|photo by DÃ©lirante bestiole [flying foxy]||via PhotoRee|
In which Spurs' fan Columnist James returns from exile in Siberia:
It is tough to articulate just how abysmal Spurs' midfield performance has been since the injury to Sandro. I know, I know -- last sixteen of the Europa League, mouth watering tie with Inter coming up, Top 4 in the Prem, The Greatest Player In The World™ ("TGPIW"), etc. etc. But a series of singularly marvelous one-off goals by TGPIW (for the last four weeks running) and Moussa Dembele today (in Spurs' 1-1 second leg to advance in the Europa League against Lyon) have only served to paper over serious cracks in this squad since the Sandro injury.
And the most glaring of these cracks lies at the feet of (sadly, because he is one of my favorite players) one Scotty Parker. To think that the RAF Captain was once captain of England and was voted Spurs' most valuable player last year is astounding. His performance today was just terrible. And while Dembele was not much better prior to his wonder goal that saved Spurs, it has been the switch from Sandro to Parker that seems to have seriously disrupted Spurs' transition and flow while in possession.
It has been posited quite convincingly that Parker's core skill set is just not a good match both for AVB's system and the pairing with Dembele, but that fails to explain Parker's abject failure to adjust his game and just get rid of the ball. Or of AVB's failure to clearly instruct him to simply fulfill the Sandro enforcer role and free Dembele for the charging runs. It is true that Dembele and Parker are similar in that they like to hold and not look for (or are incapable of finding) the quick pass / through ball. But that was the case with Dembele before the Sandro injury and Spurs' were not nearly this bad. Recently, Spurs' offense has been just about non-existent save for TGPIW™'s wonder strikes and this is simply not sustainable.
Neither can Dembele's decline -- traced back to the very same Sandro injury -- be regarded as a coincidence. With Sandro so effectively protecting the back line, sweeping back and forth and springing Dembele up the field, Spurs were not exactly the fluid tiki-taka countering team they were with Modric, but their speed in transition enabled them to at least play the counter at times quite effectively. Now, however, their transition and possession is like watching paint dry with Parker doing his pirouettes around the ball and Dembele dribbling all over the place with nary a decent pass between them.
Of course, all of this can be laid at the feet of Daniel Levy and his penchant for cut-rate deadline day deals that more often collapse as not. He knew as far back as two summers ago that Spurs were in danger of losing Luka Modric. He knew that there was NO ONE on the squad who even theoretically could perform the deep lying playmaker role. He knew that his new manager favored the acquisition of Joao Moutinho and that this transaction would have been eminently attainable even through the myriad complexities of multiple ownership if you start sooner than SIX HOURS REMAINING ON DEADLINE DAY.
So now Spurs find themselves with not only a striker-less squad (thanks for that, too, Mr. Levy) but a squad with approximately three (to varying degrees not as good) Rafael Van Der Vaart replacements in Clint Dempsey, Gylffi Sigurdsson and Lewis Holtby -- and not one single Modric replacement.
Don't plan to chalk up for those Champions League tickets just yet, friends. Although I hope I am wrong, there are only so many more wonder strikes left in The Greatest Player In The World™ and that seems the only thing that can dependably get this flawed Spurs team to a Top Four finish this season, even with the turmoil at Woolwich....
This is farlieonfootie for February 22, 2013.