I was going to write about the north-west intercity rivalry of Saturday but I had to go to a wedding, which I was admirably late for to catch the full 90. Needless to say I was in no condition to write up/accurately remember the game come Sunday.
This didn’t matter anyway as there was a football feast to watch on the day of rest. A game of two freekicks was followed by a fantastic game at St. James’ Park.Now, everyone on the ‘Blogosphere’ is discussing the greatness of this Newcastle team, so I thought I’d look at the other side of the coin.
The result I blame on Harry Redknapp, the performance I blame on the Tottenham players. I realised there are less problems with a Zimbabwean bank loan than with that Spurs squad. So let’s break it down and have a look…
Let’s start at the back. I know Heurelho Gomes’ hands are occasionally coated in Castrol GTX rather than gloves and, as a team aiming high, mistakes aren’t cool, so Brad Friedel’s appointment made sense. In every club there is always the odd species known as ‘the reserve goalkeeper’ – he is frequently younger, less experienced, and worse than the starting goalie.
What I fail to understand is why Spurs have the perfectly competent Friedel between the sticks, a man who once kept a 15 hour+ clean sheet in the Eredivisie, And a man who was voted Chelsea’s player of the year 2001-02, racking up 142 Premier League appearances. The wasted wages must be huge, they need to let Gomes and Cudicini go and play football and get a promising young keeper in their place.
In a way Redknapp’s hands were tied when selecting the defense; the searingly quick Kyle Walker looks like a good player (certainly a lot better than the dreadfully unmaneuverable Corluka), and with Gallas (who was one of Spur’s best players last season) and Dawson out, the beasty combination of Kaboul and King was obvious.
There’s another problem – Ledley King and his knee made of Sugar Puffs. There’s no doubt the Lilywhites are a different team with him. The two goals they conceded after King left the field at St. James’ was equal to the two they had conceded in the last four games with him at the back. He is great, a center-back that would get into any team, but he isn’t sustainable player.
In order to be successful with Ledley you need an equally good defender to take his place so your form doesn’t dip every time he disintegrates. But that leaves the question: what use is Ledley if you have someone who can play as well but for more than four games in a row?
The back four was rounded off with that other ‘footballer’. Seriously, playing Assou-Ekotto is the opposite of playing a defender; he actually sets up attacks for the opposition.
The midfield is even more of a headache. Spurs have midfielders like Robin van Persie has bad team-mates; too many and everywhere. The issue begins with transfers.
After Aaron Lennon failed to do anything for a season, Spurs needed to sign a winger and, even if you think dos Santos is good enough (definitely is), you would agree they needed to sign a defender (most goals against in the top eight last season). Perhaps with Adebayor only being on loan, and Defoe as the only plausible back-up striker, you may think they needed to sign a forward (you’d be right). So what did ‘Arry do? He signed a 31-year old center-mid. Where is logic in that?
Parker had a great season with West Ham, it was fun to watch. He was amazing; full of pride, energy and graft. He showed a passion for the game that would appeal to someone like Redknapp. But Wilson Palacios, Tom ‘McDonalds’ Huddlestone and Sandro couldn’t have all been devoid of passion for defensive midfield duty.
After the central defensive role is decided, ‘Arry has to itch his head over the mess of the other three/four positions. With no faith in dos Santos and Lennon not firing, the width is dictated by the vastly overrated, monkey-faced Gareth Bale (don’t get me started). But who does that leave on the right wing?
Well for the Newcastle game, Modric began on the right and Bale on the left. A move that fell completely flat on its face. Bale:
- Has: Crazy pace
- Doesn’t have: A right foot
With his pace Bale seems to be able to run past any fallback, meaning he can get good crosses in with his competent left foot. On the right he has to check back because his right boot only serves as a fashion accessory, losing all the space he gained.
‘But this leaves him to have a shot’ you say in your idiotic tone. Correct, but why an earth would you want that? The goals that made him so overrated (Inter Milan) came exclusively from the left.
On the other side Modric was having an equally bad time at St. James’.
Yes, he looked good when running forward with the ball, a real game changer. But exactly where did he take the ball and where did the real threat begin/move break down? In the center.
Every good run Modric made was spent getting off the touchline and to the centre where he belongs. The 15 yards coming inside was all it took for Cheik Tiote to catch him and drag the attack down.
Playing Bale on the wrong wing was dealt with by swapping the players back, but Modric’s woes increased. I couldn’t believe how often I saw him defending, an area he should never be involved with. Surprisingly he did okay, but he still gave away free kicks along his adopted right wing area. His booking was testament to the frustrations he must have been feeling during the game.
Rafael van der Vaart would be sympathetic to this plight having endured a similar role against Arsenal; his inability or unwillingness to defend leading to one of Arsenal’s goals. vdV would’ve been similarly frustrated when he was taken off just past the hour in Newcastle, and he is not a player you want causing problems in the dressing room.
Raffa brings us to the final piece of the team, the forwards. vdV likes playing in the hole behind a lone front-man, and this hasn’t gone well for Jermaine Defoe since Crouch left and great Emmanuel Adebayor arrived. Admittedly Defoe didn’t have the best season for Spurs last year, but again he was playing second fiddle to Crouch and vdV.
I was really annoyed with headlines that credited Redknapp’s ‘wise’ substitution. It is hardly genius to bring on England’s second best striker, a player with a real clinical finish, when you need to score a goal. A fact the manager acknowledged after the game.
And that brings me on to my last point. With Wayne Rooney out for England’s group games at Polkraine, they need a goal scorer. Depending on the seasons of: Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Bobby Zamora, and Andy Carroll, surely Defoe is the man to step up.
But if he doesn’t get the games he won’t get the role, as proved by Capello with Adam Johnson, and we know what that means…