The FA Cup exit – Did Poch get his priorities wrong?

To be honest I’m hugely disappointed to be knocked out of the FA Cup on Sunday. I don’t get the notion of fans saying things like “blessing in disguise” and “too many games” Nonsense.

I appreciate there are times when you have to prioritise, but I think Poch got his priorities wrong this week.

I’ll forgive him of course, the man is working wonders, and he’s event the right to do what he sees fit and not be questioned.

However, Here is my gripe. Tottenham are having a great season, anyone previously denying Spurs are in a title race can’t deny it anymore.
Through the group stages of the Europa League, as you would expect, and as of Sunday in the FA Cup 5th round, BUT, if the season ends without a trophy, how much more successful is it than any other season? A bit maybe, then a decreasing amount with every passing year. Chances to win trophies have been few and far between over the years and really I’d like to have seen a better effort on Sunday to progress to the last 8.

I’m not sure why Pochettino chose to prioritise the Europa league this week, and maybe I never will, but in a tournament that has potentially 9 more games, with long away trips you have potential impact on your title challenge, and the squad may not be big enough to do both.
The FA Cup though had just 4 games left, including a favourable home draw to Palace and two games at Wembley which wouldn’t be subject to replays. Spurs have proved this season I think that they have the ability to beat anyone. Surely this was the pot to put the eggs in?
The draw afterwards that would have seen a trip to Reading only compounded my misery. There are some big teams left in the cup but we should have been having a big go at winning it and it would not have been too big a drain on resources.

If we get through the Europa stages the impact could be telling, if we don’t then what was the point of almost throwing the FA Cup? I just didn’t get it.

In reality Tottenham probably won’t win the league 5/2 with bookies which is a 71% chance that it won’t happen. Winning the FA Cup would have been a nice consolation prize.
I just can’t foresee a situation where Spurs win the Europa league, which means the season could fizzle out fruitless which would be a huge shame.
If Spurs do pull off the greatest triumph and pick up the league title I don’t think it will be because we avoided an FA cup quarter final with Reading. If Spurs were to win the Europa League that would be great, but the biggest prize associated with it (champions league qualification) should already be in the bag I hope, which is another reason why I didn’t think it would be worth all the hassle compared to the FA Cup.

The game itself Tottenham played pretty well, and created enough to win it. The stage the season is at now though is exclusively about results, nothing else matters.

A big run in ahead is all that’s left to focus on for me, and the real distraction of the Europa League can plod along in the background. If we get through to the Semis and are out the title race then of course it becomes the priority again but if we are still in a title race then the pressure will really be on the squad to turn in consecutive big performances.
Maybe that is the distraction we really could have done without.

Video technology in Football – Video Referee!

Video-referee

Its Time Video technology is implemented – Bring in the Video Referee

For those of you that listened to the latest edition of the SSN podcast (available on our website, iTunes & Soundcloud) I don’t need to tell you where I stand on the technology debate. From day one I’ve always been for the introduction of a video referee. More horrendous refereeing decisions this past week have only strengthened my views. I fear that one day we will see a title decided or somebody relegated because an official got something horribly wrong.

Just by watching MOTD on a Saturday night you’ll realise that more time is spent analysing the referees decisions than the two teams on the pitch. Maybe they should bring in referee pundits instead? Hmmm now there’s a thought.”

It’s an interesting debate and whilst I can understand some of the objections to it this is something I’m becoming extremely passionate about. To be quite frank I’m sick of seeing big games decided by incompetent refereeing.

Check out Yesterdays Post “Super Sunday – the tale of 2 refs, and the day not a lot really changed and why video technology in football is not the answer’.

This however, is a subject we disagree on and so we’re going to do exactly what this website was originally set up for… To debate and put across our views.

A lot of the time when I say to friends, other football fans or anyone I end up getting into football conversation with that I want to see the introduction of a video referee and I usually face the same objections.

These are the 2 most common objections of video technology in football

It will cause our game to stop and start too much.”

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This data (above) was recorded from the Premier League in the 2010-11 season & I use this particular table as its the easiest to read from the ones I’ve come across. As you can see in 42 of the games the ball was in play for just 54 minutes.

The effective play in a 90 minute match ranges from 44-66 minutes. In the best case scenario there’s 24 minutes where the play is dead. In an average case, based on this set of figures there’s between 51 and 60 minutes of effective play.

How often do we see a penalty given and minutes of protest before the kick is actually taken? How often do we see a player red carded who pleads his innocence for minutes before actually leaving the field of play.

There are plenty of stoppages in our game as it is. In the example of a penalty award while the players are remonstrating with the referee what’s wrong with the referee being able to ask a video referee if and only if he’s unsure? It won’t take any longer than it already does! Instead of all that time being wasted on players pleading with the referee why don’t we use that time to confirm that the decision is correct.

Some decisions are subjective and are not clear cut, even a video referee won’t have all the answers.”

I agree, not every single decision is simple and clear cut. Some are though, for example was it over the line or not? Was he onside? When it comes to the ball being in or out or even an offside call its factual and so we can definitely use it for those things. Hence why goal line technology has been introduced and has been a success.

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I believe that something now needs to be implemented to make offside decisions too. After all, your either onside or offside – it’s not up for debate.

What about everything else? Penalties are the example I will use here. They are not always as clear cut, some of these decisions can be debated for hours and you still won’t find a solution that everyone agrees with.

The Jamie Vardy incident on Sunday is the perfect example. Even now, having seen it countless times its still being debated and people are split on whether it was or wasn’t the correct decision. You’d ask me how a video referee  would help in this instance and il explain how I’d like to see it handled.

I believe that a lot of the time when a referees made a bad call its because they cannot be sure of what they’ve seen. I mean, how can they?

The modern game is played at such a high pace and intensity, they’re human after all. Sometimes the ref can be caught too far behind the play to have a clear view of an incident, sometimes they can be influenced by player pressure, the crowd, intimidating managers on the touch line or any of the other factors that come with the modern game.

In some cases it’s as simple as their view was obscured.  Take the penalty Spurs were awarded at the Etihad for example.  Wouldn’t technology have corrected that one?

Those who disagree with me have challenged me to come up with some sort of plan to implement video technology in football…

Here’s my vision, it’s not perfect but it’s a basic idea of how this could work in 5 points.

  1. The referee out on the pitch is still in control of the game. He’s the one who calls the shots and he’s still able to consult his assistants if he feels the need to, just like he does now
  2. The ‘5th official’ is introduced, he is pitch side with the aid of a video screen. In an ideal world he will be away from the dug outs – the reason being so the managers do not have access to any replays during the game. This would only incense the managers (if the replay shows they were wronged) and undermine the referees authority thus making it impossible for him to keep a lid on the game.
  3. The referee will officiate the game as normal, his decision is final. In the case that there is an appeal for a penalty, handball inside the box, a red card or anything else that can influence the game he has the OPTION to refer it to his 5th official who has a replay to hand.
  4. This gives the referee himself the chance to jog over to the touch line and watch it pitch side before making up his own mind. Backing up what the referee believes he has seen in real time increases the chances of him making the right decision and gives him the chance to correct an error in some cases. Nobody else has a say but him. This would avoid any debate amongst the officials unless he decides to consult his assistants (just like the current system), the decision lays with man in the middle.
  5. I am not in anyway implying this is the perfect plan however it’s a start to something I believe could work with a few tweaks. This will not eradicate every single bad decision from our game but it will aid our officials in getting a higher percentage of them right. Referees may not be so reluctant to ‘bottle’ decisions knowing they have the aid of a replay to turn to.

My proposal would mean that the officials have this system available to them if they’re unsure of something, it’s down to how clear the referee saw something whether he decides to use this or not. A lot of the time the referee will feel he has seen the incident clearly and will not even need to turn to it. Whether the referee feels he needs to is his decision and that’s final.

Let’s be realistic, if we’re talking about the referees having an aid for the penalty shouts, red card appeals (the what I would call ‘game changing decisions’) they would only be turning to the video referee 3/4 times in the average game. To me, that’s a small price to pay to have a fair game.

The men in the middle have the most difficult job out there, why wouldn’t we want to aid them and make it easier. This would give them the backing they need to ensure that they get a higher percentage of decisions correct.

Il stress the point again, this wouldn’t eradicate every single wrong decision but it would go a long way in ensuring the officials get the big ones right.

