|photo by MShades||via PhotoRee|
Fan favorite Ed returns, with a column he wrote on the spurs of the moment:
Sunday’s Spurs match against Liverpool was exciting to watch due to the unending stream of end-to-end action that has come to characterize the team’s play this season. It seems as if the entire EPL is finally catching on, as well, as it’s been widely reported elsewhere that this weekend was the first time every team in the EPL scored at least one goal. No one but the Italians want to watch the painful cantenaccio style of overloading the defensive backfield and trying to steal a goal on a counter, and teams like Spurs and Blackpool have shown you can play aggressively and still put up wins, even at the highest level.
The best news for Spurs fans is that the team is now starting to show up in League play with the same determination that they have previously been bringing to their Champions League tilts. Beating Arsenal away, then winning a Champions League game, and then following that with a comeback win against Liverpool is an impressive accomplishment that should not be overlooked, even if the Liverpool of today is not exactly the Liverpool of old. (By the way, who is occupying the body of Fernando Torres, and what exactly has happened to him? If it’s you, farlieonfootie, please put down the freaking Ouija Board and get out, it’s becoming painful to watch this guy transform from best in the world to someone who would have a tough time breaking the starting lineup for Wigan.)
So Spurs are currently, as has been suggested elsewhere in this blog, in Rarefied Air. In order to ride the wave, here are my top five warm and cuddly thoughts on the current squad:
- Gareth Bale. It’s impossible not to start with Bale, the most exciting player on the team. Bale is at a point right now where he’s an obvious danger whenever he’s allowed to possess the ball, and is among the top five players in the EPL. I have yet to see a defender who can keep up with him; Glenn Johnson, for example, looked slow and exposed, just as Maicon was before him. Bale is currently attracting triple coverage, and somehow still managing to beat it. And, of course, the attention he demands has opened space in the middle and on the right flank, to the benefit of Van der Vaart, Modric and Lennon. It’s also helped on the defensive side, as the opposition’s right back is unable to press forward as aggressively as they might otherwise. Bale’s other best feature is his age: at 22, he’s durable and has been able to play effectively in virtually every game Spurs have played. But that’s also my biggest concern: Uncle Harry has got to start resting Bale from time to time, and the team needs to learn to win without him. Which brings me to the next subject:
- Aaron Lennon. Perhaps in spite of his somewhat bizarre eyebrow notches and matching hair grooves (inexplicably copied with jolting effect by farlieonfotoie correspondent James, who claims he thought it would make him look “faster” at the office), Lennon was one of the best players on the team last year until his injury earlier this season. While he’s been healthy for some time, he’s just now getting back to form. Spurs need Lennon to continue this trend both to enable them to rest Bale, and to give the team the ability to spread other squads wide on the attack. There are very few teams with this much speed on both flanks, really only United, Chelsea, and maybe City, depending upon whom they play. Spurs can be among the elite with both these guys plugging along.
3. Jermain Defoe. Defoe’s return is huge for Spurs. He's shown a lot more pop than I anticipated in coming back from his injury. Defoe is not merely fast, but also very good at getting off a quick shot in traffic in front of goal. Pavlyuchenko to me is very streaky, going large parts of games without beneficial impact. Crouch is a force in the air, but also seems to suffer from inconsistency. Spurs need their little big man to stay healthy.
4. Defense. With Defoe, Bale and Lennon, Spurs’ attack is as good as anyone’s in the League. The difference between Spurs and the top teams, however, is in the back. Kaboul has been a surprise, and Gallas has played well and with good intensity since arriving. Assou-Ekotto has also done well, though more streaky and prone to mental lapses, and Hutton, I think, is an improvement over Corluka, whose appeal I don’t quite understand because he’s always seemed pretty slow to me. I’ve always believed he’s better at attacking and I think does a surprisingly good job at keeping up with speedy opposition. That said, Torres had a three breaks that could and probably should have led to goals. I think the reason for this has to do with the fact that their defense is serviceable rather than top tier (even when everyone is healthy), and that the holding midfield position has consistently been a problem. While Modric and Jenas are both talented offensively, neither is very good defensively. Spurs are a better team with Huddlestone, obviously, who’s injury has made them fairly soft in the middle. I recall this being Redknapp’s initial issue with Spurs, and due to injury I think it’s back. Palacios is part of the answer to this problem, but he’s just never been that strong with the ball and due to the infrequency of his play, he’s been passing the ball to the other team as often as he’s passing it to a teammate. I think this problem has to be solved by Huddlestone getting well fast, and by Jenas getting more mature in a hurry.
5. Gomes. For some reason I’ve never enjoyed watching Gomes play goal, but let’s face it, he’s been hard to criticize this year. He hasn’t made too many mistakes and he’s made a number of very high quality saves. I always think Gomes is the problem; sometimes I may even want him to be the problem. But you know what? He’s not a problem.
So where are the Spurs right now? I think they’ve got a good chance at third in the League, but don’t currently have the defense to do better, especially without Huddlestone. I also think they’re not at their peak as the absurd number of injuries to the defense and now to Van der Vaart (who unfortunately really needs a good three weeks, I would think, to recover from a hamstring injury) could lead to good players coming back strong in the final third of the season. Plus, this is a franchise that’s just not used to winning this much, and I think has taken some time to realize that they're actually among the best in the EPL, and should -- when they match their opposition in effort – consistently beat all but a few sides. All in all, this is an easy time to be a Spurs fan.
AFC WIMBLEDON UPDATE. I note with great sadness that the road to Wembly no longer passes through Kingsmeadow, as the fearless Wombles were defeated by Stevenage Borough of League Two this weekend. This despite an amazing 3 - 2 win in their replay game at Ebbsfleet United, where Womble Sammy Moore scored in the final minutes of the game, and then scored again in the final minutes of the game. Confused? So am I.
But here goes anyway: Moore’s first goal was in the fourth minute of stoppage time, to tie the game at two, a goal which he celebrated by symbolically hushing an Ebbsfleet crowd of about 500 (no, the irony should not be lost here). The second goal came after over three and a half hours of play, in the stoppage time following overtime. All of these amazing heroics, and yet Boro and not the Wombles will be playing against Newcastle United in the next round of the FA cup. Readers of this blog likely already know what to say about this result, so let’s leave it at that This is farlieonfootie for December 2.