Sunday, 18 January 2009
Spurs 1 Pompey 1
It’s going to the wire.
We now sit in 16th, on 21 points – along with five other clubs. Zany. Three points from 12th and six points from 9th. Welcome to the Premier League where the bottom 12 clubs are basically rubbish. The 5 teams above the 12 are only there because of a decent run of form. The way this season is going, don’t be surprised if the table from 8th down to 20th looks completely different a month from now.
Part of me is happy that we created more chances today in 90 minutes than we have in the previous 270. Granted, half of them were Lennon scoffed shots, but there was some positivity in our play. It’s still all rather ominous though. We don’t look like a team with any belief or urgency from the offset. We sort of fall into a position of confidence after we snatch an equaliser. How about starting the game with the pretence we are already a goal down? Arguably, we are with Bale in the side.
Ok, cheap shot. I apologise. But how gutted and depressed must he feel to see us score moments after being subbed? Regardless of the voodoo, I think it’s unfair to be too harsh on the team today. They gave it a go. 15 shots on target, 11 off. James saved wonderfully from Defoe and Lennon (on one occasion when he actually put some direction and power behind the ball). Bent's miss will haunt me all the up to the next Prem game. Serves me right for laughing at Zaki’s embarrassment yesterday when he also missed an open goal when it was seemingly impossible to do so.
The fact we created so much but didn’t punish a Pompey side who weren’t too shy of goal either, highlights the desperate need for Redknapp to sign a player who will partner Defoe to (near enough) perfection.
Pav, as much as I want him to do well, isn’t the right player for the current predicament. He still looks a little lost, and although I prefer not to believe that his interpreter runs up and down the sidelines during training, translating phrases like ‘flick it on’ and ‘run into space’, I think he will benefit a team that’s balanced and winning. I suddenly see the appeal of Jones (Sunderland), although the asking price is ridiculous. Is he as accomplished a top flight goal scorer as let’s say, Darren Bent was, before we signed him? No. And look at how average that particular £15M turned out to be. The goals scored by Bent at Charlton, a team who worked hard on the counter, was never really suited for Spurs. You don't buy a particular style of player before you need him. We bought him when we already had 3 top class players. He was bought on the back of the goals scored and the hype surrounding him. No margin of error this time round. When I said near enough to perfection, I meant it. Defoe needs the perfect foil (or vice-versa).
If Villa bid £8M for bent, then we should add a bit of salt and pepper, a dollop of ketchup, and then bite their appetising hand off. Our Russian lad should play from the bench and spend the rest of the season working hard to settle in England and learn the language. As much as we cry out for a quality DM, we are just as desperate for a quality striker.
Add to that a centre-back. King went off injured. His replacement, Dawson, was very good in his place. But we need to start looking hard at bringing someone to partner Woodgate on a more permanent basis. King, we love him, but the team as a whole is more important than one individual player. The defence has to be strong and his cameos are not enough for us to be able to drive through some consistency at the back.
Back to Bale. Remember why we signed him? He’s a talent. Fantastic going forward, not brilliant defensively, but a wonderful young player. He has not lost those abilities. He is simply a wonderful player that is in rotten rotten form. When you miss Ekotto at left-back, then you know things are bad. Gareth's confidence is shot to pieces, and our much publicised lack of depth is apparent here when we have to select a player that is struggling. I hope Spurs keep the faith in the long run with Bale. We have a habit of buying young players with tons of potential for massive fees (we basically pay what the player would be worth if he turned out to be good four years from now) and then sell them if they don’t have a great start. Kaboul anyone? £8M for that gem.
So back to the game. We need to be winning these home matches. I know we missed out on the giddy heights of 12th spot, but it’s not relevant thanks to everyone practically being equal down at the bottom. The Prem won’t begin to shape up down there for another 5 or games. Might even take more. Not worth the risk in waiting and re-evaluating week to week. We need to start collating the points with that much needed urgency.
Winning today would also mean nothing if we don’t beat Stoke in our next match. It seems we are forced into re-evaluating the mathematics from week to week. That luxury will soon be gone as we move closer to game 38. Don't know about you, but going to Liverpool needing to win to stay-up on the final day of the season isn't something that I want to experience. Even if they had a dodgy lasagne, I still wouldn't fancy our chances.
By the end of Jan, we’ll hopefully have several new recruits. You would hope we'd be a far more stronger outfit come Feb, and we'd need to be to beat the top table sides (as we can't appear to beat anyone below mid-table). Points have to start rolling in.
Imagine having Berba and Keane upfront today. How many do you reckon we would have scored based on chances created? Add to it the creativity and space created by a winning partnership as our two departed players shared, and we’d be laughing. Throw in a DM and if you want to be cheeky, a left-winger and the doom and gloom will be non-existent.
What we got instead was a little bit of the old anti-luck (that Bent miss and an early Defoe chance which should have been on target). Good luck is something you get when you will yourself forwards, it smiles on you not when you are down in the dumps but when you strive to get to a higher place. Far too many of our players are feeling sorry for themselves.
Lennon played well, and is arguably our best player this season. He’s even learnt to plant a cross on a forwards head. O’Hara was busy, but is always prone to one error, which can usually lead to disaster. He got away with it today. Modric, oh Modric. I really do hope Appiah is signed by us (as I doubt Palacios is going to bother with City throwing money his way) because Luka needs a strong centre-pairing to allow him the freedom to create. He played well second half, but his back-turning moment to a tackle which saw David Nugent almost (should have) scored is not the type of thing you want to see in a dogfight. Zokora was Zokora. His first touch is Sutcliffesque, and his another player who struggles with the simple things.
Bentley wasn’t too shabby when he came on. Apart from one or two set-pieces. He created that chance for Bent. Would have been a perfect assist that. He definitely has the look of a player feeling sorry for himself. But his performance was encouraging.
Defoe took his goal very well (glad to have him back), through the legs of Sol Campbell. Nice touch. And how refreshing was it not to spend the whole game singing silly songs about this ex-player? Although when the Park Lane hummed the controversial re-worked Lord of the Dance song, I even saw a copper smile.
La la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la la
La la la la la la la la
Overall, decent game, decent performance – and on another day, we could have won it (but on the flip side, Pompey could have scored one or two more themselves....and Nugent scored, so that sums that up). David James played his part, as he usually does when he faces us.
Stoke at home MUST BE, HAS TO BE three points for us. Much like today was, but the Prem, as I said, allows for this re-evaluation. For now.
Redknapp did well today considering the players who got injured (Pav shouldn’t be out for too long, but King is ‘long term'). And Gomes, Corluka and Lennon all played on with slight knocks. Harry could only make the one tactical substitution today.
Bit more application required, urgency too and whoever we bring in should see to it. I hope. It’s a broken record, but formations and tactics will work better if the right players are in the right positions.
It’s crazy that around 9 months ago, White Hart Lane was the goal-scoring capital of the world. Blink, and you’d miss one. 4-4’s all the range, yet today, although defensively we have one of the best records at home, offensively it’s the worst in all of the leagues.
Obviously, we need to be running around a lot more and sticking it in the net.