I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on video technology in football. What are the advantages and the draw backs to my proposed system?

I for one am fed up of refereeing decisions being the talking point, the football should come first. Why not eliminate the errors?

Sofa Sports News is the place to debate all things football and everyone’s opinions/comments are welcome.

Harry.

Super Sunday – The Tale of 2 refs and the day not a lot really changed, and why video technology is not the answer.

Sunday had every football fan glued to their TV Screen. Rightly so. The two games at the top of the table didn’t disappoint.

North London’s two sides may have won the day and their fans will now be dreaming of ending title droughts that span one and four generations respectively.

In all the excitement, two big points have been missed.
1. Leicester City are still top, still playing well, and have the easier fixtures
2. Man City are no further from the top points wise than they were Sunday morning.

As much as Arsenal finishing first to Tottenham in second would provide another 30 years of joyous bragging rights, or Spurs finally ending their 20 year hoodoo over Arsenal in this of all years with the ultimate prize at stake would cause North London to erupt on a scale that is hard to imagine… Remember this Londoners. It’s a 4 horse race and complacency will be fatal.

Sad that the refs of the two fixtures are getting some of the post match air time, and the technology debate has opened up again…

So my views on the big ones:
Should Vardy have been given his penalty? No.
Should Tottenham have been awarded a penalty? No.
I don’t think Simpson should have been sent off for those two challenges either.

There, that was easy. Except it’s not. The Spurs one in particular was a poor, poor decision by Clattenburg who’s position wasn’t great to make the call and he guessed wrong. This is the one that has opened the video technology.

I know some of our friends at SSN are in massive favour of Video Technology, but it can’t work.
I’m not denying it would have helped Clattenburg make the correct decision at the Etihad, but you can’t pick and choose where you use it, if it’s in for that game it’s in for every game. If you refer to a video the decision must then be based on fact and fact alone, as if a ref can’t make interpretations then a video ref certainly can’t, he’ll have a list of rules and criteria in front of him to apply. Here’s what happens:

1. Vardy gets his penalty as there was contact with a defenders trailing leg and you can’t judge for sure what his honest intentions are.

2. Mahrez gets a penalty – there was contact. Video ref can’t decide for sure whether is was enough to knock him down. Has to give it. 0-2 Leicester.

3. Simpson still gets sent off because ref has seen these and doesn’t refer it.

4. Danny Drinkwater doesn’t get sent off as he should because video referee is not called upon as referee saw it just fine.
…..or do we refer everything?

In which case….

5. Toure gets sent off after 10 minutes for two bookable offences and the game is ruined for all because a ref is no longer allowed to lose his judgement.

6. Spurs don’t get a penalty. Nice. Correct decision.

Now look at the 6 points above, take away the teams and the individuals involved and tell me if the pros outweigh the cons.
They don’t. And the arguement needs to be put to bed. I’ve not even got on to the corners and throw ins incorrectly awarded. There were 20 across the two games at least!

I think we all know the difference between a referee favouring one side in a match to just having a bad game. These two were the latter on Sunday and it’s unfortunate, but a camera wouldn’t have saved them. Have a go at the ref by all means, but don’t foolishly think the alternative is better long term.

If you have a camera ref do you then have a stopwatch that decides time added on rather than a wally with a board just making it up every week. Does the whistle blow at that point like in basketball? My point is, the box should never be opened and video technology should stay in it forever.

The only decisions in the two games that affected the result ultimately was the red card to Simpson. No fan would be happy with one of their players sent off for those two challenges in any game. The video ref doesn’t change that decision.

The Arsenal game was won and lost on two clear moments, Martin Wasilewski inexplicably charging into a foul with the game over, & Danny Drinkwater crossing into an empty box on 91 minutes when he could have drawn a foul or corner and run down the clock some more.

In the City-Spurs game you have Kevin Wimmer hold his position to intercept an Aguero through ball whilst Otamendi charges out to allow Lamela to play in Eriksen. You had Danny Rose throw his body in front of a volley from point blank range whilst Sterling turns his back on a floated cross. They are the moments where the 3 points are won and lost.

I hope a ridiculous refereeing decision doesn’t cost a team a title. Especially if it’s my team after 55 years of oblivion, but with the league as balanced as it is with still 12 games to go, if the team is good enough they will come through as champions.

There are still four teams left in this title race and the best one from here to the end will win it. Now sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the football, it’s going to be one hell of a run in.

Manchester City vs Spurs – Pochettino’s biggest game yet and first genuine selection headache.

After this weekends fixtures the title race begins. By Sunday night we’ll know whether Tottenham are in it or not.

No one could have dreamt how significant this pair of fixtures selected for Super Sunday would be when the fixture computer spat them out in June.

On Monday morning Spurs could be 2 points of the top, of 8 points of the top and just 4 clear of 5th, depending on theirs and other fixtures including of course Arsenal vs Leicester. And both games could go absolutely any way. Suffice it to say all four sides will be going for the win and will be confident they can get in.

Such is Spurs’ form right now that the team no longer picks itself and there are crucial decisions all over the pitch that need to be made by Mr Pochettino.

4-2-3-1 is going to be the formation.

Lloris in goal is straightforward enough

The 2 centre halves picks themselves with Alderweireld and Wimmer in his biggest test since coming in for the injured Vertonghen.

Full backs is where it suddenly gets tough, Trippier and Davies were superb on Saturday against Watford particularly going forward in one of the best Spurs displays of the season. Walker is still the first choice right back and Rose is far better defensively so a tough choice. To think we can run riot at city as we have done at home to Watford would be a mistake but I’m genuinely unsure as to what Poch will do here.
I’d plump for Walker and Rose and if behind there’s always the option to make the switch. I think Davies will be given the nod by the manager though, and hope he doesn’t cost us defensively if so.

Dier and Dembele are shoe-ins in the middle, as Kane is up front but the 3 places behind the striker are now a minefield of choices.
Eriksen will start out on the left, and whilst I don’t particularly like him out there accommodating Dele Alli is a must and it’s refreshing to see a big team allowing a promising youngster first team minutes in the position he thrives in. Spurs are reaping the rewards.
The way Eriksen and Dembele interchange positions depending on who has the possession has been key to our success at times. Moussa has the option to drive forward and Eriksen can drop deep to dictate the play from there if he’s not getting his own way out on the left whilst not being restricted to the deeper role.
Alli is a must start given the way he drives us Spurs forward with his energy and directness.

That leaves one berth between three players. Son has settled in over the last 4 weeks and has pace and energy to burn. Chadli has returned from injury and has been finding the net and is my preferred man when it comes to offering Kane support.
I’d go with Lamela though for this game. The work he puts in goes unnoticed but in a game against a side like City it is invaluable and at White Hart Lane earlier this season he ran the game with the performance of his Spurs career.

I think Chadli and Son can influence a game from the bench if needs be, whereas Lamela would be ineffective off the bench as he often is when asked to join the game late.
This could well be a game that takes 14 players to make the difference not 11, and Spurs’s bench will give cause for optimism when compared to City’s, who’s injuries continue to restrict their options.

So that’s it. A massive game, but a testament to how much we’ve improved throughout the season that going into it we don’t know who our best 11 is. Tactically Pochettino has got so little wrong this season lets hope he’s got the boys ready.

Anyone think we will bring back 3 points?

My preferred 11
Lloris
Walker Alderweireld Wimmer Rose
Dier Dembele
Lamela Alli Eriksen
Kane

11 I think Poch will pick
Lloris
Walker Alderweireld Wimmer Davies
Dier Dembele
Son Alli Eriksen
Kane

Come on Spurs, get yourselves in the race.

.

Valentine’s Day ‘Super Sunday’ – Preview and Predictions from Harry :)

Valentine’s Day – what could be better than to wake up and spend the whole day with the love of your life.

Yes, I’m talking about the Premier League. An incredible Super Sunday with 3 games live on the box! The current top 4 are all involved and here at SSN we are expecting more twists and turns in this extraordinary title race.

12pm k/o: Arsenal v Leicester City
2:05pm k/o: Aston Villa vs Liverpool
4:15pm k/o: Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur

I will be briefly previewing Sunday’s 3 games and giving my predictions ahead of the Valentine’s Day special ??.

