The Blog that's not always wrong.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Spotlight and pressure on Toby again.

 No sign of them here.
The JimmyG2 Column.
We made the journey down to South Wales under tricky weather and road conditions only to find on arrival that Swansea hadn't bothered to turn up. They made only fleeting appearances for a few minutes at the start of each half.

Eriksen and Lamela quickly took stock of the situation and decided to finish it off early but FA rules insist that the whole 90 minutes must be completed even when only one team is playing.

With no Lloris, Dele, Wanyama, Dembele, Kane or Alderweireld, who was on the bench, in the starting eleven and everybody's favourite scapegoat Sissoko in full kit at kick off you might say we offered them a sporting chance.

But they have relegation fish to fry and declined the offer. Clamors for our strongest eleven to demonstrate our intention to 'win something' this year other than hearts and minds were ignored by Mauricio and the naysayers were offered a hostage to fortune.

In the event his tactical assessment was confirmed, Alderweireld was ignored and Sissoko played well enough to frustrate his critics. Some made him MOM but that was extending charity a step too far.

His strength was showcased and his technical limitations obscured. He saw plenty of the ball and took up some good positions. His best performance by some way for Spurs and Mauricio's continuing trust was duly repaid.

However Eriksen stole the show, running the game and scoring two fine goals aided and abetted by Lamela who fired home with his other foot from the edge of the area and also assisted Eriksen's opener.

Chelsea missed more than trick when they had Christian on trial in his teens and decided he was not for them. More like the contents of the Magic Circle store cupboard than a trick but we're not complaining.

 (As reported in The Guardian. Like us they are not always wrong)

Jan marshaled the back line with his customary solidity, and the rest of the defence were sound if uninspiring. In the event sound was all they had to be. Sanchez had a couple of iffy moments but a decent all round team performance.

Dier could have been on the score-sheet twice and Vorm made an excellent and important double save when the tie was still in the balance. Moura was lively but a little head down and he's probably better on the right.

So on to the semi's against Manchester United. We have been allocated the away dressing room as they came out of the hat first which clearly negates the home advantage protests. Whatever happened to the Wembley hoodoo.

In fact this is most unfair on the boys to be allocated the away dressing room on their own home ground on a technicality and should we lose this would be grounds for lodging an objection. But we won't so no harm done.

Our 'Musings' on the spot reporter informs us that the away dressing room does not have named, individually wrapped soap and the communal bath is only supplied with giant bottles of shampoo and conditioner to share.

This is certainly not enough to distract a fully focused, more balanced, deeper squad. Step away from the Jumbo Shower Gel Dispenser Dele, your gonna hurt someone with that.

Toby was on the bench but didn't play. Some took this as a good sign; others as a  bad one. He has the possibility of a couple of games for Belgium during the break so there was no need to to risk him.

Conspiracy theorists think that this was a form of humiliation by Mauricio and shows that he is leaving us in the Summer. Probably the same ones that concluded that Rose was off in January.

Seemed to me like a good sign of increasing fitness. The attractions of playing for Spurs may not include silly money but the prospects of playing for a club on the rise with a stable management cannot be over-emphasised.

United and Chelsea are both unsettled clubs at the moment and likely to lose key players and their managers at the end of the season. Stick with us Toby you know it makes sense or go abroad and we'll get the silly money to re-invest.

Jimmy's Video spot.
Toby Alderweireld:
'Lest we forget'. Several minutes of quality. Skill, vision, anticipation and staying on your feet.
'Ultimate' is a stretch but he is pretty damn good.

I hope he stays if only to assist the development of Sanchez, Foyth, and Cameron Carter-Vickers who could return to the squad for next season after a loan spell at Ipswich.

But he is 29 and we still have Jan. My preference is to keep him if possible.

Contract talks seem to have stalled but with all that extra Stadium and TV income there must be some flexibility in the system Shirley.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Spurs plans go seriously wrong.

The Sea-food Platter won.

The JimmyG2 Column.
Away for a long weekend in Galicia, Cornwall on turbo charge, everything was carefully planned to enable me to slip back to the hotel and watch the game after a late lunch in a seafood restaurant just up the coast.

At kick off time I was precisely 30 kilometers away only half way through the first course of hot Mussels and furtively following the game on the phone. A practice I've never had to resort to before and which I don't recommend.

