Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What I learnt from the Wembley Cup

I know it’s been a while since I’ve shared my opinions, but with a new season looming I guess it’s time for me to pick up the pen again (or at least let my fingers touch the keyboard). Last season’s finish wasn’t too bad considering and so we reach that time again when hope springs eternal…

Until Sunday we had a pretty good record in pre-season friendlies. Although judging by our failure to set the world on fire over the last few years and the regular changes in manager, I’m not sure it counts for anything. So to lose against Celtic on Sunday was no big thing as far as I’m concerned, although it did get me thinking about the relatively more common phenomenon of pre-season tournaments.

I understand that the Wembley Cup (and countless other similar summer events) brings in additional TV revenue for the clubs involved that a normal pre-season friendly would not necessarily generate. And I understand that it can be glamorous and exciting for fans to see their favourite teams pitched against foreign giants. Well, I thought that when I watched the Makita International Tournament aged 14, but bearing in mind I didn’t make it to Wembley, or Roma last season, or Torino or Inter Milan or Porto in previous years, I don’t think I’m in the target audience of those that create the pre-season fixture list.

Anyway, enough of that. Although I wasn’t sat at Wembley enjoying the tension of our first hunt for silverware of the season, I did watch both the Spurs games from the comfort of my sofa. And what did I actually learn from the inaugural Wembley Cup?

Firstly, the Wembley Cup was neither a ‘round robin’ tournament (where all teams play all other teams) or a knock-out competition. From a competitive point of view it was therefore pointless, as Barca and Celtic got to play some useless team from Egypt, whilst both of our games were against well-known footballing opposition. Hardly fair and therefore we were never likely to win the prestigious trophy.

Secondly, results in pre-season games are meaningless. Thrashing Roma 5-0 last summer really helped us in the early part of the season, didn’t it? The fact was, Celtic have their first competitive match of their season tomorrow night, our’s is in a few weeks, and Barca’s is even further off. After a summer break it takes a while to get the team and players functioning at their best, and our two opponents this weekend were at different stages in their preparations.

So assuming we all agree that the results were irrelevant, did we actually learn anything useful?

I think Chimbonda and Dervite are destined for the exit. Even though we’re missing Ledders, Woody and Daws, I would rather Harry asked his Sandra to play at centre back when the real business kicks off next month.

With a whole month still to run of the transfer window Harry has already proved what we all know: he’s a wheeler dealer addicted to buying and selling for the sake of it. Replacing Gunter with Naughton and Bent with Crouch… that will hardly take us much further forward. Although many blogs are raving about Naughton, I have to say I thought he looked distinctly average this weekend (and all this talk of off-loading Hutton makes no sense to me. as I think he’s our best right-back and one we should be hanging on to). As for Bent, I think he has the potential to score far more goals in a season than Crouch can, but he just needs to play regularly. I assume he’ll be joining Sunderland and I wish him well as he never really had the opportunity at WHL – let’s just hope he doesn’t come back to haunt us.

I still believe 4-4-2 is the way to play, and I don’t enjoy watching when we only have one player upfront on their own. I know this causes a conundrum when it comes to Modric, but I think he’s a talented enough footballer to slot into a 4-4-2 formation. The interesting question this raises is how many strikers do we need on our books? My view is that in a season with European competition where you might end up playing 60 matches, four top strikers is ideal (although one needs the mentality to put up with playing second fiddle, whilst the other three can be rotated enough to keep them happy). But without a place in Europe, can we justify having four strikers or can we make do with Crouch, Defoe and Keane with, say, Obika knocking on the door? And talking of Keane, what is his role for us, as I do think it’s a little unclear? I don’t think he’s the bench-warming type, but it seems clear that Defoe is preferred by fans and manager alike.

What else did I learn from our weekend’s exploits? Well, it was great to see a number of the youngsters get a run out this weekend and I thought Rose and Livermore both looked good. Oh, and I don’t think yellow really suits Kevin or Joe!

