BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 9TH NOVEMBER, 2014
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1(0) STOKE CITY 2(2)
Referee:- Mike Jones
Assistants:- R. West & M. Scholes
Fourth official:- M. Atkinson
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul (Capt), Fazio, Rose; Capoue (sub Adebayor, 65), Mason; Townsend (sub Lamela, 46), Eriksen (sub Dembele, 46), Chadli; Kane
Subs not used:- Vorm; Vertonghen, Dier; Soldado
Booked:- Capoue (foul on N'Zonzi), Mason (foul on Sidwell), Kaboul (foul on Walters)
Sent off:- Naughton (84 - foul on Moses - last man)
Stoke (4-2-3-1):- Begovic; Bardsley (sub Cameron, 9), Shawcross (Capt), Wilson (sub Muniesa, 26),Pieters; N'Zonzi, Sidwell; Walters, Bojan (sub Ireland, 84), Moses; Diouf
Subs not used:- Sorensen; Arnajtovic, Adam; Crouch
Booked:- Cameron (foul on Townsend), Begovic (Time wasting - booked after only 23 minutes!)
Shameful performance, but who is to blame?
Spurs slipped to their fourth home defeat in only 6 games, and slipped back to the bottom half of the Premier League with a performance that was quite simply of the standard of a team destined for relegation.
The question is - who exactly is to blame for what seems like Spurs' worst start to a league season since the days of Juande Ramos 6 years ago? Under Pochettino, Spurs did win their first two league games, but they've only managed two wins in their last six league games.
I confess that I tweeted my views at half-time, when we were 2-0 down, when I said "Might I be the first to say F*** off Mauricio, I think it's time to go" That drew a lot of reaction, most of which thought I was jumping the gun, and guilty of my own knee-jerk reaction. There was some agreement with my offering.
For the record then, in no particular order, here are the candidates for being blameworthy for our current under-par predicament:-
A) Pochettino:- He picks the team; dictates the tactics and formation; takes overall responsibility for training and coaching the players, and decides on the team's strategy for any given situation.
In my view, he got the team selection wrong today. I don't know how Fazio got the nod over Vertonghen today. I have been impressed with him at times so far, but he has been sent off twice already in his short Spurs career. Today he was an absolute disaster, even giving the ball away inside his own area more than once, when trying to clear.
Of course, I understand the clamour for Harry Kane to start, which he did today, but the opposition was Mark Hughes' uncompromising, hard and experienced Stoke side (I'm being polite here), and in my view, the experience and physicality of Adebayor was warranted for this match.
Townsend was selected to start instead of Lamela, who replaced him at half-time. At the same time, Dembele replaced Eriksen, and he proved to be no more effective. Dembele seems incapable of a quick pass, but will always attempt a run on the ball, often sideways, sometimes forward,but so often ending in the loss of the ball before a positive result can be achieved.
I am also not convinced that Pochettino is communicating as effectively as he should with all the players. I find his mastery of the English language stilted, to say the least.
Pochettino generally adheres to the modern standard 4-2-3-1 formation, where possession is key, even if that means passing predominantly sideways or backwards.
Like Thursday's opponents Asteras Tripolis, Stoke looked much more incisive when breaking out of defence, or going forward, passing accurately, and moving with urgency and control. In their own half, Stoke closed us down, and tackled effectively too. Spurs, under Pochettino seem incapable of such behaviour, allowing opponents too much freedom and space.
B) The players:- assuming they are briefed properly, they should be clear about their task, and the manner in which their objectives will be achieved. This group appears so lacking in confidence that too many of their passes either fall short, or put the recipient under too much pressure from the moment of receipt. Other passes are over-hit, or inaccurate.
Is there an under-current of dissatisfaction or unhappiness in some quarters? Why is Vertonghen not first choice for every game?
Is there enough real passion for success on the part of the players? Their celebrations of the late winning goals at Villa Park, and Upton Park suggest the passion is there, but it is not as evident as it should be all the time in their play.
C) Franco Baldini:- Spurs' technical director is tasked with the recruitment of players, presumably in collusion with the manager's wishes. This years's intake of Vorm, Davies, Fazio, Stambouli has yet to set the Lane alight. Most of them rarely make the first team for a start! Eric Dier had a bright start, and is a genuine prospect for the longer term.
D) Daniel Levy:- The club chairman has been criticised in many quarters recently over his recruiting of so many managers/head coaches since ENIC took control of the club, and I have posed the question before as to whether he made the right choice this time. I have also commented previously this season about the irony of Ronald Koeman improving Southampton, and now we have a deteriorating Spurs side under his predecessor. I think Levy chose the wrong man.
