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Tottenham 0-1 Sunderland: Worst. Performance. Ever.

by CaughtOffside Team

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This match report was originally published by Darren on TottenhamMassive.com.

I’d like to say that this was one of the worst performances by a Spurs team in a long time, and especially under Martin Jol. But that’s simply not true, we saw this sort of thing from us 5-6 times last season (Wigan, anyone?) but I had hoped that a summer and pre-season training would have been enough to get it out of our system.

Apparently not, so let’s get to it:

The Defenders:
Somehow, a defense with Gardner, Stalteri and a debutant youngster managed to be one of the highlights of the team. The sheer ineptness of Sunderland’s attack was more to thank than any amount of organised or impressive defending, with wild clearances and missed headers the order of the day. The goal was even more embarassing, Stalteri turned inside out on the wing for the cross while Chimbonda let his man – standing right in his line of sight – go free to collect the deep cross with his feet, turn, and shoot. Not a single one of the four Spurs defenders even pushed out to challenge.

The Midfield:
Martin Jol’s evil twin (no, not Cock) came out to play yet again to put together our tactics. Instead of having one strong flank with Malbranque and Chimbonda on the right, Jol chose to move Steed to the left presumably to provide some attacking verve to that side and let Chimbonda overlap Tainio to do the same on the other side. The net result was that Stalteri and Chimbonda looked exactly like two right sided players trying to make do on the left, while Tainio never got closer than 40 yards to the goal which made it pointless for Chimbonda to overlap. Instead of having a strong right side and a weak, but solid, left – we had two flanks devoid of imagination or teamwork.

The centre of the park, somehow, was even more diabolical. Jenas and Zokora continued their form of last season by taking 5 seconds to control a simple pass and then 5 more seconds to decide what to do with the ball, before ultimately giving it away. Sunderland may not have overrun us, but for us not to dominate a midfield consisting of 74 year old striker Dwight Yorke and some bloke not even worth remembering beyond this game is inexcusable.

When we play a slow, thoughtful passing game as Jol wants us to. We need players in the middle of the park who can quickly move the ball from side to side, and wing players who can create. We frequently got neither last season but were bailed out by the inspiration of our strikers. Our incredibly, incredibly expensive strikers.

The Strikers

Berbatov was in and out of the match but when the midfield did somehow get the ball to him his play was inevitably a class above the rest of the team. They were just so poor that not even he could drag us through this one with a decent, if not superhuman, performance. Martin Jol subbed him, but I felt this was because he wanted to switch to hoofing it long to Bent since nothing else seemed to be working. Robbie was kept on because Martin can throw him into midfield to try and boost the creativity there.

The Conclusion
The slow pace of our game is the way Martin has coached our team to play, and it can be effective as two fifth place finishes have shown. But it is incredibly reliant on the form and quality of the players you have. If our game was about attacking the wings with pace, you can consistently create problems for the opposition because you don’t have to be in good form to run up and down the pitch as fast as you can. But if you try to slow the game down, pass it around, and pick your spots, you are relying on the sheer footballing talent and vision of your players. When you have someone on form regularly who can help your team pull it together then you’re alright, as Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov have helped us to fifth place finishes two seasons running.

But if you’re not firing on all cylinders then, well, you play like this.

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