Team huddle: crucial for team bonding or a pointless gesture?
Was Ekotto right all along?
So not such a successful season after all. There have been some exciting highlights; Arsenal at the Emirates; Bale against Milan; the Champions' League in general. But they do not make up for the general mediocrity of our play in the Premiership, the disappointing, not to say awful, showings against the bottom teams and the decline in performance over the last third of the season.
The statistics demonstrate what we all know to be true. One win in twelve in the league and 1 win in 15 in all competitions.More draws than wins at home and the least points against the bottom six than any of the current top six. The fact that we are still in touching distance of 4th shows what a golden opportunity we have wasted this season and which no Champions' League sparkle can make up for.
I would rather we had a couple of competitive seasons in the Premiership, consolidate and rebuild modestly than the flashy glitter of the Cup or European competition. I would rather watch and enjoy good football on a weekly basis with the occasional bright light. In fact I would rather we were more like Arsenal who haven't won anything for years than ourselves at the moment.
And before you start; I am a very, very long term Spurs fan and have no wish to become a Gooner.
But they play football that is good to watch with youngsters central to their team, under a long-standing manager that has his blind spots it is true but who has the consistency of vision that to play well is a preliminary to success. I can think of no better epitaph for a manager or a team and I want some of whatever they're having.
We seem to have replaced 'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells by ' Gutted of White Hart Lane'. Captain 'I felt a nudge' Dawson is once again disemboweled and vows to win the next three games. Promises. Promises. He hasn't played that well this season after returning from injury. Playing on the left to accommodate Gallas hasn't helped but his tendency to lunge rather then close down quickly has let him down several times.
In fact there are several players who are playing unfit, or who are not fully recovered this season. Bale certainly and possibly Defoe. Kaboul is not back to his previous form though he may just not be good enough. Gallas too seems to be carrying a knock and Van Der Vaart has never quite shaken off whatever he arrived from Madrid with. Huddelstone probably came back too soon.
Injuries in general might be a mitigating factor for ouir end of season blues but all teams get them and it's the use you make of the squad that is crucial. Kranjcar, or on the Blackpool performance, Rose might have been used to rest Bale. Jenas generally has played well when called upon this season and could have given respite to Van Der Vaart Our bench was dubbed ' the best in the Premiership ' but there has been little evidence to support this theory.
The exception is Sandro who has replaced Palacios whose star has been waning for some time. His partnership with Modric who is my player of the season and the one man I desperately want to keep in the aftermath of not qualifying for Europe at all augers well for the future.
Not to be able to integrate a player of the quality and experience of Van Der Vaart into the team is a serious criticism of the team and management in general. He has that 'Been there, done that' quality that we continually crave but is criticised for being an unsettling influence on the team. His positional indiscipline is down to Harry to correct. 'Play where you are put or don't play at all' should be scribbled on the clip-board alongside his name.
6o seconds on Saturday against a team that invites attack was a snapshot of our season. For twenty minutes after half time with the introduction of Lennon to give us pace and balance we played well. And them mayhem .Gomes who once again had kept us in it after we had failed to take what chances came our way saved a penalty from Adams.
Within a minute he had conceded another by appearing to bring down Taylor Fletcher. Adams made no mistake a second time and we were behind for the several dozenth time this season. But once again, and this a new feature this season, we came back to equalise with a crisp shot from the edge of the area by Defoe. This used to be his party piece but he doesn't seem to get out much any more. We played out another draw our 9th at home this season. Dawson is gutted and I am disgusted and I've never been to Tunbridge Wells.
Kranjcar came on for a ritual 5 mins. Crouch came on for Pavlyuchenko to no good purpose and Blackpool got a point that may save them. Adams had time to stamp on Bale which finishes his season. The referee saw nothing amiss but the review panel might be very interested to have another look at it.
Our failure to take full advantage of our chances and our failure to replace our stuttering strike force over two windows is at the root of our problems. Just look at our goal difference in comparison to our European rivals. Liverpool have just scored five against a Fulham side that humbled us in the Cup. Go figure.
The fixture gods have handed us the chance to beat both our rivals for 4th and 5th but in the light of our recent performances this seems a cruel trick to play. We might beat City tonight to prolong the agony but the idea of repeating the performance at Liverpool seems unlikely. Knowing Spurs we will beat them both and then lose the final game against Birmingham.
Speculation is that we might even qualify for the Europa via the Fair Play table. It seems we are second to Chelsea who already qualify for Europe. What strange tricks the fates are playing. I know some people that would like to see us engineer a couple of sendings off in the final games just to keep our Thursday nights free next season.
I don't agree if only because it might keep Modric at the club if we have some form of European football to offer. It looks as if Suarez knew something that we didn't when he opted for Liverpool.
And was Ekotto right about the pre-match team huddle all along, or does he just have a bad back?
In view of our recent performances it looks like an increasingly pointless gesture.
You want cheerleaders? I'll take up the role when there is something to cheer. Notice that no manager's heads were called for in the writing of this column.