I’m gonna start with the day’s early kick off at the Emirates stadium:

ARSENAL V LEICESTER CITY:

League leaders Leicester city come into this game full of confidence after last Saturday’s brilliant win at the Etihad. I must admit, ahead of that game I was certain City would get the job done and that would be the start of Leicester’s demise. How wrong was I?!?! Another awesome performance from Ranieri’s men has now made them title favourites in many people’s books.

Arsenal come into this huge clash having finally got back to winning ways. It was by no means the best performance at Bournemouth but that 3 points has dragged the gunners right back into it. With Leicester having that 5 point cushion I expect Arsenal to be the ones trying to force the issue. This is a must win game for the Gunners in my opinion and no doubt Leicester will be more than happy to sit back in numbers and play on the break.

Providing Arsenal show up I expect them to take all three points here, Leicester have to come unstuck somewhere!

HARRY PREDICTS: Arsenal 2-0 Leicester City
ASTON VILLA V LIVERPOOL:

The less we say about Villa’s season thus far, the better. Remi Garde came in and took what was in my eyes already an impossible job. The Frenchman has made it clear in recent weeks he’s been unhappy with the level of backing he has received from the club. As an outsider looking in it’s as though they want to go down!?

As for the Scouser’s, they stop and start more than a double decker bus on Oxford street. They’ve had some magnificent results this season but equally as many disappointing ones. The inconsistency has been a bit of a reality check for those Liverpool fans that thought Klopp would be an instant fix and lead them back into the top 4.

Villa have shown some small signs of improvement in recent times, 2 wins and 2 draws out of their last 6 league games. That fact, combined with Liverpool’s inconsistency tempts me to go for a draw on this one.

HARRY PREDICTS: Aston Villa 1-1 Liverpool
MAN CITY V SPURS

Despite that defeat at home to Leicester City I still make Man City joint title favourites with the Arsenal.
They possess the strongest squad, the finest striker in the league (Aguero) and it’s imperative that they bounce back straight away.

Maybe the announcement of Pellegrini’s imminent departure caused them to lose focus last week but I’m pretty certain they will bounce back on Sunday.

Spurs have been incredible this season and as a Gooner it pains me to say that. Unfortunately there is no denying it – they’ve found a consistency we’re not used to seeing from Spurs and Pochettino deserves a huge amount of credit for that.

The north Londoners go into this one in a richer vain of form but I think with home advantage and what happened last week City will be too strong for Spurs.

HARRY PREDICTS: Man City 3-1 Spurs

 

Wishing you all a happy Valentine’s Day!

5 players Spurs should target during this transfer window. -Daniel De Luca

New year means new transfer window, and it’s fair to say that Spurs’ points total means Pochettino has every right to demand some funds to bolster the squad.

Spurs have played themselves into a great position to qualify for Champions League football next season but the squad is certainly thin in some areas. For those who feel Spurs are in a title race, the squad is miles short, so either way investment is needed this month to maintain the momentum that has put us in a strong position to at least get fans excited. At least 2 players must be added.

The style Spurs have adopted this season is very specific, there is unquestionably a need for a striker to provide back up to Harry Kane and I’d say the club are a bit light in central midfield. The January window has a history of players coming in and struggling to settle, so where possible targeting premier league players is a benefit that the club should be looking to exploit, and players who would be keen to move to White Lane certainly makes life easier. We know transfer funds are likely to be tight but Levy is still always keen to deal at the right price, so being realistic with targets and their valuations is key.
Here are 5 players Spurs should target in January.

1. Saido Berahino (West Brom)
Whether I think he’s the man or not I’m not sure, but he was wanted by Spurs in the summer and Poch should probably have earned Spurs fans trust by now. He clearly wanted to join Spurs in the summer so the same should be the case now, especially as he has struggled to pin down a first team place for West Brom. You do get the impression with Saido he could be a disruptive character and also that Jeremy Peace may have Daniel Levy stored in his phone as “do not answer”, but the positives would include some added pace to the side and possibly some goals from a wide position (where I’d expect he’d spend a fair bit of time utilised), both things the squad currently lacks. Another young English for Pochettino to develop would seem to fit his bill. Expect some more haggling over price, but if Spurs want the player and the player wants the move then just make it happen. There may be 1 or 2 other clubs struggling for goals waiting in the wings if not.

2. Charlie Austin (QPR)
So why not? It was a big surprise that Austin ended the summer window at QPR given his successful taste of premier league football. Heavily linked with Newcastle and then Bournemouth maybe he was holding out for something a little bit bigger, or maybe he is one of those rare loyal footballers. So, back to the why not? You’d expect he’d fancy a move to Spurs, he’d probably accept the role of second fiddle to Harry Kane, and Spurs wouldn’t have to break the bank to add a much needed back up striker to the squad. So he’s not world class by any means, but he is a like for like in terms of playing style with Harry Kane so Pochettino could maintain his playing philosophy and system when Kane needs a rest towards the end of games. There’s been no option either when Spurs have been struggling to throw on a second striker and Austin could do that and has proved he has the ability to score in the premier league. He ticks a lot of boxes, and could be easily moved on if needed on a low salary. I’ll ask again. Why not?

3. Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle)
I like Moussa Sissoko, his intense powerful direct style of play fits perfectly into Tottenham’s system. Strong in the tackle tireless running and the added bonus of pace means I could see him working for Pochettino. The criticism levelled at him often is that he goes missing when Newcastle are struggling, but on his day he can be explosive and hard to contain. When Spurs play on the break, as they like to, I think Moussa Sissoko would shine, and he’d be more than happy and able to join in the Pochettino press. He’d be open to a move up the league you’d have thought and would fit nicely into Levy’s preferred price bracket.

4. Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea)
Another player, like Sissoko, who fits in to the box-box midfielder category. A position I think Spurs needs.
He’s not having his best season at Swansea but he’s got bags of ability and after an unsuccessful spell at Liverpool you’d sense he’d love another crack at a top 6 club. He can break up the play and has a superb range of passing, something lacking from Spurs midfield currently. I think Liverpool let him go a bit too early and Pochettino’s knack for getting the best out of younger players could well get him back on track. If Spurs are in the market for the reasons of squad strengthening then Shelvey would make a great addition and again wouldn’t command an outlandish fee.

5. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea)
I sense a few eyebrows may be raised when reading this name, but i think Gylfi was allowed to leave too early. It was just after Pochettino joined he was transferred out so it could be this one is a non starter but it is a surprise given Pochettino’s tactics that he sanctioned his release, it could be that the deal was already done maybe. He is powerful, direct, and comfortable in possession, what is more is he scores goals from midfield which is one area where I think Spurs are a bit light comparative to their rivals. Against big opposition too, United Arsenal Chelsea etc…. Not just chipping in goals against bottom half sides when the tails are up. Maybe this one is the most unlikely as at this stage of his career a return to a squad player probably won’t appeal, but would certainly add something back to the squad.
So there we go, 5 players all from these shores who Spurs could do worse than targeting this month.
They represent realistic targets with league experience in a window where adding quality to a squad is historically difficult. All of the above players would be relative easily attainable, unlike other targets like Wanyama could be sold by their clubs in Jan for the right fee, and would jump at the chance to arrive the Lane (Sigurdsson aside maybe).
If Spurs signed 2 or 3 of the above I’d be happy enough with the months work. Squad strengthening is the key to the rest of this campaign.

What are your thoughts on these targets? What other realistic targets do you think Spurs should be chasing in January?

De Luca on the importance of the coming weeks for Spurs & why Levy deserves more credit!

You’ve got to be careful not to overdramatise things in football. The mainstream media do enough for that for us, normally not warranted or without applying perspective.

BUT!!! I am not exaggerating fellow Spurs fans (and everyone else) when I tell you this next two and a half weeks for Tottenham Hotspur are absolutely huge. Massive. Monumentally important to the point where the next 18 months could virtually depend on it.

Let’s look at our recent history, we know how small the timeframe is that the window of opportunity is open to make a step forward as a football club, and when it closes how long before it opens again.

Miss champions league by a point – failed objectives – best players likely to leave – manager gone – start again- new players struggle to bed in – miles away for a season…
And repeat the above cycle. Which usually takes two seasons.

