Whilst trouble was a-brewing around Tottenham police station on Saturday evening, a far friendlier affair was taking place just a mile or so up the High Road where we were slightly fortunate to see off a neat and technically efficient Athletic Bilbao.
The visitors will be concerned about their inability to convert chances and make the most of their undoubted first half superiority. The Basque no 7 Iker Muniain in particular looked dangerous as Bilbao repeatedly got behind or through our feeble looking back four. The sum of our efforts in the first period were Lennon twice getting to the byeline, once forcing the keeper to come out quickly and once setting up Kranjcar for a scuffed pot at goal.
We began with only Pav up front & five across the middle, we still looked overrun in midfield though as the ball was slickly moved around by the away team whilst our boys struggled to get a foot in. Big Tom in particular had to resort to rough tactics to get into the game. Pienaar pulled up after half an hour or so and Modric came on to a rousing reception. It’d be nice to know whether he was thinking “Phew!” or “Mugs” as he skipped on. Harry presumably was trying the 4-5-1 for a reason but why he did it with Pav as the ‘1’ I’ve no idea. It’s not news that playing the big man up front isn’t his game and he hardly had a meaningful kick in his forty-five minutes. We went into half time thankful to be only one down.
All change for the second half as Bale, Kaboul, Defoe, Crouch, Walker and Friedel joined the fray in place of Jenas, Bassong, Pav, Gomes, Huddlestone & Corluka and we switched to 4-4-2. Dawson, BAE, Lennon and Kranjcar remained of the starting XI. Things looked better straight away as we started to carry more of a threat, especially through Bale. Crouch and Defoe quickly got on the end of cutbacks from the Welshman and Lennon to put us into the lead and though that was the end of the scoring it wasn’t for the want of trying as both sides went close with Llorente hitting the bar for them and Kranjcar having a pen saved for us. Niko’s best chance of getting in the side is his goal scoring ability and he looked crestfallen when his sidefooted effort was saved.
Our most effective attacking moments came from balls flighted at Crouch and so it was interesting to compare him to the Bilbao big lad up front, the often linked Llorente. He looked decent enough but whether he’s any better that anything we’ve already got is debatable on this showing. He held off Dawson without too much trouble and showed good footwork but wasn’t a threat as much as those running from midfield. Maybe in a competitive game he puts himself round a bit more.
In theory we’re only a week away from the start of the season (though the police might have something to say about 36,000 people descending on N17 at the current time especially as the area where most of the trouble took place is between Seven Sisters and the ground). To me our lack of personnel changes is reflected on the field where we don’t look much different to last year. Obviously Harry hasn’t put out his first team in any game so unfair to make sweeping statements.
Other points of note were that Walker’s energy going forward is excellent but needs to be combined with a touch more guile, Bassong still looks half asleep a lot of the time, Friedel didn’t look too happy about coming for crosses and they’ve got padded seats in the upper tier of the West Stand. I never knew that before.
Have something to tell us about this article?