The facts coldly relayed were that we seemed very lucky to be only a goal down after the first half-hour. Then Harry got injured, exact prognosis still unknown as I write and we recovered before half-time to be level at 1-1.

The restrained fist pump caught friends and relatives by surprise and I had to come clean. Friends were amused and understood: family certainly did not. I gave up plans to make a dash back to the hotel at half time.

The gastronomic mariscan delights of Galicia would have to suffice over the International servings of  Son and Dele Alli with a side dish of Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela.

By the time the two huge seafood platters arrived we were 2-1 up courtesy of the deadly duo Dele and Son. A goal for Son and a goal and an assist for Dele and some Langoustines and clams for me.

I'd given up hope of getting back in time to see anything live, the boys were going to have to do it all on their own. And they did. A late breakaway goal by Son and an even later header by Aurier with an assist by fellow full back Trippier via Bergovic.

Four goals from a goal down.  This eventful afternoon  raises a few questions. Firstly should I follow the remaining Spurs game by phone to ensure success, or can I watch as long as I do so with a plate of seafood in front of me?

Secondly how can such a quiet Southern seaside town full of retired folk inflict so many injuries on our boys; Danny Rose, Harry and Dele all went off injured. We are still waiting on updates.

As far as the game went the first course served up was definitely not to out liking and it took us half an hour to shake off the ill effects and regain our appetite. After that we swallowed them whole like oysters.

Our heads were dropping into the soup until Kane's injury forced us to look again at the menu. Bournemouth had the pick of the canapes and hors d'ouevres but the main course prepared by Christian was too much for them to digest.

In the after-match interview Eddie Howe thought they played well for 80 minutes, like us against Juventus in each of the two legs you might say, but 4-1 sounded pretty decisive, even on a phone.

The victory takes us up to third above Liverpool the only team in the top nine to lose. Son is on a roll with 7 goals in his last four games. Dele despite all the criticism he gets has more goals and assists than Eriksen overall.

Injury Update.
Rose (cramp) Available for Saturday.
Dele (groin)  Possibly available for Saturday.
Kane (ankle) Too swollen to scan at the moment. Weeks, months, season, anybodies guess at the moment. And there are plenty guessing.

JimmyG2 rule of thumb(ankle)
Normally twice as long as first serious estimate less two weeks in Harry's case for his determination and application.

For the Record: (Courtesy of the Official Site)

''Our last loss was at Manchester City on 16 December last year and since then, we've won nine and drawn three matches.

We came from behind on Sunday to make it four wins on the trot in the Premier League.
Our best unbeaten run in the Premier League era is 14 matches between 16 August and 13 December, 2015. (two to go)

In the top flight, our best unbeaten run is 20 matches in the old Division One between 21 January and 29 August, 1967''.

Time and games to spare boys; Chelsea and Man. City notwithstanding.

Jimmy's Video spot.

For your benefit and mine all the goals. They had chances  and 4-1 probably flatters us a little after a poor start. But the proof of the pudding is in the result. Bon appetit or 'approveche as they say in Spain.


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Not Quite the Old, Old story.

 Depend on it.
The JimmyG2 Column.
Well at least our unbeaten run came to an end at the hands of a top team in the top competition and not on a wet Tuesday night at Wigan as they say. Doesn't help the way I feel but makes it easier to find some positives.

We stormed our way out of the Group of Death and fell at the hands of Italian Royalty and European Elite in the shape of Juventus. The first 8 mins over there and 3 minutes on the hour over here sealed our fate.

Pochettino is getting stick for not responding quickly enough to Allegri's changes and Chiellini is digging up the old lack of mental strength line: twisting the knife somewhat unnecessarily.

If he means  that we don't do body-checking, fouling, trampling stamping and shirt pulling and that means mental strength then so be it. A little naivety in defense and sloppiness in attack are the real reasons.

They had 3 shots on goal and scored twice we had 6 shots on goal and scored once. Says most of it for me. We stood toe to toe, played well and went down tiring but fighting against one of the best teams in Europe.

Allegri is hugely experienced at this level, they are one of European elite now and historically. They have veterans used to this level of intensity and some gifted young players..

We are on a steep learning curve and will come again next year. We took them on and over two legs, but for some poor finishing could have won easily.

'Forza mentale, il mio culo'  which is 'mental strength, my arse' in Italian. The relief of Buffon and Chielline during the last 15 minute siege tells the real story. Harry's late header beat them both and Lamela too on the rebound off the post.

