Well, it was something we thought might, but hoped wouldn't, happen.
Spurs turned up, thought it was a forgone conclusion that the result was
in the bag and put in a less than average performance to see three
points slip away in a game that saw everything go wrong for them,
whereas last season everything went right.
Starting from the slack passing in defence
and dwelling on the ball by Assou-Ekotto to the lack of precision in
delivery of supply into the box by most involved, Wigan made the most of
their opportunities, while Spurs managed to labour against a well
drilled defensive display by the Latics and it became obvious that the
lessons from last season's home matches against Wolverhampton Wanderers
and Stoke City had not been learned.
The opening efforts in this match saw the
two sides exchange shots on goal, with a seventh minute shot from Diame
getting taken wide by Dawson getting in the way, but the ball went for a
corner and when it came in, the ball was headed back from beyond the far
post by Alcaraz for Gohouri to turn six yard out and crash a shot
against the bar and out. It should have been the shock that
sparked Tottenham into life, but Benoit Assou-Ekotto suddenly thought he
was Ryan Giggs and started to try and dribble the ball past any opponent
who stood in front of him. He had the ball easily taken off him
and Dawson blocked the resulting shot, although the ball pin-balled off
Assou-Ekotto before going just wide and then BAE stood on the ball
inside his own six yard box and only just toe-ended the ball away as a
shot was lined up.
Bale was obviously going to be a player
who would cause Wigan problems, but the early scything challenge by
Boyce deserved more than a talking to that was given to him by referee
Dowd, who had a very disappointing game on the whole. He let
Hendry Thomas get away with two bad challenges and that was after he had
already booked him, while cautioning three Spurs players - two for their
first fouls. Almost amazingly, the match official allowed Wigan
keeper Al Habsi to time-waste from the start and spoke to him only once,
but then booked Figueroa for kicking the ball away. However, when
Alcaraz and Thomas did the same, he did nothing. Consistency
appears to be an area lacking in Dowd's game.
With Jermain Defoe still seeing how he
reacted to the groin injury he has been carrying, Peter Crouch was the
main target for the balls out of defence. He took one out of the
air in the 14th minute and played it off to Defoe, who in turn put it
into Bale's path and the Welsh midfielder fired at goal, but only caught
Emmerson Boyce in the midriff. Defoe then needed the physios after
Alcaraz took him from behind and got away with it.
With half the half gone, Spurs finally
created a good chance, with Assou-Ekotto fizzing a pass into the area on
the edge of the D. Taking the ball as it arrived and turning in an
instant, the England forward hit a low shot that the Athletic keeper got
down to really well to palm it away. both sides huffed and puffed
for the remainder of the half, with the only clear opportunity falling
again to Defoe. This time he had to work for it, taking Crouch's
pass and holding off Gohouri, despite an arm round him and then keeping
Diame off him before prodding a right foot dig that went across the goal
from left to right and ended up wide of Al Habsi's goal.
Harry Redknapp no doubt peeled some
dressing room paint with his comments in the half time interval, with a
couple of substitutions to shake things up. Crouch, who had a hard
half, with little decent supply and Assou-Ekotto, who signed his won way
out of the action, both made way for Kranjcar and Pavlyuchenko.
Niko made an impact with some energetic entries into the action, but Pav
had a quiet game and looked slightly off the pace.
Spurs had started the first half slowly
and almost did the second. They allowed Diame to thrad a ball
through the middle of the defence and only a surge form his line saw
Cudicini take the ball at the second attempt at the edge of his box.
Pav showed his one good contribution in the 52nd minute, when he tricked
his way into a little space on the left wing from a throw-in and his low
cross was heading for Defoe, but it was a little too close to the
keeper, who took it low down before it reached the little Spurs striker.
A couple of substitutions changed the
game. Jordi Gomez came on for the niggly and ineffectual Boselli,
while Aaron Lennon, who had been equally as anonymous was taken off and
dos Santos came on.
Within minutes, the tide of the match
changed. While Spurs had been pressing forward, they neither
created much of note and certainly had not made Al Habsi make many
saves, but suddenly Wigan broke free of their defensive shackles and
launched three quick attacks on the Spurs goal. Firstly, a break
on the right saw Rodellega play a low ball across the Spurs box and the
Spurs sub Giovani was sucked into the middle of the goal, leaving his
man Alcaraz free at the far post with the simple task of knocking the
ball into an empty net. Fortunately for Spurs, the ball fell to
the defender and his delight at being in such an advanced position was
tempered by the fact that he managed to scoop the ball over the bar from
about two feet out. That was in the 79th minute and a minute later
Rodellega got past Bale on the Wigan right and lifted the ball into the
centre of the six yard box where Gomez arrived with the simple task of
volleying the ball past Cudicini. Fortunately for Spurs, he had to
take the ball with both feet in the air and could not keep his effort
down, leaving his shot going over the bar.
Then Spurs didn't get so lucky. 80
minutes on the clock and a ball over Ledley King's head to the Wigan
right wing position and Rodellega was there again. This time, he
took a touch and drilled a bobbling low shot across Cudicini, but the
Spurs keeper failed to get down to it and it slipped under both his
hands and in at the far post to give Wigan the lead, at a time when they
were looking the team most likely to score.
This did not stop Spurs seeking away back
into the match, but it was leaving it late. Pavlyuchenko's flick
on ended going straight up in the air and when it came down, Huddlestone
had positioned himself underneath it and he hit a volley that had Al
Habsi beaten, but it trickled a foot wide of the post. Defoe then
ran into the right hand channel in the box to take Palacios' pass, but
he could not hit the target, slicing his shot into the side-netting.
Spurs were getting closer and Kranjcar
made a yard on the left corner of the box to shoot at goal, but his
powerful effort was diverted over the bar by the keeper, when it looked
like it might end up in the net. From the corner, Al Habsi flapped
at the ball and it dropped to Michael Dawson on the edge of the area and
his shot was pushed out by the Oman keeper for another corner.
A paltry five minutes had been added on,
despite time-wasting on an expert level, but there was only one clear
chance that Spurs created, with Kranjcar's free-kick drawing Al Habsi
out, but he was nowhere near the ball, which was won by Younes Kaboul,
but his header went a yard wide of the goal, with the space left by Al
Habsi totally unguarded. And so went Tottenham's last chance.
The problems caused by Wigan are likely
to be repeated by other teams who see this as the way to get something
out of their trip to White Hart Lane and so Tottenham must learn how to
deal with it and come up with ways to break teams down rather than run
out of ideas. No doubt missing the mercurial prompting of Luka
Modric, the side had no answer to the two banks of four that Wigan stuck
in their last third.
Only finding a solution to that thorny
problem will determine how the side will progress. When They face
sides who put in a lot of work to close them down and don't allow them
the space to play, Spurs tend to struggle. With the issues plain
for all to see, they need to put in a work-rate to match that of the
opposition and make the most of the few chances that may be available to
Otherwise, it will be like watching the
Tottenham of old.