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Spurs and Soldado Need Adebayor

October 6, 2013 Leave a comment

There are very few places happier than White Hart Lane when Spurs score a goal against their rivals. The sheer impact of noise and celebration sweeps across the stands pushing every single thought from your mind, even in some cases the name of the goal scorer.

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You know something great has happened, you know its important but at that split second you can’t quite grab the magnitude of it. Its like an having the Theory of Relativity downloaded straight into your brain, its just a bit too big. As Glyfi Sigurdsson swept the ball home, bedlam erupted in White Hart Lane.

The gentleman a couple of seats down from me, turned around looking for his mate, when they finally made eye contact he pointed down towards his leg, his blue jeans had a massive rip down them, from groin to knee.

How’d that happen?

I don’t know, I have no idea!!

The thing about going one-nil up to Chelsea is that nagging feeling that tugs at you. You know we need a second goal,  your whole body craves it, yet it doesn’t arrive. Ripped jeans man, euphoria slowly settling on him is left pondering how he going to get home with half his crotch exposed, the rest of us wonder where that second goal is coming from.

Paulinho sprints into the area, beats Petr Cech at his near post but the post deflects behind. From the Park Lane lower crouched and poised to erupt into more celebration it looked like the Brazilian shanked it, TV later reveals we were inches from more ecstasy. The game, unbeknown to everyone turned at that very point.

The killer second goal didn’t arrive, our dominance was converted into nothing more than a slender lead. With a defence apparently as impregnable as ours, this may have been enough, but against Chelsea, a team who bathe in luck, it was never going to be.

So why didn’t we ram home our superiority as a title challenging team would normally? Were we at our maximum? Are we only one goal better than Chelsea?

There has been an obsession amongst Spurs fans, since Dimitar Berbatov took his Café Crèmes north, for the perfect striker. This season it seemed that the quest for a 9 was ended when we signed a man bought for what was at the time a club record fee.

Roberto Soldado, is a Spanish international good enough to keep the face scratching Chelsea number 9 out of the national squad. His arrival was heralded as the sign of things to come, yet six games in he remains on two Premier League goals, two penalties.

It’s a worrying statistic and one that if it continues will soon become one to beat us and him with. The truth is Soldado needs to start scoring, for his confidence, for the team and because he is a £26 million investment, 100% of which was based on his ability to score.

I am not starting to question his talent, but if this run continues then it’s a question thatwill be asked. Proof that he is a class striker is the fact that he plays for a international team quite capable of operating without a number 9, I just wish he would start scoring for Spurs. Of course he needs time to adjust, but at 28 and a full international, how much time do we afford him?

The biggest fear I had when we switched tact from Christian Benteke to Soldado was the fact that if he doesn’t score what does the  former Valencia man do?

Thankfully it was Soldado that helped create Siggy’s goal on Saturday, but bar that he was anonymous. Against Cardiff his chances were snatched, yes he did brilliantly to be at the right place at the right time, but there is no point being there if you aren’t tucking them away.

One player who’s absence was sorely missed on Saturday, was the much maligned Emmanuel Adebayor. I believe that Adebayor is the key to getting the best out of our Spanish striker.

Soldado has spent a career attempting to prove himself worthy, first to Real Madrid after they cast him off on loan to Osasuna then sold him to Getafe. When he arrived at Valencia, he then spent his time attempting to  prove himself the best Spanish number 9.

At Spurs for the first time in his career Soldado is in a position of comfort as the clear first choice striker for both club and country. Adebayor can be the spark to ignite the Spaniard back to his most clinical form.

Whilst Defoe and Soldado are similar in their style, Adebyor offers the opposition a different conundrum. When AVB switched one small goal-getter for another, the pattern of anonymity continued.

Never before had I hoped that Adebayor would come smiling down the tunnel saying he was fit to play. His goal in the away fixture of this game last year, is a lasting memory that whatever his faults, Ade offers something totally different and game changing to our other strikers.

When he regains full fitness, it will be his ability and different approach to being the focal striker that will drive Soldado to better performances and a goal scoring record.

