Sunday, August 5, 2012

Spurred Onward: Thoughts on Tottenham's Pre-Season

Alnwick Castle - Harry Hotspur Statue
Photo by Dark Dwarf on Flickr

The farlieonfootie corporate staff had the opportunity to see Tottenham Hotspur during their recently concluded tour of the United States, as they took on Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls in beautiful (not really) Harrison, New Jersey. But if the game's surroundings were not picture perfect, the soccer-only stadium they've built on the outskirts of Newark was not too shabby, offering great sight lines from every seat, and up close views of the stars from North London.

Spurs needed two goals in the second half to overcome a tough and determined Red Bulls side, 2-1. On a night in which Tim Cahill made his MLS debut, Gareth Bale headed in the equalizer, while newcomer Gylfi Sigurdsson offered a glimpse of what Spurs' fans can only hope will be his regular season form with the game's third goal, the game winner.

In no particular order, here are some thoughts on the game and Spurs heading onto the 2012/13 season:

o Tottenham lack a target man up top. Unless Spurs can re-sign Emmanuel Adebayor, they may be in trouble against any defense which is stiffer than New York's.  While the Lily Whites moved the ball easily between the 18s, their attacks continually broke down for lack of a man in the middle.

o Sigurdsson's form last season was not an aberration. The guy is going to be very good, and by the end of this season may have Spurs fans asking the question "Luka Who?"  Although he may not be as silky smooth on the ball as the Croatian playmaker, and is clearly not a like-for-like replacement, Gylfi is much more direct in his style, and easily a greater threat on goal than the soon-to-be-Real-Madrid man.

o What is Huerelho Gomes still doing on Spurs?  Just asking....

Gareth Bale orders a taxi for Maicon 
o Jan Vertonghen looks to be a serious upgrade for Spurs in central defense, an area that has plagued the North London club at times over the last few seasons. Looking steady and assured, Vertonghen appears to give Spurs' back line some defensive muscle and a steadiness they can count on....

o ...that is, if new manager Andre Villas-Boas' preference for playing a high-line defense doesn't continually put the team under pressure from the ball over the top. Chelsea never really caught on to the plan -- or didn't have the personnel -- to compress the pitch, so it will be very interesting to see if Spurs sink or swim under the pressure of trying to learn something new.

o We wished we had seen the full Assou-Ekoto -- kind of like the Full Monty, but with hair -- but with his hair in a band it was not quite as impressive. Personally, our staff thinks Spurs' left back plays better with his hair unleashed -- kind of like a Tottenham-ized version of Sampson.

o New York had Tim Cahill playing in central midfield. I always pictured him as more of a target man -- the Aussie is damn good in the air --- or even playing just behind the main striker, but he seemed to be lying much deeper than we remembered him in NY coach Hans Backe's gameplan. We're not sure that's his most effective position, but it may take some time for the Red Bulls to figure out how to best deploy the former Everton man.

The equalizer came off Bale's head
o We've got to give both Spurs and the Red Bulls props for putting on a fun pre-game festival outside the stadium. Having been at the same venue last season to see Manchester United take on the MLS All-Stars, this time around was definitely better. We grabbed some pre-game pictures with the Premier League trophy -- although our dear leader was tempted to cut off the sky blue ribbons hanging from the side before doing so. Spurs also offered plenty of free giveaways in their effort to attract more US fans -- branded bracelets, thunder sticks and the like -- and when was the last time you saw anyone giving away free food -- popcorn and Italian ices -- at a professional sporting event?  Maybe it was to make up for the $9 beers....

This is farlieonfootie for August 5.

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