I know the nights are drawing in, but it’s not Christmas already Tottenham. Our side handed Arsenal three gift wrapped goals yesterday, but in truth we got exactly what we deserved from the game.

We contained and frustrated them for the first 40 minutes or so, but never really threatened to score ourselves. Our main attacking tactic was to hit diagonal balls to Peter Crouch, which may have borne some fruit if Jermain Defoe had been alongside him, but Robbie Keane was always just off the pace as he has been all season.

Our change of formation was presumably intended to give us control of the midfield, which to a certain extent worked, as we retained possession and had the numbers available to break up their play. However, our ‘front three’ didn’t really work. Crouch did his job well, but Keane and Bentley are no Arshavin and Van Persie.

This is the third time now that Harry has mucked around tactically when facing ‘the big four’ and it’s backfired every time. Against United we played Keane on the left wing, against Chelsea we mirrored their diamond formation and against Arsenal we switch from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3 despite not having the personnel available to make it work.

They counter-attacked at great speed and pounced on our lazier balls in midfield. Gomes made a brilliant save from Fabregas, but as the half wore on it seemed as if they were becoming frustrated and that both teams would go into the break scoreless.

Then came the suicidal defending. We switch off at a throw in and Van Persie nipped in ahead of Ledley from the resulting cross. I’ll give Gomes the benefit of the doubt as it was difficult for him, with the ball coming in so near to his body.

1-0 at half time would have been quite a blow following the pattern of the match, but it would have been one that we could have recovered from. Instead we unbelievably gave away possession from the kick off and allowed Fabregas to waltz through to goal.

It was sickening to watch and I expected better from King especially, who dived in when had he just stood up straight, Fabregas would have ended up bouncing off him. It was just so lazy, self-defeating and inexplicable. The game was dead from that moment, despite our heroics of last season.

In the second half we took off Huddlestone for Bale and went to 4-4-2 and immediately looked the better for it. Unfortunately before we could get a foothold and put some real pressure on them, we conceded another comical goal, as our defence decided to not bother playing to the whistle.

They should have never have managed to get the ball into the area and when they did, Gomes and King should have dealt with it, but instead it somehow fell for Van Persie to pass it into an empty net.

Ledley just had one of those days when nothing went right for him and he could have done better with all three of their goals. I’m not going to prattle on about it being because he never trains though, because he’s looked majestic at times this season, despite the fact that he spends Monday to Friday in a swimming pool.

We all know how much Assou Ekotto has improved but he’s still far from the finished article. Two of their goals came from his flank yesterday and indeed, all season we have conceded from attacks on his side. This is not completely Ekotto’s fault of course, because generally he has a lack of cover in front of him.

I hope that Keane feels suitably stupid after his daft claims this week that the Tottenham and Arsenal squads are equal in quality. The game really showed how many of our players really aren’t up to this level of football and need to be replaced if we’re to progress.

Keane himself just doesn’t look as if his renaissance will ever come. Pavlyuchenko looked lazy and disinterested when he came on. Huddlestone scores a great goal in midweek, but once again failed to impose himself on a game that moved at a different pace than he does.

Bentley tries way too hard to do the spectacular to impress, when the truth is that we’d be far more grateful if he just did the simple things well. I don’t know how much money we’ve got to spend in January, but if Harry needs to create his own funds from sales, then there’s plenty of candidates.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah. This is a really fair summing up – of course one always has thoughts like ‘is this the Beginning of the End for Ledley?’ when of course he is still a giant asset who had a bad day at the office; which *everyone* does from time to time, even the best.

    We seem to be a bit like Liverpool this season: capable of putting it together at times, with some brilliant players, but quite often lacking *fight* (Liverpool were horrible against Fulham yesterday – 74% possession in the 1st half and yet barely creating any chances).

    Arsenal were pretty impressive. It’s a cheap point to say that they look great when they have the ball and not when they don’t: the fact is that their pressing game eclipsed ours by a huge margin. It’s fine for Hudd, Hutton and Bentley to rampage against a very weak looking Everton, but 2 of the aforementioned just don’t have the pace or intelligence to play football when their being harried. And *that* is why we miss Modric so desperately. Without him we seem to find it impossible to pass the ball in midfield; with him we’re pretty damn good. And chances are far more likely to come from progressive, fluid midfield play: if the end result is a diagonal ball in the air to Crouch, it’ll likely come at a time when the opposition has been pulled out of position a bit, not ‘as soon as we get the ball and when the other team can snuff it out immediately, regain possession, and then attack vigorously’.

    Keane was thoroughgoingly hapless yesterday. For all that he looks a bit languid and rusty, Pav’s touch and distribution made him look immediately better qualified to be on the pitch. He is simply a better footballer than Keane – and Crouch for that matter. Talking of which, all this nonsense about Crouch being ‘great with his feet and excellent at holding the ball up’ really gets my goat. No. Crouch is very very good at pouncing; he has a fantastic knack for being in the right place to get goals. His record speaks for itself. He’s also probably quite often a good option to have as a disruptive subsititute to alter the pattern of play and force a defence to reconfigure itself. He is, however, terrible at holding the ball up, has a profoundly awkward touch, no real passing skill, and lacks the strength to play the role we are currently putting him in. Compare him to Drogba or Rooney – they’re obviously fantastic, but they’re apt players for their roles, too, strong, tenacious, wily.

    Anyway anyway anyway. I have an idea this might be our nadir. With Modric and Lennon hopefully back soonish, perhaps Pav and Defoe will start to form a good partnership, maybe Gio or Bale or Kranjcar will stake a real claim for the left midfield spot; perhaps Sandro or someone will come in and turn out not to be yet another middleweight, half-cocked signing, but develop alongside Modric as a player of real class, and oust Jenas and Hudd, both of whom are, you know, good; fine; okay; but neither of whom are real top 4 quality. And everything will get better. It’s a long term project. Let’s hold on to our good players and keep building. And in a couple of years who knows?

  2. Good summary, especially right about Harry mucking about with the tactics and personnel. Find the right formation and stick to it, most of the time at least. The players have to get used to it, never mind us

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