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Parker: Completing The Circle

August 14, 2013 Leave a comment

When Manchester City tore us apart 5-1 at White Hart Lane, Harry Redknapp demonstrated succinctly to Daniel Levy that Spurs were in desperate need of a holding midfielder. Personally I would have preferred a demonstration that involved graphs, PowerPoint and a spread sheet or two, but the message was loud and clear. Days later Scott Parker arrived, nearly two years on, the English midfielder is set to depart.

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It’s difficult to describe the affect that Scott Parker had on our team. Rather like Didier Zokora, Wilson Palacios and Steffen Freund before him, we loved his spirit and determination, but he will be forever remembered for his limitations.

Last season as Andre Villas-Boas attempted to create a more progressive, possession dominated team; Parker fell well short of what was required. He still gave everything he had, but age, injury and a fundamental lack of class limited him. When Mousa Dembele collected the ball there was a swagger to his play, when Parker found himself in possession, Leonardo Da Vinci doffed his cap at his attempt of circular perfection.

A 360 spin when coupled with ball retention and slice of vision is a masterful thing to behold. It has become the signature move for Barca’s Xavi and Juve’s Andrea Pirlo, but for Parker the full circle spin became a maze, once he started there wasn’t a way out.

Personally I never took the Englishman to heart, his rejections in favour of the wages on offer first at Chelsea, Newcastle then unbelievably West Ham stung. Here was a player clearly following his accountant’s advice, rather than any footballing logic. His two years battling against relegation in East London were just deserts for a man who could have been playing at White Hart Lane before his twilight years came calling.

One attribute Parker has never lacked though is determination, and it was this overbearing willingness never to give up in our “Mind The Gap” season that forced me to put away my feelings of rejection.

As Spurs charged through the back end of 2011 into early 2012, it was clear that for all the brilliance on display from Rafa Van der Vaart, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale, it was some English spirit holding things together.

Bustling across midfield to the sound of “One Scotty Parker,” our former McDonald’s pinup rightfully won many fans and plaudits. Redknapp decreed that he was Dave Mackay incarnate, Stuart Pearce England’s caretaker manager bestowed upon him the captain’s armband, and not even a Mario Balotelli stamp could stop the combative central midfielder.

However, something did. Forces far greater than those he chased around the pitch. His own body caught up with him. Parker had found his place in a club where he belonged too late. As the “gap” vanished and Spurs crumbled so did Parker. He may have featured for England at Euro 2012 that summer, but his race had been run. He was never the same again.

Rotation, tactical naivety and nature caught up with him, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t best his own failing body. Injury and tiredness ravaged him, he would have to learn to rely only on his technique.

When the 2012/13 season began, Parker was absent still nursing the injuries that he had played through at the tail end of 2011/12 and the Euro Championships. Parker missed the start of the season and Spurs witnessed a dawn of a new central midfield partnership. As Tottenham beat Man United 3-2 at Old Trafford, we had had a glimpse of the future and it didn’t feature Parker.

Sandro and Dembele combined everything that exemplified Parker’s game, but they added the dynamism and skill that the Englishman’s game lacked. Both were capable of scoring and creating as well as tracking and tackling, when Parker returned from injury his role was clearly defined. The former Hammer’s role at Spurs became one of back-up only, until of course Spurs played QPR away and Sandro’s knee gave way.

Over the summer we have dissected what happened to Spurs and how they managed to finish once again below Arsenal. Many point to throwing away three points at Liverpool or a insipid display at home to Fulham, but for me it was the day Sandro’s knee abandoned him.

With Parker alongside Dembele the best of our Belgian was lost. Forced to patrol deeper his dribbling skills that had struck fear into opposition holding midfielders and centre-backs disappeared. For the first time in his Spurs career, Dembele became ineffective. Apart from a mazy run and a pile-driver goal away against Lyon, we never saw the Old Trafford Dembele again.

Parker meanwhile found himself further up field than ever before, in areas where as a young man he had excelled, now as a veteran he was out of his depth. Every professional footballer has that moment where his career at the top level officially ends, for Parker it was at home to Basel in the Europa League.

Having gone two goals down, Spurs managed to claw one back, then on the stroke of half time the ball fell to Parker with the Park Lane goal gaping. All he had to do was role it home, instead he contrived to hit the ball against a prostrate Lewis Holtby and saw his effort trickle wide.

