Thursday, February 13, 2014

Home is where the hurt is

Newcastle Utd 0 - 4 Spurs

It's saying something when we're not even good enough to record a third successive 3-0 defeat. The stats have been widely reported but bear repeating, as painful as they are: we've now lost five games in a row at home in all competitions, and we've managed four consecutive home league defeats for the first time since 1987, and this time all without scoring. Typical, isn't it, that just as the much of the rest of the country is experiencing flooding we're suffering from a drought...

Of course, it didn't help that our visitors were an in-form side with an excellent away record who have been invigorated by the appointment of a new manager since our last meeting and who are engaged in determined pursuit of Champions League qualification.

The Silver Fox decided to take a gamble, throwing fit-again Papiss Cisse and Goofy straight back into the side at the expense of HBA and Paul Dummett, with Davide Santon switching back from midfield to his familiar left-back role.

I say "familiar", but it didn't look that way when he sloppily gifted the ball back to Spurs on our byline, allowing Emmanuel Adebayor, the striker frozen out under Andre Villas-Boas, to skim a shot wide of Tim Krul's far post. Shortly afterwards, Paulinho forced Krul into a save with a venomous shot from a tight angle.

The best early chance, though, fell to us. We're pinning our hopes on loan signing Luuk de Jong striking up a partnership with someone, and when he headed a long free-kick down and square into Cisse's path on the edge of the six-yard box, the evening's opening goal looked to be the only possible outcome. That, though, was to reckon without either our number nine's appalling lack of form and confidence or the quick reactions of Spurs' French 'keeper Hugo Lloris, who kept the weak effort out.

Naturally, it was the visitors who then took the lead. Nabil Bentaleb should have been tackled more forcefully out on the right, but even when he wriggled free of a challenge to play in a teasing cross there didn't look to be much danger. However, Krul flapped the ball pointlessly straight to the feet of the grateful Adebayor and he finished into the empty net. The Dutchman was the hero of the victory at White Hart Lane in November, when we were besieged but kept our goal intact; now, at a time when we're desperately struggling to score goals ourselves, the last thing we needed was our 'keeper to start gifting them to the opposition.

It could have been worse before the break had Aaron Lennon's scuffed shot trickled in rather than bounced off the post. Presented with another chance to score by Little Big Lad's pass, Cisse beat the onrushing Lloris to the ball but, perhaps fearful of being clattered, lobbed the ball harmlessly wide.

Dummett replaced Santon at the interval - presumably a tactical change (if indeed it required any tactical nous to identify the fact that the Italian was having a stinker) - but he'd hardly got his boots dirty before we were two goals down. Paulinho's neat flick set Adebayor up for a drive from outside the area, and when Krul parried straight to the Brazilian, he followed up mercilessly.

That was the cue for us to (belatedly) raise our game and enjoy our best spell. Little Big Lad and De Jong departed for HBA and Sylvain Marveaux, and Lloris had to make saves from Dummett, Cisse, Goofy and Mathieu Debuchy - the latter in particular was superb.

A foothold back in the game would have been scarcely deserved, though, and Spurs' superiority was underlined in the last ten minutes. Krul contributed his third error of the day for the third goal, palming Andros Townsend's piledriver up into the air for Adebayor to mis-hit it slightly fortuitously into the ground and over his despairing dive, but was powerless to prevent substitute Nacer Chadli from recording his first Premier League goal with a curler into the top corner. Quicker and more effective closing-down of Chadli would have been demanded by the home supporters, I'm sure, if there had been many left still inside the ground.

This was most certainly not the way in which the Silver Fox will have hoped to celebrate his 150th match in charge. Before the game he had declared: "Part of my job is to try and motivate the side with any incentive I can find" - presumably no incentive could be located on this occasion (and how exactly the players lacked motivational incentives for the derby is beyond me). He had also taken pains to thank fans for their patience - a fair few more will have lost it after this latest abject display. In his post-match interview he came across as a broken man, as downbeat and angry as I can remember, confirming that there had been some harsh words spoken in the dressing room.

It's a sorry state of affairs that a season that still looked highly promising as recently as Boxing Day now appears to be all but over, and that rather than speculate about the possibility of European qualification (which the Silver Fox insisted has been a curse rather than a blessing for Spurs) we're now inclined to be thankful for the fact that we've already amassed sufficient points to insulate us from the relegation dogfight, at least for the time being.

The break might do us some good - certainly there's plenty of work to be done - and we'll have Loic Remy back available for our next fixture, the visit of Villa on Sunday 23rd, but I do wonder what odds the bookies are offering on a 5-0 away win to keep the sequence going...

A Spurs' fan's perspective: Tottenham Hotspur Blog

Other reports: BBC, Guardian

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

as santon has a stinker every game at the moment,why cant we recall tav from Rotherham as he is on fire at the moment?be great to use him on either wing off the bench

6:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

vucick would good to call back too

6:57 pm  
Blogger 63soul said...

Lloris made some great saves, but when Krul was the hero at WHL, we only managed a 1-0 win with a stronger side (fewer injuries + cabaye). Telling comparison...

9:18 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

Anonymous: Not sure whether we've reserved the right to recall Tavernier - might be a wise decision if we have, though. By all accounts, Vuckic is making no impact whatsoever at Rotherham so I don't see he'd be the answer to our prayers either.

63soul: In truth we were battered at WHL too - the only difference being we nicked an early goal and somehow managed to avoid conceding any. Lloris only really had to make one top-drawer save on Wednesday, from Debuchy's header - didn't know much about Cisse's first-half effort, which I still can't believe didn't go in.

11:16 am  
Blogger 63soul said...

Ben---true. Sadly, I'm just finding new ways of looking at how poor we are these days (longing for a barely scraped together 3 points as was the case at WHL).

By the end of the home match v. spurs, I was so exasperated at the defensive display that I must confess found myself inadvertently hoping spurs would score again to fully punish our hapless display ("tough love" style). Never done that before.... ever. And of course I was not surprised when seconds later, said punishment was inflicted. Depressing.

6:33 pm  

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