Tag Archives: Tactics

So we have a plan A, what about B, C, D…

A lot has been made of whether Spurs have any other plan than plan A, last year mainly but already this year as well. Whether this be AVB not being able to change from his formation (4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1) or that the players on the bench will not offer anything different from those on the pitch, commentators and pundits alike often say we lack a plan B when the game is not going our way.

In our first three league games we have played the following:

Palace (4-2-3-1):

Swansea (4-3-3):

Arseanl (4-2-3-1):

I am taking the formation from where the semi colons are in the tweets. It is fairly safe to say that plan A revolves around a solid centre and explosive wings. In each game AVB used all three subs, did the substitutions change the style in any way?

Palace:
Capoue for Dembele (57 mins), 7 minutes after the goal was scored. Shore up the midfield with a more combative midfielder.
Defoe for Soldado (83 mins), straight swap.
Kaboul for Rose (86 mins). Extra height in defence to deal with Palace lumping it into the box.

Swansea:
Sigurdsson for Dembele (64 mins). 6 minutes after the goal was scored. Straight swap.
Defoe for Soldado (81 mins), straight swap.
Sandro for Townsend (88 mins), shore up the midfield for the last minute onslaught.

Arsenal:
Defoe for Dembele (69 mins), throw another striker on and formation change to 4-4-2.
Sandro for Capoue (75 mins), Capoue injured, straight swap.
Lamela for Townsend (75 mins), straight swap but looking for a little more guile.

The first two games didn’t really need much changing given the winning position Spurs were in but the third is where it gets a little more interesting. Having been one nil down for almost 50 minutes, AVB decides a change is needed and throws Defoe on for 20 minutes. Changing to 4-4-2 against a team with a strong 5 man midfield was a bold move that in the end did not work. One bold move was not followed by another as Capoue’s injury gave AVB the chance to perhaps change to a very attacking midfield, throwing on Sigurdsson or Holtby. I don’t think AVB had much of a choice though given the midfield was already outnumbered. The other change of Lamela for Townsend was designed to address the way Arsenal were putting many men behind the ball however I think replacing Chadli would have been the better solution. I think Chadli was left on for his height advantage.

I think it was a little early for people to suggest that perhaps there was no plan B for Spurs given the only game we had to really try something else was against a good team.

So what is plan B

The squad assembled over the summer has been discussed at length here and on many other blogs. It is a good and deep squad. Assuming plan A is what was suggested at the end my previous article (here) , what could possibly be a plan B, C or D? I am not talking about changing the starting line-up here but how to change a game that is already in progress.

Pointless looking back, what is done is done. So, plan A is what you start with and this is my starting eleven with subs. Yes subs, they are crucial after all to change a game so I also tried to select subs!

strongest433

Subs: Friedel, Dawson, Naughton, Dembele, Holtby, Chadli, Adebayor

Attacking changes

Ignore Friedel so let us start with Dawson. It may seem a little off-piste to say a centre back can change the attacking outlook of a game but that is due to 3-5-2 being out of favour currently. However, with the current love of playing a single striker by Premier League clubs it is a viable option. We gain an extra striker but do not lose any presence in the midfield. This wouldn’t be a one man change, it would require two at the same time to introduce the second attacker. The downside is that there must be a reason why people do not play 3-5-2? Perhaps managers are not bold enough. It is an option but I worry about Dawson in this system, does he have the ability to bring the ball out of defence well enough to play the system?

There is not much in attacking sense I can see for Naughton, by that I mean coming on to make Spurs more attacking. The only option I can see is that by playing Townsend in left midfield in my formation I already have someone willing to get to the byline. As such, Naughton could come on for Rose to provide the option of cutting inside and delivering a different kind of ball into the box from the left.

Dembele is a weird one to make an attacking change with and given he was the first sub in each of our three games, it looks like he is perhaps seen as one of the less important players on the pitch currently. However, he can play in any of the three central midfield positions and the most obvious attacking change would be to replace Sandro. I wouldn’t expect him to play as deep as Sandro so hopefully this sort of change would push the play closer to the opposition goal.

Holtby is a more obvious choice to bring more attacking intent and can replace either of Sandro or Paulinho. If he replaced Sandro then it would result in Paulinho being the deepest central midfielder though again not as deep as Sandro. Neither Holtby or Dembele change the formation when being brought on by themselves, just the attacking impetus so I can see why some would say this is a lack of plan B given the rest of the team will still be doing the same job.

Chadli falls into the same category as Dembele and Holtby, not going to change the formation and I struggle to see where he can add attacking impetus over Townsends direct play and Lamela’s trickery. I think he will come on for Townsend to add extra height but also to change tact if getting to the byline is failing by cutting inside onto his stronger foot.

I picked Adebayor over Defoe because I think he gives you more options. Defoe will have an impact if he has time to turn and shoot but Ade will involve the rest of the team more. He could directly replace Soldado to hold the ball up better. This would lose the movement of Soldado but perhaps increase movement of those around him. He could come on for a central midfielder, changing the formation to 4-4-2. I would assume Paulinho would be sacrificed in this scenario as you wouldn’t want to lose the creativity of Eriksen or the battling nature of Sandro given being outnumbered (assuming most teams play with 5 man midfields). He could also be used in the switch to 3-5-2 as discussed previously.

Defensive

Defensive changes are not what the media are referring to when talking about plan B’s but it is worth considering. They are probably a little more straight forward than the attacking changes but we’ll have a quick look.

Again ignore Friedel and start with Dawson. He could replace one of the full backs with Kaboul or Vertonghen then moving to full back. Always dangerous given the player moving suddenly has different worries to concern themselves with but it does provide extra height and defensive qualities to the team. Another option is the replace one of the wingers resulting in a 5-3-2 formation, our full backs are very attack minded to say the least so should be comfortable as wing backs but we would be inviting attacks down the wings. With three tall centre backs you would hope they could deal with the high ball/cross onslaught.

Naughton, from what I have seen, is not as attack minded as Rose or Walker so would be an obvious solidifying change by replacing a full back.

You would assume that if Dembele came on to help see out a game it would be for Eriksen, you lose the natural creativity but gain some battling qualities and possession retention. If this happens you would expect to see a flatter central 3 in midfield rather than the staggered 4-3-3 version. You would really be isolating the striker here so the strikers work rate pretty much doubles.

I don’t see Holtby as the go to player for a defensive change however he could come on for a winger or Eriksen. He would harry the opposition in his tenacious manner which could give the defence the breather they require while perhaps losing some width (if winger is replaced).

