Inside Lane: A Spurs fan’s view of the defeat against Chelsea
Tottenham blogger Daniel Grigg looks back on Saturday’s 4-2 loss in the London derby at White Hart Lane
Chelsea’s visit to White Hart Lane was always likely to be an occasion when the attacking players were on top.
But, while Kyle Walker’s brain-freeze moment of madness in the final moments and Daniel Sturridge’s ensuing tap-in didn’t change the result, it highlighted a big area that Tottenham have to improve on collectively – concentration and decision-making throughout the full 90 minutes.
The 4-2 defeat was a shame after a performance which was considerably better and more promising than the two-goal deficit might have suggested, but ultimately it’s the points that matter.
Of course, Tottenham had to contend with a weakened underbelly after the loss of both Mousa Dembele and Gareth Bale in midfield, and Tom Huddlestone and Gylfi Sigurdsson lacked the quality and the plain fear factor to push Chelsea onto the back foot as much as the home side might have hoped.
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Dembele and Bale are best known for surging runs through midfield, but they were missed just as much for their defensive and containing qualities too.
Bale is a much more effective ball-winner than he sometimes gets credit for, and his struggles at left-back are linked more to his positional and marking issues than a failure to get a foot in.
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But top teams – and especially top four teams - don’t lose their concentration or shape as often as Spurs did on Saturday, particularly in the back four, albeit against one of the best counter-attacking teams in Europe.
The best teams also don’t concede an average of 1.5 goals a game, and they don’t become carried away with personal duels and start thinking five steps ahead at the expense of getting the basics right - as Walker has shown a worrying tendency to do.
I believe Walker, Younes Kaboul, Jan Vertonghen and Benoit Assou-Ekotto would be our strongest back four when they are all fit, but unfortunately it will be a long time before we see them all together.
One bonus from Saturday’s game was Jermain Defoe’s fifth goal of the season, and his first since September.
Despite reaching his 30s, Defoe is pushing for his best ever haul in the Premier League, having hit 18 goals in 2009-10 - but 14 of those were scored before New Year’s Eve, highlighting the way the striker’s form has historically always come and gone.
Emmanuel Adebayor is there to pick up the strain if it does go again, assuming talk of him hankering for a move has either been exaggerated or can be calmed by Andre Villas-Boas.
The Togolese striker is still working his way slowly back to full match fitness, and his hold-up play against Chelsea was decent in dribs and drabs - although the Blues never looked as concerned by him as they were by Defoe and Aaron Lennon.
Indeed, Adebayor wasted a really presentable chance near the end when he failed to even get a shot away after Petr Cech’s fumble had fallen nicely. You couldn’t help thinking that Defoe, despite being left-footed, might have done something better.
Lennon certainly gave Chelsea something to think about out wide in Bale’s absence, getting the better of Ashley Cole on the whole, which was certainly to his credit. It is good to see that the two-week international break and the trip to Poland following his fine display against Aston Villa has not slowed him down at all and halted his momentum.
In the end, Spurs are still in fifth place after Arsenal’s surprise defeat to Chris Hughton’s Norwich, just a point behind fast-starting Everton and the top four spots, so the defeat has not hurt us too badly.
Next up in the league is a trip to Southampton, who have statistically the worst defence in the Premier League with an average of three goals conceded per game – so there is every reason to hope for a return to winning ways and a surge up the table.