Rotation makes the World go round, the world go round.
Which of the following words or phrases is the odd one out? Footballers in fast cars; trips abroad for celebrations; Mexican whiz kids; non English speaking Russians, mud wrestling; raw sewage or rotation. Trick question because they are all dirty words to Harry. To Harry the the word 'rotation' sums up a nightmare in which Rafael Benitez and Claudio Ranieri tinker, fiddle and tweak their way through a game of football until the end of time.
It doesn't have to be that way of course. Rotation can be used not just to protect recovering players but to change tactics and to keep a squad of 25 players involved and ready when injuries, suspensions, or loss of form demand a change of personnel. Van der Vaart has been subbed early in recent games; Pavlyuchenko and Crouch have been picked for varying roles: Jenas has subbed for Palacios.
But it is not Harry's normal way. There is a definite pecking order in Harry's mind. So Bassong and Corluka are only backup in case of injury or suspension. Defoe is first choice striker and Gomes first choice keeper and like Modric and Van der Vaart play when fit. Several players are unused subs most of the time. These include Bentley, Kranjcar, and Giovani.
Some players have been brought in from the cold like Bale and Hutton when injury has demanded and have forced their way into the team but once there they are fixtures. This is good for first team bonding and for forming partnerships on the pitch but not good for squad morale and for keeping all the members of the squad match ready in mind and body.. After a prolonged period on the bench Sandro and Kranjcar have come in and tried to showcase their own skills and not put themselves at the service of the team.
Anyway I woke up on Thursday with that peculiar sinking feeling that I haven't had for some time. Not for several weeks in fact; not since the loss to Bolton on November 6th. I haven’t heard the familiar phrases 'It's only a game Dad' or 'Blimey what you gonna look like if something really bad happens'. Recently I have been greeted with ' What's up with you, won the lottery?'
Ah yes, its coming back to me now: we lost a game at last. I remembered what I was trying to forget. We weren't unlucky or robbed; we didn't dominate and fail to convert dozens of chances; we didn't go down to 10 men; we just played a team that played better than us. Everton are clearly under performing and on their own ground matched us for effort, challenged us in every part of the field, forced us into error and by the second half we'd had it. They didn't park the bus or get a lucky goal. They met force with force and pace with pace and beat us at our own game.
We looked tired and ragged and although we didn't play well against Fulham but took the three points it didn't happen here. However 9/12 points over the Xmas period would have been acceptable to most and we have been on a tremendous run. As luck would have it, not too much damage was done as other results weren't disastrous for our position and we remain in 4th.
Life could be much worse: you might be a Chelsea supporter, or even a Liverpool one, or in a worst case scenario a West Ham follower. Only Man.Utd are making dash for the title and we have the chance to interrupt that next week. In the meantime the cup game against Charlton should provide an opportunity for Modric. Van de Vaart, Gallas and Bale to rest and recuperate before we really have to set down our marker in the league.
Against Everton, Van der Vaart and Dawson played well, but there were too many individuals off the pace. Even Modric flagged in the second half and Jenas reverted to type, getting caught in possession as the game went on and misplacing his passes..We responded well to going behind before fatigue set in, Hutton crossing for Crouch to set up Van der Vaart within minutes of their opener.
The presence of Crouch led to the inevitable long ball game particularly towards the end and the introduction of Keane seemed a pointless gesture. We lacked shape and focus and Everton seemed certain to score eventually. We began the game raggedly and finished in the same way. Bale should have been subbed at half time but Kranjcar was ineffective when he eventually came on. Gallas was asleep for the first goal and Gomes who made some good interceptions was probably culpable for both.
.We looked tired against Fulham and knackered against Everton. Subs who had been stepping up were poor in this game. Jenas without the usual supporting drive of Modric looked lost. He is no playmaker and is good in support but not when he is reqiired to take the lead. Bassong and Corluka, who played well when called upon lately, were dropped to the bench.
Wholesale changes are likely in the Charlton game in the style of the Carling Cup defeat to Arsenal. I would prefer more gentle rotation throughout the season rather than throwing on the substiututes for a day out. If we were to be lose then this will prove Harry's point. But for a club with the best squad in the league, allegedly, then it would be an admittance that we only have a dozen or so players capable of challenging for top four. If true we had better set about swapping a few for some upgrades.
I have no point to prove or axe to grind. I desperately want Spurs to do well, I've followed them for long enough through thick and, mainly, thin. However at Everton we simply lost a battle after a long and successful campaign but the war's still on. Talk of winning the league is for the players and it is good for them to aim high as all Spurs supporters have been taught but there is no damage in fans being more realistic and to criticise even a very good manager is not to have a hidden agenda.
Harry out? Certainly not. But to say that Harry is not perfect is not to belittle his considerable achievements over the past two seasons. Substitutions and tactics are Harry's Achilles' Heel but because of the quality in the squad we succeed almost despite it. We are not yet top of the league or even certain to finish in the top four again this season. Wearing out the players one by one over the course of a 60 game season is not a sensible way to go.