They have lost two recent Champions' League finals so the finger pointing at us is a deflection exercise from their own mental strength frailties and says more about them than it says about us.

Danny Blanchflower used to say we were going to equalise before they score. In a sense that's what Managers have to do. They needed two goals after Son scored the opener with a real mis-hit bobbler.

They had to come out and we were naive to maintain such a high line against their pace for so long. It was inevitable that under pressure individual mistakes would happen and I'm not inclined to point the finger at individuals in defence.

If Kane had scored a relatively easy chance when he rounded Buffon and hit the side netting, or if Son, Dele, Dier or Eriksen had connected cleanly with good opportunities we would have been away and clear.

We got lucky with the Vertonghen penalty decision and Son's goal was fortunate but they scored two quality goals in among some awful tactical fouling some of which was brutal rather than just technical and in the end there was not a lot in it.

Dele was targeted, Son was lucky to emerge in one piece and Harry danced intimately all night with Chiellini who was named MOM. His positioning honed over many seasons is good but he is not my idea of a gifted footballer.

I am immensely proud of our performances in the Champions' League and of our progress under Pochettino building a team the right way and playing in the right spirit

.'Forza mentale, il mio culo'.

It is hard following such a defeat to balance disappointment with positivity but this is the new Spurs, a bit like the old Spurs admittedly at times but not so much lately. The old story is being re-written.

Jimmy's Video Spot.
We're not playing until Sunday so there's plenty of time to play this six hrs of soothing music and restful pictures. Chill my fellow fans,chill. Six hours. I'm really spoiling you.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Certainties and Nagging Uncertaincies at Tottenham. .

 Got a bit dimmed at Wembley last week.
The JimmyG2 Column.
Rochdale, Huddersfield: how exotic can you get? Next up Juventus in the Champions' League at Wembley which breaks the spell somewhat. 16 unbeaten and we don't even have to win against the Italians to qualify.

We beat Huddersfield with one eye on next Wednesday. In pundit terminology a controlled 'professional' performance. Actually one goal would have done but Son, on song, got two beauties courtesy of fine assists by Dele and Kane.

'Professional' is a much abused word, as in 'professional' fouls which are essentially 'unprofessional' fouls and should be more severely punished. A 'professional' performance just means competent given the context.

Aurier played much better too, probably relief after perfecting his throw-in technique in training. 
Verts was calm and controlled and this transferred to Sanchez as well but the defence was put under very little pressure.

The midfield of Dembele and Dier was uninspiring and all the creativity came from the attacking four who settled the match among themselves. Harry Kane didn't do much but was a crucial element in both goals.

This was an exciting away day for the 'Terriers' though the football seemed incidental and not their main priority. But they were more poodles than terriers and we kept them well muzzled. 

Dele was by turns irritating and delightful but like Lamela he gives us an edge and he has 12 assists which is more than any of his team-mates in all competitions.

Chelsea have now lost four of their last five Premiership matches; Arsenal five of their last seven and both have scored less and conceded more than we have. I am amazed we aren't further ahead of them.

Be careful though with 9 games to go it is too soon to gloat. Remember, he who gloats last gloats longest. Small gloats in private are permitted.

Musing point
There are a number of bizarre nightmare scenarios where if we finish fourth we can still fail to go on to the Champions' League. The labyrinthine scenarios are worthy of a Franz Kafka novel but it's a nagging pulse in my brain after Chelsea in 2012.

There is a maximum allocation of five places per association including Champions' League and Europa. So if Arsenal win the Europa and Chelsea win the Champions but both finish outside the top four........say no more.

(I am indebted to a discussion on Spurs Community for this analysis)

Odds are approaching 1000/1 so no need to worry. Tell that to a Spurs fan. Finishing third is the simplest if not the easiest solution but it's certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility, or winning the CL of course.

They say there are are few certainties in life apart from taxes and death and nagging doubts are constant. But we are going about things the right way and will hopefully get what we deserve.

 As Mick Jagger said not necessarily what we want but what we need: but I'm OK with that.

Jimmy's Video Spot:
They defended well when camped in their own half but couldn't cope with us on the break. Not my sort of music but you young people might enjoy it. 

 Kane's assist was dubbed 'Hoddlesque' and worth the entrance money on its own.