It may have been bad luck or an act of an unkind God, but what he couldn’t hide was his complete lack of composure and technique. Two skills that our manager craves from his central midfielders, his career at Spurs has come full circle.

From being a player we were in despearte need of, he is now one we are happy to exist without. Parker leaves us for a club and a level of football where he will undoubtedly excel as he progresses deeper into his twilight years.

I wont let his below par 2013 form spoil the appreciation I had for him in 2011/12, he deserves better than that. I will forever though remain disappointed that he never joined us sooner, perhaps then we would be saying goodbye to a legend, not just a player.

Wigan v Spurs: AVB’s Conundrums

April 26, 2013 Leave a comment

The euphoria of the win against Man City has slowly ebbed away to be replaced with that usual touch of apprehension.  Spurs travel to Wigan on Saturday a team who has become accustomed to wrecking dreams. The DW Stadium has laid many a title challenge and push for safety to bed, Spurs need to be at their best if they wish to avoid a similar fate.

AVB Cyborg

This article first appeared on The Fighting Cock

Back in November I commented that Wigan Athletic, the team that no one really dislikes, has had a habit of defining us. These words came back to haunt me as Spurs then suffered a 1-0 defeat at White Hart Lane. The most memorable thing from that torrid experience was the free curry samples being served in the East Stand.

Thankfully since that fixture Spurs have avoided repeating such ineptitude. This season, a few set backs apart, has largely gone to plan. We are on course for a top four finish and our destiny is in our hands, once again we face Wigan at a crucial time, not just for us, but for them.

The last few seasons have taught us that when the weather warms up Wigan move up the table, but this years protracted winter means Spurs face a Latics team backed into a corner. Both teams can not afford to lose this game, it all points to a fascinating fixture.

Due to our failings from the penalty spot in Switzerland,  Andre Villas-Boas has been able to give the squad a couple of days off. I may have wanted a glorious cup run to Amsterdam, but I am thankful for the respite our exit has offered us. Gareth Bale has had another six days of rest and Aaron Lennon according to reports, looks set to feature. The all important balance the diminutive winger gives us, should be back.

The return of Lennon brings with it a host of conundrums for AVB to ponder before Saturday’s kick off, the first is who plays up front?

Against not only City but a whole host of opponents this season, Emmanuel Adebayor has been ineffective. The movement, touch, understanding and finishing that made him such an asset last year have disappeared. He is a phantom of his former self, Jermain Defoe meanwhile, despite being sidelined through injury has seen a meteoric rise in his stock.

The England man before Sunday hadn’t scored a goal for Spurs in 4 four months, yet his return was seen as the second coming. Defoe remains a limited striker, but compared to Adebayor’s recent form, he is the love child of Gerd Muller and Paolo Rossi.

Regardless of Adebayor’s lack of form though, I would start him on Saturday against Wigan. It may be blind hope, but over 60 minutes he may tire the Wigan defence, then with the game hopefully stretched in our favour Defoe can be introduced. The former Pompey striker as he proved against City, is an impressive impact sub

The return of Lennon also means that one of Clint Dempsey or Glyfi Sigurðsson will miss out. Do we opt for the man who does nothing but score tap-ins, or someone who is gradually coming to terms with a place in a top tier Premier League team?

On Sunday as I watched Spurs fail to breach a resolute City for the best part of an hour, it was with Dempsey that most of my frustrations lay. The American is a footballing Rubik Cube, he has had me in delirium at certain points, but totally bamboozled as to his worth at others. Dempsey contributes very little to the team and its style of play, he is the most un-luxurious of luxury players.

Siggy meanwhile is without doubt the better all round player, but he lacks the self-confidence of “The Duece.” It is on this basis therefore I would opt for the American, with the season coming to its crescendo, you need players who believe 100% in their ability, regardless of how limited it is.

The last real conundrum for AVB is who to partner Mousa Dembele? Does he opt for the more mobile but limited in possession Scott Parker, or the occasional statuesque brilliance of Tom Huddlestone? Personally I would opt for the same Adebayor/Defoe formula. Start Parker and as the tempo of the game subsides, introduce Hudd and his masterful long passing game.