Chadli, like Holtby, is perhaps a little limited when being used with a defensive improvement in mind. He is taller than our other wingers so the height is always a help and again it would be a change to bring fresh legs on to pressure the opposition.

Ade could be the key when making a defensive change given he has the ability to hold the ball up. His extra height will again also help with set pieces.

Conclusion

Clearly this is all based on what would be my go to first eighteen that I think will cover the majority of situations. Naturally you would take each game as it comes, picking a starting eleven and subs to reflect the opposition.

I do see why some would say we are short of idea’s when we are failing to break down the opponent because a lot of the attacking changes are really like for like without really giving the opposition much new things to consider. However, there are changes that can be made to affect the outcome of the game, some are more adventurous than others but they are there.

Naturally, plan A working is what would be the ideal scenario so nothing has to change but that will not always be the case. But for a change to be effective they need to be made with enough time for the players to have an effect, in the North London Derby they probably came a little too late.

So what do you think? Is there enough scope to change the course of a game? Or is AVB unwillingly to move from his tried and tested tactics? Squad is good, but is it all too similar? The England game is bound to be dull so why not leave a comment!

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The real reason Spurs came fifth?

There has been many a discussion post season as to why we finished in fifth spot in the league last season, when many, myself included, thought that fourth should have been a definite and maybe even second or third was a real possibility.

Some of the post mortem debates have been;

Was it the lack of goals from the strikeforce and the fact we didn’t strengthen this area in the January transfer window? At the start of the season most would have said it was good enough to compete.

Was it that our success in the CL had a negative and tiring effect on our league form as we all know about the 2 points from 8 games fact, plus the seeming inability to defeat the so called inferior teams?

Is that I and many others are just wrong and we really aren’t as good as we had hoped and believed and we are in the right place for the level we are at?

All the above points have merit to some degree.

We know that our strikeforce of JD, Pav, Crouchy and Keano should have been capable of firing in the goals as they had plenty of imagination, flair and talent behind them creating the chances for them. But ,for various reasons, it didn’t happen for them last season and when we desperately needed to strengthen and had the opportunity this failed to materialise also.

The inability to defeat lesser teams was the most frustrating fact from last season for me. I can hear you saying now to yourself ‘why would this be?’, as Spurs have a history of doing such things and you would be correct in that thought. The previous season we were much better at getting the points when we struggled and played the bottom half of the table teams and maybe I just expected the team to carry on in the same vein. Of course the CL exertions had an effect but we have a quality and large enough squad that should have been used to its maximum to prevent such a dire return at the tail end of the season.

After reflecting on the last season I truly believe that it really was a superb opportunity for us to finish anywhere from second to fourth in the league as we had the talent to have done this. Especially as Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and even Manchester United struggled for large parts of the season, so a real opportunity lost in my eyes. On the where we really are front and compared to the other teams mentioned I think we can honestly seriously compete with City, Liverpool and Arsenal now.

But, after reading a very good article in the latest edition of FourFourTwo Magazine (@FourFourTwo on Twitter) I put forward this reason: Injuries and specifically injury to Ledley King!

According to said article Spurs had 61 different injuries during the last season, the most in the PL, the least were BLackpool with 20. Spurs as a whole lost 1528 days to injuries, the 4th most, Sunderland were top with 2001 days. I know our squad should be big enough and have enough depth within it to cope with such issues as every team has them, but 61! That seems a hell of a lot of injuries and days lost, I wonder how many times that specific ones occurred? Maybe the club should analyse what they were, how many times they occurred and how they could possibly change the training routine to prevent some of them. Yes, some were obviously match related injuries that you cannot do anything about as it is a contact sport after all and also injuries occurred to players whilst playing for the their countries rather then us (Dawson and JD’s for England being 2). Still, injuries on this scale must have an effect on the team with consistency, gelling with and understanding team mates, fitness levels and possibly psychologically as well. With the amount of games we played I am not saying this was the only reason but it may have been a real factor and taken its toll on the team.

My second point on the injury front issue is our leader, Mr Cool himself, Ledley King. I firmly believe he is the best centre back in the country bar none and it’s a crying shame what has happened to him due to his dodgy knees mainly, amongst other related issues. I have some interesting facts for you:

Last season LK missed 197 days of a 282 day PL season (the previous season 101). He was included in 10 squads throughout the last season, starting 9 times and being an unused sub once, 6 starts were in the PL (previous season 21 starts, 20 in PL). This related to a total of 764 minutes of competitive football played last season and 1637 minutes the season before. Our win percentage with him in the team last season was 75% (PL games only and yes I know only 6 of them!), and without 58%, over a much longer period it has to be said. I can counter this though with the stat that over the last 7 seasons we are at a win percentage of 59% with him in the team and 50% when he isn’t. How many points this relates to last season if he played even 10 more league games of the 32 that he missed is anyone’s guess but if we used a win percentage of only 50% and converted some of the draws into wins, it would be anywhere from 10-15 points I reckon and second place in the league! Wishful thinking I know.

Obviously this is all theoretical and stats can be twisted to suit but I do honestly believe we are a much calmer, better team with LK in it that wins more. It also would have helped if we could have had available our first choice XI much more often (obviously with squad rotation being taken into account) without the deluge of injuries and last season could have been even better than it was.

Hopefully next season we won’t have so many injuries, especially to our top players, Ledley will play some more games and our strikers will be firing.

Top four here we come!

COYS

Rob

All facts and figures taken from myfootballstats.com and FourFourTwo Magazine

How We Beat AC Milan

How did we beat AC Milan? Being a modest, shy, retiring type I don’t want to answer that question with read yesterdays match preview How To Beat AC Milan because that would make me sound like a know-it-all and I hate those people, mainly because they always disagree with me, and they’re always wrong. ;)

So instead I’ll let some images from last night’s game do the talking. Yesterday morning I thought we’d lose by a couple of goals. I didn’t believe Redknapp’s pre-match talk about attacking especially if Modric wasn’t fit to start. However, as kick off approached my nervousness abated and my sense of impending doom changed to quiet optimism. So much so I even went as far as tweeting my unusual positive stance on the outcome.

It doesn’t happen often as those of you that read this corner of the internet will testify but as in my match preview I genuinely believed if we set up correctly and played well we could get something from the game. The main tactic we had to employ was keeping it tight centrally but playing with width when we had the ball. Not an easy thing to do as could be seen with 10-15 minutes to go and players starting to wilt, most just playing on adrenaline, especially after Crouch’s winning goal went in.

