Monday, September 25, 2006

Jol down on his luck

Oh dear. As soon as the team sheets came out it was clear there would only be one result. Liverpool were taking this game seriously with their best strike force, Kuyt and Bellamy, and their main man, Steven Gerrard all lining up against a Spurs team with Keane & Defoe up front. Surely, the point of buying Berbatov and Mido was to avoid the little and little partnership? Yes Mido hasn’t yet scored but nor had Keane or Defoe, and the two paired together never works. The ball gets lumped up to them, or we put in head high crosses and nothing happens, it blunts the play completely. To have two little ‘uns up front you need to adjust your style of play, building attacks through the middle, keeping the ball on the floor or knocking it behind the defence for them to run onto. Spurs don’t play like that though. Seeing Keane and Defoe paired together is getting to be like the bad old days of finding out Poyet and Anderton were that game’s central midfield pairing; it meant one thing – get to the bookies and lump on the opposition. On Match of the Day Alan Shearer got it right, Spurs played well up until they got to the box, where they lacked presence and power. Exactly! Why can’t BMJ see that though?

Just like Old Trafford, it’s another strange tactical decision by Jol and another loss. It’s harsh to say that it is the sole reason for the loss but it’s a contributory factor. The main difference between this season and last though is the absence of luck. We are playing the same quality of football, i.e. not that great, but last year it yielded points, but this year it is not. Why? Jol’s luck has run dry. There were many occasions last year when The Waddler strolled out of White Hart Lane wondering how Spurs managed to win having played so poorly, but because we won, there’s no point grumbling. This season though its just not happening.

JJ’s miss after 65 minutes was clearly the turning point of the game, as if it had gone in the celebrations would still have been going on when Liverpool scored 30 seconds later. Based on last year, Spurs would then have held on for a point after conceding an equaliser from a Liverpool wonder strike (a la Riise’s effort on Saturday). But no, not this season and as it was Spurs had to push forward looking for a goal and got hit a couple of times. 3-0 was a harsh scoreline, but one that should ruffle a few feathers back at Spurs lodge and feathers sure need to be ruffled down there.

At some stage things will turn, the luck will come back and the goals will flow. Its not as if the team is full of bad players, it is not, the squad is one of the best we’ve had. It’s not as if the stadium is half full and the crowd have turned against the team or the management, it is not, the Lane is full to bursting every week, as are the away ends wherever Spurs go. Martin Jol’s name is sung everywhere. But how long will this situation continue? Six games is still the “start” of the season, but what happens if we’re in the same boat after ten? That is over a quarter of the season gone.

Clearly, this week is a big one. Slavia Prague and Pompey at home, both games that should and need to be won to kick start the season. If that happens then a sigh of relief can be breathed, and normal service can be resumed. What is normal service though? Will we ever see the type of football that the fans want under Jol? The jury is very much out, and now in his 3rd season, the verdict should be delivered soon. Will he be our next Burkinshaw or Nicholson? Both didn’t start well, and then went on to be creators of great periods in our history. So Jol could be too, but the signs are not very clear at the moment. He has certainly stabilised the team after tough periods under Hoddle, Pleat and briefly Santini, there is no doubt about that. Qualifying for Europe via the league, no matter with luck or not, is a great achievement for a modern Tottenham manager, but does he get the best out of his players? Should that side have wrapped up the Champions League spot before the last game of the season? Should Spurs be losing at home to Everton and failing to beat Fulham?

It is all very much up in the air at the moment, but there is the nasty feeling that the Big Man has taken this team as far as he can, and that he will be the Rioch, Houllier or Ranieri to Spurs’ equivalent of Wenger, Benitez or Mourinho. All of whom took a team that was very well stocked by their predecessor, added a few choice players and their own tactical nous and took their respective teams up a level and onto to trophy wins and success. If Jol is the Ranieri then who will be our Mourinho? It is not a question with an easy answer. Jol fell into Spurs’ lap having made a poor choice with Santini, so who would they go for this time? At least Comolli is there to advise this time, but you can’t help think that with Sven Goran Eriksson currently out of a job, and his alleged close relationship with Levy, that he would be the one they go for. For that reason alone it’s enough to continue to back Jol to arrest this decline and maybe in the back of his mind, for a point in the future, Levy can take time to line up the next manager, the man who will bring the glory back to White Hart Lane.

The Waddler.