Saturday, August 23, 2008

New season, new ideas, but same old rubbish

An opening day loss in the northeast against one of the Premier League’s weaker sides, followed by a home defeat to a team we've had a decent home record against in recent years. Déjà vu? This season has started in the same abject fashion for Tottenham as the previous one did.

After last week’s poor start to the season, I bit my lip. We’d had a decent pre-season and a few new faces so we were all hoping for great things at the Riverside. Alas it was a real anti-climax and a Tottenham performance on a par with most of our outings in the latter part of last season (post our Carling Cup victory).

A great deal was written online last week and I’ve no intention of regurgitating it all here. The most significant observation I have from our opening day defeat was the lack of balance with the formation we started with. I’ve said many times that I’m not a fan of the 4-5-1 formation, but I accept that with certain personnel and under certain circumstances it will be used. And when it is I think it’s vital that teams defend as a 4-5-1 but attack like a 4-3-3 so that the lone striker has adequate support. For the formation to work it is vital that one of those midfielders play in a holding role. He has to break up the opponents’ play, start his side’s attacks and generally ‘knit’ things together in the middle of the park.

Our problem against Boro was that we lacked a holding midfielder and we therefore failed to get a real grip on the game. I thought we looked naive with five creative attack-minded midfielders. With Zokora and Huddlestone on the books we’ve a couple of options, but Ramos didn’t opt for either and we paid the price. Incidentally, when Berba came on and we switched to a traditional 4-4-2, we looked a lot better.

Anyway, to today. Since we’re now two games into the new campaign (that’s over 5% of the league season gone already) I thought it was time to commit pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. With the “lack of focus” from Berba, Ramos elected to field a similar side playing a similar way to last week. There seemed to be a little more structure to the team, with Spurs basically playing 4-2-3-1, with JJ and Luka playing in front of the back four but behind Bale, Bentley and Lennon. And unfortunately the same problems persisted, with Bent getting very little service. It’s no fault of Bent, but he probably touched the ball less than anyone else on the pitch this afternoon. JJ and Luka did OK when coming forward, but neither of them are enforcers who can play the holding role well enough.

The formation and tactics are just not working. Sure there were moments of good movement with deft touches and clever passes, but the only time we had the ball in our opponent’s third was during set pieces. We lacked bite and there was a lack of penetrating passes. Now I appreciate that some of Ramos’ options are limited following the loss of Keane and Berbatov, but he could still play 4-4-2 if he wanted to. Unless he’s more bothered about keeping all his attacking midfielders happy; and boy he has plenty.

But regardless of the questionable tactics and a repeat of last season’s start, what worries me most is that this season has started as the last one finished. We might have a load of new faces but we still cannot defend and our players just don’t look like they care enough. I was surprised that we came back to equalise today, but unfortunately not surprised when we lacked urgency and determination to come back a second time. Although I didn’t boo the players off at the final whistle, I don’t blame those that did (or those that walked out before the end). We pay our money and we expect better.

The last two matches have been a huge disappointment to everyone connected with Spurs. And with a trip to Chelski next up, I won’t be surprised if we go into the international break at the foot of the table. Levy has continued to back the manager, but other than him I question what everyone else at the club is up to. Rather than buying lots of similar players let’s hope that Comolli pulls his finger out and finally signs players we need. Keane and/or Berba need replacing, we need another centre back and for yet another season we still need a decent left winger and strong holding midfielder. As for Ramos, his coaches and the players, they need to get back to basics. Let’s improve at the back and ensure that the midfield supply the attack more effectively. If we don’t buck our ideas up quickly we face another “season of transition”. And I for one won’t put up with many more.


Anonymous said...

completely agree, posted on another site earlier we need 4/5 new players... Do we really think that's going to happen in a week... dont think so... transition season could be our best bet and midtable

Anonymous said...

I read a lot of the comments writen by fellow spurs fans & I think this is a well writen artical, staight to the point.
The bottom line is unless we find a Roy Keane style player to gel every one together, we will always be a mid table team going through another year of transition.
But once a spurs fan, always a spurs fan. Come on you spurs.