Son moves up to 15 for the season (10 in the PL) with two well taken goals.


Friday, 2 March 2018

Spurs involved in Farce But Tragedy Avoided.

I'm the referee. I got this.
The JimmyG2 Column.
The combination of supporting Spurs and the employment of VAR in a Cup replay against a  lower league bunch of dangerous banana skins was nearly too much for my nervous system and at half time I feared the worst.

We scored three goals but went in at half time level at 1-1 and it could have been worse if Rochdale had scored from both their breakaways, Humphry scoring neatly and Dale hitting the post. Son had scored a decisive opener.

Llorente scores a ten minute hat trick in the snow; Spurs win 6-1in style and a bloody technical review device and the referee steals all the headlines. The fans were left out in the cold in every sense.

Nagging questions arise but mainly from the decision making rather than the football. VAR ran the first half with an overwhelmingly imposing performance.

It certainly raised more questions than it answered like who exactly is in charge here, a man or the machine. Refs have enough problems already and this completely undermines their authority when it should bolster it.

But here the Video Assistant Referee thrust the senior partner aside and made him wait an age to complete his deliberations. But the decisions are made not by the technology but by another human being. It should work.
Refs, players and fans, even you and I gentle reader, are all human and this is virtually refereeing by committee and subject to all the vagaries of that system. Remember a camel is a  horse designed by such a body.

In this game the fuss and the wait were not worth the bother of correcting the odd mistakes.The cure is worse than the disease unless they can sort it out.

There were over five extra freezing cold minutes in the first half because the 'assistant' kept his boss, and us waiting.A sacking offence if ever there was one. Nobody, especially the commentators, were any the wiser before during or after.

Lamela's opener was ruled out for an alleged foul by Llorente in the build up.  In the second case most people would have accepted the on field referee's decision that a foul on Trippier began outside the box and therefor was not a penalty.

But the VAR reversed this decision and a penalty awarded. By now the referee, Paul Tierney was a slave to the machine and reduced to a walk on part. He ruled out Son's successful penalty for 'feinting' in his run up and booked him just to add insult.

This was a misinterpretation of the run-up rule but why was it not corrected through VAR review?

Rule 14. (Penalty kicks) feinting to kick the ball once the kicker has completed the run-up (feinting in the run-up is permitted); the referee cautions the kicker.

Son has clearly not completed his run-up. He stops at least one pace from the ball which is explicitly permitted.

So VAR won the first half hands down. The second went more smoothly as all Spurs five goals were clear and uncontroversial or perhaps they had just switched the bloody thing off.

Having to wait for 5 minutes to know whether you can celebrate a goal or look an idiot for doing so is just not football. By the second half  Tierney was a quivering jelly reduced to marking free kick limits with a white spray on snow. 

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino:'' I think there's a lot of work to do. I see today everyone was confused. I am for new technology but be careful how it is going to change the game.

 It's difficult for the referee - I feel so sorry for the referee and more I feel sorry for the fans because it's so difficult to understand the situation."(MP)

The decision making has got to be quicker, the process relayed to the fans by loudspeaker or big screen and only used when referred to by the referee and his assistants as in Rugby and Cricket.

As we went further and further ahead with Llorente's perfect hat-trick I was increasingly worried that the tie would be abandoned. Son added a second which should have been his hat-trick goal and there was just time for Kyle Walker Peters to get on and score his first senior goal in injury time.

6-1 relax and breathe. It's one of those situations you laugh about afterwards, eventually. Lamela and Moura with a couple of assists apiece were prominent.We beat the snow, the VAR and Rochdale and meet Swansea in the quarter finals.

Marx said that History repeats itself first as Tragedy and then as Farce. Fortunately on this occasion it jumped straight to Farce but it could so easily have ended in Tragedy.

That's Karl not Groucho though the latter would certainly have enjoyed this game but not for the football.

Next up tomorrow is Huddersfield and team selection will be with one eye on Juventus in the Champions' League (last 16 second leg) next week. Moura could start and everyone is available except Toby. Exciting times.

Jimmy's Video Spot.
The goals, the thrills, the uncertainties, the snow. ''It's a goal if the VAR passes it''. How very true.
Sorry KWP it doesn't stretch to your goal. You need to get on and score earlier. Really pleased for Fernando, that first goal was a peach.

 Jimmy's Video Spot