Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spanked: Thoughts on Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal

photo by Franco Folinivia PhotoRee

A refreshingly realistic Ed, on Spurs' traditional end of season tailspin and other thoughts:

  • Spurs decidedly played the part they historically play against Chelsea this weekend -- that of a fifth place team with pretty much no business making the top four.  They lost, of course, four to nil, and let's not kid ourselves into thinking that the game was actually closer than that.  It should have been 1 - 0 with Spurs down to ten men after about a minute if the refs had not made a charitable offside call.  And this was just a preview of what was to come, as it turns out, over and over and over and over....
  • Chelsea let Spurs possess the ball, which Spurs did, but it was no surprise that Spurs did so harmlessly.  Kyle Walker was playing in an advanced role on the right and his lack of skill was exposed by Cesar Azpilicueta.  The Chelsea left back made it clear yet again why Ashley Cole now occupies a spot on the bench.  On the other side, Gylfi Sigurdsson is simply not enough of an athlete to make a difference out wide.  And Aaron Lennon, who buzzed around in the number 10 position more often that not, did his typical "I'm crazy fast and dart all over" routine but never threatened the goal.  Poor Spurs, outclassed and outmuscled.

  • Was it the manager's fault?  Well, some blame could be allowed for Benteleb and Sandro being outmatched by Chelsea's pressing midfield of Ramires and Lampard.  Perhaps Dembele and Paulinho -- however tired they were -- should have been pressed into action, as Benteleb is a liability defensively and did make a poor pass right to Samuel Eto'o.  But ultimately the middle triangle of Chelsea just bossed the game because they were better.  Nemanja Matic is a tough holder, covering ground and making the middle a no fly zone.  Matic cost $21MM from Benfica.  Wait, how much did Spurs pay for Erik Lamela to warm the bench?
  • A word on Jan Vertonghen is due.  The defender made noise about defecting from Spurs because he wanted to play in the Champions League.  To this I sometimes think -- if you were as good as you think you are , shouldn't you be able to carry Spurs to the Champions League?  Don't you bear some responsibility for them not making it?  Well, it seems the football gods agreed with me in part, as the first goal was the direct result of a Vertongen mental mistake.  Look, he's a great player and a terrific addition to Spurs, but dude, be a leader!

  • Chelsea's strategy is clearly working but I can't say it's fun to watch.  Clog the middle and wait for one of your back for to make a mistake.  Then pounce on it with the speed of Schurrle and Eto'o, neither of which are dominant but both of which can run and finish reasonably well.  Utility can be beautiful but that isn't the case with this team. They are looking the favorite to win the League but I suspect winning in Europe against teams with similar talent will be past them.
  • Spurs, however, lost the guy that could run at defenses when they sold Gareth Bale for $100MM.  And despite spending it all, they didn't pick up a single guy who was even half the threat that he was.  Perhaps AVB's most tragic legacy was the number of holding midfielders he picked up at the expense of someone who could attack a defense.
  • Now, of course, Spurs have to take on Arsenal -- the most vulnerable team in the top four but one which I suspect will yet again humiliate their rivals when they nudge them out and take fourth position.  Last time Spurs made it to the top four I think some guy named Harry Redknapp was in charge.  Hey wait, didn't he get us to fourth place twice in four years?  Oh, that's right, we fired him because he didn't know any tactics.
This is farlieonfootie for March 11.

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