You can see how narrow Milan played last night by the images below and likewise how perfectly Redknapp set the team up to counter that. Look at the extra space we had on the flanks while they crowded the middle of the pitch, playing right into our hands with Palacios and Sandro sitting and waiting. Both their jobs were executed to perfection, closing down, tackling, intercepting and then playing the simple ball sideways to the wings. It was this play that meant we dominated the first half.

It also shows how often we played the ball to Ekotto, concentrating our possession down the left hand side with Pienaar and van der Vaart. The game was crying out for the ball to be given to Lennon early so he had grass to run into which is exactly what happened for the goal. Better late than never. With regards to Milan we did an excellent job of keeping the ball away from their forwards by closing down the midfield and making them pass the ball backwards to the defence. As you can see from the position of Antonini and Abate, Milan get all their width from their full backs which is exactly why Redknapp gave Pienaar the nod instead of Niko. It was harsh on Kranjcar and while he did fine when he came on it was clear to see his defensive abilities aren’t a patch on the South Africans.

The above images show perfectly how the team closed Milan down and pushed them backwards. By staying tight we didn’t offer the Milan defenders many options which resulted in a lot of sideways passing along the back four. This meant we could get back into two banks of four with vdV & Crouch slotting into midfield at times to offer support. Again, the tight marking and closing down of the opposition is shown with their backwards passing. A lot of it from the flanks as the partnerships of Lennon/Corluka and Pienaar/Ekotto worked well together to make sure they gave away nothing.

It was this tireless work that led to Milan getting impatient and at times impetuous. I don’t watch a lot of Italian football mainly because of the time and space allowed to each team makes it’s a boring style of football to watch.

You could see from their reactions that they weren’t used to being closed down and as tightly marked as they were last night and we went about it intelligently. I had a bet on Spurs winning, 11+ corners and 45+ card index. Unfortunately for me there were only 3 yellow cards and none of them were spurs players. This with Palacios and Sandro in our team, both of whom played superbly. I read a tweet last night wondering if Wilson had travelled to the San Siro by Delorean because it was the Sgt Wilson of 2 years ago, not the one we’ve been used to of late. They were both careful and jostled for the ball for the majority of the time when they were in and around their own area but once they got too far to shoot from a free kick they let the Milan players know they were there. Again a sign we were pushing Milan back at every opportunity.

This season we’ve all bemoaned the fact we need a quality striker and while in the premier league that’s definitely true, in the Champions League we’ve already got one in Peter Crouch. Whether it’s how defenders try to play against him or he just improves for games like last night I’m not sure but he was superb. He won everything in the air, held it up well and linked play with the midfield as well as anyone could wish for. By the end of the game he looked like he was dead on his feet but still managed to keep up with Lennon so he had the simple task of slotting home the winner. As you can see from the images below we restricted Milan to long range shots and when they did manage to shoot in the box they were either blocked by defenders putting their bodies in the way or saved by the excellent Gomes. One save in particular was one of the best saves I’ve ever seen. We on the other hand at least managed to test the keeper. They may not have been spectacular saves like Gomas had to pull off but they were on target all the same and one of the two off target shots was a sublime chip by vdV that had the keeper beat but just went wide.

Overall everything went spectacularly well. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better performance from a Spurs side. It’s a shame some of the gloss has been taken off the victory by events surrounding Gattuso who showed himself to be exactly what he is, in the words of Graeme Souness, “a dog of a player”, which is why I’m not going to highlight his actions too much. The referee had a very good game in my opinion but missed his antics as well as the two footed leg breaker by Flamini. They’re only human though and I’ll settle for him getting those wrong but getting Ibrahimovic’s last minute disallowed goal right.

If you read this blog, the site forum or follow me on twitter you may have noticed in the past I can be critical of Redknapp’s tactics or lack of but I’m always happy to give credit where it’s due. For someone who not so long ago said he didn’t believe tactics made much of a difference at the highest level he’s certainly proved himself wrong. Last night he got everything spot on. The Modric injury was actually a blessing in disguise because the partnership of Palacios and Sandro was perfect for how we needed to play in the San Siro. When it comes to the home game it’ll be slightly different but we still need to box clever. The inclusion of Pienaar was a great move too. I’d suggested it might be the better option because of his defensive abilities but didn’t believe he’d do it and wouldn’t have had a problem had Niko started. Everything went to plan and he must get credit for that as well as the players.

It’s only half time and we can’t get carried away. Enjoy it of course but realise if we don’t go through now last night will soon be forgotten. Well, maybe not forgotten but tainted. This team, squad and management are learning all the time. Top four and champions league? Bring it on.

COYS

How To Beat AC Milan

Football’s such an easy game on paper. All you’re doing is comparing two teams and deciding how one team can take advantage of another’s weaknesses. In the match preview for the Sunderland game I stated we needed to play very narrow and encourage Steve Bruce’s side to attack down the flanks due to that not being their favoured approach. It’s exactly what we did and with a little bit of luck it paid off. Tonight’s game is the complete opposite.

Champions League is back on the agenda and the next few weeks could define our season one way or the other. When the draw for this stage of the competition was being made I was dreading being paired with AC Milan. They were the one team I didn’t fancy our chances against, especially after they witnessed what we did to their local rivals in the group stages and my thoughts on the difficult task ahead haven’t changed. With the exception of Barcelona and Real Madrid, who we couldn’t have drawn at this stage, I don’t think there’s a team better equipped to win the competition. That being said, every team has a chance in any match, no matter what the circumstances. So here’s how we do it.

Missing Personnel

Both teams have major players out for this game, and while Milan are missing Pirlo, Ambrosini, van Bommel and ex Spur Boateng (can’t believe he’s playing for AC Milan now) I don’t really care about their team. It’s all about the Spurs side in my opinion as it is in any game because on our day we can beat any team. The obvious omission is Gareth Bale who could’ve been key to the result and how we played as a team but there’s also the probability that Modric won’t play. With Jenas being suspended, the need for the little Croatian is more than ever. If he plays then great, but if he doesn’t we look like we’d start with Palacios and Sandro which might not be a bad thing. If both perform to their abilities it could favour us in the away leg.

