I took the opportunity of taking my seven-year-old to his first Spurs game against Morecambe thanks to an excellent family ticket offer by the club.
Fortunately, we were able to see three goals but for 70-odd minutes it was looking like the classic initiation to the ranks of being a Spurs fans. The realisation of perennial disappointment can wait for another day! While my sons were happy to see the introduction of messers Skipp, Kane and Moura to the more grizzled Spurs fans this was a harrowing reminder of the lack of squad depth that the Spurs have within their ranks.
Either side of the Christmas break we saw two sides to Conte’s new-look Tottenham. An excellent 2-2 draw with Liverpool showed that Conte has made an almost instant impact with energy, desire and increased fitness re-introduced to the team. This is very similar to Tuchel’s impact at Chelsea last season when Lampard had been labouring slightly with the same squad. It just goes to show that ‘current’ world-class managers really make a difference. It also highlights the glaring error by those responsible for appointing Nuno but that is for another day.
The busy Christmas period saw Spurs comfortably dispatch Crystal Palace by three goals to nil but then was followed two rather lacklustre performances against Southampton and Watford. Spurs were held one all at St Mary’s before a 96th-minute goal gave them a one-nil victory at Vicarage Road. This had the feeling of a Pochettino away win. Barring the last 12-18 months of his reign, Pochettino seemed to find a way to get results away from home – an area where Spurs have historically been ‘fragile’.
While they were two relatively poor performances, the 21 shots at Vicarage Road did show that they at least Spurs have their radar back following a couple of games under Nuno when ‘zero’ was recorded in the shots on target column. The winner was eventually scored by Davinson Sanchez who is a prime example of a player who Conte hasn’t pre-judged and has afforded a clean sheet of paper. I just hope that come the end of the season, the two points dropped at Southampton don’t come back to haunt us.
I do always try to find the positives in the team’s performance and was one of the first to acknowledge that it is a different proposition trying to break down teams that are set up first and foremost to not concede versus a team that play free-flowing football and are looking to outscore the opposition.
Spurs have always played better against teams that attack and Conte’s style of play appears to be conducive to a counter-attacking approach. That said, this is where the new manager will earn his money. The competitive nature of the league is one of the reasons why this is one of the best leagues in the world with most teams very hard to beat and Spurs will need to find a way of breaking down the opposition.
Maybe the recent results will just halt the fans from getting carried away with Conte’s start and more importantly make Daniel Levy hunt again for a wallet that may have been put away after the Liverpool game!
Moving on to the FA Cup game and I am afraid there is no excuse for failing to create chances against a Morecombe side sitting in the League One relegation zone. While on paper the line-up was littered with Internationals it was soon apparent that Spurs lack depth beyond the main starting 11. A number of players were playing their first games for a while which again is more evidence that Conte doesn’t trust them enough to regularly rotate them into his Premier League eleven.
While you would have expected the fringe players to be ‘chomping at the bit’ the performances of most players in the first half were very poor to say the least. A number of miss-placed passes possibly being attributed to a lack of established partnerships throughout an eleven that probably won’t have ever-lined up together. This is being extremely generous though……
I felt for a young Joe Roden who, while out of the team, seems to have been made into a far better player than maybe his performances suggest. He started very nervously and the lack of understanding with Gollini contributed to the corner that resulted in Morecombe’s goal. No Spurs manager seems to ‘fancy’ Roden which makes me think that there are things that they are seeing in training. Spurs fans have always seen a raw potential and championed his inclusion. He has also produced some very solid performances at international level for Wales. Sadly like so many of the players the audition was failed.
Another of the youngsters who seems to be struggling at the moment is Japhet Tanganga. A player with tremendous potential but being blooded at centre half where there is no hiding place and mistakes invariably result in goals. Perhaps once Romero is fit a championship loan move would suit. Alternatively, a spell at right-back (where he had his best game for Spurs under Mourinho) would aid his development. Starting ‘would be’ centre-halves at right-back is a well-trodden path – if it was good enough for Jamie Carragher…
Dele was another player who should have been desperate to impress Conte. The young Englishman had an excellent game against Liverpool but has seemed to fade in recent weeks. This very similar to his early performances under Mourinho where he excelled only for this to be another false dawn. I didn’t however feel he was any worse than a number of other players, and he was playing out of position, however, with all respect to Morecambe this should have been a game he was bossing.
As is so often the case, it was left to Lucas Moura and Harry Kane to rescue Spurs. While Kane’s record speaks for itself, Lucas Moura is increasingly playing the role of talisman for this Spurs team. His direct running, injecting some much-needed energy that had been lacking all afternoon. Credit must also go to young Oliver Skipp who was the third of the impact substitutes (quite a compliment for someone with relatively little experience) and immediately got Spurs to move the ball quicker. I liked the look of his brief partnership with Harry Winks and hopefully, this may provide another option for Conte in the coming weeks.
While Harry Winks has come in for criticism from Spurs fans he is probably the other grateful recipient of Conte’s clean slate along with Sanchez and his recent performances are much-improved. I hope he stays as there is a lot to be said for players who come through the ranks and want to play for the team. I would start 11 Harry Winks’ before I started Tanguy Ndombele………….
While his performance was poor (as with most of the starting eleven) it was the way in which he left the pitch when substituted that really infuriated the Spurs fans. Despite losing 1-0 at the time the Frenchman’s exit was one usually seen when you are ahead and ‘playing for time’. I don’t usually like to hear players booed (I don’t believe they were aimed at Dele) but to see a player with such a blatant disregard for the club he is playing for sticks 2 fingers up at the supporters.
I hope that the look given to him by Eric Dier was translated into stern words in the dressing room after the game.
Unfortunately, Mr Levy needs to accept that there will be a significant loss on the hefty transfer fee and he needs to get the £200k off the wage bill as soon as possible. I haven’t worked out how much money (including wages) we have wasted on this player as frankly, it would be too demoralising!
As well as enjoying taking my children to the games, I also like introducing them to Spurs rich history. Having seen the way Tanguay left the field I showed them the picture of Dave Mckay and Billy Bremner – this is what it should mean to play for the club!
This game will have provided Conte with further ammunition for his upcoming meetings with Paratici and Levy. Not least, surely we can’t go another window without signing a striker!
I am not hugely confident ahead of the Chelsea game but if we start with the right mindset (and don’t gift any more own goals) then you never know
After all, To Dare is to Do.
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