Analyzing Tottenham Hotspur After Their Defeat To Liverpool
Let us start as we mean to go on. Spurs, are cowards.
There has never been a better time to take on Liverpool at Anfield. Morale was at it's lowest in decades, their three best players out through injury and facing the end of the season if they lost.
But what did Spurs do? The same thing they always do: They took the dastardly way out, the easy route, the road of least resistance. In short, Spurs gave up. They chose to avoid the win. Because if that happened they would be expected to achieve something.
As a club, Tottenham Hotspur have made an art form of avoiding expectation.
Make no bones about it, Spurs is a massive club. They are one of the few clubs actually capable of breaking into the top four and staying there, with the amount of financial and fanatical resources they have they are well set up to become one of the leagues top teams.
But as every Spurs fan will tell you, they have always been "mentally weak."
Last Wednesday's match with Liverpool brought all the old question marks back into the light.
Having been presented with the chance to deal one of their closest rivals a devastating blow whilst improving their own position, Spurs did as we expected them to do: they lost, allowing their doubters to revisit old questions about whether they have the steel to see the job through to the end.
One of the great problems with Spurs (highlighted perfectly in that 2-0 defeat to Liverpool) is that they have been a team who are less than the sum of their parts whereas Rafael Benitez's Liverpool have always been more than the sum of theirs.
Take a look at the two squads. On paper, Spurs have the better footballers and the better technicians. But football is played in the heart and mind too, and in these areas, Liverpool are a class above Tottenham.
Heart, mind, and soul were the real battlegrounds during the match, and Liverpool easily out-fought their rivals. Once Dirk Kuyt's early goal went in, the result was never in doubt. Spurs had their excuse and retracted into their shell, while Liverpool rose to the occasion.
For the most part, Spurs dominated possession, and had a very nice 75 percent passing completion rate compared to Liverpool's 62 percent. But the attribute that gave Liverpool the much deserved win was their industry. Tottenham just could not match it, they had no urgency in their play despite having more of the ball. Worryingly, where was the last 10 minute onslaught? Nowhere to be seen...they had already taken the easy way out before Bassong put the final nail in the coffin by giving away a last minute penalty.
A small analogy about Spurs and the type of player they buy.
Jermaine Jenas is the Spurs of players. When he burst onto the scene in 2001 with some fantastic performances for Nottingham Forest, he was hailed as the next great English midfielder. The next Roy Keane. "The real deal" according to BBC's Mark Lawrenson.
Now at 26 he is anything but the next Keane. As a matter of fact, he is the polar opposite to the fiery Irishman who could never accept defeat.
Has Jenas fallen into a rut? Many others who have played for Spurs have fallen into the same trap of thinking they have "made it" because they have joined a big club. But the real truth is that once you get to any club, you need to work doubly hard to attain success.
A high work-ethic is the very first item any team or player must have if they want to win a match. Good, never mind great, teams never win by taking it easy.
Name the great Spurs players you can remember. There are many, but can you name a great Spurs team? That will take some doing, as well as time.
Tottenham's technical ability is not in doubt. When playing well they are on par with Arsenal when it comes to "beautiful football." What they lack, and have always lacked, is enough character to grind out games.
Against Arsenal, United, and Chelsea, Spurs was beaten before they even went out on the pitch. They were expected to lose against their superior rivals, and so Tottenham tried, but basically gave up when the first goal went in. Their work was done. "We tried but..."
It is almost as alarming as it is funny to realise that the Lilywhites have not won any away matches against Liverpool, United, Chelsea, and Arsenal since 1993. That's 65 games to be exact. It grinds at the heart to see every Spurs team become a self fulfilling prophecy when they travel to these grounds. Such is the mentality that has seeped into the club.
Yet Spurs should have had the wind in their sails on Wednesday and tore into Liverpool. The Reds were there for the taking yet Tottenham shrunk like a pair of replica guns faced with a Desert Eagle 5.0.
The Stoke and Wolves defeats were another type of animal entirely, but they basically boil down to character again. Both games were dominated by the Spurs, to such an extent that their opponents only had one shot on goal each, which they scored from...
Good teams know how to win games like these. They have the character and nous to use many different picks to open a lock.
All things considered, Tottenham have a good squad. For his part, Harry Redknapp has improved Spurs immensely. They are high on technical ability, and Redknapp is trying to address the fighting skills of the team as we speak. One area that really needs improvement though is experience.
While there are many internationals at the club and players with years in the game behind them, there is no big game experience at Spurs. Not one player has won a league or major trophy at another club.
You see, Tottenham is the breeding ground of young players before they move on to bigger and better things.
To address this, Harry really needs to bring in good, experienced players who can bring that "winning mentality" with them and let it rub off on his players. The likes of van Nistelrooy, Vieira, and Sol Campbell may be past their prime, but they have a wealth of experience that would be a crime to waste.
Despite all this doom and gloom, Spurs is still within a shout of finishing fourth. Their sapped morale should resume normal transmission after playing Leeds in the FA Cup, and there is still a long way to go for each of the protagonists involved in the chase for fourth.
Aston Villa and Manchester City may yet be distracted by the Carling Cup, while Liverpool have the unenviable task of competing in the Europa League, while Fernando Torres will miss the next eight games for the Reds.
There will be more twists and turns, but one thing is for sure: this Spurs team is learning slowly and will need to add experience if they are to learn quickly and finish fourth.
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