A fortunate win after a dreadful first half and a cheap sending off that turned the game – this was a carbon copy of the trip to Villa. Except here, in the second half there was more promise, after Pochettino finally gave the team some width with the introduction of Aaron Lennon and, surprisingly, Vlad Chiriches.
Spurs started the game with a very different team to the eleven that were humbled by Stoke. Both the captain and one of the vice-captains were missing. It was a disapointment when it emerged that this wasn’t just a bold move by Pochettino – Adebayor had a back problem and Kaboul was unavailable through “personal reasons”. With Rose and Chadli also injured, there weren’t that many options open to the Argentine, so it’s difficult to tell how much the change of personnel was down to an attempt to reboot our season and how much was necessity.
Vertonghen was back, which had to be a good thing. Davies finally got a chance in the Premier League. Less pleasing was the sight of Dier at right back. He could become a great centre back but fullback is not his position. Without Naughton and Walker what was the alternative? We were to find out in the second half.
As so often of late, Spurs started slowly. Hull were first to every ball, quick to pressure their opponents and direct and incisive going forward. It was the kind of high energy approach and direct attacking game we were hoping to see from Tottenham.
As usual our defending was chaotic, with Fazio the worst offender. A succession of poor passes and bad positioning by the big centre half handed Hull possession high up the pitch. In truth the defence weren’t getting much help.
Dembele, notionally tasked with the holding role, was completely ineffectual. He wasn’t shielding the defence, neither was he hurting Hull in the final third. He only seemed to popup in the centre of the pitch and here he did his usual trick of slowing promising breaks down.
Hull opened the scoring as early as the eighth minute, with a goal from a former Spur. Fazio headed the ball out and Livermore drove forward, shooting diagonally and low into the bottom corner. The goalkeeper had no chance; Livermore wasn’t closed down quickly enough, giving him the time and space to pick his spot – symptomatic of our first half torpor.
Ben Arfa was very impressive, running at our defence and causing no end of problems. Hull had several great chances to score, particularly a guilt edged opportunity from 10 yards that the Frenchman blasted over the bar. Tottenham were very fortunate to go in at the break just one goal down.
At half-time, I was hoping for the introduction of Stambouli to give us some bite in midfield, and Lennon to give us some width. Instead, Pochettino surprised everyone by replacing Dier with Vlad Chiriches. On some levels it made perfect sense. Dier was contributing to our defensive problems, yet wasn’t providing us with the width needed to break down a Hull side who’s goal advantage gave them even more reason to sit back and defend.
Chiriches has lots of ability, especially when it comes to skill on the ball, but at times he can be a comical liability. Maybe fullback is a better position for his talents.
Whether it was this substitution or the half-time team talk, Spurs looked much better at the start of the second half. An even bigger change of fortune came our way just five minutes later.
Gaston Ramirez kicked out petulantly at Jan Vertonghen and the referee pulled a red card from his pocket. The Belgian took a lot of stick later for his reaction but under the circumstances it seemed fairly restrained. He fell over, as you well might having been kicked unexpectedly from behind, then just looked surprised. No rolling around, no grabbing his head, in fact no histrionics whatsoever. It was fairly innocuous but it was off the ball and very stupid.
The sending off gave Tottenham the advantage but it was the addition of Aaron Lennon on 59 minutes that forced it home. The diminutive winger has been surplus to requirements for much of this season, while we have been crying out for some pace and width. He linked up particularly well with Chiriches who also played a big part in stretching Hull’s defence and providing a succession of dangerous crosses.
The two goals were, however, the work of Christian Eriksen. I actually thought he had a poor first half, but with the extra space created by the sending off and the distraction of the new threat out wide, he thrived.
For the first, he was unlucky to see his exquisite free-kick come back off keeper and post, only for Harry Kane to show his recent knack of being in the right place at the right time, slotting home. For the next twenty minutes we pounded Hull and it seemed certain we would score the winner.
In the end it took another half an hour, after it had seemed we had wasted the opportunity Ramirez had handed to us. Receiving the ball from Lennon, Eriksen whipped it low into the corner, a finish reminiscent of Livermore’s opener that now seemed such a long time ago.
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Were Spurs lucky to get the three points? How much was due to the sending off and how much due to the substitutions? Should Lennon start next time out? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.
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Nice analysis. To be honest I don’t think Spurs were that bad in the first half and there was a lot of nice interplay between Eriksen, Kane, Soldado, Lamela and Mason, albeit very predictable and easy for Hull to defend by congesting the central areas.
