Saturday, September 19, 2009

This article will appear on the next issue of "The Cockerel"


Deflated is an understatement. I am penning this piece the day after our first defeat of the season which came against champions Manchester United and I am not in the happiest of moods.

A series of 5 wins out of five in all competitions came to a shuddering halt at the Lane as the Red Devils came from behind to beat us 3-1 even though they had Paul Scholes sent off in the second half.

By the time you read this we will have also played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and that is definitely going to be another tough test. Stamford Bridge is not the happiest of hunting grounds for us and Chelsea are really on song at the moment. If you ask me, Ancelotti's side is even more difficult to beat than Manchester United.

But back to the Manchester United game. Was it that bad? A defeat is a defeat and there is nothing good about it. But should we panic? I don't think so. We started the game on a high and that Defoe opener will be contender for goal of the month, if not the season.

If there was a bad thing about that goal it was that it came too early. Manchester United being Manchester United, they clawed their way back into the game and equalised trough a marvelous Ryan Giggs freekick.

A half clearance from our defence found its way to Anderson's feet and he fired a rasping shot which beat Cudicini. I think the Italian goalkeeper did not have a good view of the ball and I am convinced that had his sight not been obstructed, he would have saved it.

At 2-1 down we did come back into the game and Jenas coming on for Palacios gave us a new thrust. Ben Foster performed a top notch save on Jermaine while Crouchy was denied by the cross bar. At that point Manchester United were with 10 men but, as so often happens, this made it more difficult for us to find a way through their crowded defence.

Their third goal was no surprise really. With Spurs desperately searching for an equaliser and our defence exposed, the ground for Rooney to score one of his trademark goals was fertile.

Put this way it does not seem that bad does it? But it does not mean that there are no problems to be addressed. Losing the flair and creativity of Luka Modric is one of them. But we cannot do anything about that except pray for a quick recovery.

The Manchester United game also showed that, despite all the talk of a big squad and strength in depth, we are very dependent on one player and I am not referring to Modric. This player is Wilson Palacios. Against Manchester United he was a shadow of his usual self. Maybe his travels to fulfill his international commitments with Honduras had something to do with it but the fact is that the midfield battle was lost.

On the other hand Tom Huddlestone is one of our most skilful players but everybody knows he is not fast. Yes he has made great progress under Harry's guidance but he is still not up there and he was found out against Sir Alex's boys.

Hindsight is a commodity Harry did not enjoy before the game. But I think if this game made one thing clear it was that Keane is not a winger. Maybe he can fill in there against mid-to-bottom teams but surely not against the top four.

Maybe Harry's plan was for Keane to help the midfield and attack with Ekotto covering the wing. But this was Manchester United and every time Keane left the wing Ekotto was exposed. Keane ended up uncertain of what to do and slowly but surely became anonymous.

With Crouch in attack I think Modric's role should have been given to a proper winger. Maybe David Bentley should have been given the chance to claw himself back into Harry’s reckoning. That would have at least given us another source of creativity. In my opinion Jermaine Jenas should also have been considered for that role. Ok he is not a proper winger but neither is Keane. Jenas would have at least helped Huddlestone and Palacios against the overwhelming United midfield

Lennon was wisely cut out of the game by Fergie and that meant that we had no outlet of creativity. With Ekotto not free to attack at will, Keane ineffective, and Lennon marked by three players, it is fair to say that our opportunities ratio was reduced by 75%.

Jenas, Gomes, Dawson and Woodgate are back to full fitness now and this will give us more strength in depth. But Modric's problem is still there. For it to be solved, creativity has to be replaced by creativity. A winger should be replaced by a winger. Avoiding square pegs in round holes will go a long way towards alleviating, if not solving, the problem.

On a positive note, having successfully completed all of the pre-development conditions and preparatory works, Spurs announced that works to build a world-class facility in Enfield to house our first team, development and academy squads have started.

Let's hope that this project will prove to be another step towards returning Tottenham Hotspur FC to its' former glories.

Mark Mizzi
13 September 2009
(Look out for Spurs Malta on Facebook)

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