I knew it. There was that feeling in the air. All the top team have won their games and earlier in the day Liverpool escaped with a win over Swansea. All the pressure was on Tottenham to win and Spurs are never reliable in these kinds of situations. They proved that once again today against a Norwich side that have one of the worst home records in the league. Tottenham had the best away record coming into this game and that provided some encouragement before the game but I knew it, too much pressure for Spurs to handle.
Injury and fitness problems forced Tim Sherwood’s hands as he had to change up his defence. Walker and Kaboul were not ready to face Norwich today and Sherwood had to keep the back four which struggled time and time again against Dnipro on Thursday. Sherwood kept the rest of the team from the convincing win over Newcastle two weeks ago which meant Bentaleb and Paulinho would play in more advanced roles while Capoue protected them. Dembele played on the wing once again but the problem this time is without Walker, Dembele did not have a constant overlapping right back which would allow him to play in a central role. Lennon was used as an inverted winger again and Sherwood trusted him and Adebayor to combine well in the attacking third.
Tottenham started the game slowly once again as if they forgot how well they started against Newcastle. The passing wasn’t there the tempo was slow and the defenders saw much of the action. Dembele’s missed touch after Lennon’s through ball was the only piece of action that closely excited the fans. Then, another injury problem hit Tim Sherwood. Etienne Capoue started hobbling after a Norwich corner and had to be replaced by Nacer Chadli, which allowed Dembele to play in the middle while Bentaleb took the position of Capoue in front of the back four. Norwich’s press was effective as Vertonghen and Dawson either had to play it back to Hugo Lloris or kick it away to safety.
Norwich started to gain confidence with this poor Spurs performance and attacked the Tottenham defence by some dangerous looking crosses from Snodgrass and Olsson but there was no real chance for either side. Tottenham’s lack of movement was evident and it was making it hard for the players to find space. At times two, sometimes three, players were occupying the same space. With almost no passes coming his way, Adebayor started to grow frustrated and came back to his back four almost to get a touch on the ball leaving the Norwich penalty box empty. Sometimes even from the attacking penalty box Tottenham managed to go back as far as Vertonghen and Dawson. At the end of the first half, it was goalless and Tottenham was as poor as they could have been. That meant there was only room for improvement.
Second half started with the unthinkable. Bentaleb lost the ball in the middle of the park and Norwich started the counter. Van Wolfswinkel gave it to Snodgrass and he first shook the challenge of Rose and then curled it away from Lloris to give Norwich the lead. Tottenham did not respond to the goal well either as Norwich’s pressure kept them from even getting close to the attacking third. Norwich controlled the possession and looked more dangerous. It was obvious that Tim Sherwood had to switch it up if it wanted to get something out of this game. Under all these circumstances, Tottenham got a lucky break as Bassong lost the ball to Adebayor leaving him one on one against Ruddy but the Togolese’s first shot took the ball away from him, John Ruddy saved and the chance went begging. In the 65th minute, Tim Sherwood finally made his first change by bringing on Soldado for Paulinho and changed the formation to 4-4-2. It looked like the perfect change as Soldado found his chance seconds after but like in every other game, he couldn’t convert it. From that point on, Tottenham got the control of the game, kept possession and put a few crosses in the box. The game slowed down a little bit in the next 10 minutes but it got faster with Snodgrass’ free kick and Chadli’s missed chance in the box. Then in the 83rd minute, it looked like the game was out of sight. First the incredible free kick from Bradley Johnson, then Redmond’s missed one on one which brought a save from Lloris. Then Gary Hooper broke away on the right hand side and left it to Leroy Fer who couldn’t get a touch on it. Tottenham tried a last minute pressure but it did not bring anything in the end and referee blew the whistle to conclude a disappointing day for Tottenham players, staff and fans.
All in all, Tottenham shot themselves in the foot by losing one of the easy fixtures of the year. This also wiped away any good memory of the Newcastle game 2 weeks ago and put Tottenham in a really tough situation before the month of March when Spurs will face Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Cardiff is next and anything less than 3 points will end the hopes of a top 4 finish and put the 5th place into jeopardy as Manchester United looked to gain momentum and confidence.
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