You’ve got to believe that Tottenham want to be a club that are capable of challenging for big trophies one day on a domestic level. Don’t ask me how long before that is…. I can’t answer that. But how I can be so confident that, that is the ambition, is by looking at the continued investment in the football club in between these cycles of near misses – to complete failures.
To get to anywhere normally requires a progressive step or a cycle, for Tottenham to ever challenge for big trophies they need to first finish in the top 4, probably in back to back seasons. Then comes the chance to attract the better players that meet your ambitions and the wages that attract them combined with the platform to perform that their talents and egos crave.
Spurs have never given up on achieving the initial champions league objective. Not since 2006 and lasagna gate have the club ever aimed or been prepared to settle for anything less. I’d describe the club as desperate over this period to make the step that is integral to their long term aims. That’s why managers have gone, some popular managers, some talented managers, a manager who delivered a trophy. There’s been managers from abroad, managers from within the club, personalities, man managers, tacticians. You get the point here, in the desperation to succeed the Spurs owners have tried everything. Literally everything.
Some questionable decisions made along the way? Yes. Desperation can do that to decision making at any level of sport. Backwards step is phrase used a lot. Is that True? No. Not a backwards step at all, just the recommencement of the cycle when the previous one ends.
It’s not the participation in the tournament that bothers me as a fan, making up the Champions League numbers every season like most clubs before getting a harsh reminder of how far adrift the premiership is when facing a decent side, is not something I care about one jot. Honestly. It’s more that I realise how important a step qualifying is on the journey to somewhere than caring about ever playing in it, it’s a very example of the media overdramatisation referenced in the first sentence of this piece. By the time the tournament gets genuinely interesting most premiership sides have long since departed.

During the decade since the day lasagna got the better of us, there has been vast improvements, near misses, and some quite outrageously unfortunate circumstances. Chelsea somehow winning the thing and eliminating Tottenham in 2012 the cherry on that particular cake. Lionel Messi & Arjen Robben missing penalties along the way making up some of the sponge. What has been consistent over the 10 year period though is the continued desire and hunger of the powers that be at the football club to chase the ambition. I’ll always be grateful to Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy for this, and whilst they receive criticism in some quarters it would be wrong to overlook the way they continue to try when it would be easy to give up and cash in. This has been backed up with investment, and not just words. Investment off the pitch more so than on it sometimes, but that adds further fuel to my beliefs that the club are genuinely sighting a serious spell of challenging anyone domestically in the not too distant future. Half a billion pounds on a new training and stadium are not actions of a football club wanting to finish 4th instead of 5th I wouldn’t say. I mentioned not cashing in just now, and the selling of the clubs best players would spring to mind of anyone wishing to put a counter argument, but the facts are this. Every club sells their best players, all of them. Man United sold Ronaldo for gods sake, Suarez, Robben, Fabregas, Vieira, Henry, Nasri, Torres, Van Persie. All gone. All but one of those players above were in the Champions League had they stayed with their clubs. Only salary keeps players and nothing else, Chelsea and City have kept their big names in recent times and that’s only due to the unlimited resources their owners have at their disposal. I’ll be sure even then that at least one of Hazard, Aguero or Silva will be on the move in the near future.
The money brought in at Spurs for sales has been re-invested in the playing staff though. A net profit over the last five years can be attributed more to the inflated prices the players have sold for and the trimming of a huge squad, more so than the lack of incoming transfer activity. It’s a myth that Levy doesn’t get his chequebook out – he does. Just so happens that some of the players have inexplicably flopped and some of the scouting has been on occasions questionable. Sure Levy drives a hard bargain which has cost various targets, but it is just living within the clubs means as he chooses to prioritise the infrastructure investment ahead of the squad. That’s what he has identified as the more important piece of his jigsaw to get right. There will always be another season on the pitch, there can always be another cycle. If you can’t buy the dream like City and Chelsea, then you need to systematically build it and within your means the way Manchester United did, the way Arsenal are trying to rebuild themselves as serious challengers. Leeds United is what happens when you step outside your means. If Levy thinks a stadium is more important than a 300k a week centre forward then I’m not going to argue with him because like I’ve said I firmly believe he has genuine big ambitions and no matter what he will leave this football club in an unrecognisably better position that when he took over in 2001.
Leeds United have been covered, but then there is Aston Villa. Aston Villa is what happens when you don’t have bigger ambitions than just wanting to play AC Milan and Real Madrid once only so you can say you’ve done it.
It was Villa who were the most likely to ‘break into the top 4′ finishing 6th for 3 consecutive seasons all under Martin O’Neil from 2008 – 2010. When Spurs first qualified in 2010 Aston Villa were only 6 points behind, they boasted players like James Milner, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Stylian Petrov & Brad Friedel in the sticks. Gareth Barry had already departed as the first of the big players to leave the club.
The ambition to follow up that near miss was not there at the club had a mid-table finish the year after. Villa ever since have been a side just waiting to be relegated. This year it is going to happen, they will go down to the Championship. Completely unthinkable 5 short years ago. They hoped they’d break into to the champions league, but never really wanted it, not properly, not the way Tottenham do. When people and pundits and even their own fans criticise Tottenham’s ambition I wish they’d think a bit before speaking.
I’ve rambled on. If Spurs didn’t hold the ambitions I believe they do, the board and the fans, then we’d be midway through our 3rd relegation battle in front of thousands of empty seats.

Back to the present day and the ginormous 16 days ahead for the club. Tottenham sit in 5th place, 3 points behind 4th having never been in the top 4 at any point in the season. Despite this are on an unbeaten run dating back to the first game of the season and look the part whilst the squad is quite thin and lacks regular goal scorers to supplement Harry Kane. Look up and you won’t find Chelsea, look down and you’ll have to look further, the champions are in a mess. Man City are Arsenal aren’t exactly robotic in how they are going about their seasons but you’d think they won’t have to worry about their top 4 status and will probably occupy the top 2 positions come May. With Chelsea not looking like recovering who else is there? Manchester United are awful, machine like in grinding out wins but without the forward line to maintain it and you’d think they’ll drop plenty of points between now and the end of season while Van Gaal tries to bore us all to death. Liverpool are not very good besides a vibrant front line and are going to drop a whole load of points. Their defeats to Newcastle and Crystal Palace aren’t going to be isolated no matter how highly I think of Jurgen Klopp. He’s not Harry Potter and that side is not good enough this season to back with any confidence.
Then there’s everyone’s second favourite team Leicester. Hate to say it but they can’t maintain the form shown surely? They will drop away as the fixtures get tougher and more frequent and the defensive frailties will outweigh the attacking vibrancy over the season. So in short, unlike past years there isn’t 4 good teams in this league. There is not 4 teams better than Tottenham, not a chance. Everton may have a case for feeling the same.
In the 16 days coming Spurs have matches, just like their rivals, and where December is known for points being spilled Tottenham have an attractive set of fixtures comparatively. Newcastle at Home, Southampton, who have been struggling a bit lately, away, Norwich at home, Watford away. It’s hardly frightening and no reason why the unbeaten run can’t make it through to the New Year’s Eve fireworks.
The unbeaten run which I’m getting a bit tired of hearing about is only going to have been worth all the trouble if something comes at the end of it.
Maintaining the unbeaten run over the Xmas period could mean 4 points or 6, or 8. Spurs need to take advantage and return 10 or even 12, the team is more than capable and might need to be more daring as games peter out towards a draw. In the 2010 season where Aston Villa were 6 points adrift they lost two games fewer than Tottenham, but a third of their results (13) ended in draws, and that is proving to be Tottenham’s biggest threat.
The results in these next 4 games can build the platform that can put Spurs closer to the teams at the top than the teams coming from behind, and if so Levy might choose to add to the squad in January bringing in the players we’ll need to maintain the form we’ve shown over 38 games. The targets will have been identified and their agents will be aware of Spurs’ interest. The two weeks ahead are a shop window for the club, a chance to end the month firmly in the driving seat to provide champions league football whilst putting in some of the energetic performances that we have seen at times this season, the type that make a prospective player itching to be a part of. Without some re-inforcements I fear Spurs could drop away.
So that’s it, this is more than just 2 weeks of football, this is the chance to prepare for the next step of that all important cycle, and drive Levy closer to impossible dream. Everyone’s got to start somewhere, and sometimes, start again, and again. This is the latest opportunity. Spurs really can’t afford the time it costs to waste it.

