The Blog that's not always wrong.

Monday, 29 September 2008

The view from the bridge

At the risk of getting my head bitten off at this depressing moment let's look at this from Ramos's standpoint. This is not what I think and I don't necessarily agree with his attitude if indeed it is his attitude. I am a flimsy supporter by nature, depressed one week and elated the next though I continually exhort my fellow fans to be positive and supportive at all times. What's the point of living if you are not. But that's only a point of view and I find it hard to maintain in real life. I manage to get it all under control only when I sit before my keyboard.

He is prioritising cup games because when they come up they have to be won.
This particularly applies to the Uefa cup because that again offers us the chance of qualifying for Europe whatever our league position.

We have made a disastrous start but with over 30 games to go he will believe that this can be turned round and mid table if not better is still achievable. He is drawing attention to penalty decisions at Portsmouth and his mindset at the moment is that although we have not played well we are in the midst of a run of bad luck and bad form by many of the squad.

He will also draw attention to injuries,Hutton,Bale and Modric which have worked against his game plans and the need to nurse his captain and talisman Ledley King through the season.

He will also believe that at this early stage he is right to try different combinations of players and tactics. This has been forced upon him by the late arrival of players and the late sale of others.

He will say that to prioritise the league at this early stage is to leave us by Xmas possibly out of all competitive competitions just as we start to pick up league points and leave ourselves with nothing to play for.

If he is sacked he will blame bad luck,injuries and Comolli for failing to produce the players he needed and Levy for playing management games when he should have been signing players.
He will leave with his reputation tarnished but with a several million pound pay-off and with open arms by several Spanish clubs who will be only too pleased to commiserate with him.

He will maintain this stance until at least the end of October,and maybe November, by when things will have improved and us panicking fans will be made to look rather silly. If they have not he will be sacked if he hasn't been already by Levy who is just as flaky under fire as me.

So what's my point. My point is that although this kind of start was not quite what he had in mind his perspective is longer and wider than ours. We want good performances and wins and we want them now. If things improve over the next few weeks he knows that he has at least a season to shape the team and its progress his way. The short term is not his priority and if it doesn't work out he is well covered in his own mind and it won't in the long run affect his future.

He will chalk it up to experience: he had a go in England, it didn't work out, he returned to Spain. Its not his club, its not his problem and he doesn't live and work with Arsenal and West Ham fans day to day and he can loftily survey the scene from above.

Now comes the positive me: I do think that it will improve and that over the longer term he will be proved right. I don't understand his team selection, substitutions and tactics most of the time and defer to his judgement as the man who works with the players day to day. He must know a lot that we don't know and there must be a sensible reason for selecting Gilberto before Modric.

The negative me questions his failure after the Carling Cup to motivate the team and lead us to our worst start for half a century and to a points ratio that's worse than Christian Gross.

Crisis; what crisis?

So what's all the fuss about. Three games unbeaten; a clean sheet; Lennon makes an excellent cross; Pavlyuchenko scores a good header and we are on our way. To where I'm not yet sure. If a week is a long time in politics then its even longer in football taking midweek fixtures into account.

At Newcastle ,who were more tentative and gave the ball away even more than us, we played well in the second half,speeded up the play and kept the ball better. You can work out from this what was wrong in the first half. A bonus was the combative edge of O'Hara who showed good anticipation and composure for his goal which made the match almost safe . Gomes continues to impress, Woodgate was imperious and Ledley though struggling a bit looked a little more composed. Giovani and Lennon looked sharp and caused panic in the Newcastle defence although panic seems to be their default setting. I liked the look of Nzogbia who is rumoured to be on our radar. But then who isn't.

The team played nervously in the first half: Zokora misplaced passes; Jenas was caught in possession a few times; Lennon ran so quickly he forgot the ball or fell over but overall we did the job and should be able to build on this performance. People keep asking whether Ramos knows his best team or his best formation. The answer to this is obviously 'no' . But the team have put themselves under pressure by their poor start and very few players are performing consistently, if at all, at their best and this makes it difficult to get a settled team and into a settled rhythm or style of play.

The negativity in the team is matched by similar feelings in the supporters and they seems to feed of each other. Who has the responsibility of breaking this deadlock?

Bentley has been hugely disappointing but it does seem to have inspired Lennon. The welcome return of Modric is balanced by the loss of Bale with another foot injury. Dawson has gone back to his old habits, all heart and little brain. Huddleston hasn't really been given a chance yet but has not looked comfortable. Perhaps he needs to start a game.