Pace and Width

This is where not having Bale is a major problem. AC Milan have an average age of 68 years old and don’t like pace which Bale has in abundance. As does Lennon so a lot will depend on how he performs on the night. If we get the ball to him he could find himself with a lot of space to run into especially if Antonini is caught in advanced positions as he often likes to do. Milan’s width is created by their full backs so quick, incisive counter attacks down the wings could be the best way for us to grab what could be a very important away goal.

I’m sure Niko will start on the left but I worry about his lack of pace and defensively I’d prefer to have Pienaar out there to help Ekotto if needed. I would expect Benny to come under serious attack from Milan in the guise of Ibrahimovic who likes to drift out to that side of the pitch and will fancy his chances in an aerial battle. For this reason alone I’d start with Pienaar who has a little more discipline and more pace which should enable him to support attacks more often. He’s also more likely to hug the touchline and not drift inside as Niko will do. However, if Niko starts there’s no real problem because at the moment if there’s a goalscorer in the team it’s him.

It’ll be interesting to see who starts up front. It looks like van der Vaart will play so I would presume we’ll go with Crouch up front which in Europe so far this season has served us well. I can’t help but wonder though if Defoe might be the better option. As crazy as that sounds given his current form and inability to hold the ball up as I’ve said already our best chance of getting something from tonight is pace. Raw, unadulterated pace, and that’s the one thing JD’s got plenty of. Crouch is probably the better option though simply based on Europe’s best defenders struggling to deal with him in recent years.

With regards to attacking the team picks itself. Lennon, Niko, vdV and Crouch will undoubtedly start. As I’ve said you could replace Niko and Crouch with Pienaar and Defoe but they’re more likely to make an impact from the bench. Defensively it’s a little bit trickier. The back 4 are shoe-ins, Corluka, Gallas, Dawson and Ekotto with the bumbling yet sometimes superb Gomes behind them. With Ibrahimovic playing as a lone striker it’ll be down to one of the midfielders to pick up Robinho or Pato who like to drop deep and link with the midfield, much as vdV does for us. If Modric plays this will be done by Palacios and if we’ve ever wanted a good game from Sgt Wilson it’s tonight. If Modric doesn’t play we would obviously lose his creative abilities but we should be a lot tougher to breakdown centrally with Sandro joining Palacios.

Their passing skills might not be up to much but as I’ve said, we need to keep the ball and play it wide whenever possible. They shouldn’t need to look up and search for 30 yard passes if Lennon and Niko are available for the short ball. Modric would probably play the same ball the majority of the time anyway.

By nature we’re a counter attacking side. There’s no reason why we can’t play our normal game and come away from the San Siro with our heads held high once again. Expect Milan to have plenty of the ball especially centrally but any width they have will have to be provided by the full backs and that’s when we should be ready to take advantage. Win possession, quick supply to the flanks and look to cross for three-metre-Peter to add the finishing touches. Obviously we’ll have to play well but there’s no need to think if we do play well we won’t get at least a draw, even if Modric doesn’t play. Cut out the silly mistakes, start brightly and cause them trouble. Remember, while we may not be the favourites we haven’t been for much of the last year in anything and that hasn’t stopped us finishing in the top 4, scoring plenty of goals in the group stages and finishing top of our group which is more than AC Milan managed to do.

This spurs side is made of sterner stuff than yesteryear and it could be the age old Harry ploy of “go out there, kick it about and play your natural game” is exactly what we’ve got to do.

COYS

41 Points & We’re Safe From Relegation

What a difference one result makes and more importantly a change in formation. Don’t we all feel a lot better today? It wasn’t just the three points won at a very tough place to go to and it’s not like we were at our fluent best but the sight of seeing two strikers on the pitch, albeit one of them being Crouch and the other Defoe, who I thought enjoyed one of his worse performances in a Spurs shirt, gave us all renewed enthusiasm for the remainder of the season. Plus as an added bonus it took us beyond the magical 40 points mark so now we can all relax and know we’ll be playing premier league football next season. ;)

I’ve noticed a plethora of spurs blogs being updated today which must mean we’re all a lot more positive today and that’s down to Mr Redknapp. If you’ve read this blog in the past you may have noticed I don’t believe Harry’s infallible when it comes to errors no matter how much success he’s had in the last 18 months. The last few games have been testament to that but last night he got it spot on. We were all crying out for a return to 4-4-2 and he duly delivered. I’ll admit when I saw the team I had mixed feelings. I was delighted with the formation and the inclusion of Corluka for the hapless Hutton but less excited about the prospect of watching Lennon on the left and Crouch up front.

A very handsome man wrote in his match preview:

There’s no point in playing Crouch against Samba because he’s unlikely to win the ball in the air but he does have a good record against Blackburn so if he starts then so be it but my preference would be Pav and Defoe.

Some would say that’s a clear error on my part considering how 3-metre-Peter leapt through the air like a Salmon to bury the ball into the bottom corner and leave Samba looking like a bear with a sore head who couldn’t catch his dinner. However, if you look closer you’ll also see how beautifully I covered my tracks by mentioning his record against Blackburn. It’s like reading an ITK statement made by the poet laureate. For the record I thought Crouch was very good last night. It’s only one game but more of that for the final 14 games of the season could help a lot. It wasn’t just his goal either, for the most part of held it up well and linked play, in particular with vdV on the right. These two seem to have some sort of telepathy going on whether it be in the box or outside it.

As a result of my delayed response to writing some sort of reaction to last nights match I expect like me you’ve already read many of the other corners of the internet and seen the player ratings etc so there’s not much point in doing the same here. Before I briefly mention those who had good games last night I just wanted to address a player who I thought played well but I’ve seen many comments to the contrary. Wilson Palacios, as we all know, has been garbage for the majority of his games for the past year. Every now and then he has a good game but follows that up with a performance that see’s him substituted at half time. We definitely need better. However, whether it be Palacios, Crouch, Jenas or vdV, no matter what a players past performances are like they should be judged on their last match and for me, Wilson had a good solid game.

Stats can tell different stories depending on how you want to look at them but Palacios’s from last night only confirm his performance for me. As you’ll see from the image on the right he only misplaced 5 passes which gave him a completion rate of 90%. Decent for any player. I understand the problems people have with the type of pass he makes, often sideways and short, sometimes laboured and slow but he’s a defensive midfielder. His job is to win the ball and do his best to give it to one of the more creative players around him, which is what he did. Couple that with his 3 interceptions, 0 fouls and 3 from 4 tackles won and he had a good game. I’m not saying he was excellent on the night or even close to a man of the match performance but a 7/10 is surely justified? The funny thing is the one pass I remember him making all night is one of those 5 failed attempts and that’s from someone who thought he had a good game. I guess when you spend so long disappointing we only see what we expect to see.