Spurs go marching on! – De Luca reflects on the win over West Ham

Sunday 22nd November 2009, Spurs crushed Wigan Athletic 9-1 at White Hart Lane. 6 years later & the score line could have quite easily been repeated.

The similarities between the line up that day and today were nil in terms of personnel. All 18 players in the squad that day have moved on in the 6 years between that afternoon and now, Aaron Lennon the last to depart this summer meaning every member of the squad who made the Champions League at the end of that season was no more. A team, piece by piece, dismantled.

The comparison between that team and today is a lot more telling, no world superstars like Bale, Van der Vaart & Modric (Modric was injured that day, Bale still to discover form and seemingly heading for a January exit), and no over-reliance on one player like interim seasons at the Lane. Just XI players, with a distinct style imposed by Redknapp playing for each other with supreme confidence.

That’s where Tottenham are now in 2015. Who do you mark? Where do you focus your attention? How do you stem the constant waves of energetic attacks? The answer is you can’t. It’s how some of Europe’s top teams who execute this style of play win match after match, title after title, playing this way. Those sides have better players, like Messi Muller and Iniesta. Tottenham don’t need those sort of players for where they need to be though, we’re not talking about title challenging for Tottenham but instead getting to a position that can be used as platform. There’s nothing wrong with looking up every now and then to distract you from looking down at who is coming up the rails. Chelsea winning again and visiting the lane next week in a massive game, and Liverpool registering their second successive away mauling of a pre-season title contender. Klopp’s Liverpool executed a very similar style to Tottenham in both those games at Chelsea and The Etihad. When teams play well in this way they are near impossible to beat, the opponent needs to play exceptionally well. Teams can’t beat Tottenham at the moment, not since the opening day have they been defeated in the league. How Pochettino must regret a few of the draws that should/could have been wins when looking at the table tonight. Stoke, Liverpool & Everton at home the big examples of two points dropped in dominating displays. That’s where the Muller’s, Iniestas and Messi’s come in handy.

There are no outstanding world class individuals in this Spurs team as I’ve already pointed out, but there is still quality oozing throughout the squad. Just like all good strikers endure goal droughts, they enjoy rich veins of form. 7 goals in the last 4 for Harry Kane in the league, not bad for a one season wonder. The centre half pairing is as good as any in England, Dier Alli and Dembele continue to dominate midfields, and I wouldn’t normally mention it as I don’t personally believe a corner and a five yard sideways pass should fall into the special mention category, but since assists seem to be fashionable these days Christian Eriksen chipped in with two as part of this rout.

As the first ten minutes of this game ticked by I was intrigued at how it was going to play out. Two sides who prefer to counter attack both sitting back waiting for the other to dare to push forward. As the home side the onus is on Spurs to find a way through and West Ham looked well organised with the added option of the aerial threat they posed. Ironic then that Spurs’s second came from a set piece header whilst West Ham had earlier failed to make the most of a couple of opportunities from corner kicks, Alderweireld powered a header home following a dart to the near post on 33 minutes. Spurs had taken the lead 10 minutes earlier when a lucky ricochet gave Kane the chance to roll his marker and smash a finish high into the net. Between the two goals West Ham struck the bar when Kouyate was somehow ruled onside.
Already 2-0 up, Dele Alli then hit the bar at the end of a Spurs move created brilliantly by Christian Eriksen. Harry Kane then missed comically when through on goal, it wasn’t even half time.
It didn’t take long in the second half though for him to make amends, smashing one under the keeper after West Ham were sloppy playing out from the back.

By the time Lanzini scored a late consolation, a lovely goal by the only man in claret and blue who had tried all afternoon to make things happen, Spurs had already gone 4 up.
Walker finished beautifully with the outside of his boot after a 1-2 with Son who was really lively in the second half. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Lanzini or Walker should take the goal of the day spoils, that’s down to personal preference.
There were missed chances too, two double saves from Adrian, and Mason striking a post amongst others I’ve probably forgotten amongst the constant bombardment of Tottenham attacks.

It finished 4-1, it really could have been 9 again, an absolute onslaught of a display by Tottenham and this time with the goals and the points to prove it.

Pochettino utilised the ‘one game at a time’ cliche when an interviewer suggested he might look up the table instead of behind. I didn’t believe him. I can’t accept that Thursday’s trip to Azerbaijan will be ahead of Chelsea next Sunday in his thoughts.
A midday kick off after a trip to Asia is not ideal and the absence of Dele Alli through suspension will be a miss too, the only blot on a superb day for Tottenham. If Spurs can get home from Qarabag with their first team unscathed it’s a huge opportunity to open up a healthy gap over the defending league champions.

I’ll leave you with the starting line up from that afternoon six years ago against Wigan:
Gomes; Corluka Dawson Woodgate Assou-Ekotto, Lennon Huddlestone Palacios Krancjar, Crouch Defoe.

If that team can finish 4th then there really is only one direction Pochettino should be looking. Good teams beat good players. Bring on Chelsea

NLD didn’t go to plan for the Arsenal – Kyri Christodoulou

This weekends North London Derby didn’t quite go to plan for Arsenal, far from it actually.

Before going into the game watching City somehow fail to win at Villa park, an opportunity was there for Arsenal to go top of the pile going into the international break. Beating Spurs to go top would have topped it off, sadly that wasn’t the case.

I thought City dropping points earlier in the day would give Arsenal the extra motivation especially in a Derby game at home to go on and make an early statement to Manchester City.

Unfortunately not, it was the visitors from up the seven sisters road who wanted it a lot more than Arsenal did.

They fought hard off the ball, not letting Arsenal settle, forcing them to make mistakes and they were very good with the ball as well playing some good football and creating some good chances in both half’s.

Tottenham wanted it a lot more than Arsenal did. Tottenham won every 2nd ball, worked hard with and without the ball, looked motivated and determined & Arsenal looked liked they just couldn’t be asked.

Some people might argue Arsenal were tired playing 4 games in 10 days with 3 of them being away from home with 10 players out injured! Maybe the case but Spurs played 3 games in 6 days with very little rotation so it works both ways.

It was a shocking performance and up there with the worst I’ve seen.

I know you can’t play well every week but you can’t play that badly and expect to win games, let alone the championship.

For me when teams press in numbers off the ball and don’t let Arsenal settle we really struggle and that was the case in both league matches last season against Tottenham and the same yesterday.

With Arsenal missing players such as Hector Bellerin, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott & Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Arsenal had no real pace going forward, it was the same problem in Munich as well.

Pace makes such a difference in football it showed when Arsenal brought on Keiran Gibbs for Joel Campbell what a difference somebody with a bit off pace can make.

With no pace in the Arsenal team It allowed the Spurs back line to push much higher up the pitch and make life more difficult for Arsenal.

But let’s give credit were credit is due Tottenham bossed the game and ran the midfield for most of the game and probably had the best chances.

Harry Kane’s goal you could argue comes from a defensive error with a ball played over the top, Mertesacker pushing up and Koscienly sitting deeper and playing Kane onside (which seems to happen to often) Kane was through on goal with only Cech to beat and it was a calm and very good finish.

It was a little better in the 2nd half from Arsenal (couldn’t get much worse) at least they were creating chances Giroud missed two headers from set pieces that he really should be scoring, Joel Campbell cut inside to shoot which produced a very good save from Lloris.

Spurs also created chances in the 2nd half Eriksen, Kane and Alderweireld with good chances to double Spurs lead but they failed to score before Mesut Ozil’s cross was poked in by substitute Keiron Gibbs to save a point for Arsenal.

Spurs fans before the game would have taken a draw all day long but the way the game went they should be disappointed they didn’t get all three. Judging by the way the fans reacted in the clock end after the game they were still happy with the draw.

Talking about Tottenham I think they have a very strong chance at finishing in the top 4 this season their only realistic rivals for a 4th place finish is Liverpool and Chelsea.

Liverpool will take time to get better under new manager Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea show no signs of improving and travel to the lane in 3 weeks and are already 10 points behind Spurs, if Spurs beat Chelsea which is very possible, 13 points at any stage of the season is a big big gap.

Spurs have 2-3 very good players they obviously have a top top goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld looks like a good Centre half, Deli Alli looks like a very promising youngster and Harry Kane is a very good striker to off the top off my head.

