To say Martin Jol is
unbalanced might be going too far, but there is a need for the team to
be set up better with at least one left footer in the side. Adel
Taarabt can operate effectively on the left wing and although his
Premiership experience is limited at the moment, he is a young man with
confidence, which not all of our players are playing with at the moment.
Playing players out of
position does not give them a real chance to do themselves justice.
We have seen with YP Lee, that his crossing is often less than accurate
because he is not a left footed left back. Right footed players on the
left mean they have to check back to cross the ball and be confident
about their delivery, thus giving defenders time to work this out
and show them the outside route only (knowing the ball will be on their
weaker foot) or it means that they will be crossing from a less
dangerous position, with the ball being aimed down the middle rather
than being played in from a position close to the dead ball line and
across the goal (thus making it more difficult for defenders to defend
Without an outlet on the left, our play becomes predictable and with the
players having to be fielded, other sides are playing on that.
Stalteri's position on the left makes him an obvious target for the
opposition, while Gardner's occasional lapse in concentration can also
be a weak point the other side pick up on. With Malbranque playing
out of position in front of Stalteri, it makes it a double whammy on our
left aide, which has seen the goal at Sunderland and two of the Everton
goals stem from that side. I am not saying that Taarabt will give
a greater defensive ability to the left of midfield, but it could mean
that the opposing midfielder is tied up with other things than attacking
Added to that we have some players
who are not currently playing to the
level that is expected of them. Among them are Jenas, Berbatov, Chimbonda.
While Jermaine Jenas has
become the new David Howells, his contribution should not be
under-estimated as much as everyone thinks he is over-rated. So
far this season he has been lacking the runs into the area which brought
him goals last term and his strong running from midfield has also been
something that has not stood out in the two games played. Early
days I know, but these trademarks of his game make him a player who can
make a difference. Goals from midfield were what the side had been
missing and not only scoring them, but making them for others, Jenas
brought that to the table. However, he is a player who doesn't
hide and makes himself available for the ball, while chases back to
cover on a large number of occasions. Sometimes you have to
realise it is not just what players do on the ball, but do off it as
well which contributes to their overall performance.
That said, he needs to be more involved and take games by the scruff of
the neck. He is not Steven Gerrard, but he can influence a game if
he applied himself to take control of the midfield. I don't know
what it is about Newcastle fans but they seem to be full of themselves
at the moment having won one game. There was one on the radio the
other day spouting on about the Toon being delirious when Spurs paid £7
million to take him off their hands as he was the most over-rated player
they had ever had at the club. And that was with Kieron Dyer still
there !! It was interesting that he scored more goals in a season
with us than he had while at St. James Park, so perhaps it wasn't that
he was playing badly, just being played in the wrong way.
What we want now is to have him played the right way for us and maybe
that isn't happening because of the changes elsewhere in the team ?
Dimitar Berbatov set the
Premier League alight last season. This season he has flickered
into life occasionally, but has suffered by tight marking and lack of
quality service from the rest of the team. His frustration has
been clear to see and his reaction at being taken off at Sunderland was
plain to see, although it was probably the right move by Jol.
Having suffered the groin strain, he is now out for a while making the
choice up front more limited for the manager, but if the break means
Berba comes back refreshed and fully fit, hopefully, it might coincide
with some other returnees and a stronger side all round.
What he must cut out of his game though, is the petty fouling, which
concedes cheap free-kicks when we are attacking. They are
unnecessary and disrupt any flow (should we be so lucky at the moment)
to our play.
While there are other choices up front, Berbatov gives us a dimension
that the other players don't. We need him firing on all cylinders
and we need to find a partner for him to work with.
Much talk surrounds Paul Robinson,
with other keepers as well as the Press taking pot shots at him, which
he ahs little chance to react to. Much like the last minute
Sunderland goal where he was unsighted and the deflected free-kick,
which wrong-footed him against Everton.
So far, I don't think there is too much he could have done about any of
the goals, but what I would like to see is him dominate his
box and give the defence in front of him confidence.
When he comes to punch the ball, he looks less than convincing and
crosses that fly over his head put him in a position where he is
back-pedalling to get to the ball and suddenly out of position.
We all know that goalkeepers are a protected species and Paul needs to
take advantage of that. He is big enough that if he comes for a
cross, he will win it or at least take players out of the game in doing
so. If he gets touched he will get a free-kick given his way and
another attack will be extinguished. For a big man, he does not
seem that confident in the air and he can take crosses well and he can
make himself pluck the ball out of the air, but too often balls across
our penalty area in the air result in goals against us. Cutting
them out in the air will cut them out of our game.
Missing King and Dawson in front of him doesn't help, but Kaboul looks
like he enjoys a header and Robinson needs to be more vocal in bossing
those in front of him around. Paul should be the one who is in
charge of the penalty area and everyone should know it, then they would
know when he is coming for crosses and when he is coming to kick clear,
making everyone more secure in that knowledge.
On the subject of
centre-halves, I fully understand the
buying of young English talent, but I cannot see the point in spending
out £10 million on Curtis Davies ... a player who is not worth more than
£4 million, which equates to about £7 in today's money. I am
sorry, but if we are spending £10 million, then let's go out and buy a
world class centre-half, who can play at the top level straight away ...
not one who has just one season's experience in a team that got
relegated. I think he's a good player, but not the one for
Tottenham Hotspur at that price at this time.
While it is not that he has
not been playing to his potential, Aaron Lennon has just not been
playing. His pace and the attention other teams have to pay him
has had an impact on our play. No lightening breaks from defence
to attack, no mazy runs tying defenders in knots and no runs direct at
goal through the heart of their side to set up others for shooting
opportunities. It has been obvious by his absence that he is now a
very important member of the side.
I am surprised that Jol did not make a like for like replacement with
Routledge coming into the team, as he played a fair bit in pre-season
and we went to such lengths to get him from Palace in the first place
that there must be something which they wanted to use within the first
He is not the same in style as Lennon, but he could threaten full backs
with his runs and we saw against Everton, when he was introduced to the
play, that he can cross dangerously and cause panic with his ability.
I fully expect his inclusion against Derby County to make it a more
So, just a few things which
struck me as to why the team might be failing to produce the sort of
results and performances we had last year, but with two games gone and
two games lost, there is still time to salvage something from this
season and a fit first choice eleven might well help things on that