So another hugely (un)important pre-season tournament is up next, the Barclays Asia Trophy. At least this one’s a knock-out competition and three of the four competitors all start their proper season at the same time though. And we get a chance to record a pre-season win against one of our big rivals… roll on tomorrow I say…


dan1yido said...

Why do people not understand, yes bent was our top scorer last year and will score goals for whoever he plays for but he just doesnt fit in with our style of play especially at home, we are much better off with crouch and he will prove that next season

Anonymous said...

I was at Wembley on Friday and watched the sunday game on Sky. A couple of comments. Firstly, Dervitte was attrocious and I was very disappointed. I really hoped that the boy would come good but its clear that he will not be good enough. Secondly, Chimbonda actually looked quite good. Although not a centre back, I do feel that unless we sign another defender he will stay. Thirdly, we really lacked something in centre midfield. I was disappointed with Palacios and Huddlestone and feel that we need a much more dynamic centre midfielder to assist Palacios and to help the team. Modric is not the answer as I think you need to let him roam and do his thing. Finally, the centre forwards were given so little to feed off it was scary. Crouch can only be a step forward and shilst I am sad to see Bent go, he just does not fit into the Spurs team. Having said that, neither does Keane anymore but at least he tries hard!!

verd'e'bianco said...

You do know you were playing Celtic's reserve team, right???

Anonymous said...

I learnt not to go to another preseason friendly at wembley (I went Fri) - too much dosh for a half empty stadium with no atmosphere, 2nd/3rd string players, lousy football, etc etc.
I learnt that Jenas is still capable of very poor games even alongside Wilson, OHara just isnt up to it, if we dont have a defence with at least one of Woody/Ledders in it we are going to get ripped apart, Hutton wantsd to be a wing back not a right back, we should never play 451 unless the one is a big man, modric is light years ahead of the rest of the team and I hope we can keep him, finally that we still desperately need a decent midfielder to play alongside Wilson or a left winger so Modric can move inside. I read that Pienaar has turned down a contract extension at Everton - now he would be an ideal candidate!

Anonymous said...

To suggest forward ply is all about goals shows a poor understanding of the game. Bent is one dimensional. Can not hold up play, cant head a ball, offers little link play and work rate is low. Crouch will make us a better team and is a more rounded player. I assure you our front line with crouch in it will scores more than that of Sunderland with Bent in it.
As for the righ back situation, I was at Wembley and thought for a 19 year old making his debut Naughton looked very solid with excellent positional play. Hutton's ability does not come in to this as he wants to move nearer to home so there is no point in keeping an unhappy player. You views suggest football is black and white but it is not. Players are effected by aspects other than football like the rest of us and you would do well to consider (and research) this prior to making your comments

baggyshorts said...

When you watch strikers the ilk of Eto, Huntelaar, Torres etc throughout Europe you realise how poor the likes of Bent, Crouch (max 12 prem goals in any 1 season,) Pav and keene are. If we buy 2nd class players how do we expect to be anything other than a 2nd class team. Huntelaar ( strike rate 3 X that of Crouch,)is going begging but our chairman is trying to squeeze the last sixpence from a deal so we end up with Crouch! I can hear all the "but he's an England player" saying how great he is, just look at his strike record, abismal springs to mind. I honestly thought Hutton played well this weekend so lets sell him to Everton, a team with little funds but loads of ambition!! I confess some of our board descisions leave me lost for words.
Regards Baggyshorts

baggyshorts said...

To yet another Anonymous.If forward play is not about goals then pray tell me why they are there? You might ask Benitez why he fought so hard and paid so much for Torres, Ferguson for Ronaldo etc etc. Hutton has clearly stated he wants to stay in London so I don't know where you got that from? I recently watched the America's Gold Cup, the America's version of the European Championships, Tottenham's Dos Santos was awarded the player of the tournament. This is a left sided player who can't get a game at The Lane. There are times when footy Managers are beyond me
Regards Baggyshorts