Somebody like Christian Eriksen is technically a very good player who is very good at set pieces and can look good on the ball but for me there is something missing in his game and I don’t know what it is, people may disagree but that’s what I believe.

I do believe Spurs have a very good manager in Pochettino he’s made them into a very well organised team and he’s tactically very good.

Proof off that is their season so far, ok they’ve drawn too many games but they haven’t lost since the opening day of the season so they’re clearly a well organised side who love to press teams high up the pitch and don’t let teams settle. They have turned into a very hard side to beat.

I’m a man who really really dislikes Spurs to put it kindly, so I’m hoping for the usual Spurs to come back in the second half of the season and bottle it. They may not, only time will tell Liverpool may not be good enough yet and Chelsea who are capable off going on a winning run currently sit 10 points behind Spurs but they still have to play each other twice which could be two very big games.

For Arsenal the international break has come at a very good time (for once) & there’s still a few positives to take. We didn’t play well at all and still didn’t lose, were still joint top with Man City, we have a good run of fixtures coming up (on paper) and hopefully we should have the likes off Ramsey, Walcott, Bellerin and the Ox back for the trip to West Brom in a couple of weeks.

Very frustrating and painful to watch on Sunday but no disaster, next 4 games West Brom (A) Norwich (A) Sunderland (H) Aston Villa (A) looking at that were more than capable of getting the maximum 12 points before we welcome Manchester City to the Emirates. Going forward there’s a lot to be positive about in the next few weeks.

@kyrigooner #UTA

A Gooner’s view on Rob Palmer’s ‘They just don’t get it’

Rob Palmer – the typical Spurs fan!

As many of our sofasportsnews.com followers know there was an article posted by one Rob Palmer. This was supposed to be a build up to the NLD from a Spurs perspective in response to that of Andy Paps and attracted much attention to our site (so thanks for that at least). I think Rob has been offered a writers job at Comedy Central this week because some of the things he came out with where hilarious & genuinely had me in stitches. Good one rob!

So in response to the article ‘They don’t get it… By Rob Palmer’ I would like to say a few words on behalf of the Gooner population.

For those of you that haven’t read it I recommend you get bag of popcorn, put your feet up and have a good laugh! Here’s the link… http://wp.me/p6EijE-5m

I would like to start by drawing your attention to the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of ‘Delude’
– To Delude:
Make (someone) believe something that is not true.

This is exactly what Rob has done, fortunately only one half of north London are uneducated enough in football to believe it.

It was evident by some of the comments left under the article that this is a widespread disease that is effecting a huge proportion of Tottenham fans up and down the country. Not all of you, but seems like the majority of you belong in that category.

Now let me set the scene… Two premier league football clubs are currently located in north London. One is Arsenal FC and the other go by the name of Tottenham Hotspur. One of these two old clubs is extremely bitter about some events that occurred in 1913 & to this day they haven’t gotten over it. Arsenal’s move to Highbury sparked a rivalry that has lasted over a century!

Arsenal have won 13 league titles & Tottenham have won 2. I’m not gonna sit and bore you with all the clubs honours because there are a lot between the two of us. But that one in particular tells the story of the two clubs. I think for me growing up I always enjoyed the rivalry on derby days but during the 90’s & early to mid 2000’s our biggest rivals were Man Utd. Rob can accuse us of not understanding the rivalry but with all due respect at that time when I was growing up Arsenal had bigger fish to fry.

There’s no argument about who has been the more successful of the two, all you have to do is look at both clubs list of honours. Another tell tale sign of that is when Spurs fans like Rob refer to things like they were there first English club to win a European trophy and the first side to win the double.

Yes mate, you were the first English club to win a European trophy in 1963. Preston North End were actually the first team to win the double though back in 1888/1889 seeing as we’re going back to the days of the dinosaurs to gloat.

Since your double in 60/61 we have achieved it 3 times & won the league as many times at your ground as you’ve won it in your history, I think that means we’ve overtaken you. ‘Oh but we did it first’ seems a pathetic thing to say when your rivals have left you behind. But then again that’s your typical Spurs fans.

The sad thing is that as a football man I do appreciate the size and tradition of a club like Tottenham but it’s spoilt by uneducated neanderthal fans like some of you lot.

The fact of the matter of this, the gap on the pitch has gotten smaller over the last few years. Spurs have improved over recent seasons and are normally just outside of the top 4 (which isn’t an easy thing to break into). This weekends NLD was evidence of that, you showed up and put in a performance and we didn’t. Maybe your best performance of the season vs our worst and we still took a point.

In July 2006 having had all that success under Arsene Wenger the club was growing, our own brand of football, to use your word Arsenal’s ‘franchise’ was becoming more and more popular and Arsenal moved into the 60,000 seater Emirates stadium.

More than ten years later Spurs are planning on doing the same thing. In my book that means your ten years behind us in the evolution of your club. You all choose to mock the fact we haven’t been as successful as we would have liked over the past decade and nobody is more disappointed in that then us Gooner’s ourselves.

But let me ask you this… What have Tottenham achieved of note in that period? A champions league qualification? Once? Is that all?

Your club now are going through a cycle that we went through almost ten years ago now. Changing stadiums in the long run is of huge benefit to clubs with the support Arsenal or Spurs have but it’s by no means a painless process. You’ll be restricted in what you can spend, sometimes have to sell your best players against the managers will & you will end up having those ‘modern football fans’ that you all talk about all over the place.

I hope for the ‘real’ Tottenham fans sakes you give Poch a chance to build because you’ll need a manager who can build from youth to get you through the transitional period.

As for the Rob Palmers of this world you really are a mile behind us and I can’t wait until you go to the lane and sit next to Rupert and his buddies eating their half time prawn sandwiches. It’s the way FOOTBALL has become NOT Arsenal and you’ll realise this in time when you get your head out of the clouds.

My favourite part of your article was when you described the atmosphere at WHL during that carling cup game, found it amazing you could hear it so well from your sofa in the USA!

North London is Red.

Harry (AFC fan)

Daniel De Luca’s Review of the NLD.

Now I’ve got my breath my back from what was a pulsating North London Derby, I can start to put into context what this performance by Tottenham means.

I’m not going to celebrate a draw at Arsenal because that would be embarrassing, we’re better than that now and it felt a lot like two points dropped at the final whistle.

But I am going to celebrate that performance, and if they make a DVD I’ll buy it, and if there is an open top bus parade later this week where Deli Alli, Moussa Dembele and Eric Dier and hoisted into the North London air, I’ll be there with my Spurs Jester hat and retro scarf because this is exactly what I want when I hand over my season ticket subscription money every year, it was an exceptional performance by Tottenham that deserved nothing less than 3 Derby points.

You don’t always get what you deserve in football matches, there were at least 4 occasions last season when Spurs scored late winners in games we had no right to still be in, yesterday we paid that age old price of being in “one goal is never enough” territory.

If you read my pre match review  I outlined the big difference between Spurs and Arsenal as ruthlessness and cutting edge. Evident again yesterday.

Tottenham have had 3 good teams in the past decade, all better than the team that actually qualified for the champions league in 2010. 2011/12 under Redknapp, 2012/13 under AVB and now this current crop for Pochettino 15/16. The two former teams had a distinct style that they played to (both very different) and the players executed that style to the managers strategy, and that’s what we have seen this season with this side. High pressing, high intensity, fast moving of the ball and suffocating opponents. Implementing the style is the first challenge for a new manager, once that is done life gets easier. It’s what Klopp is faced with now at Liverpool. Man Utd had a clear style in the 90s, Arsenal have had a clear style for a while, Chelsea have a style, Man City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Swansea, Stoke. It’s right to include a couple of smaller sides in that list, it highlights what having a distinct style means to a football team, Swansea and Stoke in very different ways established themselves as Premiership clubs, both even made it to a cup final, Swansea managed to win the trophy.
When you have that style established it becomes a lot easier to try and find players that fit into it or a manager that can deliver if you wish to maintain it. Swansea select managers that prefer to play in the same way, Stoke decided they wanted to change their style and so appointed a different type of manager to try and push the club on after years of being happy with where they were finishing. That’s where Spurs are at now, trying hard to push forward not just settle where they are.