It is comforting to know that AVB has positive selection issues to ponder pre- game, but if we learnt one thing on Sunday, it’s that it’s even nicer to know we have a manager who can make the big decisions during a game. With players such as Lewis Holtby and Tom Carroll on the bench, we have game changers and a manager unafraid to use them.

Three points on Saturday,  would put the pressure right back on on Arsenal who face the champions Man United on Sunday.

No team has done the double over Spurs this season; we need to ensure that Wigan isn’t the most unlikely of firsts.

Same Old Problems, For Same Old Spurs

April 16, 2013 1 comment

It was 12 yards, but it might as well have been a thousand. The moment the referee signaled the end of a desperate 30 minutes of defending in extra-time, the tie was up. It’s been close to 20 years since Tottenham won a penalty shoot-out, is it a lack of belief? Technique? Or is it a sign that despite the hype, the new training ground and a promising young manager we are still the same frail team that I have supported all of my conscious life.

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This article first appeared on The Fighting Cock Website

Over the course of 210+ minutes there wasn’t much to separate the Swiss Double winners and last years 4th best team in England. Both teams had their opportunities and key moments, but a 4-4 aggregate draw was a fair result. Neither team could muster that one bit of luck or skill to decide the tie so the Quarter Final went to what is supposed to be a lottery, but clearly it isn’t.

It’s a battle of technique and mental strength. Luck is something the keeper relies on, he needs to read which way the penalty taker will go and hope the shot is within his range of movement. He is not expected to save it; from 12 yards versus a professional his chance of glory is minimal, so what went wrong with Tottenham’s penalty takers?

There exists a rumour that Tom Huddlestone is a fantastic football technician. A rumour that last night was finally put to bed. The Basel players strode forward confident in their ability to handle the pressure and relying on their technique found the corners, Huddlestone found only Yann Sommer’s right hand.

Should you require any further proof that Huddlestone’s technique is a myth, look at his hair. For a great striker of the ball he hasn’t scored a goal in two years. In fairness to Hudd this drought has been exacerbated by lengthy injuries and spells out of the team, but ponder some of the teams he has failed to score against this season: Leeds, Coventry, Carlisle and Maribor, hardly giants of world football.

I was a great admirer of the fresh faced Hudd that turned up at White Hart Lane in 2006; he possessed a touch a class missing from our other central midfielders at the time, that touch of class though has long gone. Last nights failure to register from the spot looks set to be his last meaningful contribution to Tottenham, a life in mid-table Premier League obscurity is calling.

It would be grossly unfair to place our failure to progress solely on Huddlestone rotund shoulders, when there were others equally at fault.

My girlfriend through time has developed a passing interest in football and Spurs. She can sing a few of the songs, recognise some of the players and as Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up to take a penalty she panicked. I on the other hand had drifted into a state of enlightenment, the outcome was already set in place, panicking would not help. I knew he would miss and for the first time in ages, he repaid my faith.

This season rather than join the criticise Adebayor bandwagon, I have put my energy in to believing that he would turn it around. After that run up, that shot and that reaction I am ready to admit defeat.

In Jonathan Wilson’s brilliant book “Inverting the Pyramid” Adebayor is described as a modern forward:“Both target man and quick man, battering ram and goal-scorer, imposing physically yet also capable of finesse,” as he skipped up to blaze his penalty into thousands of delirious Basel fans, I pictured Wilson on the phone to his editor demanding for permission to re-write that chapter.

It wasn’t so much the miss itself, it was the demeanour, the sheer lack of technique and the bizarre self-confidence that he could hit the top corner from 12 yards. At that moment the tie was officially lost, yet looking at his face you wouldn’t have guessed it.

Players are totally removed from the fans they represent these days, but Adebayor is in a different stratosphere. I am not asking him to die for the shirt, but at least try for it, or at least look like you are.

Tottenham’s penalty loss was down to a lack of technique, moral fortitude and belief from certain individuals, but also in part down to the diminishing frame of our veteran keeper.

The best penalty stoppers in world football are big imposing figures, who through sheer presence unsettle the striker, but rather like Peter Shilton in 1990 versus Germany; Brad Friedel was a little old man dwarfed by the size of the goal he was mean to be owning.