We all probably agree that van der Vaart returned to some sort of form and put in a shift on the right side of midfield, tracking back when needed and generally making a nuisance of himself to the opposition. It’s good to see such a talented player taking one for the team and it’s not as if he was told to stay on the right and not get forward too much. For the first 20 minutes of the second half we were closer to playing a 4-3-3 than a 4-4-2.

Other performances of note were Jenas who put in one of his rare excellent performances that make you hope he’s finally understood what he’s meant to do and will do it every week only to watch him in the next game be completely useless again. We’ve all said it before and I’m sure we’ll say it again but if he could just play like that every game he’d be like a new signing. Or at least up his value so we could sell him.

Gallas is fast becoming our Mr Consistent. I’m happy to admit when I’m wrong and I was about him. I thought he was too injury prone and a sulker but he gives the impression that he just wants to play football. Ekotto and Charlie were good too. It’s nice to see Corluka back in the side, although we shouldn’t expect much going forward as he showed at times last night but as a defender he’s far superior to Hutton which is what we need at the moment. Gomes made a string of superb saves but still gives us and those around him the jitters when the ball’s in the air. A good defence is always confident of it’s keeper and I don’t think ours is, but his saves won us the game as much as Crouch’s goal.

A final word on our two munchkins, Lennon and Defoe. One looks to be gaining confidence and discipline out on the left and the other looks a shadow of himself. While Lennon’s threat might not be quite as great when he’s got to cut inside all the time if he can pick the right pass instead of running into defenders once he does cut in he could be more effective there than on the right. Some work with his left foot wouldn’t go amiss either. Defoe on the other hand is a tricky problem for Redknapp. I presume it was Defoe who Redknapp believed was as good as Suarez which is why he pulled out of signing the Uruguay international. On last night’s display that decision could cost us. Defoe has always been a confidence player and with his injuries, suspensions and then seeing the club trying their best to sign a new striker his confidence is clearly low, but how do you fix it? If you put him on the bench and give someone else a chance it’ll get even worse but if he continues to play like that he doesn’t deserve to start. Personally, with a home game coming up I’d start him again and hope he scores or at least plays well. If not, it could be time for a rest.

All in all a very enjoyable night. Redknapp made the right formation selection and an excellent substitution that effected the game for the good.

Forget the FA Cup and the transfer window. Who cares about the Olympic Stadium, Northumberland Development Project or injuries to key players. All that matters now is beating Bolton on Saturday afternoon. String together a few back to back wins and with those above us playing each other we’ve got what could be our final chance to put pressure on them and maybe still sneak into the top 4. That is unless we go back to a lone striker.

Dear Blackburn: You Want Some? Come Get Some.

Just a short preview today because there’s no need to fanny about with formations and tactics. Keep it simple.

Ok, so we’re missing some very influential players for tonights game, especially Modric who we lost this morning to an appendix operation but I’m feeling positive. We’ve returned to our soft underbelly away from home recently, Blackburn look to be putting a good run together and there’s a feeling of doom and gloom among the Tottenham faithful but I haven’t felt this positive since the last time we played Blackburn.

In that game we went back to a more familiar 4-4-2 and we not only played well but we scored 4 goals. Yes, playing well AND scoring goals in a non champions league game. Hard to believe but it happened. With the injuries we’ve got we must play with two strikers. It has to happen and there’s no excuse win, lose or draw if we don’t.

van der Vaart can slot back into midfield, whether that be replacing Modric and playing his role or out on the left. He’ll obviously drift in but as long as we have someone like Pienaar who’s a lot more disciplined than vdV playing centrally he should be able to cover any spaces left and protect Ekotto. There’s no point in playing Crouch against Samba because he’s unlikely to win the ball in the air but he does have a good record against Blackburn so if he starts then so be it but my preference would be Pav and Defoe.

Defensively we’re a little light too with injuries and suspensions but again we should have enough in the squad to cover those absentees. Get Corluka back into the team whether that be at right back preferably or centre back if Gallas isn’t fit. I’d like to see Charlie given another shot and long stint in the first team behind Lennon because not only does it mean we’re better in defence but Lennon plays better with Charlie than he does with Hutton.

So, it’s simple. Like back in November, play 4-4-2 which the majority of our players are comfortable with, keep possession and play high tempo football. Whether it be Sandro, Palacios or Jenas alongside Pienaar/vdV make sure they just sit in front of the defence and allow the 5 players in front of them to play. Back to basics as it were. It’s what Redknapp’s good at after all. Pick the best players available, play them in their favourite positions where possible and tell them to go out there and enjoy it.

Blackburn’s a very tough place to go but if we get the personnel and formation right we can keep hanging onto the coattails of Chelsea in fourth. If, like we’ve done in recent games, we try to be cute with the formation we’ll cement the last few weeks as the worse in Redknapps tenure with a negative result against a fast improving team.

Lets go back into the future and put on a performance we all know we can.

Prediction: 4-4-2 and we win; anything else and we don’t. It’s that simple.

We’ll concentrate on the league then…

I didn’t write a match preview for yesterday’s FA Cup forth round tie at Fulham mainly because I had a bad feeling about it. I’m not being Mr I Told You So after the event and I didn’t for one second think we’d get our asses handed to us in the manner we did but I thought it would be a tricky tie, won by the odd goal in 3.

Possibly the worse performance under Redknapp? Maybe worse than any Ramos game? The worse since Gerry Francis? These are all statements I’ve seen bandied about since the final whistle and I can’t really disagree with any of them. However, it’s not the first time this season we’ve played like that. Young Boys and Inter away were exactly the same, the only difference was managing to score some goals after the game was lost that papered over gaps larger than the one’s we had running through the entire side at Craven Cottage.

Where to start?

  1. The entire team was shocking
  2. The formation was terrible
  3. Individual errors cost us early on

With the exception of a few players, Bale and Palacios being the main ones it was a full strength team. I watched a Spurs game on ESPN for the first time and was amazed when they stated Corluka was in fact Sandro and then put our starting XI into a line up which looked like this:

Gomes

Hutton    Dawson    Bassong    Ekotto

Sandro

Pienaar     Modric     Lennon

Defoe     van der Vaart

As much as I hate Sky sometimes at least they’re not as stupid to make simple mistakes like that. ESPN must be the ITV of the satellite stations. It was clear to everyone with those players it would be our normal 4-4-1-1 with Pienaar replacing Bale, Lennon in his normal right position and Sandro covering the Palacios role. How pathetic of them not to do their research properly. Right?

