Last night’s game against Norwich was a good example of one of football’s unique peculiarities; a team can dominate a game for the vast majority and still lose. Chelsea won the Champions League by way of this unusual aspect of the game last season, to our cost, and Norwich have gained a quarter final berth in the League Cup this season, to our cost.
However this is not to say by any means that yesterday’s fixture was a disaster or failure, far from it. Gareth Bale continued his good form, constantly getting in behind defenders, switching flanks and scoring an excellent goal. Iago Falque finally got 90 minutes of football to show what he can do and did not disappoint, good on the ball, fed Bale, and others, delightfully on several occasions and seemed to shed inhibition as the minutes ticked past. Tom Carroll who I have been somewhat unsure of on recent showings played very well; He seemed to have improved significantly in terms of technique and distribution, a few times I found myself thinking ‘bloody hell! I didn’t think he was capable of that sort of pass/skill/vision’ maybe it’s because I wasn’t seeing it before, maybe it’s because Norwich aren’t very good, either way, it was impressive.
There were, as always, areas of the display which disappointed. He got a lot of stick for missing the penalty but the more concerning aspect of Clint Dempsey is his all round game. He has scored two very important, if very simple, goals for Spurs but apart from that has been average at best. Last night’s performance was typical of the type of display he has been producing so far; he looked disinterested/off the pace for most of it, gave the ball away far too often, didn’t win the ball anywhere near enough for someone who is supposed to be a hold up forward and yeah, missed a penalty. I like Dempsey and I like the idea of him playing for Spurs but I just do not see the strong, nuisance of a forward that played for Fulham. I’m not writing him off, Bale, BAE and several other players have proved that it can take time to find your place in a team and I hope Dempsey begins to settle and perform soon.
The biggest issue with our general performance last night was that we did not dispense with Norwich on the multiple occasions we had the opportunity to do so. There are mitigations to that failure in that we had to make changes due to the demand of playing in four competitions and we were unlucky with the equaliser. However, Andre Villas-Boas must shoulder a significant portion of the blame; he brought on Jan Vertonghen when it was clear we needed a second and were lacking penetration.
I understand the thinking behind both these substitutions; Vertonghen gives you a more flexible midfield and defence and should allow you to see out a 1-0 win against a side like Norwich (someone should tell him though, this is Spurs we don’t/can’t do 1-0 wins!) and he leaves Defoe until the last possible moment because we need him on Saturday. I just don’t agree with them, the League Cup (I refuse to refer to it as anything else) was our most realistic shot at a trophy this season and now it is gone and I, for one, am very disappointed by that.
Last night's performance was typical of the type of display he has been producing so far; he looked disinterested/off the pace for most of it, gave the ball away far too often
Still, the positive performances by Carroll, Falque and Bale plus the fact that we completely dominated the game are encouraging signs and although nobody ever likes to exit a cup we now have significantly less fixture congestion. As Andre said after the game “We are all disappointed but we move forward and focus on Saturday.”