Sure, there were the usual defensive moments of madness (mostly Fazio misjudging flight and bounce of the ball…) but I have to say I think Livermore got lucky with his goal as he almost lost it with a heavy first touch and the strike, although clearly pure enough, went through a defender’s legs.
It says a lot about our season to date that I did a double take when I saw Chiriches sprinting up the right touchline on the overlap!! May have been the first time this season that someone has attacked a space in a wide area and given the opposition’s defenders something different to worry about.
I think Chiriches did remarkably well, I didn’t realise he was so quick. I said before the game that Kaboul’s headless chicken approach to defending meant I would prefer him at RB to Dier; perhaps the same thing applies to Chiriches. He was even able to put a little craft and shape on the odd cross!! Take a bow.
We’ve been saying it on here for weeks; stretching the play right and left will create more room for our more skillful players to do damage in the centre. Lo and behold, playing with width changed the game in our favour….
Hopefully this will have finally clicked with Poch and we can look forward to some lineups offering a more varied threat.
Chiriches was a revelation. It will be interesting to see if he can play at the same level against a better team but I think it’s certainly worth trying.
I think Chiriches changed the game. Very positive getting forward and one of his best performances for us. We really need to start Lennon too. With him out wide and Lamela actually getting to the touchline, Eriksen was allowed acres to pull the strings.
I think the way forward for us now is Mason and Eriksen in the centre, two of Lennon, Chadli and Lamela out wide and Soldado playing behind Kane. It also allows us a lot of flexibility to push eriksen up and play Stambouli/Capoue instead of Soldado.
I would accept Chiriches’ defensive frailty for the time being simply because we were such a stronger attacking force.
One final thing, I think Fazio may be better suited to Rugby/American football/wrestling.
It’s a good idea but I don’t know if Mason has the discipline yet to be the foil for Eriksen in a two man midfield.
He certainly has the energy and tenacity but I wonder whether a dedicated water carrier in the Parker mould would be better at giving Eriksen the freedom he needs to dictate play as he’s not a “get stuck in” kind of player. A reliably fit Sandro would have been perfect. Maybe Capoue is worth another go in the traditional Makelele role, or indeed, as has been suggested elsewhere, Chiriches or Vertonghen.
In any case, width = endless new possibilities = optimism.
Sounds good but I would probably try Stambouli for cover instead of Soldado, Eriksen doesn’t do a lot of defending.
I think I’d try a back four of Davies, Verts, Dier, Vlad.
I love Lennon. I cant believe we almost sold him in January. I feel this season we have played him on the left, which is not his favourite position. Then when we played him on the right the right back was too weak and he had to continuously double back to assist. He is capable of beating his man most of the time and sticking the ball into the box. His cross to Kane should have been a goal. His only downfall in the past was his crossing ability, but it still worth having him out wide on the right because teams often double up on him, which creates space for our central midfielders.
Think Chiriches should be tried as defensive midfielder. Center pairing has to be Vertongen with one of Kaboul, Dier, Fazio or Maybe even Capoue. I’d actually try Vertongen with Capoue. It worked when we went a man down against West Ham.
About Lennon again, we were mid table mediocrity before this boy came along. Its about the time when we suddenly started to make regular 5th positions. I’m not saying it was due to him, but he is normally our most exciting player when played on the right with a reliable left back with him. We cant sell him. His as best a squad player we will ever have and maybe a first teamer when others are out of form. He even captained a league cup win earlier this season after we went a goal down. If we sell him, we will make the same mistake that we made with Dawson. We cant keep on looking for world class in every position. If we have average players in 7 or 8 positions and above average in 2 or 3 positions and 1 world class player, we are a world class team.
Lennon certainly should start next time out. I fancy a back four of Davies, Verts, Dier, Vlad at least until we get Walker back. Then Vlad could move to DM.
With all the ball possession we had in the second half against a ten-man team, we should have scored more goals. Our strikers are not up to it. Fortunately, a talented player like Eriksen saved the day for us giving us a really lucky win. We have to play better if we want to beat Everton at WHL this coming Sunday….
Not sure it was all luck. I thought we started the second half well before the sending off.
In that last half hour it’s true that we should have made more of our chances.
well said about Dembele. His performance was just horrific. I thought that giving him the chance to start would boost his confidence but he was never up to task. Dembele is definitely becoming more of an enigma than Jenas!!!
I used to like him but I’ve got fed up.
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