Pochettino’s style is set and the players buy in, more importantly it fits in with the clubs current situation regarding player recruitment strategy. It’s the best imitation in this country I’ve seen of the modern European style of playing and whilst to win major trophies you often need a genuine world superstar it’s essential to have a means of attracting one. For that you usually need Champions League football or a massive wage structure.
Superstars have joined teams in the past that they have believed to be going places, albeit for a hefty salary.
This game was a great advert for what this latest Tottenham era is all about and capable of. A new stadium around the corner, a state of the art training ground in place are all extra carrots that the club can dangle to sign the player that would have won this game. Any neutral watching Tottenham yesterday would have been excited by what they saw.

Ok so we didn’t win, that’s clearly disappointing, but no testament to Arsenal really who had essentially given up mid way through the second half, this is Tottenham’s 6th draw this season as we still look for the final piece of the jigsaw the ruthless streak of killing teams off. It will come. Especially as the depth of the squad strengthens over the coming two transfer windows.

This performance was something to be proud of, to go away from home to a title contender and dominate in this way is something normally only other title contenders can produce.
Tottenham are not that, and having been reminded again how inferior they are to Arsenal in the build up makes the way we outplayed them on their own patch feel like something of a victory.

There will no doubt still be some Arsenal fans and pundits who are looking for some justification that Arsenal should have won. Stats can show you whatever you want, but this wasn’t about attempts on goal or possession or pass counting, this was territory, aggression and continued waves of forward movements that left the opponent hoping for a way back in rather than expecting it.
Could have won? Absolutely. If you take your chances and the other team don’t you could win any game of football. Should have won? Absolutely not. Deserved to win? Never in a million years. They need to accept that, address a couple of areas of weakness that were exposed and get back on with their title challenge. Failure to do that has fatal consequences down the road. I’m sure a manager as smart as Wenger will be well aware of where they were short and who was responsible, he’ll be fixing that behind closed doors I’m sure.

Ok so they had a few chances in the second half that can be pointed to, but teams at home generally get chances, especially good teams. These were almost all from set pieces, this wasn’t The Hawthorns, or The Britannia, this was Arsenal at the Emirates restricted to set plays and high crosses in to the box. When the goal did come for Arsenal it was a blow that left us wondering how we allowed them back in, and fearing the Arsenal momentum the goal brought would somehow cost us everything. To lose would have been a morale defeat as it is, it is a morale victory. These can sometimes have equal importance.
We can match teams like Arsenal on the pitch now and have done for a few years. We’ve dismantled City and Chelsea in the last few months. It’s that age old step of doing it over the course of the season that needs to be addressed and sneaking into the Champions League places is the first tiptoe on that long path. This year everyone now will believe we can do it, and rightly so, Tottenham are anything but a walkover now and have nothing to fear from the other contenders.
Pochettino my man, you might just be the one that finally rebuilds a football club.

The ‘Vanishing Gap’ and how Spurs can win the North London Derby – Daniel De Luca

The North London Derby, the only game that matters to me this week.

I always fear the away leg less as a Spurs fan. It’s like a free shot to be a hero. Always expected to lose, Always happy to draw, and almost always failing to win. At White Hart Lane in recent years Spurs have more than caught up.

Since Redknapp took over in mid 2008 there have been 7 North London Derbies in the League, Spurs have won 4 and drawn 2 of those encounters.
In the same period at the Emirates in the League there have been 7 meetings, Arsenal have won 4 and drawn 2 of those encounters.

So what’s my point? Identical League records over 7 years that might surprise some people, but explains Arsenals clear dominance in the fixture is over. A thing of what is now the past. But the bigger point of note is one that should be expected, when there’s not an awful lot between 2 sides home advantage is a huge factor. That is something Tottenham will need to overcome tactically and not just a reliance on passion and endeavour.

Amongst Arsenals 4 home wins are 3 by 3 goal margins, all other winning margins in the fixture over this period are by a solitary goal. This is a stat that highlights the biggest difference between the two sides for me. Arsenal have a ruthless streak and an ability when on top to put teams to the sword, kill teams off. Last week at Swansea they killed their opponents off in a ten minute spell of an otherwise even game. This is what Tottenham will need to be wary of on Sunday during long spells of Arsenal possession. Indeed in each of Arsenal’s victories over Tottenham by 3 goal margins just mentioned, Spurs conceded two goals within 3 minutes of each other or less. Game on to game over just like that. If Spurs ever are to “bridge the gap” between themselves and their rivals over the course of a season, and the best chance to do so may have passed for the next few years, it is this area that needs to be addressed. Ruthlessness and mental toughness.

But for now, it’s all about Sunday, so how can Spurs win this?
No one can deny Arsenal have an exceptional team. On an individual basis they are all marginally overrated, with the obvious exception of Sanchez and I’d include Laurent Koscielny, but as a team on their day they all contribute to being very difficult to contain. This is far more important than being good individuals.
If Ozil ever puts in a 10 out of 10 display Arsenal will award him 12 if you catch my drift, but he is finally starting to play better this season and Spurs’s young central midfield will have to work hard to restrict his space. Walcott being absent is a massive benefit to Spurs this week, not because he is Diego Maradona, but because the pace he is blessed
with leaves defending teams a dilemma. The speed he possesses means it is doubtful we would have the courage to defend with a high line, dropping back concedes possession and territory which is something you don’t want to be doing at the Emirates unless you are solely intending to counter attack, I think Spurs need to do more than just sit back and try to hit on the break and hopefully will take advantage of Walcott missing and try to keep Arsenal 20 yards further from goal.

Whilst not the same as Ozil in terms of name and glamour on the pitch Eriksen has influenced far more big games than his counterpart and keeping him to the free role is key to Spurs competing in the final 3rd. If Spurs opt to play higher up the pitch expect him to see a lot more of the ball, also dragging the arsenal midfield wide similarly to how he did with Nemanja Matic on New Years Day, leaving Alli and Dembele in particular space to drive forward into to support the attack.
If Koscielny doesn’t make it then that will be a boost, teams always struggle without their best centre half and I’d expect Kane to have some extra joy against the Arsenal back line without him.

The big problem then is Sanchez, he is the one who can drive Tottenham back and stop the full back joining in Spurs attacks making it more difficult to retain possession in effective areas. Dier, Alli, and Dembele are going to have to put in big shifts to support Walker and Davies, (Rose likely to miss out is a big blow) when Sanchez and Cazorla lead the attacks if they are going to get a result on Sunday.

Sanchez is the difference between these two teams right now make no mistake about that, Spurs can just about match Arsenal player for player all over the park and even better them in one or two cases, except for the little Chilean. He is THAT player, the one that Tottenham just don’t have right now.

The Sanchez factor and home advantage combined mean I still have to predict an Arsenal win if my life depended on it, also consider Spurs’s only away wins this season have come at Sunderland and Bournemouth, hardly fortresses. But if Spurs get their tactics right all over the park and can find away to keep the Arsenal superstar quiet they CAN win this game. Arsenal would be naive to think otherwise and so would the Tottenham team, and as I write this I start to believe more and more. By kick off on Sunday I’ll 100% convinced we can win there. That’s what away derbies are about for Tottenham, realism overtaken by hope that builds and builds to a point where why shouldn’t a win be possible? This is exactly what the players need to feel when wearing the shirt on Sunday.

Spurs have to believe it, and they have to want to win, not draw and hope for a bonus. They can use the advantage of defending higher up the pitch to dictate the pace more than usual in this fixture and it could still be an unlikely Derby day to remember at the toughest of hunting grounds. Maybe less unlikely than before though, Spurs’s progress in this fixture is there for all to see.

This is not the Spurs of yesteryear, it certainly isn’t the Arsenal either.

COME ON SPURS. TO DARE IS TO DO

They don’t get it… By Rob Palmer

Don’t say this too loudly…..I enjoyed Andy’s article. I respected what he had to say. It resonated with me as it’s familiar to my own experiences. Like me, Andy is from London. NORTH London to be exact. The support he has for his team was not a choice. The club is in his blood.

On Sunday, if Woolwich take the lead, the slightest bit of atmosphere will inevitably be conjured up between 55,000 home fans as they make just enough noise for Andy to hear them sing “1-0 in your cup final”. He will then realise how little reality there is in his comments stating that “for the Arsenal fans this is not just another game”. The truth is they don’t get it, the rivalry, it means nothing to them.

