But I'll get to that a bit later as it didn't become apparent to many people until the first goal went in. Stoke were taking quite a peppering from us throughout, with Bale whacking the bar with earth-shattering force, Saha having a go from distance only to be obstructed by a classy save from Begovic. Then Parker lost his chance for a debut goal just by slipping over after Kranjcar slid a sumptuous pass through to him.
We have scored in every home game this season and (thankfully) it continued on Wednesday. Van Der Vaart to the rescue again halfway through stoppage time.
Whenever Spurs have a set piece to take ourselves, it never pays off or is just wasted. Whenever we have to defend one, it usually costs us important points and obviously hasn't been addressed in training. Stoke were the best litmus test for resolve in taking and defending set pieces. We failed on both counts.
Kaboul should not be the first-choice to take free-kicks for us. He has become a tremendous centreback and that's just it - he's a defender not a striker. I'll admit we hardly ever score free kicks with the likes of Bale and Van Der Vaart, but the laws of probability dictate that a midfielder or a second-striker—trained slightly more intensely in the art of shooting at goal—is more likely to score a free kick once in a while.
Kaboul either hits the several-man wall or sends it sky-high for any passing skydivers to catch on their descent. If you want power and accuracy, Bale's left-peg seems to have been doing extra dumbbell reps on its own, considering the two thunderous shots he fired at Begovic Tuesday.
Our corners were also horrendous that night. Always deep towards the near post for Stoke to simply boot away. What happened to that one we took against Chelsea a few years ago where it was passed wide to Modric on the edge of the penalty box and fired it low to give us a 1-0 win? That one worked against the best team at the time, so why wouldn't it help us in other games? We had the same manager and almost the same players outfield—most importantly Modric!
Revert back to the Modric element.
Stoke and other teams nucleate in the penalty box during corners ("park the bus" if you like). If the ball is played just outside it to Modric, they have to either disperse immediately to re-mark attackers or stay as they are.
It makes their situation more difficult to deal with. If not, then just launch it high and long towards the far post somewhere near the six-yard box if all else fails. Either one is better than passing it to an opponent for clearance.
I don't need to say much. All that flapping around demonstrates it all for me. I get nervous whenever we have to defend one. Defoe has been spotted by me standing on the right hand side of the defensive wall against a free kick, despite being only 5'7"!
If the defenders completely lose their cool, Friedel flaps around and a goal is conceded. Bassong used to clear the ball by heading into either open space or the path of an attacking player. And even with Bassong at Wolves, I'm still getting the jitters, both for them and us. Stoke scored from a well orchestrated set-piece, with Huth once again ramming himself into the penalty box to set up Cameron Jerome.
Replace Defoe in the wall with someone taller. Does Harry think a 5'7" player—standing a full 10 yards away from the ball—can jump high enough to head a powerfully-struck free kick clear of goal? I'll leave that up for discussion.
If the coaching team don't get wise to set-piece play soon, opponents will exploit that week after week. If nothing is done, we'd better hope that all other teams' concentration remains on our great open play.
I think our ship will be steadied by the end of next week, but currently, our set-piece play has gone to pot. Anyone want to enlighten me further as to why?