mid-season review

04.12.2004

Having seen Spurs play many times this season, I have come to a few conclusions now we are about half way through the season ...

At the first match of the season, I was anxious as we hardly have a great record against Liverpool, so I wasnít expecting much, especially as we had a dire pre season.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  I thought Mendes was excellent in the centre against Gerrard and Davis also played well.  I was also impressed with the young Phil Ifil and even though he hasnít had a chance for a run in the side, Iím sure he will one day.  I was also impressed with Naybet who seeing as he had only signed a few days earlier had a good game.  Liverpool had made some good signings and when Cissť scored, I sank into my chair expecting another mauling.  Then, when the players came out for the second half, we started playing the Tottenham way and I wasnít surprised when Defoe hit the back of the net, but was disappointed when he received his booking for taking his shirt off.  However, you have to argue if a player scores why isnít he allowed to celebrate the way he wants ?  Just like Keane cartwheels Defoe rips his shirt off.            

Next up we had Newcastle and Atouba, who I was unsure about, scored a stunner and delivered up a large slice of humble pie for Mr. Carr. 

Then we were away to West Brom and we had a disastrous start, when we went behind to a Gera goal, but, as usual, Defoe came to the rescue and we settled for a draw.  I was a little disappointed after a good result against Newcastle and it was one we should have won when you look at the fixture list. 

The next game was against Birmingham and a nice Defoe goal, turning a defender and scoring, settles the match.  This was the last match before the transfer window was slammed shut.  We had made a few good signings in the summer with Davis and Mendes looking good and Pamarot looking capable at right back.  We then signed Calum Davenport, who has been labelled as the best defender in the Championship and long term target Michael Carrick also joined.  At the time it seemed pointless, especially when he wasnít playing, but now Mr. Jol seems to be giving him a turn.  We also said au revoir to Gary Doherty and I canít fault his commitment, but he was not the best player to watch and now Norwich have the pleasure of enjoying his talents. 

We then faced Norwich City in a seemingly easy match and with their star player being Ginger Pele at centre back, I was hoping for an absolute rout and was gutted with a 0-0 draw, as it could be a match that we are going to regret not winning.  However, they could have easily nicked it, but we were saved thanks to the ever reliable Ledley King, who has been a revelation this season.  I knew he was good, but he has been outstanding or in the words of Robby Bobson the "KINGPIN" of Tottenhamís defence. 

Our trip to Stamford Bridge brought the match that we hate.  Chelsea.  We are just unable to beat them, but, in fact, I feel that we had the best chance of the match ... a header from Keane, which the brilliant Cech saved.  But you canít take anything away from the back four and Robinson, as they were immense. 

Then came the Carling Cup match against Oldham.  I was worried that this could be a potential banana skin due to our lack of goals, but it was the exact opposite.  A 6-0 thrashing and we were safely through to round 3. 

A home match against Man Utd awaited us on our return from Lancashire.  In my friends view, this is the match we throw every year to gift them the league.  We played like the away side, gifting them chance after chance, but the defence stood strong until a moment of madness from the ref or Edman (Iíll let you decide) ended with a penalty to give Man Utd a lead which they kept till the end. 

We then had a trip to Goodison Park to look forward to, which was another banana skin in the waiting, with their good form and our unpredictable away form.  An excellent header from Pamarot gave us the win. Another notable point was the X-rated Redknapp challenge and it was a shame the ref didnít send him off. When will anyone realise he is a has-been and is overrated and we have better options ?  Iíd rate him at 4th or 5th choice personally.  On the plus side Reto Ziegler was given his first slice of Premiership action.  An acquisition from Grasshoppers, he has put in some outstanding performances and looks an excellent find from Frank Arnesen. 

Then, just as you are thinking that we have made a good start to the season we play Portsmouth and we play awfully; getting beaten by a Yakubu goal.  It really dampens the hard work from the previous six weeks and with some good performances already this season against better sides, defeat was extra hard to take. 

Next up were Bolton, who many would describe as an average side, but difficult to beat.  In the game, there are basic requirements like closing Okocha down, which we didnít do and we lost, but Keane grabbed his first league goal.  I was also unhappy with the sportsmanship of the Bolton side.  If I were a fan of them, I would have been disappointed.  Putting a player in front of the ball to stop a quick free kick or taking extra time to leave the pitch (serial spitter Diouf was the worst offender) and after seeing that, I feel we should take a look into rugbyís book.  Failing to retreat means the ball is put forward (the ball is played when the player wants to not when the ref says). 

We then played Bolton again - away this time - and after falling behind I was worried, but we were rescued by Defoe, Bunjevcevic and Brown.  I also took note that at the Reebok, Defoe was booked for not retreating 10 yards ... maybe one rule for Bolton and another one for us ??  Also a great performance from Ziegler, who really adds width and we play better with him.  Anyway, I was happy to be in the next round. 

It was back down to earth with a bang with a 2-0 defeat at Fulham in a match which we should have got some points from, but we deserved to lose.  We were awful.  In my view this was the the worst performance of the season so far. 