Then Redknapp was interviewed before the game, in the tunnel not on the pitch, which for reasons known only to EPSN is where they present the show from. He confirmed there would be a change in formation, but surely it wouldn’t be the same one the TV channel had so mysteriously plucked out of thin air? I was wrong, it was exactly how ESPN had covered it. I hung my head in shame and then proceeded to work out exactly what was going on.

No fluidity, no ball retention, no width, players looking lost in positions alien to them. In all fairness ESPN did get it slightly wrong because Modric didn’t get anywhere near as advanced as they suggested he would. In fact we played a 4-2-3-1 formation with both Sandro and Modric sitting deep. What it meant was we had absolutely no width, much like we did against Newcastle and Fulham found it very easy to deal with. Any width we did have came from Lennon and Pienaar who preferred to cut inside than run down the line, having been told to play on the opposite side to their preferred position. Genius.

Anyway, so the formation was abysmal and not for the first time this season (or last) we’ve been found out tactically. What happened to the simple days of putting players in their natural positions and telling them to go out there and express themselves? More importantly for the short term future, what’s happened to the saying, learn from your mistakes? At the moment we’re making the same one’s time and time again. Everton, Charlton, United and now Fulham to name just the most recent formation and tactical errors. Some have cost us and some haven’t.

Alterations didn’t occur until the second half and the removal of Sandro for Gallas once Dawson saw red was a strange one. Removing Pienaar or Lennon would’ve made much more sense instead of leaving us with no defensive minded midfielder. Remove Pienaar, put Lennon on the right and vdV on the left would’ve left us with a 4-4-1 and a much more balanced team rather than a midfield of offensive minded players who struggled to win the ball back, and left the defence exposed constantly. A puzzler from Redknapp that one. By the time he sent Crouch on for Defoe he’d already given up. At that point the brilliant away support this club of ours has should’ve got up and walked out before Putney Bridge tube station got too busy. If only the players and management showed the same belief and determination of those fans, singing to the last whistle.

The one thing any manager or coach can be blamed for though is individual errors. While the formation didn’t give us the best chance of winning the game, the two individual errors by the normally reliable Dawson broke us early on. Should he have received a red card for his second error and eventual tackle in the box? I don’t think so, but as I believe Phil Dowd is the best referee there is in the country I don’t think he’s to blame. Everyone makes mistakes and he was definitely pulled back. Bassong continued the individual errors later on for the 3rd and 4th goals but without those error’s we would’ve still lost the game of which I have no doubt.

I can’t think of any positives from it and not one player was on his game. In fact, there haven’t been many positives to take from the last few weeks. Coincidentally since the Beckham circus came to town. Obviously that’s just coincidental but while footballers are grown men we all know how precious they can be at times. Who’s to say van der Vaarts drop in form isn’t down to him not being the number one attraction at the training ground any more? All conjecture and probable bollocks. Much like the soon to close transfer window.

Congratulations to Fulham, who deserved the win, set up correctly and took advantage of another off day at the office from Spurs. Let’s hope these off days don’t become as regular as they have been of late or not only can we kiss goodbye to the top 4, we might be saying goodbye to the top 5.

Learning From Your Mistakes

The date was Saturday 28th August and we were playing a Wigan side at White Hart Lane who had lost their first two league games 4-0 and 6-0. Instead of compounding their misery we lost the game 1-0 with an abject, uninspiring display that lacked creativeness. Before the game many people were surprised Redknapp had opted for a starting midfield pairing of Palacios and Huddlestone who both like to sit deep. Huddlestone can’t really be described as a defensive midfielder but he’s not the type to make runs past the strikers either.

That experiment didn’t work and thankfully it hasn’t been tried since. That is until yesterday’s FA Cup game against Charlton. Only this time it was even worse, Palacios and Sandro, both players who if they had to select a position they would say defensive midfielder.

This isn’t closing the stable door after the horse has bolted as the saying goes because I, like many, had a terrible feeling the selection of Palacios and Sandro was a mistake. With Modric being rested, most people assumed Jenas would come in alongside either Sandro or Palacios giving the team a balance between defence and attack. Arguably given JJ’s performance against Everton he didn’t deserve another start and I’m all for that normally but you’ve always got to do what’s best for the team. It seems strange against Everton we didn’t bother with one holding midfielder and then at home to Charlton we stuck two in there.

As has been pointed out to me by WindyCOYS the Palacios selection might have been to help him gain a bit of confidence. Playing at home against a team 2 leagues below you should do that for a player but unfortunately it back fired massively. On a personal level for Wilson he had a shocker, once again being substituted at half time, but as a team we weren’t much better.

We didn’t look like we were in too much trouble and we controlled the half for the most part, but we lacked imagination and that spark centrally that you need to win games. The only bright spark of the first half was the debut of Andros Townsend who at 19 has already shown what a talent he is while out on loan (except at Ipswich where Roy Keane had no idea how to use him), especially with this goal. He played out on the right and terrorised the Charlton defence at every opportunity, running at them and basically doing what a premier league side should do against a League one outfit. No disrespect to Charlton though who come to the Lane with more offensive ideas and inclination than many top flight sides have done this season and gave a good account of themselves.

Centrally though, we were slow and gave them an easy ride. Niko, who needs games to find his best form which he won’t get at Spurs so I see little point in him staying, started in his favourite position on the left but didn’t spend much time there. He loves to drift in which meant not only did we get in each others way but it also left Ekotto exposed for any potential Charlton attacks. Without a midfielder who could run the game and get at the Charlton defence they were fairly comfortable without being in control if that makes sense.

Then the second half came and while I’ve steered clear of blaming Redknapp for the first half for fear of getting abuse from those who believe he can do no wrong, he deserves credit for making the obvious change. Palacios off and Modric on. The game was over within 15 minutes of the restart. Modric pulled every string there was to pull, got forward, linked play and generally made everyone else look better. I’m assuming Redknapp might’ve had the odd word to say while the lads sucked on pieces of orange too.

It’s possible, and more than probable that Jenas wouldn’t have done the same. I’m not saying he would have. However, you’ve got to give yourself the best chance of playing well to win and for me that means even when resting players you’ve got to still keep the right shape and balance which we just didn’t do. Hopefully, having witnessed how it doesn’t work against Wigan and now Charlton, that’ll be end of the Roberto Mancini style of play at White Hart Lane.

