So, once again Spurs find themselves facing a highly uncertain run-in till the end of the season, Deja-Vu has struck again at White Hart Lane leaving that all-too familiar knot in their loyal supporter’s stomachs. It all promised to be oh so different this year after an extremely impressive unbeaten streak that saw victories against the likes of hated rivals Arsenal and West Ham and also picking up a hard-earned point at home to champions-elect Man United. But in the midst of all the hype were the super-human performances of Gareth Bale masking the fact that in reality Spurs weren’t exactly playing champagne football?
Let’s look at the facts shall we? true Spurs were earning victories at both home and on the road against the likes of West Brom, Newcastle and the Hammers but Bale aside, were the performances that impressive? leads were thrown away in the Europa League against Lyon and again against both Newcastle and West Ham in the Premier Leaue with only Bale’s match winning brilliance resulting in three points when it looked like we might have had to settle for one. Then there was the F.A. Cup debacle at Leeds which proved that the squad is nowhere near as strong as once-thought. True, the performances against Arsenal and Inter Milan at home showed signs of improvement but when Bale’s booking meant he would miss the return leg in Milan did we all not think the same thing? did that old familiar nagging voice in your head not say “Ahh….hang on a minute…this isn’t over yet”.
So what did the events of the past fortnight tell us? AVB’s tactics are at times naive? yes, his team selections and at times tactics have been questionable to say the least, the idea of playing 4-4-2 against Inter was foolhardy at best and leaving out the likes of Lennon and Holtby left us looking much too narrow. He followed this up by leaving out Walker and Defoe against Fulham and opting to play Assou-Ekotto at left midfield, this left the team looking even more unbalanced and out of the two front men he started in Milan I think everyone would have expected Adebayor to be dropped instead of Defoe.
The other and more glaringly obvious lesson we have learned over the past few weeks is that Bale aside, our key players have just not been performing to their usual high standards of late. Worryingly this is obvious in all areas of the pitch starting with the back four and finishing with the strikers. Kyle Walker has found it extremely difficult this season to scale the heights of last year when he was deservedly named PFA Young Player of the year, his mistakes have all too often come at key times with the errors against Chelsea and more recently Liverpool being case-in points. In midfield Scott Parker seems to have missed a step with his long-term injury, like a lot of supporters I expected him to grab his chance after Sandro’s injury with both hands, expecting the dynamic, probing play of last year to return with a vengeance. Alas, despite flashes, this has not been the case. Part of that problem, much as I hate to say it, maybe down to his engine room partner Dembele. The Belgian is a joy to watch at times, watching him drifting effortlessly past players is like watching a Rolls Royce shift through the gears but on the downside, his goals return has been poor (the strike in Lyon being a glorious exception) and one always seems to get the feeling that he and Parker are still not at ease playing with each other. Up front has been the most worrying development of all, without resorting to the usual diatribe, Adebayor looks a pale imitation of the player he was last year and Defoe’s lack of confidence has been evident since his return from injury. Unfortunately, this doesn’t paint a pretty picture as we approach the business end of the season.
The good news? All is not lost with two key points: the International break couldn’t come at a better time and last year’s heartbreaking experience of letting a seemingly unassailable lead slip. The lack of games this weekend gives AVB a chance to address the current problems and work on regaining some confidence into the squad, not to mention giving the squad a much-needed break, we all must cross our fingers and hope that everyone comes from the break unscathed. Last year’s experience must also be a huge factor, the feeling of sheer and utter disappointment must still be fresh in the player’s minds and hopefully should spur (pardon the pun) them on to set things right after the miserable performances of the last few games. All this is dependant on the afore-mentioned players stepping up to the plate and getting some of their “mojo” back, there is no immediate need to panic and we all know that doing things the easy way was never a part of the Spurs mantra…if it was we would all just be supporting Arsenal wouldn’t we?!
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