Written by AFCB_Liam
After a bitterly disappointing performance against Wolves last week and the drama around Poch’s sacking, the ‘Special One’ joining and Spurs’ immediate uptick in form, we were against the odds today.
Spurs showed up having scored 7 goals in 2 games. We showed up having scored 1 goal from open play in over 500 minutes of football. I had memories of last season’s 5-0 Boxing Day battering lingering, so will admit to having little hope for this one.
This was my first trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. First impressions of it from outside were impressive and very modern. We had a section behind the goal and in the corner opposite the steep, single-tiered Kop-style stand which looked imposing. The stands are close to the pitch and it feels much more like a proper football stadium than the Emirates. My only gripe was the concourse; badly-designed and crowded without much sign of them doing anything innovative, except the guys selling bottles of beer from a massive back-fridge to alleviate the queues.
To the game, Eddie ditched the catastrophic formation from last week and in came Stacey, Lerma, Solanke and Danjuma for Francis (suspended), Billing (suspended), Smith (ill) and H Wilson (dropped).
We started brightly and without the usual fear which has seen us win only 2 in 26 away to the traditional ‘Top 6’. We snapped in to tackles, passed it well between the lines and created some good overlaps with some half-chances for Rico, Callum and Danjuma. However, we did still favour passing it AROUND the back as opposed to OUT from the back at times, with some classic hospital passes. Stacey got about 4 of these but dealt with them all well in a very strong start.
The good work for 30 minutes was undone when a long ball split our defence and let both Alli and Son through. Son tapped to ALLI who slotted home. First time I heard any real noise from the home fans which hinted that the atmosphere there on more ‘glamorous’ days than AFCB could be very good (like Anfield).
Spurs then had a strong spell, but the rest of the half saw few clear-cut chances, except a disallowed goal from Sanchez, which the stadium announcer and TV screens failed to get the memo about for about a minute.
2nd half was a bit familiar in terms of us against the big sides: “let’s keep it tight, try to nick….oh it’s 2-0”. Another long ball over the top created chaos for us, ALLI was through and ran across the area before dinking it in. We then weathered a bit of a storm and brought on Harry Wilson for Fraser which saw us improve immediately and look more threatening. However, a clinical Spurs breakaway led to SISSOKO scoring a third (which seemed to go down very well with the home supporters). Game over, we thought.
Cue our best period of the game, where we attacked with more purpose and created some good openings. Solanke was brought down on the edge of the box and H Wilson bent in a free-kick to top bins and we started to pour forward a bit more with hope.
Gosslinho came on for a cameo, Solanke scuffed a good chance wide (Quelle surprise) and we generally huffed and puffed well without an end product. Spurs’ slight concern was evidenced by Gazzaniga’s pathetic and repeated time-wasting, which Lee Mason was quite happy to allow.
It did mean 6 mins of added time, which started with some handbags (Lerma- induced of course). 5 minutes into stoppage time, Solanke cut back for Wilson to tap in from 6 yards out and create a glimmer of hope. And 30 seconds later, a ball over the top created panic and Wilson looked to be clean through, but he needed that extra half yard of pace he has lost to avoid Vertonghen, who got a foot in. Harry dallied in the area and the chance was gone. Memorable comeback denied.
Verdict: Overall a positive, if still a bit underwhelming performance. Much better than last week. Positive performances from Danjuma and Stacey but our forward line looks shot of all confidence. And we need to be able to defend long balls through the centre; it should be bread and butter defending for a premier league defence but it’s more like a knife through butter every time. I think we looked more balanced today without Billing and Lerma together, so wonder what Eddie will do there next week.
The form of Fraser and Callum remains worrying but at least might make January’s transfer window more comfortable. We look very light on attacking options on the bench and need Brooks and King back urgently.
Ramsdale – 8 – Another excellent performance but no hope with any of the goals. Looks made for the premier league.
S Cook – 6 – Won some good headers but a poor game, played a few dodgy passes out to Stacey and at some fault for the first 2 goals.
Ake – 7 – His usual self but nothing significant to note.
Stacey – 7 – Superb first 30 mins and barely put a foot wrong but then suspect for the first 2 goals and a bit wasteful coming forward. Was on track for an 8 before that though and looks like he’s improved a lot.
Rico – 6 – Positive intent and much improved from earlier this season but still a bit wasteful coming forward and prone to an error. Positioning in defence is vastly improved though and he followed runners well.
Lerma – 7 – Solid. Battled well but didn’t offer much on the front foot and wasn’t quite his destructive best.
L Cook – 6 – Some good passing but also some cul-de-sac running. Had one good chance but didn’t offer a lot in their area.
Danjuma – 7 – Really bright start, ran direct at defenders and created panic but needs to improve his end product and drifted out of the game for the middle third.
Fraser – 6 – Nowhere near his best. Looks lacking in confidence and looks to cut back every time. Still made the right runs and worked hard.
Solanke – 5 – Tricky one. Some might call this scapegoating. While he did link play well at times, he lost the ball way too many times, scuffed his only chance and generally looked a bit chaotic. I still think there is a good player in there though, he shows glimmers of it which suggest he isn’t necessarily the next Rantie/Afobe. Needs a goal and needs to win more in the air for his size.
Wilson – 5 – Offered very little but did work hard. Didn’t manage to get in behind until the 97th minute but looks like he’s lost some pace. Needs a goal desperately.
H Wilson – 8 – 2 goals and real threat. Looks a lot better from the bench but hard to justify starting Fraser at the moment.
Gosling – 7 – excellent cameo.
MOM: difficult – probably Stacey or Danjuma but nobody was strong for the full 90. I’ll give it to Danjuma.
Reverting the formation immediately looked more comfortable for our players. Unfortunately, we just had no cutting edge in the final third until H.Wilson.
Solanke does a lot of hard work and linking up in open play, but has nothing in/around the box. Then we have H.Wilson who struggles in open play but is a big threat in/around the box. One is supposed to be a forward and the other is supposed to be a midfielder. Quite a conundrum! I’d like to see Harry in the deeper forward role.
Worried about Lewis Cook, he isn’t yet on the same wavelength he was at prior to his injury. Would probably start Lerma and Billing on Tuesday.
Callum Wilson looks physically and mentally tired. He’s off a yard of pace, his touch is heavy, he just doesn’t have that predatory swagger anymore. For just a moment he was clean through on goal at the death but never looked confident of scoring. Needs a rest, I’d like to see King start upfront when fit.
Impressed with Stacey coming back into that calibre of the game after a period out of the side. Not perfect but decent. Smith or Stacey is a nice problem to have.
Cook and Ake will be disappointed with the goals. Spurs with 3 goals, none of which they had to work especially hard for or produce super quality for.
Danjuma continues to show flashes of quality and comfort on the ball. Not yet producing a cutting edge in the final third though. – Join the conversation, click here.