E) Joe Lewis:- Many fans still don't comprehend the fact that ENIC runs Spurs as a business. Head honcho Joe Lewis is not a benefactor, and whilst I accept that the club has made much progress under ENIC'S stewardship, it will never compete with the Chelseas and Man Cities of this world without further investment.
That new stadium, whenever it appears will take some filling, especially with the form being displayed at present.
I don't pretend to have the answers, and I have made my point clear regarding the culpability of Pochettino.
Time and time again this season, I have been frustrated at our persistency in passing backwards, even from attacking situations. I've seen attacking throw-ins from almost opposite the opponents' penalty area sent backwards into our own half, instead of down the line, and forward. The same tendency appears whenever we have a free kick. Stoke were more interested in territorial gain than we were today, and reaped the rewards.
As for the game, it followed a very respectful parade of a local regiment, and the laying of a wreath in the centre circle by a veteran of the Second World War. He was afforded great applause and respect from the crowd, who then maintained the minute's silence in memory of the fallen and maimed.
Spurs had possibly their best chance of the game (other than their goal) within three minutes, when Eriksen fed Chadli down the right channel. Chadli crossed and Kane headed at the back post, but Begovic saved.
The first of several delays occurred after make Diouf collided with the advancing Lloris, and came off worst.
In the sixth minute, the Spurs midfield and defence simply retreated and offered too much space for Bojan Krkic to make a run from his own half, carving a route to the edge of the area, where he was allowed a right footed shot that beat Lloris's dive. It was Bojan's first goal for his club.
Townsend, working on the right at this stage, offered the ball to Capoue, who took too long to take a shot, returning the ball to Townsend, who fired over from an angle on the right-hand side.
Stoke suffered an early injury, with right back Bardsley replaced after only 9 minutes by USA'S Geoff Cameron.
Chadli got down the left channel and fed the ball to Eriksen, who was fouled on the edge of the area. Eriksen took the free kick, putting it over the bar to the left of Begovic. Naughton hit a cross from the right and Kane's header was easy for the keeper.
Younes Kaboul got roundly booed midway through the half, when he over-hit an attempted pass, not for the first time. I can't remember the last time our club captain was booed by his fans. As you can guess, by this time, the home fans were highly frustrated at our inability to make headway.
Cameron got booked for fouling Townsend down the flank, and Eriksen took the free kick, following which Ryan Mason had a good attempt on goal, hitting the side netting to the right of goal.
Referee Mike Jones might have responded to the home fans' vented frustration at the antics of Stoke goalkeeper Begovic, who got an early booking for time-wasting.
The home fans became more frustrated after Spurs lost the ball in midfield, and Diouf's cross from the right was easily converted by Jon Walters. Apart from a deflected Chadli effort, going for a corner, Spurs managed nothing in response and went in to boos from the crowd - two goals down.
Pochettino add two half-time substitutions, with Dembele and Lamela replacing Eriksen and Townsend respectively. They had little effect though, as Lloris did well to collect Moses' shot low to his left.
Lamela hit a free kick from the left after 58 minutes, but Harry Kane headed wide at the back post, when he really should have done better.
Capoue tried a long range effort, which passed over, before he was replaced by Adebayor.
Adebayor's first touch was to give the ball away, which led to a Stoke threat upon the Spurs goal.
Both Mason and Kaboul then took bookings. Mason's came after Dembele had lost the ball, whilst Kaboul was guilty of a two-footed tackle as he tried to carry the ball towards the Stoke goal. Stoke fans wanted a red card. They also by now were giving Danny Rose all the stick and abuse they could muster, prompted by one or two challenges, but also the history of our win at The Britannia last season.
Rose got some satisfaction for being the provider with a good deep cross from the left which was literally hammered home on the volley from beyond the back post by top league scorer Nacer Chadli.
That wasn't enough for Spurs though, and they couldn't get on terms despite Mason's dipping shot just over the bar, and added time header planted wide by Adebayor following Chadli's cross from the left. Earlier, Lamela had picked up Kane's headed flick, but just ran into trouble and lost the ball.
After 84 minutes, Kyle Naughton "took one for the team" by halting Moses in his tracks as he made for goal. I thought there were players inside and that he might have got away with a yellow, but Mr. Jones reached into his back pocket for a red card. Already, Spurs are seeing more red cards than is usual.
One of Fazio's pathetic attempted clearances fell to Stoke substitute Stephen Ireland, who forced a good save from Hugo Lloris, surely in his last season at Spurs.
Next up, after the International break are Hull, with three ex-Spurs including their former Captain, who surely would have led his team with more courage and desire, even if he did sometimes fall short on application. One or more of Dawson, Huddlestone or Livermore is surely bound to score against us, eh?
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