The game at Portsmouth will have a more competitive edge: they have just conceded ten goals in two games and will want to make amends and they could have at least five ex-Spurs players on display who will want to make a point. A win will announce that we are getting back on track and set us up for the return game at Wisla Kracow and for a run of winnable Premiership fixtures. But that would be too easy wouldn't it.

Sunday28th. October
Yes folks it would be, and the answer to my question, 'Crisis,what crisis?' Is 'This crisis'. Not so much for the result at Portsmouth but for the lethargic and uninspired way in which we played. We are still playing like strangers which to a certain extent we are, and eleven individuals are not a team. The build up is too slow and the long ball ineffective unless there is quicker backup for the lone forward. Individual performances were not bad but the game hinged on the two penalties,the first needlessly conceded by Jenas and the second not given to us by the referee.

Team selection was again a mystery. Lennon and Giovani, two bright sparks from Wednesday were on the bench. Gilberto was preferred to Modric one of the best midfielders in Europe. Substitutions even more so. Zokora and Pavlyuchenko ,who were playing well, were substituted. Gunter again sat out the match when Corluka could have been paired with Woodgate rather than Dawson, who incidently I felt played quite well,but I seem to be on my own in that.

Now we've got the added distraction of the 'super-rich Asian billionaire represented by the 'super agent Pini Zahavi' in Spurs takeover talks. His main reason for buying Spurs according to the 'Observer' is the 'fact that they are in London. This point is very important'
We are obviously talking land,property and development here and not football.

So don't hold your breath people and remember that for every Randy Lerner there are ten Thaksins out there. The crisis we have on our doorstep is a football crisis and can only be solved on the pitch by the manager and the team,not in the boardroom by super rich billionaires. Its too late for that this season,though I still assert that Levy's efforts to balance the books have resulted in an unbalanced team.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The best of times: the worst of times

Why don't we keep our heads down and keep quiet? Why do we have to keep mentioning Top Four,Champions league,Cup runs and so on? I've been a Spurs supporter now for a very long time and been through some good times,some very good times, and some bad times,some very bad times. Thats what this is; a bad time. It's not one of the very bad times,but it might be. We don't know yet. Its not likely,the team is talented and young and we have a good manager. I thought we would do well this season, but then I always do.

So why don't we keep quiet and wait for things to take a turn for the better. This applies to the players too. They are either talking public relations platitudes on the official website, or caught in the headlights of a reporters microphone spouting rubbish. See this week's performances by Jenas talking about 'playing ugly' and Bales woeful meanderings about 'video nasties'. Although I'm not sure that he actually said these words.

Well we don't keep quiet as fans because we follow a great club,with a fine record and a history and tradition to be proud of. We have a right to expect better and to look towards the future with optimism. We may get relegated. There's no law the says that Tottenham have to stay in the Premiership. So be it. We are still a great club,with a fine record and a history and tradition to be proud of. The fair weather supporters will melt away and the true fans will remain.

There is an obstinate,awkward streak in most fans and certainly amongst Spurs fans that insists on talking top four as we lose yet another winnable game. Good for them I say. That's what supporters do: they support. Sometimes its hard and the boos at the end of the Wigan game are not helpful to the team. We were pretty quiet during the first half too as nervous as the players it seemed. Perhaps if we had given them a tumultuous welcome and cheered from the start it might have made the difference. But probably not. The place for our forensic analysis and even for withering criticism of the players is on fansites which hopefully the players and manager do not read.

If we don't stand up and back them who will? I think its fair to say that we are the laughing stock of the Premiership,at the moment, well apart from Newcastle of course and by a neat coincidence we play them tonight. But we often are of late because of some over inflated delusions,not only by us, but by the media. Fans always hope and perhaps think that their team will win the Premiership every year. And so they should. Thats what fans are for. Let our opponents run us down, don't do their job for them.

I think that Levy has mishandled the replacement of Berbatov, Keane and Defoe. I think that we have performed with a lack of spirit and the longer a poor run goes on the harder it is to reverse it.I think that Ramos has been wrong in some of his team selection and placement of players. But in general the Board has backed the manager and the team is better and has more potential than in previous seasons. It needs time to settle,or gel, as the current term has it. But gel it will,probably sooner rather than later. But if it doesn't hang in there. All these problems and mismanagements are temporary blips in the long and wonderful history of our club.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

After all tomorrow is another day

This time last year the Tottenham Board were fanning out across Europe seeking to replace Martin Jol. They don't really have that option this season even if we have made an even worse start and arguably a worse finish to last season as well. No-one however should underestimate the ruthlessness of a chief executive in search of a scapegoat. Ramos has moved quickly to lay the blame elsewhere and it could well be Comolli that takes the fall. Not that Spurs fans will worry too much about that, he never really survived being an ex Arsenal man.

