Tottenham Hotspur's Struggle for Inspiration Continues in Tepid Lazio Draw
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The trouble with using European competition as a barometer of a team's progress is that games in either of UEFA's two club competitions can sometimes bare little correlation to their performances on the domestic front.
Manchester City sit top of the Premier League but this week were knocked out of the Champions League, while Arsenal progressed into the knockout round even as their inconsistent league form has left them nine points behind their country's champions at home.
It is why it is difficult to look at Tottenham Hotspur's 0-0 Europa League draw with Lazio and take much from it (besides the fact it leaves them needing to avoid defeat against Panathinaikos in their final Group J game).
Defensively, it was an improvement on last weekend's defeat to Arsenal in the respect that they did not concede.
But that was down solely to Hugo Lloris being in goal, with the Frenchman putting in his strongest performance in a Tottenham shirt to date to make up for for a disorganized—bordering on lackadaisical—display by the defenders in front of him.
The attacking side of things saw Gareth Bale have a goal wrongly disallowed for offside after he had timed his run to get on the end of Tom Carroll's magnificent through-pass.
But besides a later cross-shot from Bale nearly catching out Federico Marchetti, another promising appearance from Carroll was basically all there was to be positive about from Spurs' ventures forward into the opposition's half.
Former Spurs and Lazio star Paul Gascoigne was in attendance at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday night, and how both teams could have done with him running their respective midfields!
In the end, a draw out in Italy is not to be sniffed at, and after the North London derby disaster, avoiding another loss was important in the run-up to West Ham United's visit to White Hart Lane on Sunday.
With the Hammers sitting directly above them in the Premier League right now, as good of an opportunity as the match might be to reignite their season, Spurs are struggling in such a way that they might not be ready for the direct assault Sam Allardyce's team will likely launch at them.
Andre Villas-Boas' squad is struggling to find inspiration, and it is hard to decipher how much fault here lies with the players and how much with the manager.
Are the players letting Villas-Boas down with their lack of concentration, energy and an inability to adhere to his game plan, or is the manager preparing and lining them up in a way that is ill-suited to the players at his disposal?
The truth lies somewhere in between.
There is not much Villas-Boas can do about William Gallas' complete lack of situational awareness, Clint Dempsey's baffling loss of form or Emmanuel Adebayor's near-complete disregard for the needs of anybody but himself (to name but a few).
You can sympathize with a manager when he places so much faith in players who continually under-perform.
However, Villas-Boas' persistence with certain ideas and team selections is just as problematic.
His lack of understanding as to the importance of leadership in a team continues to undermine his own side.
Then there is the penchant for sitting back to defend games that haven't been won, either a product of misplaced belief in his team's ability to do that job or someone who is too conservative in his approach to Premier League football.
Still, Tottenham aren't entirely hopeless, and they remain a club with the players to not only improve but thrive over the course of this campaign.
What will ultimately get Tottenham out of their funk in respect to what they do on the training ground and talk about in meetings and the changing room is unclear.
However, what is clear is that defeating West Ham on Sunday is vital.
To do so would help alleviate several issues that are currently plaguing Spurs—poor home form, losing ground in the league—and would buy confidence and time from a fanbase that will revel in getting one over on their rivals from East London.
Liverpool arrive at the Lane three days later, and you only have to look at their past few years to see the difficulty a club can have when the fans turn and a team loses touch with the teams around the top of the table.
With Brendan Rodgers' side gaining on Spurs (and others), they may be the next side to drop out of top-four contention if they don't find a way to buck their ideas up soon.
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