Sommer may not be the most physically imposing keeper ever, but he filled the goal breaking Hudd and Ade before they made contact with the ball. Had Hugo Lloris been playing, perhaps Basel wouldn’t have found the corners with so much confidence.

When you have one of the top keepers in the world on your books, why not play him in a massive European game? At least two of the four goals scored by Basel, over the two legs, the Frenchman would have kept out. Andre Villas-Boas whether in this competition or the Champions League next season needs to bench his sentimentality.

Spurs must stop repeating the same mistakes, this penalty defeat needs to be a watershed moment, not simply another one of those nights. The “Same Old Spurs” quote needs to be binned, along with our lumbering centre-midfielder and head in the clouds striker.

Spurs v FC Basel: No Swiss Rollover

April 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Time slows down and you feel your subconscious picking up on the more subtle aspects of White Hart Lane. The blue seat flexing under you as you strain forward, the faint whiff of coffee off the chap next to you and then bang, you come speeding back to a painful reality from which there is no escape.

Casting your eyes across the stadium you realise this isn’t a dream or a head rush, it’s Gareth Bale slapping the turf in agony, that possible trip to Amsterdam evaporating and the prospect of Champions League football slipping away again. Looking up at the scoreboard you remember that Its 2-2 against FC Basel a Swiss team who were supposed to just roll over, you take a deep breath and sigh. This is real life and it never goes to plan, especially when you are a Spurs fan.

FC Basel as we saw on Thursday night, are no Euro Lightweights, domestically they are on course for a back-to-back double and on the continent they have been troubling Europe’s big spenders for a few years. This season they dispatched multi-billionaires Zenit St Petersburg and last year qualified from a Champions League group at the expense of Man United.

At White Hart Lane they demonstrated all this and more.

Comfortable in possession, organised in defence and lighting quick in attack, it was painful viewing for Spurs fans at the Lane and at home. It was watching a team play your style, but with more confidence, skill, ability and most importantly the right players for the right positions.

Murat Yakin the former Basel and Swiss international, who was appointed in October 2012, deserves a lot of credit for this Basel side, especially when you consider that like Spurs, the Swiss team lost key players last summer.

FC Basel lost two up-and-coming stars of the European game Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri to the Bundesliga and stalwarts Scott Chipperfield and Benjamin Huggel to old age. This set back rather than start a downward spiral has only reinforced the clubs desire to rebuild, and in their number 22, Egyptian international Mohamed Salah, they have found the perfect player to replace the explosive left-foot of Shaqiri.

The Swiss Super League leaders were assisted in their dominance by Spurs offering up acres of space behind the back line, but their chances at goal were not all laid on by Spurs and the Titus Bramble Doppelganger William Gallas.

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The selection of the former French international in a competition which AVB continues to say is a priority is mystifying. Away in Milan his attempts at defending almost resulted in a 3-0 first leg advantage being overturned and last night never before has a player an injured player walked off a pitch to such silence. Hopefully this will be the last time he is seen at White Hart Lane.

Despite the faults in Gallas’ game, it would be unfair to lay the blame solely at his veteran feet. Spurs were sloppy in possession and as the game wore on certain players started to hide and move away from the man in possession.

Lewis Holtby a player in whom I have a great deal of hope battled hard and was a willing recipient of the ball, even in an unnatural wide right position, but his replacement on 63 minutes, Clint Dempsey was totally anonymous. Spurs were on top pushing for a third, but AVB’s change unbalanced the team and played perfectly into Swiss hands.The American continues to baffle, what exactly is he? A central midfielder, a winger or a striker?

The defining moment of the game however shall be that roll on that ankle.

Time was ticking away; a large portion of the crowd had left or were in the process of leaving, but when Bale picks up the ball and runs, White Hart Lane stops. As he ran round the outside of his opponent I hoped this would be the starting move of a glorious goal, I was wrong and I could do little but hope my eyes had deceived me and it wasn’t Bale…

The optimist in me believes this is a turning point. Its time for the rest of the team to stand up and prove they are more than just chorus parts in the Bale Extravaganza. Perhaps though now we will finally see Holtby or Glyfi Sigurðsson in their natural central positions, behind a striker who finally remembered how to score and on occasion head the ball.