I caught the Aston Villa game on an average internet link and didn't see much to lighten the gloom. Team selection against a lively counter attacking side was again questionable,though obviously Thursday's game against Wisla Krakow was part of the equation. Ramos has apparently sacrificed league points for cup glory at Seville but you can only do that when you have league points to play with and at the moment we don't . Jenas when he came on showed how much we miss him and Corluka would have been better alongside Woodgate instead of Dawson who was back to his worst. Huddleston made some good passes but the pace of the Villa attack seemed to leave him stranded.

This is of course with the benefit of hindsight. Giovanni looks to have played himself into a starting role and Bentley should play on the right. I assume that King was being saved for the Uefa game. Gomes made two brilliant saves and then let a weak Young shot though his gloves for their second which proved to be decisive. Remind you of anyone? Pavlyuchenko didn't do anything to suggest that he would be a success in the near future and Bent continued his knack of being in the right place at the right time to benefit from a Jenas shot that was going well wide. We also lost Modric early on and he is unavailable for Thursday. Pavlyuchenko and Corluka,who also did little to suggest that at fullback he is an improvement on what we have already got, are cup tied.

So the problems multiply and I am keeping my head well down. Wisla Krakow are possibly one of the weaker teams in the competition and a win might get us up for the Wigan game .We certainly weren't raring to go against Villa and the Setanta commentator wondered whether we thought it was an 8.30 kick-off. Team selection was dubious, positions were arguable, Bentley on the left for example. Ramos has a great reputation but I find him unconvincing and I am so ready to be convinced.

He certainly cannot be blamed for the failure to replace Berbatov, after all he has been leaving for a year now, or the insult to the supporters that the signing on loan of Frazier Campbell without a buy option as a desperate make weight in the Berbatov deal represents. The breakdown in the Arshavin deal can be squarely laid at Levy's door. But the main problem seems to be in the attitude of the players though I did predict that trying to fit another intake of new players into the squad might take some time .Our record since the Carling Cup win is dreadful and we are playing as if we don't really care. This is down to the manager and it needs sorting out soon. Very soon. At least as the games come thick and fast we have an opportunity tomorrow night to set things right. Will we take it? As I said last time 'the next game will tell'.

And you know what? It did. We scored a couple and won a game against a team that played well; they broke quickly,defended solidly and found each other accurately. We were unlucky not to go to Poland with a bigger lead as our best move of the night ended with Bent scoring again but the goal was disallowed, wrongly, for offside.
Positives: the boy Frazier has talent and skill and set up Bent for the goal that gave us a narrow advantage. I hope that there is no call back clause in his loan contract. Levy couldn't be so silly as to not have this covered as well as being unable to sign him at the end of the season, could he?
Negatives:the chaos in defence that led to their reply within a minute of us taking the lead. Zokora made the initial error but four or five Spurs defenders stood off,or didn't track the runners as they ran through us to score;Ledley left the field limping and was not his normal assured self at times.

Now for Sunday at home to Wigan. Well it didn't go pear shaped , more a knobbly potato shape. I listened to the game on THTV and can't be too authoritative. It sounded as if we played without heart and there were muted boos at half time and less muted boos at full time. Lennon was the bright spot and we kept a clean sheet. Campbell failed to live up to his performance against Wisla, Bentley was awful and Corluka was better than Dawson. I'm not sure where the spark is going to come from to get our season started. We are playing like a man with depression and the longer it goes on the the more nervous the players and fans will become. We will surely beat Newcastle won't we?

Incidently a ridiculous interview with Jenas on Sky Sports where he says we need to play 'ugly'
He couldn't play ugly if he tried and I mean that as a compliment. We are not losing because we play too much football but because we don't play enough. Too many long balls, too little linked up play, too little understanding in midfield, poor crossing and dead ball kicking,including Bentley.
Our best move of the night which was well finished by Bent on Thursday was wrongly ruled offside. But not only was it the best move it was almost the only occasion when we put six or seven passes together in an incisive attack.

