last year, I wouldn’t be entirely comfortable with him being pushed into the first team for any length of time at this point. Left-back cover is also lacking – after AssouEkotto, again we’ve got Bale, who is defensively naive (at best), and Naughton, who is right-footed.

Higher quality competition in the middle of midfield would be nice, although I personally still see O’Hara as a useful option (so long as he’s happy to be a bit-part player) and, against the less athletic teams, Huddlestone has proven in the past that he can do a job too.

The other area that looks weak is central defence. With King only playing 20 games a season or so, and Woodgate needing a hernia op, we’re thin on the ground. Dawson is an able deputy and was, in my opinion, more impressive than Woodgate last year when called upon, but Corluka certainly looks less comfortable at centre back, and Dervite is still very, very raw. It seems that there’s a genuine interest in Bassong, which would make sense, as a pacy defender would be good cover for Ledley King. Personally I’d rather take Distin as a cheaper and more experienced option.

Up front, I still feel that we’re lacking a strong, aggressive striker. All of our strikers are, in one way or another, quite limited, and the combinations that we can field are similarly limited – it’s basically Crouch and one other! But the strikers we have are all good players, and most teams in the PL would be happy to have our selection. They aren’t perfect, but they’re good enough for the time being.

And that is why, with another 26 days until the transfer window closes, I hope that Harry largely decides to stick with what he’s got. It’s a good enough squad to compete for Europe, and we can build from there next summer.

Enter Crouch

One of Berbatov’s greatest assets, oft-overlooked due to his startling skill on the deck, was his ability to win headers, or to hold the ball up on his chest before bringing it down and finding a Spurs man. Since he left at the start of last season, we’ve not had a striker capable of doing this.

In some ways that was probably a good thing, encouraging us to play more to feet, and through our midfield. However, in certain games you need to be able to take a direct route, and of course, with centre backs as keen to find the front man with long passes as Dawson and Woodgate clearly are, it was only a matter of time before Harry identified a target man as a necessary purchase.

Existing strikers

Keane/Defoe/Pavlycuhenko/Bent is not a bad selection of strikers on the face of it. Indeed, I’d suggest that most teams outside of the top 5 (& Man City) would be delighted to have those four. But when you look deeper, it’s an unbalanced collection of players. None are good at consistently winning headers with their back to goal. In fact, none like to play with their back to goal full stop. None have the strength to rattle big, strong defenders (and nearly all PL teams have at least one of those). We already have two quite flimsy attacking players in Lennon and Modric, and with Keane/Defoe as the “second striker”, we clearly lack someone with some strength and presence to help dominate teams. Jones would have been useful in this respect, but he was ludicrously overpriced at £67m or whatever we were quoted.

It’s also important to remember that Defoe is not the same player in away matches, and that Keane had a poor run of form at the back end of last season, where many felt he was dropping too deep and slowing the game down unnecessarily.

Bent is a goal scorer, there’s no doubt about that, but he has little else to his game. If he doesn’t score in a match, he often has a negative impact; he doesn’t hold the ball up or pass well, he doesn’t contribute defensively, he doesn’t win many headers despite being over 6’, and he doesn’t “get at” defenders at all – I imagine as a defender you’d feel more tired having played against Paul Dickov than Darren Bent, despite the obvious height and strength advantage. Normally you’d expect a striker who doesn’t have a great first touch to compensate with aggression and physicality, but Bent has neither.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Pavlyuchenko has more to offer than he has currently shown, and whilst we certainly can’t rely on him at present, I think it’s worth nothing that a lot of Bent’s goals last season were tap-ins/rebounds – as Pavlyuchenko is a similar “predatory” striker, I think we could expect him to score a lot of the goals that we’d previously have expected Bent to score. Whether he’ll get the run of games that he so clearly needs is another matter…


I am all for keeping a consistent squad, but it’s clear that Bent will leave in search of guaranteed first team football and, therefore, it’s a good opportunity to replace him with a striker that can bring skills to the table that we lack. Whilst we will undoubtedly lose goals from Bent, what we’ll gain from Crouch is goals from other areas of the team – he has good awareness of what is going on around him (he gets a good view of the pitch from up there after all), and excels at bringing others into the game. In fairness to him, his scoring record in recent seasons is not too shabby either.

Whether or not we were ever/are in for Huntelaar is irrelevant to me – I’ve always seen him as a similar player to Bent (but obviously far superior). By that I mean that he is a natural goal scorer, but has little else in his all-round game. I don’t think he’d particularly improve us as a team although, like Bent, he is capable of scoring a hatful of goals.

Peter Crouch

In short (haha), Crouch is a good player with skills that we lack – the ability to hold the ball up with his back to defenders, and the vision and awareness to bring others into the game. He does score headers, but they are generally headers where he’s coming on to the ball, rather than out-muscling defenders. He is not as good in the air as one would expect (despite his obvious advantage) and not the type of player that is going to grit his teeth and win header after header against the likes of Terry/Vidic/Gallas/even Distin, and I still think a muscular, aggressive striker as an option would be beneficial. But small steps (groan) are preferable, and I’d rather that we now see how we go with these four, and think about making changes next summer if we can improve again.

For what it’s worth, most Spurs fans are talking about Crouch and Defoe – personally I think Keane will be a great partner for Crouch, and will come back strongly next season.