False Dawns and Feckless Displays for Spurs and Man U
October 5, 2012 in Premier League
On Saturday after 23 years, Tottenham held off the comeback and finally beat Manchester United at Old Trafford. To put things in perspective, that would make me six months old at the time of the last victory.
But enough has been said about it four days after the fixture. Besides, my editor would cut me if I carried on too much.
No, this article is about the curious fact that both these teams play Chelsea in the space of a week later this month. And considering that The Pensioners are the only ones out of the traditional pacesetters displaying title winning form at this point in the season (well there’s Everton too, I guess), that becomes something to worry about.
Especially considering both sides have lots of room for improvement.
Let’s start with the team due to meet them on the 20th. Tottenham’s first half performance last weekend suggested they have the weapons to hurt anyone on their day. The pace of the likes of Bale and Lennon, supplemented by Jermaine Defoe actually holding defenders off and bringing teammates into the game was a joy to behold. And the strength of our new Belgian spine was also in evidence, Vertonghen and Dembele playing excellently. Thoughts of them letting Spurs down any time soon seem Ludacris.
I’m so sorry.
But come the second half, the cracks in Andre-Villas Boas’ side were clear to see.
Their defensive naivety needs to be ironed out. Dempsey’s first goal for the club glossed over two goals conceded in two minutes. There could be a number of reasons for this (Vertonghen playing out of position, Caulker and Walker’s inexperience, William Gallas), but against the creative force of Chelsea’s new style, that kind of display would be unacceptable.
In addition to this, possession was at a hilariously low 26% for the North London side. Though skewed by AVB’s lack of emphasis on this aspect of play in addition to his decision to Park The Bus™ after 65 minutes, this statistic would probably need to get better to best Chelsea.
Look at FC Nordsjælland yesterday: managed to stay in the game, only conceding after a defensive error with 46% possession. No offence to the Danish side, but Tottenham probably would think they have the quality to more than match that display.
Finally, more needs to be squeezed out of their forwards. As previously mentioned, Jermaine Defoe has a fine first half, his movement and link-up play causing plenty of problems; however in the final few minutes it all went out of the window. Where a more orthodox target man would’ve run for the corners or drawn a foul to take the pressure off his team, Defoe went for glory. Admirable, but not when the ball is nicked off your toes for the opposition to recycle.
Which brings us to the team playing Chelsea on the following weekend. Unlike Tottenham, Manchester United have firepower in abundance; if Stoke City could hit the bar twice at Stamford Bridge, then surely they can grab a goal.
However their problems lay further back. Unfortunately for their fans, everyone but Sir Alex Ferguson can see them.
Yes, the defence earned most of the criticism, and yes, they probably deserved it, Rafael and Evans hapless; Ferdinand and Evra showing their age. Injuries to key personnel in this area have robbed them of depth and experience (as much as I’d like to criticise SAF for playing Vidic through a knee injury, I don’t have a leg to stand on), and the issues the back four face can be worked on, an can only be improved by a final decision on who is Number One.
What cannot be worked on is that midfield.
Six serious options for the engine room sound about right for a team challenging for honours on all fronts. When they are either too young, too old, injury prone or Michael Carrick, it’s a problem, and SAF seems unwilling to address this until Paul Scholes has breathed his last.
The good news is the return of Darren Fletcher means a bit of added steel to this area. However, although already drafted to the Scottish international squad, the Chelsea game may be too much for him, no matter how much he may like playing against them.
The fact is this: Abramovich’s demand request for more attractive football has seen Roberto Di Matteo fuse a side together that complies with his boss’ wishes while losing none of the grit that characterised them before. This, and their form, make them a very different prospect to even six months ago, and the weekend beginning the 20th and the week that follows will be intriguing viewing.