Ramos has put the emphasis on skilful players(Modric,Giovani,Lennon,Bentley,Jenas,Bale)and we should concentrate on playing football and outplaying the opposition.
I'm not sure what 'playing ugly means and I don't think Jenas does either. If it involves more effort, as displayed by Cambell and Ohara when they came on then I agree. If it means closing down the other side more quickly,I agree. If it means long balls and more fouls then no thank you. 'Make it scrappy' is a nonsense phrase,we are doing that already by misplaced passes and lack of co-ordination. Lets play football,with more energy, decisiveness and skill. Let's give more options to the man on the ball. Let's support the front men more quickly.
'Playing ugly' I ask you. We don't have the players .Thank God!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Thinker

I think that I think we are going to be ok, I think. After getting carried away with my predictions for pre-season and too depressed after our first game I decided not to post too soon after matches and leave it until after the Chelsea game and the end of the transfer window to gather my thoughts.

Berbatov has gone and we are a little short on proven quality in the Premiership on the striking side until the January window when it all starts again. But Bent scored on Saturday and we played well defensively and tried to play football. We also had more than a little luck but we deserved it. Still ticking off my pre-season predictions: Zokora celebrated his new contract with an excellent performance; Gomes made one top class save and several competent catches; Modric was increasingly effective,and finally Ramos read my comments and altered the team in line with my suggestions.

I admit that Berbatov leaving blows another hole in my predictions but I did say it was a fervent hope rather then a real belief.The situation had gone past the point of no return thanks largely to the papers.Why Berbatov gets more hate mail than Robbie Keane I'm not quite sure. Levy's posturing on his high horse was hard to take and but for late bids by Man.City the whole thing would have been an embarrasing disaster.We were prepared to take Arshavin whose attitude towards his club was exactly the same as Berbatov's .But then I am an innocent in the ways of big business and all the better for it

On Sunday the team was better balanced and players started in their most effective positions. Gunter was played at full back and apart from a couple of aimless punts down the line to no one was sound . This enabled Zokora to play in front of the back four and though he too misplaced the odd pass had one of his best games for Spurs. Bale seemed up to speed and made up a tight back four in which Ledley King made two consecutive appearances and played a lot better than last week. Bentley and Lennon were played consecutively rather than together making us more effective in midfield. Jenas though played as if the responsibility of being vice captain was a burden rather than an inspiration but I think he was under very restrictive orders for an away game against the probable champions. He was a little too anxious in wanting to move the ball forward at times.Woodgate was his usual vigorous and reliable self.

Now I explained to Ramos after the first game that he had got it all wrong over selection and placement of players but he took no notice and duly lost the second game which I only heard on a radio commentary in the car and cannot comment on in detail.But he showed himself to be a big enough man to admit his errors and against Chelsea put things right. Although the pre-match talk was of attacking at The Bridge we played one up front and at times had six across the mid-field. We rode our luck and Bent was alert enough to fasten onto a ricochet to score an equaliser in the moments before half time..Shut up shop, park the bus, job done.Well more or less.

Between defending well, in depth and in numbers we played some good football and didn't allow Chelsea to dominate too much for too long, Bent was a willing front man and though he won a number of flick ons he was the only man available to profit from them.Whoever comes in I hope that Bent gets further starting opportunities as with support he is an effective goalscorer as he showed in pre-season. Ah! Pre-season, but I must not go there again. Move on,move on. Ramos must take the accolades for good tactics and substitutions. The squad worked hard, Jenas like Zokora before him was effective at full back and Huddleston, Lennon and Ohara slotted easily into the formation.This is a sign to me of a well coached team. Everyone seemed to know what was required of them and to be fair I think we had limited ambitions for this crucial game.

So I am not down after tha transfer window. Keane was a shock but Berbatov was always on the cards.We have back up for King in Corluka; we are sorted at goalkeeper and back four generally; we have plenty of left side options; Zokoro played well enough on Sunday to suggest that with Huddleston we can cover the defensive midfield. Modric and Bentley are quality signings, Pavlyuchenko and Campbell remain to be seen. We are building a team which won't come to fruition this season but I prefer that to a cheque book side of International All Stars who happen to play at White Hart Lane. I want something to identify with, something thats ours. Signing a contract does make you a True Spur in any real sense.At least even on Sunday we look as if we might play some good football which is my first requirement.

So back to what I think At the beginning I only thought that I thought that we were ok. Having written this I'm pretty sure I certainly think we are back on track. That comes with the usual Spurs supporters' caveat that the next game will tell.