All is not lost for Spurs, three points on Sunday against Everton will go a long way to prove that we are what we say we are, more than a one man team.

After all it wasn’t that long ago when we couldn’t buy a win with him in the team.

That’s Inter-taiment

March 13, 2013 Leave a comment

The feel good factor that has been building around White Hart Lane over the past few months exploded in a glorious footballing display. Italian giants and 2010 Champions League winners FC Internazionale Milano were swatted aside as Tottenham cruised to a 3-0 win.

Siggy Inter

This article first appeared on The Fighting Cock

From the moment I stepped off the train at Northumberland Park, the feeling of optimism was infectious. We were playing a team that at the height of their powers in 2011 we took apart, now with a starting line up lacking the household names, the result was surely going to be the same? It turns out that the modern day Spurs fan is right to be optimistic.

When Tottenham fans look back over the reign of our previous manager, the key stock phrases are: exhilarating, free flowing and exciting. We tend to gloss over the inefficiencies of that team and instead remember the 100mph football and lung bursting dashes, last night we were treated to something different. Andre Villas-Boas’ team gave us all of the above but added the one element that has been missing from Spurs for a generation: tactical nous.

Last night we played beautiful football, but it was more than just allowing the players to go out there and do their thing. The beauty was that Gareth Bale, Mousa Dembele, Aaron Lennon and Glyfi Sigurdsson were performing to a tempo and style orchestrated from the sidelines. Like an Academy Award winning director, AVB has managed to imprint his vision on to his cast. They believe and have faith is his directing, meaning we as Tottenham fans are getting to sit back and enjoy the show.

Over the last few weeks the level in performance among certain individuals has improved markedly. Sigurdsson is one of the main benefactors, but last night it was another maligned figure of late 2012 that caught my eye, Kyle Walker.

The promising right back has been suffering that from a phantom psychological condition called “Second Season Syndrome” which apparently affects a player who has had a break out first season. Personally I would call it a loss of form or the weight of expectation affecting him. Due to this dip in form Walker has added aggression to his game, which has only led him to become too eager. Over the course of this season we have seen him attempt to win the ball in areas where doesn’t need to, resulting in countless cheap free-kicks to the opposition, from some of which we have been punished.

Last night though, Walker picked up from where he left off against West Ham and Woolwich. He is finding that balance between defence/attack, getting close and standing off, and with Lennon in tandem he is re-launching one of the most fearsome right sides in the Premier League.

Up front Jermain Defoe started his first game since limping off against West Brom and instantly reminded us what we’ve been missing. His movement and goal threat in 90 minutes was far greater than Emmanuel Adebayor has managed in a month. The Tologese man remains the arguably the better of the two, but if you could inject Defoe’s determination, first touch and all round application into Adebyaor’s game you would have a hell of a striker.

Over the last few weeks it’s been impossible to comment on Spurs without mentioning our on-fire Welshman. Esteban Cambiasso, one of the decade’s finest defensive midfielders, was given the task of controlling Bale, but rather like Maicon two years ago, the task was beyond him. Culpable for the first goal, the Argentine, one deft through-ball apart, drifted meekly like the rest of his team out of the game and in affect the tie.

The one dark mark on Bale’s evening was his yellow card for alleged simulation, from the Park Lane Lower it seemed a stone wall penalty, but TV replays have shown it to be less clear-cut. Personally I am quite relieved that Bale will sit out the second leg, and hopefully start the quarter-final fist leg with a clean slate. Perhaps it was a tactical booking?

One issue over which there can be no ambiguity though was the atmosphere at White Hart Lane. If the first game against Lyon was a love-in, then this was a full double dropped on oysters and asparagus orgy. When The Fighting Cock talk about Sing for the Shirt and the 1882 movement, last night was an example of how a positive vibe can have and incredible effect on a team and the other more restrained supporters.

Some cup games due to the splitting up of certain sections can have a negative affect on the singing, but last night there were some tremendous renditions of Oh When then Spurs, Glory Glory Hallelujah, It’s a Grand Old Team to Play For and even the Nicola Berti Song got some airtime. It was one of the best nights this season so far……Long may the glory continue!

