This has been an awful week for Tottenham. Another one. We put in an utterly abysmal performance at home to Benfica in Europe on Thursday and lost 0-1 to Arsenal at White Hart Lane. Here is a short collection of thoughts from this week…
The shambles that was the Benfica game.
Where do you even begin? I had one of my worst evenings in many years on Thursday night, as Benfica came away 1-3 winners in the Europa League. There was so much wrong with our display. So, so much.
1. The attitude of the players – It looked very much like Tim had totally lost the dressing room on Thursday night. The players looked dejected and you could quite clearly see that a number of them just were not putting the required effort into the game.
Aaron Lennon has been at Spurs many years, has just made his 250th Premier League appearance and has been a terrific servant to the club – but what exactly does he do? A few quick flurries of form every season seem to be keeping him at the club and Thursday typified him of late: lightweight, ineffective and offering very little. When Aaron leaves I will be devastated, obviously, but he really needs to do more.
Paulinho is saving himself for the World Cup now. I’m convinced. He knows he is nailed on to start for Scolari in Brazil’s midfield and is cruising at club level now. I would be reluctant to pick him now until the end of the season.
The other player who annoyed me was Vertonghen. Body language is always an issue for Jan, and his constant complaining at players around him doesn’t help anybody.
2. The team selection and Sherwood’s ‘tactics’ – As you know, I am a massive Sherwood fan compared to a lot of our fans. He has done a decent job given the circumstances and has surpassed expectation on the whole. That being said, his ‘honeymoon period’ is well and truly over and he got everything wrong on Thursday. Firstly, Harry Kane. I was happy to see him get a start, but I think all 36,000 people in White Hart Lane knew that was the wrong call. It meant playing with an open midfield, and Benfica exploited us to great effect, especially when Sandro was booked. Persisting with Eriksen on the left was wrong as well. When Rose plays left-back with Eriksen ahead of him, the natural width he provides does benefit us, but with two right footed players on the left side, they naturally drift inside and the middle of the park was congested and we had no joy. Two huge errors in personnel choice from Sherwood. As for the tactics, well, there weren’t any. We lumped the ball up to Adebayor and looked to win the second ball every single time. It was embarrassing to watch. Sherwood is one of those managers (just like Harry Redknapp) who is good at motivating squad members, massaging egos and encouraging players to win their individual battles. This gets the best out of some members of the team (like Adebayor), but a lack of tactical knowledge means we frequently come away with losses against teams of any quality.
3. The Benfica fans – I was very disappointed with the number of Benfica fans allowed to be sat in the home section on Thursday. I was sat in East Upper, and around 300 of them had collected next to me. Obviously, this is wrong, and would only happen in England. Our British attitude is too polite and cautious, and this should never have been allowed to happen. I saw one fan smoking, and huge swathes of Benfica fans standing up throughout the game. Any Spurs fan would have been ejected from White Hart Lane for these offences and yet no Benfica fans which I saw were. I paid £44 for my ticket, and had my match day experience affected by sat next to loud, abusive Benfica fans. I saw multiple fans complain to stewards, yet no action was taken. Shocking.
The Derby defeat to Arsenal
Our miserable week was capped off with a home defeat to Arsenal, after Rosicky scored his second wonder goal this season and the only goal of the game early on. I said to a friend earlier, that this was the least distraught I have ever been after a loss to Arsenal, and I believe there are many positives we can take from this game. This match was all about getting a response, and this was certainly what happened. Vertonghen, Kaboul, Rose and Naughton were very good for the most part, Adebayor looked hungry, Sandro looked as enthusiastic as ever and Spurs looked very up for the battle from kick-off. Bentaleb and Sandro kept possession moving well and if Chadli had finished his chances, we could have got a result. I was very happy with the team selection as well; Tim acknowledged Paulinho and Lennon’s poor performances and dropped them. He moved Eriksen back into his more natural position and played with five midfielders which kept Arsenal at bay on the whole. I thought Tim got it spot on today and deserves credit. Tim selected two out and out wingers, and we finished the game with about 30 crosses. It wasn’t exactly a tactical master-class, but you could see that Sherwood at least recognised that our performance on Thursday was unacceptable and changes needed to be made. I still think Sherwood should go in the summer, but only because of the nature of the club at the moment. I maintain he is doing a good job under the circumstances.
Is Lewis Holtby better than Christian Eriksen?
‘I thought this was a decent article until I read the bit about Holtby and Eriksen! You are clueless!’ I can see somebody commenting that. Please, hear me out.
When we loaned out Lewis Holtby in January, I had no qualms whatsoever. I didn’t think he had a place in the squad, and that Christian Eriksen would fill the void left by Holtby suitably. I’m not necessarily wrong but Christian Eriksen has been rather disappointing of late, and isn’t contributing to games as much anybody would have hoped. I know Eriksen is only young, and does carry a genuine goal threat (more so than Holtby), but after two more dud performances against Benfica and Arsenal I couldn’t help but have the debate in my mind as to whether Holtby has a better all-round game than Eriksen.
I thought Lewis was having a good season before he was shipped off to Fulham. He was much improved from last season, and seemed to be continuing his transition to English football. I have written on thespursweb.com before about how much I admire Holtby’s attitude and what he brings to the side. With Tim recently questioning the commitment of the players, was it wise to loan out the player with a work rate like Holtby’s? He always seemed to be involved in games and made some clever passes. Everyone outside of Tottenham assumes Eriksen is on another level to Holtby, but I really don’t think this is the case at all. They are very similar in ability.
Is Holtby better than Eriksen? The jury is out. Whilst Eriksen will pop up with a goal or a free-kick screamer, I believe Holtby is more influential to a game on a more regular basis. In this respect, Holtby is a better player. Eriksen will be a fine ‘number ten’ in the future, and has undoubted quality, but he really has gone missing for Tottenham lately.
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