Solace in Defeat

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Following defeat to Chelsea 12 days ago, I wrote an article of ‘Embarrassment’ and Tim Sherwood spoke of the lack of character or ‘dependables’ within the squad and demanded a reaction. Despite plunging further into doom and gloom in the first leg against Benfica our two performances since then, against Arsenal and the return vs Benfica have been rather more encouraging; albeit still in ultimate defeat in one and elimination in the other.

Both performances have come with somewhat weakened teams, especially in Portugal, where players on the fringes have really stood up and been counted. The players seem to have responded to Sherwood’s words post-Chelsea, and it is those ‘squad players’ who have responded well and done the club proud with two fighting performances. The Arse were lucky, they got away with it, a performance systematic of our season; controlling of ball and game but not taking our chances when they came. Tough luck. Benfica tonight meanwhile was different, whilst we started well and had the better of the play to the half hour mark when Benfica scored; the reaction, yes a late one, but a reaction nevertheless, saw us for once play fast, attractive and direct and thus we caused them real problems and probably should have forced extra time. If only we could recreate these last ten minutes in Lisbon more often….

Two players that have really stood out for me in our last two performances, are two that often get overlooked or slated; they aren’t fan favourites but do have potential. Firstly; Nabil Bentaleb, whom I believe is often somewhat unfairly rated. He has arguably been one of the more consistent performers since breaking through to the team, and he does seem to care; he’ll put his foot in, run around, and after all he is only 19. Admittedly, he seems to do a lot of nothing much; neither playing killer balls nor running at opponents but he does do well defensively. Personally, I think he certainly warrants a place over Paulinho in the starting XI currently, for he has quite frankly been awful after a promising opening two months. Does the price tag in a perverse way protect the Brazilian? Maybe so but he has to perform better. Back to Bentaleb anyhow; he’s 19 and has great potential, yes Sherwood clearly loves him, and perhaps he needs to be careful not to over use the kid but so far he’s stood up to the Premier League and Europa League well; none more so than against Benfica today where quite frankly, he was superb- showing he can play at the top level.

Secondly, a mention for Nacer Chadli. He had a tough start at Spurs, not really influencing the games when he had the chance at the start of the season, when he was starting regularly. This led to many taking an immediate poor opinion of him since then, and like Bentaleb has been the regular jab-taker and often scapegoat over social media. However, following injury, Chadli has returned under Sherwood and looked fitter and more confident, and thus we are beginning to see little sparkles of what he’s capable of with goals against Newcastle and tonight in Lisbon. Yes, he also missed two sitters against some team in red on Sunday but that happens. He’s played well since returning, and if he can become more consistent and at 24 there is still progressing for him to do yet, he could become quite a player; after all he has all the physical attributes (pace, strength etc.). I just hope he remains fit and seemingly most importantly confident, and then he can begin to win more fans over.

So indeed, we are out of the Europa League, and well off the Champions League now, but there is some solace to be found in defeat. Sherwood asked for a response, he got it, and now we must continue in a positive light, and use the end of this season to build confidence, character and a foundation for next.

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  1. What I took out of the game tonight is we were quite good in the first half hour. Looked the more likely to score, but as soon as they scored it was like we gave up, even though it meant we still needed to score 3 goals. It wasn't until Chadli scored that we came to life and had some belief in ourselves. Then we got the 2nd and anything could have happened. Even a neutral must have thought we should have had a penalty, but yet they got one for almost the exact same offence, albeit Sandro came in a little stronger because he's well hard.
    End of the day again, we didn't do enough, story of our lives eh?
    Regarding Bentaleb and Chadli, I thought they both had really good games, Bentaleb's was probably one of the best I've seen out of him, and I've been a big basher of him. It was the kind of performance that will see him start for the next 10 games. I've always kind of liked Chadli and tonight he showed me why. He was one of the few that seemed to really want it, really playing his guts out. I'm hoping these 2 players can show the same for the rest of the season, especially Bentaleb who proved tonight that he really can play, so prove us all wrong and show us that you are worthy of wearing a Tottenham shirt, COYS

  2. When was Nacer a regular starter? When we get a decent coach we'll see the best from our signings. Tim has been forced to choose results over finding the right balance and AVB was cut short trying to find one. We played well last night but spending the kind if money we did has only made things more difficult and now everyone thinks we're under achieving. In truth we're now a mid table side posing as top 4 contenders.

    • In first 12 matches in all comps Chadli started 6, was injured for 4 so not in squad & sub for 2, before injury took over. Was regular part of early season team. But do agree we're a top 7 side posing as top 4 contenders on recent history; decent coach and we'll do better.

  3. Agree with comments about Bentaleb. As I said in my last article, he was incredibly negative against Arsenal on Sunday. Against Benfica, though, he looked a different player – not only tidying things up but also playing lots of good forward balls. That's what we need to see from him. Charlie too played well. Would possibly benefit from a run in the team. Soldado cannot play lone striker role. We need to have him playing off Ade.

    • Completely agree Tony, Bentaleb stepped up last night was industrious but also positive, driving the team forwards. Certainly think Chadli needs a run in the team and Soldado cant play the lone role.


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