OLI (COYS) said...

I agree completely. Today didn’t we just have one striker in the squad? No one on the bench to even change the formation! Ramos seems very confident of his 451 system. I love the guy but I don’t think his Spanish league tactics work in the Premiership. If Kings still not going to play many games (there are still questions of his fitness) then we need another strong captain. Jenas (vice-captain) is not fit to wear the shirt never mind the armband. I think we’re also doing the England international team of fitting all the best players in the squad, thus putting people out of position.

Anonymous said...

I did believe with the upmost optimism that the Keane / Berba partnership would be missed but would not have made such an impact. I felt that in Modric and Dos Santos we had the type of creativity and flare that would give Premiership defences such as Sunderland and Boro a real problem. I thought Bentley and Bale would also be a handful, what with Bale's skill and pace followed by Bentley's beautiful passing ability. I thought Gomez would be outstanding in goal not nicknamed 'the octopus' nothing. Now I am not so sure. I can't see whats going wrong here but what I can say is that it is clear for all to see that we should not have sold Keane and disbanded the beautiful striking partnership that was. We were once feared and now I am afraid to say we are a laughing stock. We needed the Keane Berba partnership to score as they did last season at least one more than the opposition as its still clear for all to see that our defence is pathetic. I fear the worst and I'm no pessimist! It hurts to hear Sunderland and Boro fans jeer ' champions league your having a laugh'. We should be demolishing these kind of teams, especially at home. I dont buy this 'Sunderland are a good team' crap. We should be dealing with them comfortably. After all, they are made up of spurs rejects! You dont see the Arse, Manure or Chelski losing the the likes of these teams and thats the difference. We will not make Top 4 this season and probably not for the next 10 Seasons. I am sorry but its the truth. Our pre season form has disappeared and to be honest I dont think Ramos can cut it in the premiership. This is not la liga. His team selections and our purchases are struggling against the likes of Boro and Sunderland god help us against the blue scum next week!

Greekos said...

A very well written article but you do make me laugh in pain. Im a huge Spurs fan and have seen what this team can do. I watched all the way through preseason and I always maintained that if the team could play like they did at 2 or 3 times the speed then we really wouldn't have a problem this season. Now it is evidently clear that we need a "Roy Keane"esque DM to let the other players do their job and I thought that he would use Huddlestone for that and during preseason it worked I don't understand not using him now. But I do hope we sign another one before the end of the transfer window. I think that it is this one signing that will make us twice the team we currently are. I do wish though that people could realise that making as many changes as Ramos had isn't going to bring immediate success just like Maggie Thatcher making millions unemployed during the 80s changing the economy from a manufacturing into a tertiary sector economy. NECESSARY CHANGES ALWAYS MAKE THINGS WORSE BEFORE THEY GET BETTER! Why are we so shortsighted its so frustrating!

N7teen said...

I've just listened to Gus' post match interview on the BBC website. Interestingly he admitted that we can only play with Bent upfront as we have no more options. What about playing someone out of position upfront in a 4-4-2? Ramos loves versatile players and frequently plays people in their non-favoured position. Therefore why not try Bent alongside Pekhart/Gio/Bentley?

Musa said...

Oh ye of little faith! I see great cause for optimism at White Hart Lane. Berbatov is currently casting a shadow over the team like Henry did at Arsenal; better off without. And this is Juande Ramos we're talking about, the man who worked miracles at Sevilla. 4-2-3-1 can and will work; it just needs Zokora and Huddlestone holding the midfield. Push Modric onto the shoulder of Bent and flank him with Jenas and Bentley (I think Giovani is too young to start) and there are definitely goals in that team. Especially with Bale and Hutton (when he returns) on the overlap. Spurs have started slow, true, but these things take time; and there are many teams, Liverpool included, who I suspect would swap their managers for yours. Keep the faith!