Thursday, December 21, 2006

Shrimpers Tough to Digest

For the second round running Spurs made hard work of lower league opposition, needing extra time and the arrival Dimitar Berbatov to ensure safe passage. With the changes that were predicted on here yesterday, such as the inclusion of Mido, Murphy, Stalteri and BAE and an unexpected switch of Dawson for King, Spurs were lacking that bit of class that was needed in circumstances like last night. A midfield of Murphy, Huddlestone, Tainio and Malbranque is fairly pedestrian, and really lacking the sort of character to take a game to the opposition. There is no pace there, no one to pick the ball up and run at the opposition in the way that Lennon, Jenas, Zokora or even Ghaly tends to do. As a result Spurs found it tough going to break Southend down, and it wasn’t until the very end of extra time that a lovely Berbatov through ball found a nice Mido run on the left and his cross was perfect for Defoe to slide home.

Jol presumably had hoped not to need Berbs, but Spurs were kept out by the Southend goalkeeper Flahaven who had an excellent game. Mido twice came close, first a swivel volley that crashed off the cross bar and the second a glancing header brilliantly saved. It wasn’t the best of performances, but enough chances were carved out to win the game in 90 minutes, and in truth Southend didn’t test Robinson all night. The morning papers and the ITV highlights were full of comments about how Southend made Spurs look ordinary and pushed them all the way, and whilst there is some truth in that, it must be remembered that this Spurs side was missing first-teamers King, Chimbonda, Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Keane and Berbatov; as well as preferred squad players such as Ghaly and Lee. It’s no excuse for needing 115 minutes to beat the team bottom of the Championship, as any Spurs side should be capable, but it doesn’t help as the aforementioned players are the class that put Spurs above the dross.

Players such as Murphy and Davids, who came on for Tainio, have really lost what they once had and should be jogged on in January. They no longer offer anything to this Spurs side, both are getting on a bit, and their no doubt large wage packets could be used elsewhere. What do they offer that an up and coming youngster wouldn’t? It really is difficult to think of a reason. Get rid of both and go and get Giles Barnes from Derby and be done with it. At least he would be hungry and willing and can’t be worse at passing. The goal also highlighted the need for a left footer on the left flank, as Mido put in a great cross for Defoe from that side and it shows what a weapon that could be for Spurs. All four strikers would thrive on crosses, and as three of the four are right footed, crosses from the left are ideal to latch onto as the goal showed. Going 4-3-3 and having Mido and Defoe flanking Berbatov is a decent option when desperate, as we were last night, but is not something to start a game with. We do need a leftie who can thread balls behind a defence as our strikers are just made for such chances. Worryingly Downing seems the obvious option, but let’s hope Comolli’s greater knowledge can unearth someone better, and cheaper.

Its strange to be negative after a win in a cup quarter-final, so on the bright side Spurs are in the hat for the semi-final and if we get Wycombe it would be one of the most remarkable routes to a final ever. After a bye in the second-round, MK Dons in the third, Port Vale in the fourth and Southend in the Quarters, could Spurs be lucky enough to avoid top flight opposition all the way to the final? Its about time we had some luck, but no doubt it will be the goons or Chelsea and we’ll have a tough fight on our hands.

Its Newcastle on Saturday, and hopefully with a fresh King and Chimbonda as well as a fit Lennon, Spurs should get a positive result up there against the hapless Roeder’s bunch of mercenaries. A fit Dyer and a Duff with something to prove to Levy could be a worry, and we haven’t often come away with the points up there in recent times, but Spurs remembered how to win away last weekend, and are in good form with only two losses in the last twenty games now.

The Wadder.