Sunday’s North London derby brought Tottenham Hotspur back down to earth after an unexpected thrashing at the hands of Arsenal. Two goals down with five minutes to go until half time, the Gunners drew level prior to the break before emphatically defeating Spurs 5-2. A lot of the blame seems to have been thrown at manager Harry Redknapp for his tactics and substitutions that had little impact. But was the inadequate fitness of the squad Tottenham’s true downfall?
This season’s stand out centre back Younes Kaboul was partnered by the ever-reliant skipper Ledley King at the heart of our defence. Although consistent in the way of performance over the years, King has notably had an injury plagued few seasons. For the first time this campaign, Ledley’s lack of fitness was majorly called into question on Sunday.
The captain was slow to react for both Tomas Rosicky’s goal and the first of Theo Walcott’s strikes, adding to a rather ineffectual performance from the usually influential defender. His substitution with ten minutes left was either a sign that King was too unfit to finish the game, or that Redknapp realised the contest was over, meaning it was time for the skipper’s condition to be savoured for future fixtures.
Arsenal’s attacking dominance towards the end of the first period was enough for Redknapp to take action and bring on Sandro to bolster our midfield. A calf injury had recently kept the Brazilian midfielder out of the team, and it was unforeseen that he would even make the bench. Nevertheless, Sandro was introduced at the break, but unfortunately made little impact in preventing Arsenal from running riot. It was clear that he had returned from injury too early; a fully fit Jake Livermore may have been a wiser option.
Rafael Van der Vaart was also brought on at half time, replacing the scorer of Spurs’ first goal Louis Saha. Like Sandro, Van der Vaart has recently been struggling to return from injury and may also have been thrown into action prematurely, signified by a lacklustre and luckless run out. Since signing for Tottenham in the summer of 2010, the Dutchman has suffered from persistent niggles, forcing him to be often sidelined. We’ve all seen that Rafael is most effective when he has a run of games under his belt, such as earlier this season when he managed to score in five league games on the bounce.
Another evident issue on Sunday was Spurs’ lack of width and pace. Gareth Bale wasn’t played in his most effective left wing role, whilst Aaron Lennon remained on the bench for the whole game. The fitness of Lennon must also be called into question, as surely the English winger would have been introduced at some point if properly ready. The problem with Aaron Lennon is that whenever he hits form, injuries tend to take their toll and it seems that he has to rebuild his confidence all over again. The condition of Lennon could be crucial to the rest of our season, as on his day he is one of Tottenham’s very best players.
Despite inevitable continuous fitness worries, at the end of it all we have to move on. A bad day at the office should never be taken lightly, but Tottenham must put this devastating defeat behind them and concentrate on finishing in the top three of the Premier League. Next up – Manchester United at home. Spurs will be hoping that the confidence returns and that they can finally show they are good enough to beat the champions.
Follow Steve Jennings on Twitter: @_SteveJenn93