Monday, April 14, 2008

Another lead thrown away - what is going wrong?

Not only have we conceded more injury time goals than any other Premier League team this season, but we have also let a lead slip more often than any other side. Not happy trends for any Spurs fans, and sure enough we witnessed the repeat of the latter again on Saturday.

I won’t spend long dwelling on the game itself as it wasn’t particularly exciting (in fact my girlfriend, who accompanied to the match on Saturday, nearly fell asleep whilst watching it). It was a cross between an end of season exhibition match (tired players, but with the odd touch of panache and flair, especially in the first half) and a pre-season friendly (a sunny day, players running around without looking too bothered about trying to win the game and more focused on not getting injured).

We had a pretty decent first half with Berbatov and Jenas both playing well, but despite going a goal up we failed to kill the game off and get a second. With no disrespect meant to Boro, let’s face it – they’re not a very good team. However, we made them look a whole lot better in the second half, and if it wasn’t for a vintage defensive performance from Daws we may well have lost. Boro at home, like Birmingham for that matter, should be as close to a guaranteed three points as you can get in football.

Ramos did what he could from a substitutions perspective by changing some of the personnel in the second half but it failed to have an impact. I am a big fan of Ramos’ substitutions strategies – he is always willing to try and change a game and it often comes off (for example, the home victory against Pompey). However, some days it doesn’t work and Saturday was one of them.

Bringing Huddlestone on forced Jenas out wide on the right where he seemed to be less effective than when he was playing in the middle. It also meant Lennon had to switch to the left flank where, to be honest, he’s never really been very effective. He was then replaced for Bent who never managed to get into the match. As for swapping Chimbonda for Gilberto it was just the waste of a substitution. Gilberto has not yet settled and looks pretty hopeless. I’m not sure of the fitness of either Lee Young-Pyo or Chris Gunter, but I’d opt for those two ahead of Gilberto every single time right now.

So Ramos’ substitutions didn’t work this time around, but he has proved they work before. What I’m not yet convinced he has proved is his ability to motivate players or to change things around without making substitutions. Saturday’s game was full of déjà vu moments reminding me of the Newcastle match – another game where we squandered a lead. The three points were there for the taking, but we failed to take our chances. Fortunately we took a point against Boro which is more than we can say for the Newcastle game.

But regardless of the matches themselves, what really annoys me is Ramos’ excuses. On Saturday evening he said, “We always want to produce the best performance possible but you have to understand the situation the team is in.

"We are in the middle of the table, the points aren't excessively important - we can't reach the top part of the table and we don't seem to be in danger. It is not easy to get the maximum motivation when the team is in this situation."

Compare that to his post match comments after our surrender to Newcastle,

“When we play important games and there is something to play for, the players show maximum intensity and concentration, but when the game has a lower profile, they do not.”

The fact remains that since our Carling Cup victory there have been far too many matches where our players have not shown “maximum intensity”. They’re still getting paid the same wages and fans are still paying the same ticket prices, so surely Ramos and co need to do more? If the players are supposedly playing for their places in the squad then I’d expect there to be plenty of reasons to feel motivated. But something isn’t quite right and I’m not sure what.

All I know is there are another four matches this season and things need to improve. Ramos might have already won some silverware for us, but there is a long way to go before he’s hero worshipped in my house!


Anonymous said...

Lets be realistic here. We didn't exactly throw it away when Downing scores from 30 yards with his weaker right foot and massive deflection. Not much you can do about those going in. The problem is up the other end where we do not create enough chances and the ones we do create we dont take. We just don't score enough goals in games to kill off the opposition and make a fluke incosequentail. We need better creative players come the summer as well as players with a bit of pace to get them away from the last defender.

JimmyG2 said...

Agree with first poster to a degree.Worried that there will be wholesale changes in the summer which will need another season to bed in.Its Ramos failure to motivate this current squad that is the biggest problem.Doesnt bode well for the grind that is the upcoming 38 game season.Winning a cup and even defeating Arsenal and Chelsea is not fair on the fans who have more or less the same expenses for a game against Middlesborough as any other game.