Andy does not represent most Woolwich fans. They are opposites. Their support has not been passed down from within the family. It’s been selected at random because they were first Premier League team on FIFA 2003 that had good stats. Picked by some tourist visiting London for the first time because his lucky colour is red. He/she still enjoys going every few years, but ensures an early exit to avoid the crammed trains. Chosen by a family because it’s a convenient commute and the seats in the new stadium have more leg room than other clubs. Adopted by some public school toff that moved to London from whatever generic English country village he grew up in, hoping to buy some credibility with the football lads.

It’s no wonder they attract this type of support. Look at their history. They are the original MK Dons, who after a failed bid to merge with Fulham, ditched their roots in Woolwich, South London due to lack of revenue. They came north of the river, trying to attract the wealthy newcomers to that part of the City.

Failure to secure a spot in the top flight via promotion was not an issue either. In 1919 after finishing 5th in the Second Division, they were elected into the top tier of English football, taking the spot that belonged to their new neighbours, Tottenham Hotspur. Their chairman Henry Norris was later prosecuted for his role in their rise up the football ranks. They play at the top level not due skill, ability or achievement, but through money and corruption.

When it comes to the North London Derby they don’t get it. They think Chelsea & Manchester United are the bigger games because that’s what their Sky box told them. They haven’t made that daunting walk to school the morning after a defeat like Andy and I used to. The sense of fear you had, knowing the taunts that would come from the kids in your class who supported the rival team. I have been hearing it all week from their fans, jokes on Facebook about how it is the biggest game of our season but not theirs. I pity them.

No matter how many times they win the derby, no matter how many times they finish above us in the league, they will never be us. Tottenham Hotspur will always be only true North London Football Club. The team that’s support is true, passed down from generation to generation. For many of us, one of the few links back to our working class roots. The team that’s played with style for centuries not decades. First non-league side to win the FA Cup. First English team to win the double, First English team to win a European trophy.

Woolwich are not a football club. They are a franchise. The symbol of modern football. Playing chants through the speakers to generate a bit of atmosphere in their shiny new stadium. Exactly what Thatcher & Murdoch dreamed the game would become when they stuck their oar in. They were always this way, so they happily tagged along to the gentrification of the game.

Football is what it is though, and football support is about rivalry. If you don’t hate the rival, you don’t really support your club. It’s men being territorial and proud, like Neanderthals shouting from their caves. It’s what you see at Rangers v Celtic, Lazio v Roma, River v Boca. It’s that atmosphere that simmers on the edge, teasing at the prospect of genuine conflict, like how Stringfellows teases before the full bedroom enjoyment.

At White Hart Lane in September the atmosphere was volatile. Tottenham were losing the game but the fans still sang proudly. They made it uncomfortable, singing about how they hated them, letting the away fans know they were in our territory.

Woolwich will never have that again. They never really had it. Their fans, largely bunch of sheep, who walk around Finsbury Park with their red & white scarves desperate to be a part of something.

Prediction: 1-0 Spurs

A preview of this weekends NLD by Andy Paps

North London Derby – Just Another Game?

There are many games the Arsenal fans lift themselves for. Title challenges against Man Utd down the years, the A$hley Cole/Mourinho Chelski rivalry, Man City’s money and the Arsenal second team, Stoke and the Orcs…

But for most Gooners the main rivalry has and always will be against the Spuds from down the road. In my opinion its a rivalry which differs from others. Traditionally games with the rivals are always tight affairs. However, there’s something in the NLD (North London Derby) which has always delivered high scoring, memorable and entertaining games. Both teams have always had the attitude of just coming out and going for it (most of the time to Sperz’ detriment, it definitely suits Arsenal more).

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But is it just another league game? You get the same number of points from beating Sperz as you do beating Norwich at home. The answer should be yes. It should be only another game. It should be just another 3 points when you’re challenging for the title (or 4th place in recent times). It should be…but…the fact is…it isn’t. It isn’t just another 3 points. It’s 3 points gained from beating “THEM”.

I share a season ticket at the Emirates, it’s no coincidence that this game always gets first pick ahead of the rest (incidentally, I got first pick this year!). In my early years the games tended to always lean towards an Arsenal victory but in recent times the gap has closed between the teams. It used to be a no win situation for a lot of Arsenal fans. Win and it was “you’re supposed to beat them”, but lose and its double the pain. Recent years and the slow Arsenal decline coinciding with the Spuds improving means they’ve closed the gap slightly. There have been flashes of over eagerness by the fans from ‘the Lane’ the most hilarious being the year of “lasagne-gate” or as recent as a few years back “Mind the Gap” and all that. Brilliant.

The truth is, the gap has closed between the teams and for Arsenal this game is massive for so much more than bragging rights. The team is on a magnificent run but still some fans are unhappy. A win against the Spuds is the exact thing to possibly lift the mood of the Wenger Out brigade. For the other Gooners (the Wenger followers), it’s an important 3pts to keep up the pace with City at the top. The team needs to come out and lift the fans from the off, and the fans in turn will really get behind the team and support rather than the odd moan/groan (it sickens me that there are still Gooners that moan about us).

There are so many treasured moments from these games for me personally…winning the league at the lane is still the greatest game I’ve been to and nothing will ever come close. Henry from the half way lane, Adams at Wembley, 5-4 at the lane, 2-0 down to win 5-2 (all games I was at). If we see a hint of the fight we got from those days then we’ll definitely end up with the result we all want to see on Sunday.

Is the North London Derby just another game? This week, for most Arsenal fans it isn’t. It’s a chance to tell the media and or Wenger doubters that we are serious contenders. Come on Arsenal! Make us Proud. Lets end it with the famous quote from our greatest captain Tony Adams, a man who always fought in these games, never a truer word said…

Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they’ll remember the name on the back”

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Unbeaten in 10, Spurs march on! – De Luca’s report on the win over Aston Villa.

10 games unbeaten in the league for Spurs now as they eventually saw off a poor but gritty Aston Villa at the Lane last night.

Moussa Dembele who has looked a player rejuvenated in recent weeks powered through off the left to finish smartly and give Spurs the lead inside 3 minutes.

You might have thought that would be the first of many, but as the clock ticked towards half time Spurs had not added to their tally despite the dominant nature of their display. Kane and Rose going close with efforts as Spurs looked to add to the opener. Only a Scott Sinclair effort after a jinking run was worthy of the highlight reel from a Villa perspective.

Just before stoppage time though the crucial second goal came, Dele Alli held his run before chesting down a lose ball and guiding a finish into the bottom corner. It was just what Tottenham and Alli, who was to take home the man of the match champagne, deserved.

If someone said at half time Spurs would need an injury time winner to be sure of victory you would have laughed. Or cried maybe. But Spurs do have previous in the department of throwing away victories.

This game had been far to easy you sense Spurs were enjoying their stroll towards full time far too much to bother killing the game off.

Villa out of nothing sparked into life for the last 20 minutes, which co-incided with the removal of Dembele.
Every season there is one player who unexpectedly emerges as the man who becomes the difference in your side. I think that will be Dembele for Spurs this season. The power and composure he demonstrates on a good day is something not in the armoury of the other midfielders on the Spurs roster. At times he can be unplayable.

Bacuna hit a curling effort which bounced off the foot of the post and whilst Lloris might think he had it covered it was too close for comfort and this buoyed Villa on, within minutes they had a goal back after a big deflection from Ayew’s long range strike. Suddenly Villa were in the game. Lloris came charging out for a cross that he could never possibly claim and Gestede somehow nodded wide when anything on target was 2-2.

The remainder of this match had the feel of the Stoke game in August when Spurs last threw away a two goal lead to draw a seemingly already won match. Drawing this would have been more criminal.
Ayew smashed one narrowly over as Villa got closer to an unlikely equaliser.

Fairplay to them, they were pushing forward and had Spurs penned in, but as time was looking like it was beating them the killer blow was delivered by Kane, brilliantly finishing a flowing team move in the break.
This had been Harry’s worst performance this season in my opinion, his all round display not as impressive as they had been today,
Plays well doesn’t score, plays badly knocks in his best finish of the season so far. There’s only one thing that people count when you’re a striker.

Another 3 points for Spurs, and a 10th league game unbeaten. Next stop the Emirates. Never confident but always hopeful, and why not? This is shaping up to be a very good season.

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Daniel De Luca (SPURS FAN)