Before the Charlton match, Santini resigned citing personal reasons.  However, it has come to light it was because of the signing of Carrick, who incidentally played an excellent role in this game.  We were 2-0 down thanks to two Bartlett goals and within a few minutes of the restart, we were three down.  Then the inspired substitution came, with Carrick coming on for Redknapp and within minutes we won a penalty due to handball by Bartlett, who, in a moment of lunacy, thought he was goalkeeper and saved a Ziegler shot.  He was subsequently sent off and Keane converted the penalty.  Then we bombarded Charltonís goal, but it still wouldnít come.  Eventually a misplaced pass by the usually reliable Holland was intercepted by Defoe who rifled home.  This set up a nervous final 10 minutes, but nothing came from it. 

On the back of the defeat we played Burnley in the Carling Cup and won easily 3-0 with two goals from Keane and one from Defoe, which was a gem.  Nevertheless, we were through to the next round. 

It was then time for the big one.  By this time, Jol was installed as permanent manager and the Scum came to the Lane.  In the first half, we were a lot better than them and thanks to a lot of luck we were only drawing.  We went one up thanks to Naybet, but my watch had it that we were into the 2nd minute of injury time when Henry scored and there was some debate as to whether he had used his hand, but it stood and I am pretty sure that if the goal wouldnít have stood we would have won.  Then came an action packed 2nd period with our rivals starting brightly and they got a lucky penalty, when Ljungberg was tripped by Pamarot and Lauren stepped up and converted it.  To add insult, Vieira ran through the Spurs defence and slotted home. Then there was  a moment of magic from Defoe.  He scored the 2nd best derby goal ever behind Paul Gascoigneís free kick.  Surprisingly, the enemy hit back through Ljungberg, then King scored to make it 3-4 and unfortunately, Pires scored and we could only get one back through Kanoute.  Things about the Arse that I noticed were Vieira was generally unhappy about Brownís tackling and Lehmann trying to harass a ball boy.  I think someone should get the police onto it.  The worst bit was I then had to take defeat in front of all my graceful Arsenal supporting friends, who were also graceful when they lost to Man Utd. 

After the pain of derby day defeat, we played Aston Villa, who we played badly against and were beaten by a solitary Solano goal.  Six in a row was hard to take, especially when we should have won some of them.  Although a stone wall penalty was rejected in this game to add to our woes. 

We then pulled our socks up and played well against a strong Middlesbrough side.  However, we were fortunate that Queudrue decided to lunge at Pamarot and he saw red.  We then scored through Defoe with a brilliant team goal and then came goal of the season from Kanoute ... well I suppose they all count. 

I was raring up for the Carling Cup match against Liverpool, with a semi final place at stake against a mediocre Liverpool side.  I have to wonder how the match didnít finish in normal time, as we had some good chances with Keane the worst culprit.  So, extra time was played and we went ahead through Defoe, but then unfortunately conceded a silly penalty due to Kanoute's unnecessary handball, which Pongolle converted and the match went to penalties. Brown and Kanoute missed, sending us out. 

It was desperate that we had to recover from the penalty agony as we took on Blackburn.  We had a good first half, controlling the game for long parts and Defoe went close to scoring.  In the second half, I forgave Brown for his miss against Liverpool as he made a surging 70 yard run and setup Keane.  We hung on for a good win to leave us on 19 points, which is better than last year. 

Just like at school, where I receive my Christmas report I have graded each player 

Robinson - B ... has played well for a lot of the time, but hasnít been impeccable.  Hasnít recaptured early season form, but has made good saves.

Pamarot - C+ ... has looked solid and has put in some good performances, but has lacked the ability going forward.  Not as good as Stevie Carr; however might change.

Edman - B ... Played well early season and has been injured for long parts.

Atouba - C ... Not convinced; looks slow and uncomfortable.

King - B+ ... Good so far; deserved his player of the month gong.

Naybet - B ... Started well, but looked weak whilst fasting and made some mistakes.

Ziegler - B+ ... Taken to the premiership like a duck to water; his first goal canít be far off.

Davies - C-  ... never recaptured the form when playing alongside Carr; maybe time for him to leave.

Davis - B ... has been solid, but is injured.  Adds some bite to the midfield which we are missing at the moment.

Mendes - A ... Been a brilliant buy; comfortable on ball, but needs to be in the centre.

Redknapp - D ... has been extremely poor; lacks drive; needs to leave.

Brown - C ... has been alright, nothing special; not a Premiership player in my view.

Carrick - B- ... a good debut and some good performances, but there have been a couple of not so good ones.

Defoe - A  ... Star player would be in trouble without him

Keane - B- ... Good contribution; donít want to see him sold, especially with his knack of scoring goals against old clubs.  Is similar to Defoe though.

Kanoute - C+ ... Unforgivable error against Liverpool; still finding it hard to score; lacking in confidence  

During January work needs to be done.  We need to sign a natural right winger as Ricketts or Davies donít seem up to the job and Mendes needs to be in the centre.  With the talk of him leaving, Phil Neville would be a decent buy, as his versatility would be useful.  A sub goalkeeper is needed, as Keller is not up to the job and a 4th striker, possibly Ashton, needs to come in, but we shouldnít sell Keane.  Get rid of Redknapp and we have the makings of a good side that could possibly challenge for a UEFA Cup spot.

Jacob Livingston

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