First day of the season and following a strangely timed pre-season money making venture to Germany an early kick off against Van Gaals’ title contenders (as some pundits will insist). It’s the stuff of nightmares to many and I was not overly confident I must say. Even when I saw the team That did nothing to allay any fears I may have had going into this game.
It’s very easy to get carried away with a first result away from home in the opening game of the season against an old rival like West Ham, and to be fair it was a great feeling when Eric Diers composed finish ended up in the back of the net continuing a fine tradition of winning at The Boleyn in extra time, but there was a lot more to this game than an away win.
There was a lot of interest in how Spurs would line up and set themselves out in Pochettinos first competitive outing as our manager and some of the names in the lineup may have surprised a number of people, none less so then the eventual match winner.
We started off in a formation similar to that used by Southampton last season, with a high line, winning the ball back quickly with both full backs pressing on and looking to get the midfield involved early. And it was looking OK if not spectacular with us getting the best of the interchanges but not really posing a huge threat. But early days in a new season and there were glimpses of what was is hopefully to come. However, there were also glimpses of defensive indecision there as well culminating in Kyle Naughton getting sent off for deliberate handball and denying a clear goal scoring opportunity.
Whether it was deliberate or not is one question but given his arms were raised you couldn’t argue with the penalty call (although it took the lineman to see it). As to whether the ball was goal bound is another matter. Watching replays it did look like it but how a referee that relied on the assistant to award the penalty, or indeed the assistant could judge where the ball was going is a mystery. Harsh decision in my opinion but down to ten men and a penalty, and it looked as though this was going to be a battle from then on in but a poor penalty miss later and the gods are smiling.
West Ham then, understandably, saw much more of the ball, Capoue stepped back to centre back and our midfield lost their shape but with all due respect to West Ham, you are not going to scare many a defence with Carlton Cole at the front. Once Collins decided that the only way to stop Adebayor was to jump in front of him (trust me James, Adebayor was capable of failing to score without your help) and the numbers were leveled up, it was inevitable that we would regain control of the match. That said we did not create as many chances as we should have and Townsends introduction went some way towards giving us a credible threat.
Again, West Ham could have nicked it but a) Downing is too slow and b) Lloris is one of the worlds best for a reason. And so it fell to Eric Dier to show both sides how to remain composed when one on one with a keeper to beat.
So what did we learn? Capoue is more than capable in the protective role in front of the defence but you wouldn’t want to rely on him as one of the centre backs (although he did little wrong there to be honest). Kaboul is still prone to a gaff or two, Bentaleb tries too hard at times and can make expensive errors at key times. The midfield and front line still needs some work if this system is to work – maybe some of the missing players will help address that. We also showed a team commitment to not let the heads drop and to battle for each other whilst reduced in numbers. There was a good Team Spirit on view and that is nice to see after the attitude at times last season.
But early days – maybe a run out for some key team members in Cyprus on Thursday, if only to help get the fitness levels up – and there was not too much to be overly concerned with – yet!
I was concerned at some of the comments I have seen on various message boards and forums though. Too many Spurs fans already saying this is just like AVB. ‘Too slow’, ‘ponderous’, ‘no threat’ etc. How anyone can tell after one game in difficult circumstances is beyond me. Van Gaal really set United alight yesterday in his first game didn’t he (and Arsenal and Liverpool both looked less than convincing as well)?
It’s one game and three valuable early points – what more did we expect this early?