How many you wanna swap Harry?
They used to say that a change is as good as a rest. Tottenham, this close season, showed that the reverse could also be true. Starting the season with the same management, manager and squad after admittedly a short break we picked up just where we left off. Unfortunately in more ways than one. The confidence, pace and team play were there in abundance, but so too was the ability to create chances and not take them. Although the fact that the opposition keeper was the 'man of the match' tell its own story.
I am delightedly disappointed in the sense that we didn't actually miss many chances but were thwarted by exceptional saves and a defensive set up that put plenty of bodies in the way of the ball.
A fine performance then that points to a promising season on all fronts. Familiarity here breeds teamwork rather than contempt and this was an excellent display from all the players. City came out determined not to lose and passed well but without penetration until Wright Phillips should have scored from a ball over the top. Ekotto played him onside but then redeemed himself with a saving tackle which could easily in his rasher moments have resulted in a penalty. A shot from Tevez that cannoned off King and went just wide with Gomes stranded was the only other scary moment.
We beat them in every department except fouls conceded, possibly thanks to the absence of Wilson. Modric and Huddlestone ran the show apart from a 20 minute period after half time when they came out fighting but we matched them even at their best and slowly dominated the game again. In the end Bale who again played well hit the post and should have clinched it late on but sliced his shot wide. Huddleston, Ekotto, Lennon, Bale, Pavlyuchenko,Crouch and Defoe all had shots on target which were well saved or blocked.
A performance then to savour. The covering and closing down were excellent, the passing and movement were accomplished, and the defence solid. Make no mistake City will be formidable opponents for fourth place if they can settle such a large squad of expensive talent and the pundits who said that it might be a good time to play them were right. Critics who say that we have a good but not exceptionable strike force will use this match as evidence that we need a a top class finisher although today we were thwarted by England's new number one.
With no place on the bench for JJ or Kranjcar and only Gio of our ascendent youngsters this is a strong squad. Gio, Pavlyuchenko and Keane came on and like the rest looked lively. Gio might well be in the starting line-up soon. Although Crouch started we kept the ball down in the main and were the more effective for it. Of all our strikers he is the first on my replacement list followed by Keane whose enthusiasm will probably wane if he is not a regular starter.
The starting eleven for the away leg of the Champions' League game will be interesting. I can't see a lot of spark in the Crouch/Defoe partnership and we could go one up front with Keane or Gio as support striker to Pavlyuchenko. The possible combinations of Defoe, Pavlyuchenko, Crouch, Keane and Giovani are to this innumerate commentator infinite though I expect the mathematically talented amongst you could put a finite value to it. Defoe still seemed to be carrying an injury before he went off. If we set up more conservatively in midweek then Palacios might appear. Bassong will probably replace Ledley as the Astro-turf surface, in the experts' view, is decidedly Ledley unfriendly. Kaboul might get a run out at full back.
So it could be a season of two squads though I was surprised not to see at least one of our young hopefuls who are not on loan get at least a taste of the big occasion. With so much nostalgia around: a new biography of Sir Bill; the occurrence of one's in the year and the parading of the 1961 Double squad for the 50th anniversary celebrations at half time. it would be nice if we can get ourselves up to date with a really successful season. It would give another generation of Spurs supporters their own glories to recount and help me as the years fade to have something more recent, concrete and literally memorable to hold on to.