I guess that I should have expected Stoke to mount a smash and grab raid after I went to The Beehive before the game and saw that someone had nicked all their plasma TV screens.
In my match preview I spoke about how we’d stolen plenty of points this season against the general run of play and I suppose that this was our turn to be on the receiving end. It’s still incredibly frustrating though. We outplayed them for most of the match and had enough chances to win the game, yet we certainly didn’t play well.
Robbie Keane looked really poor and off the pace. When playing alongside Crouch he needs to get closer to the big man and provide better support. We really missed the sharpness of Defoe and Harry has rightly had another go at him for getting sent off so needlessly against Portsmouth. We’ve now got to face Arsenal with an attacking partnership that currently looks far from threatening and Pavlyuchenko didn’t look any more effective than Keane when he came on.
In midfield I had agreed with Harry’s decision to play Huddlestone alongside Palacios, but big Tom didn’t do anything to enhance his reputation here. Jenas gave us a lot more thrust when he came on and based on their relative performances, I’d expect him to start against Everton.
Then there was the Lennon injury. Our winger had been the brightest of our midfield four, but questions have to be asked in regards to his decision to not carry on and reduce us to ten men. We’ve yet to hear anything in regards to how long he’ll be out for (if at all), but there’s certain to be a fuss if it turns out that there’s nothing really wrong with him and he’s available later this week.
Without Lennon, Defoe and Modric, we’re really devoid of pace and the ability to take players on. When Crouch plays one of the drawbacks is that everyone naturally starts to play long balls to him, rather than persevering with our normal passing game. This was even more true in the closing minutes of this game, when we were throwing balls in from very deep positions.
I though we were very solid in defence, with the obvious exception of the goal. Assou Ekotto should have done better against Ricardo Fuller who was able to waltz his way into the penalty area. In his defence though, our left back had no cover in front of him at this stage, due to the fact that we were down to ten men.
Luckily Woodgate’s injury was just concussion and unrelated to his long running problems. Dawson was very good as his replacement and is the perfect player when you’re up against a team like Stoke. Alongside him I thought that Bassong was our best player. He’s settled in so well, despite having so many different central defenders alongside him this season.
I’m not one of those who have been bitterly moaning about the way Stoke play the game. What do people expect them to do? Play pretty football like West Brom did last season and get relegated? We saw what happened when Burnley tried this against us. Fair play to them I say, especially when so many of our own attacks consisted of lofted balls up to Crouch.
Let’s get things into perspective though. We’ve dropped points, but we’re still doing very well. None of our rivals such as Manchester City, Everton and Aston Villa won this weekend, so things could be worse. On a different day we would have won this game and would be absolutely crowing now.
A top four place is still possible. It just looks like a season in which all of the top teams are going to beat each other and will generally be tighter. This is a good thing for football and a good thing for Spurs.
I don’t expect a single one of you will want to look at this again, but here’s the highlights: