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By London24’s Spurs blogger Daniel Grigg
Monday, April 23, 2012
Tottenham fan Daniel Grigg looks back on Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at QPR
When exactly did Tottenham become so sluggish and ordinary? Unfortunately it’s been the case for a while now - although Saturday was a new low.
Having been 1-0 down for a large proportion of the match, there was simply no oomph, no pace - nothing at all to knock Mark Hughes’ solid if unspectacular QPR side out of their stride.
That was something Spurs had managed well in the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane back in October, when the Lilywhites’ form and fortunes had been so much better.
The 3-1 victory back then was convincing – and the score-line probably flattered Rangers.
Saturday’s performance at Loftus Road was quite the opposite though – and the Spurs manager’s post-match comments weren’t too reassuring either.
Harry Redknapp insisted that he “couldn’t fault the way we played” and “we just couldn’t get a break” - contrary to the evidence and the opinion of most of the supporters during a very turgid Saturday evening.
In fact, so many problems still persist that it is very concerning to think that Redknapp might not be out there fixing them ahead of Sunday’s home game against a Blackburn Rovers side who – like QPR - are desperately fighting for survival.
From the experience of seeing things in the long run, these problems don’t just go away all by themselves.
But then what does a 65-year-old manager with eyes seemingly more than a little focused on the England job care about the future of Tottenham Hotspur? Or so many people are starting to say, increasingly with every passing fixture and failure.
Against QPR, Tottenham simply didn’t have enough of their best players doing what they’re best at. The balance, from wing to wing and from back to front, wasn’t good enough.
A winger should play like a winger, but Gareth Bale didn’t. The visiting Spurs fans were audibly frustrated - and not for the first time this season - as Bale started roaming, unchecked by anyone except the opposition, and consequently narrowing an already tight Loftus Road pitch.
Caught up with haring around, looking to make things happen everywhere, he lost sight of what was actually making him such a threat earlier in the season – particularly at home against QPR and away at Norwich, the two sides Tottenham have now lost against in their last two league fixtures.
Is it a sign of desperation, or a lack of faith in his team-mates, and the ability of his manager to turn things around?
Probably, yes - whether consciously or sub-consciously, especially given that Bale has never been known to be an overly greedy player before, when others in the team have been doing their jobs properly.
Spurs struggled for width - but even without it, things wouldn’t have been plain sailing. Unsurprisingly, Jermain Defoe struggled to provide anything approaching the same physical presence as Emmanuel Adebayor in his lone role up front.
There was neither the height nor the numbers in the box to truly entice and encourage Bale and latterly Aaron Lennon to get down the outside of the full-backs and swing threatening crosses into the box.
Apart from a couple of threatening moments, Rafael van der Vaart was generally too deep to give Defoe the support he really needed.
This time Defoe was not the man to blame, even for his own ineffectiveness, given that Redknapp should have anticipated the problem and dealt with it - especially once it had become so obviously self-evident.
Instead, the manager just bemoaned luck and lack of striking options. In fairness, Spurs were without both Adebayor and Louis Saha, and Giovani Dos Santos was unable to offer a spark late on, despite Adel Taarabt’s dismissal reducing QPR to 10 men.
Luka Modric’s uninspired form also continued unabated, and fans are rapidly losing faith in the man they were so desperate to hold onto last summer- even when £40million was on the table. On Saturday, he sat far too deep and played far too negatively.
Some fans are starting to diagnose the Croatian playmaker’s recent lack of assertiveness as simple laziness, and many expect him to leave between now and September.
That would be a real shame, as he is such a useful and likeable player, but Spurs might have to look to the future soon - maybe Tom Huddlestone, if he ever recovers from all of his injury problems.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto struggled with the sheer energy and effort of Jamie Mackie too, as the Scottish wide man found positions down the Tottenham left that many would have hoped Bale to find more regularly. Instead, the Welshman found himself going back the other way.
In the end, Spurs were a team of Scott Parkers, but in the worst possible way – less of the biting tackles and high-tempo spirit, just a lot of slow, overly-considered and unproductive sideways and backwards passes.
That is simply not enough at this stage of the season, when other teams are putting up a much stronger fight for a top-four finish.
And yet hope isn’t lost. If Tottenham could turn things around now it still wouldn’t be too late.
On paper, the remaining fixtures are still considerably more winnable than Newcastle’s and Chelsea’s, with home matches against Blackburn and Fulham and trips to Aston Villa and Bolton in between.
If Redknapp could just stop lurching from one obvious and avoidable tactical mistake to another, start finding that attacking balance that they desperately need and just accept that things haven’t worked lately and need to be corrected, it could still end up being the fantastic season that it promised to be for so long.
Redknapp now faces arguably the biggest test of his managerial career to date - and there should be no better way to get the confidence back into Tottenham’s game than a very winnable home fixture against Blackburn on Sunday, in front of a massive White Hart Lane crowd. The stage is set.