After pronouncing myself free of fear ahead of the match against Wolves, have I since returned to my protective turtle shell? I will not deny that would have been the immediate reaction of before, a retreat as swift as Real Madrid laying waste to Tottenham's ambitions at being legitimate European challengers a couple seasons ago. Oddly though, I found the draw to Wolverhampton a validation--albeit a milder one--of the club's title chances, as title contenders on a hot run need a kicking every so often to remind them the work still left to do.
Further, it took the mounting media attention down a notch to acceptable levels, as Spurs have been written off in favor of Manchester Eithad and Old Footballers United making a two-horse race of it. That's fine with me, as now having moved away from that increasingly hotter spotlight allows the squad to get back to playing a bit more of that conscience-free football that we've watched most of the season. This of course leads me to Younes Kaboul, who might not have been at his best on the day against Wolverhampton but nonetheless embodies the transition from old Spurs to new Spurs that, rather than finding a point from battling Mick McCarthy's side, would have shipped a couple more goals to take the sad sombrero at White Hart Lane instead.no comments
Regardless of your political leanings, you have to admit President Franklin D. Roosevelt was fairly good with the notable one-liners. For instance, why do I remember December 7th is the date of the attack on Pearl Harbor, despite sometimes forgetting my father's birthday? On top of appreciating history I also recall FDR's line that this was "a date which will live in infamy." Another corker from Frankie was "We have nothing to fear, but fear itself."
This is the one that is resonating with me right now, witnessing Tottenham continue their spectacular run in this season's Premiership. Three points were taken from the game in hand, completing the circle and closing off that early ugly chapter of the campaign which led to that match against Everton being postponed until now. A season that began with the North London riots--forcing the prior cancellation--looked to have unsettled the squad which later received consecutive humblings at the hands of the two headed monster from Manchester. Since, 'Arry's squad have buzzsawed through their league fixture list beyond the sticking in Stoke, and now are level on points with United and three points behind City. A title challenge for Spurs is a real possibility for the first time since Daniel Levy was knee high to a grasshopper and the predominant emotion I feel?
There's been a bit of discussion in the Spurs Twitterverse as to whether or not 'Arry will make an honest effort at the FA Cup, given that he seems to have a penchant for sloughing off these sorts of tournaments since coming to Spurs. In the gaffer's defense, the midfield especially needs a rest.
WBA kicked Bale to pieces, and the injuries to Parker, Lennon, Sandro, Hudd , Bale and VdV have left us woefully thin. There's no cover at fullback, so BAE and Walker must surely be winded, and while there's depth at forward, only Ade and Defoe have proved serviceable and both could use a week off.
What to do for Saturday, then?Spurs sit in a rare position, challenging not just for top 4 but for top 3, maybe top 2. So does 'Arry rest his best vs. Cheltenham Town and save them for the league and CL push? Or does he go all out and try to add to the trophy chest? And that's all before we get to the conversation about needing to blood some of the youngsters in the reserves.
And then there's the added element of the FA CUP itself.
As an American, I find it hard to grasp, but it's clear to me from conversations at the local that for English footy fans, there's something special about this Cup, and there's a real feeling that upper division teams should treat this competition with the utmost respect. To continually field teams packed with reserve players seems to cheapen the allure of that League Two club managing a hard fought draw with a top-10 EPL (Suck it, Barclay's) side. There is something romantic about those matches, about the rampaging runs of lower-tier sides in the competition that almost begs for a manager to play his best and let the other side see what they can do. And on the other hand, he has to look to his success in the league and in Europe. I don't envy 'Arry's position here.
If it were me, I'd follwo Fergie's pattern and rest most of my first teamers until the last 2-3 matches. To my mind, securing top 4 and CL footy is paramount. Maybe that's just my American-ness showing. Maybe it's the callous reality of globalized sport. Whatever it is, let me give my reasons.
1.) Guaranteed CL footy is all that allows us to hang on to Modric, and likely Ade. And we must, at all costs, hang on to the little Croation genius. He is the engine that makes this team go.
2.) We want big signings, but big signings take money and the quickest path to big money in football today is the Champions League.
3.) Windows on football clubs close fast. We have three of the best players in the world (Modric, VdV, and Bale) in their prime. The time to strike for the league and to aim for a perpetual place in Europe is now.
4.) Because a year with a St. Totteringam's day would be the incredible.
If we can make the finals and get a chance to win the Cup, fine. I will jump and scream and yell as loud as any Yiddo at the Bell & Hare. But I just cannot see a way towards prioritizing this competition above or even alongside the league and CL footy. The FA Cup should remain subordinate to the battle for league position and CL footy, because the former lacks the long term benefits of the latter.
Flame away. COYSno comments
(H/T to Natalie from Chicago Spurs for the headline)no comments
There was a time when a match like this would have proven too much for Spurs. Too much hoofing, too much kicking, too much bus-parking...just
Thankfully, those days are slipping into distant memory.
For the third time this season, Spurs demonstrated that negative football just doesn't work against us like it once did. We bossed the pitch, unnerved by the Hack-A-Bale defense shamefully employed by Roy Hodgson (was he really being tipped for Three Lions not so long ago? How the mighty have fallen...) and the incessant hoofing into an empty half that seems to be the WBA midfield's stock-in-trade. Despite the efforts of the WBA midfield to frustrate our flow by clogging passing lane, we worked the ball into space and created chances, albeit chances left wanting too often.
