What do want? A striker.
When do we want him? Now.
If Harry was trying to finally convince Daniel Levy that we need a striker by starting with Crouch and keeping him on for 90 minutes then I think his cunning plan succeeded. I was convinced several months ago. Sir Alec, Vidic and Ferdinand must have had a group hug when they saw the team-sheet.
Bringing on Defoe for a ten minute cameo made little sense and leaving Pavlyuchenko kicking his heels was a waste of a player who in the past has at least shown he knows where the goal is. We didn't get a shot on target apart from long distance free kicks which went straight down Van der Saar's throat. Crouch missed the chance to clinch the game and prove us all wrong after a flowing move resulting in a Hutton cross to the near post which flashed just the wrong side of the upright.
In fact Gomes was the busier keeper although we controlled the game. He made three excellent saves and a couple of edge of the area interceptions and kept our 4th clean sheet in 5 games. This is an impressive defensive turnaround which bodes well for the next phase of the season. The return of Dawson has a lot to do with it.
This was an excellent performance by Spurs where Modric danced and floated like a butterfly in midfield ably supported by Palacios. We won on every statistical measure: possession, shots, corners, and they out-fouled us by 18/9. All of the back five performed well. We hardly noticed that Berbatov and Nani were playing. Hutton was outstanding getting forward and worked well with Lennon who had a good game against Evra again.
Manchester came for a point and achieved their aim. They defended in numbers and hoped to nick it on the break. We played into their hands by relying on Crouch and if Defoe had been on from the start we might well have won it. How do I know that Crouch should not have started? Hind sight obviously. Why do I think that Crouch should have been subbed? By watching the same game as Harry but seeing things differently.
Vidic spent some time closely examining Crouch's shirt sometimes with both hands and will submit a quality control report to Puma in due course. He was uncompromising as usual and vied with Modric for MOM. Crouch is Harry's blind spot and though I reject the wilder theories of love children and secret, intimate photographs, Harry's faith in him is touching but misplaced. To give him his due he was battered all afternoon but never gave up.
But unless Crouch contributes more goals to the partnership with Van der Vaart we are effectively getting one striker for the price of two unless the Dutchman manages to score over 30 goals in the season which is unlikely. In the classic little and large combination of Niall Quinn and Phillips for Sunderland in the 1998/99 season both contributed over 20 goals each and so did Berbatov and Keane for us in 2007/8.
Van der Vaart, slightly off his game and starved of even the occasional knock down received his 4th yellow card for petulantly kicking the ball away probably out of frustration. In a packed area he twice just failed to make the space necessary for a shot on goal. Every second ball or block fell to them as they defended in numbers. We can take this as a genuine compliment. Harry is delighted with the performance and disappointed with the result.
Bale teased the precocious Rafael who was eventually sent off for a second bookable offence and made several dangerous runs inside and outside of the Utd. defence. In fact apart from Crouch everybody played well. As Harry says we are the outsiders of the five contestants for the title but we are not a 'million miles away'. Unfortunately it will come down to a couple of points rather than a million miles in the end.
We certainly played as if we belonged to the elite group and the fact that we can be disappointed by more than matching Manchester United and getting a draw is a clear measure of where we are. If Palacios or Modric could shoot we might have won it in any case. Van der Vaart was unlucky with the only clear shot he had which curved just over the bar and a glancing header that passed outside the post.
Harry has denied that we are in for Carroll whose price increases by £5 million a week even when he is injured and not playing. He is apparently not available as it would lead to Ashley and Pardew being hung from the Tyne Suspension Bridge from whence it presumably gets its name. Suarez, who I wrote about last time, if he settles quickly, would be an upgrade on all strikers and without some added quality I think finishing in the top four is going to be a tough call.
Don't rule out the re-arrival of Darren Bent in a straight swap for Roman Pavlyuchenko. Swaps as we know are much beloved of the tabloids but so rarely happen that they are a staple of Quiz nights and Trivial Pursuit sessions. Rumour is that he has gone to Villa in a deal rising to £24 million. I can't recall why we let him go in the first place. He's a striker; he scores goals.What's not to like?
Defoe's record is barely better than Pavlyuchenko' and in fact was worse last year in terms of goals per minutes played. In 9 starts and four substitute appearance he has scored 5 times. Assists are not a relevant factor with Defoe. This has been a stop start season for him with injury and suspension and perhaps with a run of games he may settle into a scoring vein. Why he didn't start yesterday or come on with at least 20 minutes to play is mine to guess and only Harry to know.
It will be no surprise to regular readers to know that Mrs.JimmyG2 didn't get her fish and chip supper as I called the team exactly right. I had a sneaking suspicion that Crouch would start and as predicted Vidic enjoyed his afternoon immensely. And despite how it might appear so did I. A great game with plenty of skill and commitment on display especially from Spurs.
Next up Newcastle and later in the week a preview of the game and an update on transfers, or rumours of transfers, or denials of rumours of transfers, or even rumours of transfer rumours, or rumours of transfer denial rumours. On the Piennar front he appears to have signed for Inter, Chelsea and Spurs but this rumour has been denied three times so I expect the Apostle Peter to sign for us later today.