Gareth Bale Cœur de Lyon

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

It wasn’t quite a heart beating Glory Glory night under the floodlights of White Hart Lane, but it was another example of the emergence of Gareth Bale. With two swishes of his thunderous left boot, Spurs head into the Europa League 2nd leg tie against Lyon holding a slim 2-1 advantage.

The devastating effect of Bale’s free-kicks was a stark contrast to his overall game, which at times was far below what we have come to expect, and others to demand. The problem facing Bale is expectation, for a man that went 24 games without winning in a Spurs shirt he must now do the opposite. It is demanded that we win every time he slips into the Lilywhite.

This of course is totally unreasonable; football is far more complex than that, if it wasn’t then Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo would have a World Cup medal to add to the trophy cabinet. As Spurs fans we can ask that Bale tries his best, and on nights like last night hope it is enough.

Olympique Lyonnais over the last few years have had the heart ripped out of their once great club. The seven times in-a-row winners of Ligue 1 from 2002 to 2008, now has its former stars spread across Europe, yet despite this their fans arrived at White Hart Lane in decent numbers and in good voice. The French supporters even gave former hero and now Spurs number one, Hugo Lloris, an excellent reception when he emerged for his warm up with Brad Friedel.

Despite fielding a youthful and reasonably inexperienced team Lyon arrived with the determination to leave North London with something to hold on to at the Stade de Gerland in a couple of weeks. They worked incessantly to close down space and ensured that Mousa Dembele endured one of his least effective nights for Spurs. Their equalizing goal from left-back Samuel Umtiti was a thunderbolt, plenty of technique with a light dusting of luck. It would have been a strike worthy of a draw, had it not been for Bale.

Up front Bafetimbi Gomis, the Lyon target man, was a serious threat through out. A gentlemen close by said he looked like the love child of “Romelu Lukaku and Whoopi Goldberg” but there was no joiking around from the striker as he continued to cause Jan Vertoghen and William Gallas problems. The French international striker has been linked with Spurs in the past and on this showing, perhaps he would be a better option than Emmanuel Adebayor, who had another lackluster night. The Togolese man is trying, but unfortunately things aren’t coming off, he needs time and desperately a massive dose of luck.

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For a game that has become obsessed with stats, zones and percentages it is quite amazing how much a player is reliant on such an unquantifiable source as luck. Adebayor and Sigurdsson are in desperate need of it, and you could even go as far as to claim that Bale needs a slice also. With a gentle sprinkling of luck Bale would have had a hat-trick on Saturday and another one last night, instead the Welshman is having to call on his powers of self belief, skill and determination. White Hart Lane is a Bale love-in at the moment, and last night at times it was close to a Bale themed orgy.

Two rows in front of me, a young man had taken his girlfriend to her first game. With the floodlights sparkling in her eyes, cheeks flushed from the pre-game beer, she wrapped her arm around his waist and gazed up at him. His eyes were elsewhere though, his arms had moved from her shoulders and were now pointing at a man a few feet away, from his mouth came that four letter word that was on everyone’s lips that night: “Bale!! Bale!! Bale!!”

For Spurs in general though it was yet again another Europa League night where we did just enough. I have been from the start and remain today a staunch Andre Villas-Boas supporter, but his ability to get the team to just do enough worries me. Where other teams smell blood and go for the jugular, we seem content to play the percentages and collect the win at minimal fuss.

This ethos is fine when like now we are winning, but the other shoe dropping worries me. Perhaps this percentage style football is a result of us missing key players in midfield and upfront, or perhaps it’s the Spurs pessimist in me fighting to get out of the Bale/Holtby/Lloris happy place I find myself in. Either way there isn’t much any of us can do other than continue to support, sing and love the shirt.

Thanks to our exploits at Leeds last month, we now have over a week until Spurs next kick a ball in anger. Personally, as much as I love the FA Cup, I am quite happy that the team will have some time off. With a dozen games remaining in Premier League and hopefully a long run in the Europa League forthcoming, a little break and some team bonding may be just what we need to achieve our end of season goals.