The match could easily have been out of hand by the half. Rafa had two unfortunately placed headers, while Modric went wide and Bale blazed over, and Ade was nipped by Jones at the alst minute, all on gilt-edged chances. Tense into the half as Bale followed through into Scharner and, tender from the kickings no doubt, he limped into the dressing room. Sandro had already gone down with a leg problem and now it looked like Spurs might lose their most dangerous player on the day.
Fortunately Bale trotted back out and his play proved instrumental, as his pass played in Defoe for a decisive winner. Defoe had looked sharp, but after the goal, he looked positively deadly, and his play with Ade all day was quick and potentially lethal. With the injuries in the midfield (Hudd, Parker, Sandro and Lennon all down, Bale and VdV playing through injury) switching to a 4-4-2 for a match or two might not be a bad idea, especially with the form in which Ade and Defoe find themselves.
Shades of Berba and Keano, that.
All in all, a gutty effort. Gallas and Sandro down with possible calf tears, per 'Arry. Livermore down with a split grape. Bale kicked all over the park. bus parked at midfield before anyone broke a sweat. And still we get the result.
These are the matches we used to lose on last second scramble goals. No more. COYS.
Spurs are linked with (name of random Serie A or La Liga forward) but will have to sell (name of out-of-favour, marginally talented-but-overvalued-by-Spurs-supporters squad player) in order to buy. Manager Harry Redknapp is also looking to pry (name of player who is talented and experienced but overrated and overpriced due solely to the fact he is English) away from (mid-table team with money problems). He faces stiff competition for the signatures from (two rich clubs chosen at random).
The (name of English tabloid) has also learned that (name of non-English Spurs midfielder) has given and interview to (name of paper with dubious ethical practices from player's home country) in which he has stated "Spurs....are great...and I hope....to play for them until the end of time...but time...goes on forever...no one can say...if...and...I might...have...to go...and be happy." Spurs will certainly face a battle to keep the player happy with the likes of (names of all the richest clubs in Europe) coming in for his signature. Manchester United genius and gentlemen of unimpeachable morals and high character SIR Alex Ferguson has said that (name of non-English Spurs midfielder misquoted above) "would be welcome here and we would love to have (name of Spurs midfielder misquoted above and now being actively tapped up with the aid of the press) even though I never speak of other people's players. We will buy him but they don't want to sell so we will buy him."
(Name of now unsettled Spurs midfielder) could not be reached for comment but the player's representative said that if (name of three rich clubs chosen at random) come in for (name of now sullen and "injured" non-English Spurs midfielder), Spurs "must listen to a reasonable offer. The (name of English tabloid who has faxed any credibility it had left in the direction of The Stretford End to hell) will closely monitor the situation as we fabricate it.
*Yes, we're back. Sorry for the layoff. A better apology may or may not follow.
Spurs played one decent half today, but Manchester United--even without assistance from the referee--was always going to be better than one decent half.
I was really hopeful for this game against a weak (by their standards) Manchester United side. I thought we could really run at Jonny Evans and get him in trouble, and why shouldn't I think Bale could get past Smalling on the left wing? Livermore and Niko in the middle against Hearts had me thinking that they would be just good enough to hang on against Cleverly and Anderson. And Kyle Walker--he looked great in preseason. Ashley Young would be bottled up.
Not to be. While Manchester United had only one good chance in the first half (a Cleverly shot well saved by Friedel--more on him in a minute), Spurs never really looked threatening. At halftime, I thought we were headed for 0-0.
The first ten minutes of the second half had me thinking more postitively. Harry had subbed off Kyle Walker, who was getting turned all around by both Nani and Young. Spurs possessed the ball well. But again, never looked dangerous. The problem here, as I see it, is two-fold. First, Defoe's first touch is absolutely awful. It was awful against Hearts. If he's playing alone, he has to receive a pass cleanly. He's shown he can't do that. But, the second problem is linked to that fact. Why are we playing directly to Jermaine Defoe? Why aren't we rocking down the wings and driving the ball in ESPECIALLY AGAINST DAVID DE GEA? ESPECIALLY SINCE OUR PLAYERS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH TO PLAY OFF OF DEFOE? Ok, so VdV is, but he never looked dangerous either. There's that word again: dangerous. The problem wasn't inconsistent play today. The problem was that we never scared a 19-year-old and a rapist in the middle of Man U's defense.
Of course, we hit a wall after 60 minutes or so and the game was over. Livermore and Niko never had an understanding of how they were going to play and VdV was trying to chip a 6'4'' keeper on 45 yard free kicks. Sure, Harry noticed Walker in over his head, but Vedran Corluka isn't quicker, so why was he on to meet that need? I'm down on Harry right now. "Have a run about" is not managing. Not saying the same things as Daniel Levy isn't managing. Not signing that striker that we ABSOLUTELY need is not managing. Jermaine Defoe is not good enough anymore, and he was never good enough to play alone up top anyway.
Hopefully, it's a busy week in London. Because we're hosting the blue side of Manchester on Sunday, the side that don't care much for financial fair play.Ratings after the jump. no comments
And so it begins.
The long march to next June begins in the place where Spurs have experienced some of our greatest failures. And let us not mention, our very own Webbing. Man Utd come in weakened by the retirement of Scholes, the rock of their midfield, and it has shown in their play. Additionally, they have injuries all across the back.
But beware the wounded tiger. Lineups and predictions after the jump