In the end, it was a very comfortable win and a mistake we didn’t pay for. With the likes of Modric and van der Vaart on the bench and Defoe returning from his ban with two goals we always had a very good back up plan and thankfully so. We were excellent in the second half, we did what we had to do and it’s nice to see changes being made for the positive. Fulham away in the next round. Bring it on.

COYS

Missed Opportunities

Last night wasn’t pretty to watch. We were systematically taken apart and not only had no plan B but looked at times like we had no plan A. With Chelsea losing and the Arsenal/City game ending in a draw we had one of those moments in a season where a team can really make a statement. Instead of currently being 1 point in front of Chelsea in 5th and 4 points behind Arsenal in 3rd we could’ve had a 4 point cushion over Chelsea and be breathing down the goons necks. However, before you think this is a massively depressing match review let me put last nights result into perspective. We lost, but none of the teams around us won so it didn’t hurt as much as it might have done.

It was out first defeat since losing to Bolton on 06th November, or if you prefer, our first defeat in 2 months. If we can react well from losing and go on a similar run we’ll enter March still in the chase for the top 4 position we so desperately want, we’ll probably still be in the Champions League and we won’t have lost to United or Arsenal. Teams lose games. That’s nothing new and this season it’s hardly surprising with any team, although Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat to Wolves last night was a bit of a pools breaker.

Like everyone else we’ve had a tough festive period and the only other team before last nights games with a 100% record, Man City, managed to play a game and not get a shot on target at all. As the saying goes, you can’t win them all. I’m going to break this review into three sections, Everton, The Players and Harry Redknapp.

Everton

I thought they were excellent last night. When we played the reverse fixture earlier in the season I was very critical of what I called their “non football” and “anti entertainment” strategy. I believe football is all about entertainment and as such when I see teams play with little or no attacking endeavour I don’t like it. Last night, Moyes did what he should’ve done a long time ago and played with two strikers. If I was an Everton fan I’d be slightly annoyed that my team couldn’t play like this all the time. They were agreesive, but on the whole fair, closed us down high up the pitch when they could and attacked quickly and directly.

In Fellaini they had a player who just held his position in midfield and let those around him push on while he helped keep tabs on our attacking threat. Something we didn’t have at any point in the game. Coleman, for the second time, spent the second half tearing us a new one and deserved his winning goal having spent large amounts of the game helping to shackle Bale and then being released to attack seemingly at will once Bale went off injured.

The Players

Try and think of a Spurs player who had a good game last night. You can’t can you? The entire team was knocked off their game and just weren’t at the races from the first whistle. I could highlight players who were worse than others, in particular Jenas, who I felt was out of position for both their goals but also offered little in attack. However, that really wouldn’t be that fair because Modric was poor too. As were Lennon, Bale, vdV and Crouch. There were moments from them all but not enough to warrant a special mention and reprieve.

Defensively we were all over the place and a lack of cover from the midfield meant whenever Everton got past Modric and JJ, which wasn’t hard, they had a free run at the back four. Both our central midfielders were very square so if Everton found the right pass it was simple to bypass our midfield. They all gave the ball away too much throughout the game but more so in the second half meaning we came under wave after wave of Everton attack.

No-one stood up to be counted once they crossed that white line and while I believe the manager has to take responsibility for the game, the players are equally to blame. We needed a leader. No, we needed a few leaders. We needed Dawson to command the defence, Modric to sort out the midfield and keep possession while vdV spearheaded the attack. We could’ve also done without Gomes having one of his flappy mental nights.

Harry Redknapp

It’s an interesting stance that many fans have when it comes to Redknapp, one which I don’t agree with. Last night as I watched on a very hit and miss live feed of the game I tweeted a few times about a lack of substitutions and tactical nous, even as early as half time when it was obvious we needed someone to either sit deep or someone on the pitch more accustomed to breaking up play and protecting the defence. The response I got from most, not all, but most, was that Harry Redknapp has been the best manager we’ve had in decades and we shouldn’t question him because of one defeat.

Harry Redknapp IS the best manager we’ve had in decades. The success the team has had on the pitch highlights that, but no-one at the club is infallible. Even the great Bill Nic made mistakes and I’m sure fans of the time would say so. Most of the time Redknapp gets it right. He’s got a wealth of attacking options and some world class players in the side so he picks them and sends them out to play football. That’s about it really, as both he and vdV have confirmed in the past, but that’s fine when it works.

Last night it didn’t and it was clear fairly early on that it wasn’t working. Ok, so we managed to equalise and if Crouch and Bale knew what offside was, we should’ve gone in at half time 2-1 up which if we’re honest would’ve been fortunate to say the least. So, even though we’ve been overrun in midfield and already conceded a goal because both of our central midfielders were too far forward after 3 minutes, we’ve somehow managed to go in on level terms.

No changes were made at half time, either to personnel or system and unsurprisingly Everton continued to create the better chances. Then Bale got injured which when you look at our bench and you see Niko as his obvious replacement that’s one injury we don’t want. In fact if you look closely at the replays of Bales substitution you can see Coleman in the distance licking his lips in anticipation of a foot race with a player slower than David Beckham. Again within a few minutes it was obvious we needed to change something on the left but we did nothing.

Then 2-1 down and needing a goal came one of the strangest substitutions I’ve ever seen. I’m no fan of Pav but he’s more likely to get a goal than Keane and why would you risk the possibility of injury when he’s so close to being sold for an amazing £7m?

I’m more than happy to say what a fantastic job Harry Redknapp has done at the club but last night he got it wrong. Who’s to say had he picked the right team or at least changed it when it wasn’t working anything would’ve been different. The players, who to a man had poor games could’ve been the same and Everton might’ve still won but at least we would’ve given it a go. The “we’ll score one more than you” philosophy is great to a certain extent. It’s why we’ve been entertained so much this season but when things aren’t going quite the way you want them to, we’ve got to learn how to make a change and one that will effect the game in a positive manner.

I started this off by trying not to be too negative and I really don’t mean to come across that way if I have. As I said, teams lose games and losing 1 in every 12 games I’ll take every season for as long as I live. We’re a team still learning, players still learning, a manager still learning and a set of fans who have been so spoilt in the last 18 months that we’re devastated when we lose an away game to a decent side.

The futures still bright and it’s always been lilywhite.

