Monday, September 18, 2006

The Natives are Restless

It is too early to throw in the towel, but after the worse start in 14 years, and the sort of form that got Hoddle sacked, the White Hart Lane faithful are getting jittery. With Spurs failing to beat a poor Fulham side, our neighbours somehow winning at Old Trafford, and then waiting an hour on the platform at Northumberland Park for a train to actually stop, it wasn’t the greatest of days. Those trains flying past, leaving Spurs fans stranded, were a metaphor for how the season has started – Spurs are stuck on the platform and everyone else is speeding off into the distance.

You can make excuses for all of the games. At Bolton we were shocked by their unruly tactics, Everton scored a lucky deflected goal and then hung on for their lives before hitting us on the break, and Man U, well who wins at Old Trafford anyway? Oh, yeah, well never mind. But not being able to beat Fulham at home, a Fulham shorn of their better players as well – it’s a struggle to justify. The papers are full of headlines such as “Spurs draw blank”, “Fulham hold Spurs” and so forth. Those hacks don’t watch Spurs every week like the fans do though, this is how the team has played all season, and arguably last season as well. There is no creativity, the opposition are always first to a loose ball, players don’t make runs for each other, and our set pieces are truly awful. This was no European hangover, unless we’ve had one all season.

In modern football, teams come to your ground, set themselves up in a defensive manner, and hope to contain you and then maybe hit you on the break at some stage. This is what Everton did very successfully, and this is what Fulham did well yesterday too. The way to break these teams down is by individual brilliance, which is non existent without Aaron Lennon, or through a set piece. So why don’t we have a set piece taker in the team? Don’t say Jenas, because his efforts yesterday were woeful. Why wasn’t Danny Murphy taking them? He scored free kicks at Liverpool and Charlton fairly regularly, so there was quite rightly dismay in the crowd yesterday when at one point towards the end, Spurs had a free kick on the edge of the area, slightly left side, and despite Murphy standing over it, he doesn’t shoot but taps it to Defoe who managed to trouble the corner flag. Something just isn’t quite right in the camp – there should be leadership from somewhere telling the players who takes what and when. Yesterday, there were Jenas, Zokora, Keane, BAE and Murphy all taking free kicks or corners – do they practice these? Is there not a plan for who should take them? At one point Robbo was in their half taking a free kick! It looks like Spurs have underestimated this side of the game, and don’t actually have a plan. With players like King, Dawson, Mido, Jenas and Chimbonda – all excellent headers of the ball, we should be dominant here, but something isn’t right.

If you can grab a goal with a free kick or corner then the game opens up. The away team have to attack you, and then you can break them down easier and score more. Spurs needed a goal for confidence, and the longer the game went without one, the worse the team got. In fairness, Spurs created a few chances, Tainio shot wide, Chimbonda had one off the line, Mido hit the crossbar, Zokora flashed wide, Defoe had a shot saved, but nothing went in. The returns of Berbatov and Lennon can’t come soon enough, and hopefully Malbranque can add some midfield creativity when he’s finally ready. In the meantime though, there are few positives to cling on to. The back four look good, and yesterday Chimbonda and BAE again played well. We have some good players at the club who will get better the more they play, like Zokora, Huddlestone, Mido and Berbatov. But that’s it.

The best we can hope for is to go to Liverpool and grind out a draw, before taking on Prague. That Prague home game is key to the team’s confidence, and therefore season. If they can stick three or four past them, then things will be looking up, and they can then take that into the game against Portsmouth to go on some sort of roll. Spurs will need to be on their game to beat Pompey who are flying at the moment. With Liverpool away, Pompey at home, and then a trip to a resurgent Aston Villa, The Waddler’s pessimist side thinks we could well be in the relegation zone shortly. The team needs to click, and do it quickly.

The Waddler.