COYS

Management and Strikers to Blame

Let me start by saying this write up of Saturday’s game would’ve been the same had we managed to win 1-0. As I stood there in the freezing cold, watching what can only be described as the ultimate long ball game with the odd pass and move thrown in for good measure, all the below thoughts were being formulated prior to their equaliser and the final whistle.

Birmingham have only lost one game at St Andrews in approximately 500 years so a draw was probably the most likely. Considering the players we have missing and those only just returning it’s not the worse result in the world. It’s annoying to concede with only 10 minutes left but as far as the game went, a draw was the fair result.

Let’s get started then. Stan Collymore was on TalkSport as I drove home going on about what a great set of away fans Spurs have got. Being one of them I’m not going to disagree with him but his other point was our defence and how we need to stop conceding and learn how to close games out, which I don’t agree with, well not entirely. Obviously, we need to start keeping clean sheets, but if we could do that we’d be sitting top of the league right now. However, it’s not the defence who are costing us points at the moment. It has been in the past but recently there’s been vast improvements, the main reason behind that is the form of William Gallas who was again exceptional on Saturday as was Bassong. Both had to deal with a strong and in form Jerome who was a handful all day.

If you look at the above image you’ll see just how well we did defensively compared to Birmingham who are regarded as a solid unit. We restricted them to shots from outside the box a lot more effectively that they did to us, which considering the amount of long balls they pumped into our penalty area in the final 20 minutes is quite an achievement.

We failed to win because our famed attacking players failed to deliver, and when I say attacking players I’m not talking solely about the strikers. They’re obviously there to stick the ball in the net which they’re just not doing but the supply wasn’t quite as good as people might think. You can also see from the above image just how many shots we managed from inside the area, 11 in total and 9 from about 18 yards. To only score one goal from those areas and that from a defender at a set piece is the real reason we didn’t win.

I’ve supported Peter Crouch in the past, stating his game is more than just scoring goals but I can’t defend him any longer. The bottom line is he’s a striker and is meant to score goals. Sure, they’re also meant to hold the ball up, link play and create but putting the ball in the back of the net is what they get paid to do. Crouch just can’t do it. He’s absolutely terrible at it. He doesn’t even head the ball any more. He’s developed a new technique of letting the ball hit him in the face instead. Excellent for little lay-offs and assists but not so effective when trying to power a header past a keeper.



by Guardian Chalkboards


We’ve got to give Defoe the benefit of the doubt for the time being. I heard one guy on Saturday night saying we need to replace all four strikers which I thought was a little unfair on the little man. He’ll come good and showed signs of getting back to his old self, he just needs more match practice and a goal. At the moment he’s trying too hard.

Onto the other two members of what I consider an attacking quartet, Bale and Lennon. Neither had the best of games with both being fairly quiet. I’ve read this morning on this sites forum that people felt Lennon had a good game and it was good to see him getting back to his best. Having watched match of the day and thinking back to some of his more “stand out” moments I can see how people would come to that conclusion but from watching the game, and I believe those around me would agree, Aaron Lennon is far from his best.

On numerous occasions, far too many to remember, he had the opportunity to run past the defender for a through ball but instead remained wide and stood still. Both Modric and Hutton were screaming for him to make the runs he’s become known for in behind the defence but he didn’t do it. His performance was a lazy one, highlighted in the first half when he picked the ball up 25 yards from our goal and played a simple ball inside to Wilson Palacios. The one two was on and Palacios played the perfect ball inside the defender for Lennon to run onto, but he hadn’t moved from his initial position. Whether this was a tactical thing or a confidence thing I don’t know, but he could’ve offered so much more. When he did get into the final third, he spent too long dithering on the ball, allowing Birmingham to close him down and steal the ball.

Having said that, he did still manage to get some dangerous balls into the box which is more than can be said for Bale. It’s impossible for him to play well in every game but he offered little threat after the 25th minute and the ageing Stephen Carr had him in his pocket for large periods of the game.



by Guardian Chalkboards


His passing was poor for the most part, so poor had it been other players, like Palacios, forums would be calling for his head this morning. The majority of crosses he managed to get into the box were from corners and as you can see Carr marshalled him fairly well, keeping him away from the final third where he’s less dangerous. Everyone can have a poor game and we shouldn’t blame a player when they do, especially when they’ve had such a brilliant season, but it’s only fair to look at all the attacking players.

However, even with Crouch having a shocker, Defoe not fully fit, Lennon looking lazy and Bale out of form, the one man who could’ve made a difference but once again looked lost and confused when things weren’t going the teams way was Harry Redknapp.

What the television wouldn’t have shown was a message that Redknapp gave to Ekotto around the 70th minute mark. With a stop in play he called Hutton over and issued instructions. Hutton jogged over to Ekotto and clearly explained to him that he was to push forward and support Bale. As Bale wasn’t having much luck I have no problem with that, except for the fact we were 1-0 up, dropping deeper and starting to lose the midfield battle. Ekotto did as he was told and at one point got so far forward once he realised he was in Birmingham’s penalty area he just stopped and didn’t know what to do. I’m not saying Ekotto would’ve been in a position to stop Zigic heading the ball across goal, in fact there’s no way he could’ve stopped him but there’s the possibility he wouldn’t have been completely alone. It was also the 3rd time in succession Birmingham had looked for the long diagonal ball to the far post and each time Zigic had been left alone and we still didn’t learn.

Then there’s the fact Redknapp himself has said he was worried that we were dropping too deep. May I ask why nothing was done about that then? Would it also be a viable option to bring on Sandro or Dawson instead of Pav for Defoe to tighten things up when we know the penalty area is going to be bombarded? It’s great playing attacking football and on another day we score more than one goal, but when we don’t the last thing we should do is put on a striker who can’t hold the ball up, isn’t very good at passing or linking play and continue to play 2 up front.

It shows a naivety that a manager of his experience shouldn’t have and if he can clear his name of the fraud accusations I would fully expect anyone at the FA with the smallest amount of footballing knowledge not to offer him the England job for that reason. It’s more than just putting your arm around players.

You’d think we’d lost the game from all of that. Sorry for the slightly depressing and negative look at things but it’s so frustrating watching us make the same mistakes over and over. As I said, I don’t think we should look at this as a bad result but we must learn from the mistakes we make in these tough away games if we want to be in that top four again. Next time we’re 1-0 up away from home with 10 minutes to go, I pray we don’t start telling our full backs to push up and bring on another striker. If we do, then we’re going nowhere.

COYS